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Wendell Barnhouse is a nationally-known and respected columnist who has spent over 20 years covering collegiate athletics. He has reported from 23 Final Fours and more than three dozen bowl games and has written about the Big 12 and its schools since the conference's beginning. Barnhouse will be updating the Big 12 Insider on happenings and behind-the-scenes information about the conference. 

November 2009

Monday, November 30

Bo knows (and wants) perfection
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is a perfectionist. A victory gained through sloppy play almost counts as a loss to the second-year Cornhuskers coach. Pelini wasn't happy with his team's 28-20 season-ending victory at Colorado last Friday.

"Coach Bo is a very competitive guy. He strives for perfection with us," Nebraska senior center Jacob Hickman explained during a Dr Pepper Big 12 Championship conference call Monday. "Anytime you have a little bit of hiccups there towards the end - we didn't end exactly the way he really wanted it (at Colorado) - you know he gets frustrated about that kind of stuff. And we really take that as a team as a measure of what he expects out of us.

"He expects a lot, but that's how you get to be successful, is achieving what Coach Bo expects. Because if you ever meet his expectations you're going to do pretty dang well"

Nebraska has won five consecutive games but its coach doesn't think that it is playing its best.

"No, I think our best football is still out there to be played, I really do," Pelini said. "At times, I think we're playing really well. And at times we're not as consistent as I'd like us to be. That's just the coach in me speaking. ... I talked to our football team: On any given day you got to be prepared to do what's necessary to win a football game given the circumstances. We've been able to rise up and get that done and we've got to continue that (Saturday) night."

This and that
More notable comments from Monday's Dr Pepper Big 12 Championship teleconference:

* Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh might be the best defensive player, maybe even the best player, in the country. But his chances to win the Heisman Trophy are slim. Suh was asked if he thinks a defensive line could win the award in his lifetime.

"I think it's definitely possible. Anything's possible. But the reality of it actually coming true? I don't know," Suh said. "It's something that I would be eager and love to be able to see ... but I have no clue. We'll just have to wait and see. And hopefully another great defensive lineman comes along soon that can push for it."

* Nebraska senior center Jacob Hickman on why Suh is such a defensive force: "What makes Suh Suh is that he is a unique combination. Most defensive tackles have either size or strength or quickness. He's one of those few, few guys who has all three. He's also got a great motor. He's a non-stop kinda player."

* Pelini was asked if reaching the Big 12 Championship game in his second season meant that he was ahead of schedule in returning the Cornhuskers program to prominence:

"Well, it's behind schedule as far as I'm concerned because I was hoping to get there last year," Pelini said. "I'm happy to be there. I'm happy to have this opportunity. I'm happy for this kids. But I didn't really set any timelines about wanting to do this in this amount of time. I came in here and I wanted to win football games and compete for championships. And we have the opportunity to compete for one Saturday night and that's what I'm looking forward to."

* This year's Heisman Trophy race appears as wide open as any in recent memory. Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, who finished second last season to Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, is considered one of the top two contenders for the award. His performance against Nebraska is the last chance he'll get to impress the voters.

"For me I don't go into a game trying to win the Heisman Trophy at all. Never in my career have I done that," McCoy said. "I want to be the best for our team and I want to win. That's what Coach (Mack) Brown told me for the first game I've ever started and I've kept that mentality ever since.

"Every player that suits up on a Saturday thinks about winning the Heisman, it's a very special award. But it's truly a team award. The success you and your teammates have will determine your chances."

* Texas coach Mack Brown isn't worried that his defense allowed Texas A&M 39 points and 532 total yards last Thursday.

"I think that lack of performance will get our attention for this weekend," he said. "Our defensive coaches were in the office Friday morning looking at Nebraska. I think with the short week (before playing Texas A&M) we tried to do too much and we wound up with a lot of miscommunication. Plus, we missed 13 tackles. We'll go back and be who we are this week." 

Best 5-yard gain of the season
Corey Wilson vowed that he would walk on the field with his Oklahoma teammates for the final home game this season. Considering that Wilson, a promising sophomore wide receiver, had been paralyzed from the waist down in a traffic accident last February, it was a bold statement. (You can see a video about Wilson's recovery

But before Saturday's Bedlam game with Oklahoma State, Wilson rose from his wheelchair and with the help of a walker made it five yards from the 45-yard line to midfield. The crowd of 85,606 unleashed its loudest ovation of the day.

"I almost teared up seeing that," Oklahoma senior offensive lineman Brian Simmons told the Tulsa World. "To see him stand up and overcome like that, that made my day. Regardless of the outcome of this game - I'm glad we won - but that made my day to see that."

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops - who said after the game that Wilson's situation "just crushes me all the time" - approved Wilson walking on the field the Sooners' senior class. Stoops has provided constant support to Wilson since the time of the accident. The coach's foundation bought Wilson a handicap-equipped SUV.

"I can't even explain it," Wilson told FSN sideline reporter Jim Knox. "It just I can't compare it to anything else in my life. It's just amazing to have my family out there and to have the Sooner family with me is just it's meant a lot. It meant a lot to the hard work that I've been doing the last couple of months."

Big week for Big 12 quarterbacks
Two games during the last week of the regular season featured some impressive numbers for the quarterbacks involved. Thanksgiving night, Texas QB Colt McCoy finished with 479 total yards while Texas A&M's Jerrod Johnson finished with 439. On Saturday, Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing closed out his career with 506 total yards against Missouri; Tigers quarterback Blaine Gabbert had 397 total yards.

Those four quarterbacks finished with more yards in total offense than these top 25 teams: Clemson (260), BYU (265), Utah (298), Alabama (291), Pitt (325), USC (326), LSU (326), Georgia Tech (340), Ole Miss (385).

Kicking games
Punters can be unpopular fellas. They only come on the field when their team's offense has failed. That means the less a punter plays, the better it is for the team.

But sometimes a punter can become a force in the field position game. Think about it: a punt of 50 yards covers half the field. Or a punt kicked out of bounds or downed near the opponent's goal line can turn a game's momentum.

Three Big 12 punters found themselves to be extremely popular after helping their teams win over the weekend.

Nebraska junior Alex Henery - who also is the Cornhuskers' dependable and accurate kicker - had six punts for a 50.7 average against Colorado Friday. Four of his punts were downed inside the Buffaloes 20; Henery leads the Big 12 with 26 punts downed inside the opponents 20.

Missouri's Jake Harry IV also was a pin doctor.

In the Tigers' 41-39 victory over Kansas, Harry averaged 49.4 yards on five punts and all were downed inside the Jayhawks' 20. Three were downed inside the KU 3-yard line, including his final punt of the day. With Missouri trailing by three points, that kick set up a safety that helped the Tigers score the five points they needed to win the game.

Oklahoma redshirt freshman Tress Way had a phenomenal day in the Sooners' 27-0 victory over Oklahoma State. He set a school record by averaging 58.8 yards on six punts. Way also became the first OU punter to have five punts of 50 or more yards in one game.

In the first quarter of a scoreless game, Oklahoma's third possession had fizzled at its own 19. Even with a 20 mph wind at his back, an average kick of 40 or so yards by Way would have given the Cowboys above average field position. Way boomed a 74 yarder and Oklahoma State's wounded offense never regained the field position edge.

"We're backed up. ... and he nails it and hits it over their head and changes the whole field," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "That was one of the bigger plays of the game, to change the field position in one play. A great punt."

He told you so
If you'll check out Friday's post on this site, you can review Your Humble Correspondent's rant. YHC was critical that a number of writers downgraded Texas after the Longhorns escaped an inspired Texas A&M upset bid Thanksgiving night. The theme of several stories was that UT's national championship chances had been damaged.

Funny thing, Rivalry Games. The next day, Alabama needed a clutch fourth quarter drive to avoid an upset at unranked Auburn. The victory gave the Crimson Tide a 12-0 record going into the Southeastern Conference championship game Saturday. The Longhorns' victory over the Aggies gave UT a 12-0 record heading into Saturday's Dr Pepper Big 12 Championship game.

YHC couldn't find any writers who wrote that 'Bama hurt its national championship hopes with a harder-than-expected victory over a rival.

And how did this week's Bowl Championship Series standings compute the results of the Texas and Alabama games. Both teams maintained their spots in the standings. Alabama's BCS point total dropped from .9614 to .9513. The Longhorns went from .9263 to .9282. UT also maintained its No. 2 spot in both the coaches and Harris Interactive polls while gaining slightly in the BCS computers.

YHC rests his case.

Fashion misstatements
The fashion police need to make their way to Nike Headquarters and handcuff some executives for crimes committed against the traditions of college football.

In recent weeks - no doubt to stimulate holiday sales during a weak economy - Nike has equipped nearly a dozen teams with its Pro Combat uniforms. Some of the new "looks" have been acceptable. A major failure was Missouri's pewter helmet and gray pants look against Kansas. It looked like the Tigers were in a black-and-white movie.

(Kansas tweaked its traditional uniform in a more subtle way and had a Jayhawk logo on its helmets. The last time the team had the bird on the helmet was in 1991 when it finished 6-5 and beat Missouri in the season finale.)

Texas also wore Pro Combat uniforms but the biggest change visible was that the Longhorns wore numbers on their helmets to honor the 1963 national championship team.

Nike's control over sports equals that of ESPN but when it messes with traditions like uniforms, Your Humble Correspondent says the line has been crossed.

YHC also points out an excellent point made by Andy Staples of - with so many 18 to 22 year olds fighting in a seemingly endless war in Afghanistan and Iraq, isn't it insensitive for Nike to have 18 to 22 year old football players to wear uniforms called "Pro Combat"?

Friday, November 27

One letter ("W") is all that matters
Your Humble Correspondent was asked by Mrs. Correspondent - full disclosure, she's a University of Texas grad - if the Longhorns' 49-39 victory over Texas A&M would cause poll voters and the media to downgrade UT.

YHC rolled his eyes - a gesture that often winds up with a reservation in the dog house.

He told the missus that anybody who watched the entire game would understand that the Aggies played with intensity and consistency, that their quarterback had magic in his arm and in his legs and that it was a typical Rivalry Game - totally unpredictable.

Yes, Texas A&M gashed Texas' vaunted defense. Yes, Texas did the same to A&M's low-ranked defense. But the Longhorns won by 10 ... on the road ... against a rival playing with nothing to lose ... a rival with some of the best offensive talent in the nation (A&M came into the game seventh in total offense).

So Your Humble Correspondent was shaken from his post-Thanksgiving lethargy by the national media criticizing Texas.

Thayer Evans of the New York Times: "And while Texas was expected to romp Thursday night against Texas A&M, questions about whether it deserves to play in the B.C.S. championship game may be as loud as they have been all season after the Longhorns escaped with a wild 49-39 win in front of 84,671 fans at Kyle Field."

Ivan Maisel, "Texas won the battle Thursday night, 49-39 at Texas A&M, and now we wait to see if the Longhorns win the war. I think Texas will get credit for winning on the road against an in-state rival. But I think Texas A&M's five touchdowns, 190 rushing yards and 532 total yards will cost Texas in the BCS beauty pageant. You have to assume that every poll voter -- the pageant judges -- watched this one. That kind of win will cost a team with a schedule as weak as the Longhorns'."

Pat Forde of Tweeted: "Horns survive and advance, now 60 minutes from Pasadena. But I'm stunned at the gouging their defense took. ... McCoy was brilliant - though it must be noted that A&M entered the game #110 in pass defense and #100 in total D. Shoulda strafed 'em."

Stewart Mandel of Tweeted: "Not to take anything away from A&M's offense (J. Johnson phenomenal game) - but would TCU give up 39 to these guys?"

Welcome to Knee Jerk Reaction Friday. Indeed, everyone is a critic. All four writers quoted are respected by YHC. However, he must respectfully disagree with their comments. Texas-Texas A&M was the only game on television Thursday night; everyone watched and has a "take." That's the place that 2nd-ranked (by the coaches) Texas finds itself in on this holiday weekend.

Apparently, Texas was supposed to waltz into College Station, throw their throwback helmets on the field and the Aggies would scatter into the night like frightened children.

YHC seems to remember that Alabama needed a blocked field goal to beat Tennessee (a rival) in Tuscaloosa ... that Alabama needed an incorrect instant replay call to beat LSU in Tuscaloosa ... that top-ranked Florida didn't mop the field with a .500 South Carolina team ... that Tim Tebow threw two interceptions for TDs in a 10-point victory at sub-.500 Mississippi State.

This is the time of the season when the only thing that matters is the "W." The Longhorns got the victory in College Station and needs one more "W" to play in the national championship game. Each game is its own entity. It's a fallacy to wonder if Colt McCoy could total 479 total yards against Alabama or Florida, if Texas A&M could score 39 on TCU.

Texas faces a huge challenge in the Dr Pepper Big 12 Championship game against Nebraska. The Cornhuskers' defense is much tougher than the Aggies' D but the Cornhuskers' offense is nowhere near as explosive as the Aggies'.

Judging how the Longhorns will fare against the Huskers based solely on Thursday night is foolish. What happened in the previous game(s), where the teams rank statistically, which team is favored won't matter. Just like it shouldn't matter what the margin of victory is or how that margin was attained. It all comes down to about three and a half hours on the night of Dec. 5. Nothing else matters.

It seems like Your Humble Correspondent is in the minority when it comes to that opinion.

Wednesday, November 25

Nebraska's Toney McCray out for season
Sophomore swing man Toney McCray will miss the rest of Nebraska's season. He'll undergo surgery for a torn left elbow ligament and a partially torn triceps tendon suffered in a summer pickup game. The 6-6 McCray played in the Cornhuskers' first three games with the elbow heavily bandaged and averaged 6.3 points and 4 rebounds. McCray will need five to six months to fully recover.

Texas hoops loses Varez Ward for season
Varez Ward, a sophomore guard for Texas, will miss the rest of the season after suffering a ruptured right quadriceps tendon Tuesday night. Ward suffered his injury in a most unusual way - he landed awkwardly after a layup in pre-game warm ups before the Longhorns defeated Pitt, 78-62, in the championship game of the CBE Classic.

Ward, who was replaced in the starting lineup by freshman J'Covan Brown, is scheduled to undergo surgery next week. The 6-4 Ward was averaging 6.7 points, 3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. The Longhorns' coaching staff considered Ward, who will be eligible for a medical redshirt this season, as one of the team's most improved players and one of its top perimeter defenders.

"We all feel for Varez," Texas coach Rick Barnes said in a statement released by the school. "Everyone within our program understands how much time and hard work Varez has put in, and he has been the most improved player on our team from the end of last season. He means a lot to this program. There is one thing for certain, he will be back."

Monday, November 23

Award watch
The finalists for a number of college football awards were announced Monday and Big 12 players were prominently mentioned.

Texas quarterback Colt McCoy is one of three finalists for the Davey O'Brien Award (top quarterback). Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford won the O'Brien last year.

McCoy is also one of three finalists for the Maxwell Award that goes to the nation's outstanding player.

Jordan Shipley, McCoy's teammate and favorite target is one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award (top wide receiver).

Two of the three finalists for the Outland Trophy are from the Big 12 - Oklahoma State tackle Russell Okung and Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The Outland is awarded to college football's best interior lineman. The winner will be announced on Dec. 10.

Suh and Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy are two of four finalists for the Rotary Lombardi Award (outstanding down lineman).

Suh is also one of three finalists for the Bednarik Award (top defensive player) and one of five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (top defensive player).

The Big 12 has two of the five finalists for the Butkus Award (top linebacker) - Sergio Kindle of Texas and Sean Weatherspoon of Missouri.

Texas sophomore safety Earl Thomas is one of three finalists for the Thorpe Award (top defensive back).

The Big 12 also has three of the 15 finalists for the Campbell Award (the academic Heisman) - McCoy, Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing and Baylor linebacker Joe Pawelek.

The coaches speak
Highlights from Monday's Big 12 coaches' teleconference:

* Texas Tech coach Mike Leach on the controversy swirling around Kansas coach Mark Mangino: "Nobody really knows what's gone on at Kansas but my suspicion is that Mark is in the middle of a witch hunt. Heaven forbid that (a player) is asked to pay attention and focus for the sake of his teammates and coaches. There are different ways to ask a guy for his attention. After you've asked it a number of times you raise the bar. ... The interesting thing to me is (the allegations) went from he hit some guy in the face to that he didn't touch him but said some mean things to him. 'The mean man told him something he didn't want to hear.' Well, you know, there's a mean man in Lubbock and he tells people what they don't want to hear, too. It's just part of it."

* Kansas takes a six-game losing streak into the season finale against Missouri Saturday. The Jayhawks need one more victory to become bowl eligible for a school-record third consecutive season. "This senior class deserves an opportunity to go to a bowl game," Kansas coach Mark Mangino said. "They were part of back-to-back bowls, gone to a BCS bowl and won it. Now they have an opportunity to play in a third consecutive bowl. That's unprecedented here at Kansas. They're the ones that got that all started. I feel for our seniors. I want them to have that opportunity and I think they deserve it."

* Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said that senior wide receiver Adron Tennell (unspecified injury) is probable while linebacker Ryan Reynolds (hamstring) is doubtful for Saturday's game with Oklahoma State. Sooners center Ben Habern, who suffered a broken leg last Saturday against Texas Tech, underwent surgery Saturday night and faces three months of rehabilitation.

* Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said that senior quarterback Zac Robinson is expected to practice Monday. He didn't play last Thursday against Colorado because of a bruised shoulder suffered in the previous game. "We didn't feel like he was ready to play," Gundy said. "Zac had not practiced as much as we would have liked and it wasn't fair to put him on the field (against Colorado)."

* Texas A&M's 38-3 victory gave the Aggies six victories and bowl eligibility. "It was a huge step for us," Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman said. "There are other steps we want to take but in order to get to those you have to achieve this step. "We didn't talk about the (bowl) implications because it was obvious. I usually don't make a big deal out of the obvious. In critical times this season, I thought our players have responded very well."

* Baylor and Texas Tech close out their regular seasons Saturday when they meet at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. This will be the third college game (preceded by Oklahoma-BYU and Texas A&M-Arkansas) played at the opulent new stadium. Bears coach Art Briles hopes that his players won't be distracted. "We've got enough things going on, we can't afford to be gazin' around at a star ship lookin' stadium," he said.

Friday, November 20

Hot links conducted a cool survey of over 33,000 college football fans. See what Big 12 fans had to say on the various topics. Check it out here.

Kansas State released the results of an athletic department audit.

Interesting read on Patrick Witt, who was Nebraska's backup quarterback last season but transferred to Yale where he's this season's starter.

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has brought his players together.

Oklahoma's defense has had success this season in slowing spread offensive attacks in a year when offensive numbers are down in the Big 12.

Former Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione is interested in the UNLV coaching job.

Thursday, November 19

4 Big 12 men's teams recruiting classes praised Inc. ranked the top 25 men's basketball recruiting classes and four Big 12 schools made the list:

Missouri, No. 13: This class fills many needs for Missouri and coach Mike Anderson has added solid pieces for future success. Phil Pressey (Dallas/Episcopal) is a consummate point guard who can dish and score. He is the son of former NBA player Paul Pressey and inherited his father's basketball IQ. Pressey is small but strong and athletic. He plays best in a system in which he can create with structure. Tony Mitchell (Dallas/Pinkston) is an athletic combo forward with a great body. He is a good scorer inside and has more than enough skill to be a small forward. Ricky Kreklow (Columbia, Mo./Rock Bridge) is a solid player who can pass and shoot. He has good size and can play either wing position. Kadeem Green (Markham, Ontario/United Faith Christian Academy) is a decently skilled and developing power forward who can face and score from the high post. He is a solid defender and should be a good contributor for Mizzou.

Oklahoma, No. 14: Sooners coach Jeff Capel learned this at Duke: Perimeter strength is a key to any championship squad. Perhaps Oklahoma just enhanced its chances of winning it all. Capel knows talent and traveled across the Texas, a state in which the Sooners have had tremendous success finding talent in recent years, border for two studs. Cameron Clark (Sherman, Texas/Sherman) is a superathletic wing who is improving rapidly. He has become a solid shooter in the midrange and always has been excellent in transition. In the half court he scores mostly on slashes to the rim in between defenders with a quick first step. T.J. Taylor (Denison, Texas/Denison) is a big-bodied combo guard, with great size (at 6-3). He has a left-handed, streaky shot and is very strong slashing to the basket with his big body. Both kids should contribute immediately. He loves to attack the rim in transition and is able to absorb a bump and still finish or get to the free-throw line.

Texas A&M, No. 20: Texas A&M has added a lot of size with this class. All four recruits are frontcourt players. Tobi Oyedeji (Bellaire, Texas/Bellaire) is an athletic and hardworking power forward. He's a bit undersized, but he generally outworks opponents and is an excellent rebounder and solid inside scorer. Daniel Alexander (Dripping Springs, Texas/Dripping Springs) is high-post 4-man with a nice shot who could develop into a small forward down the road. He has range to 20 feet and is a good athlete. Kourtney Roberson (Arcadia, Texas/Christian Life Center) is a fifth-year player who actually signed with A&M last year. He is a natural low-post player who can step out on the floor and create off the dribble. Keith Davis (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto) is a late-developing, athletic inside presence with great upside. All four should be four-year contributors for coach Mark Turgeon.

Baylor, No. 25: Scott Drew has led a resurgence at Baylor and this class with help that continue. Perry Jones (Duncanville, Texas/Duncanville) is the highest rated recruit ever in the program and may be the most talented high school player in America. He is the best prospect, meaning he has the most upside, in the 2010 class. He is skilled enough to play on the wing and long and athletic enough to be very effective in the post. He is a mismatch and only needs to add strength and consistency before he is a pro. He can play all three front court positions. Of course, Jones could be one of the only one-and-dones in the 2010 class. Bakari Turner (Plano, Texas/Plano West) is an athletic shooting guard who is excellent slashing to the basket and scoring in transition. He has deep shooting range and can knock down 3's off the catch in transition as well as in the half court. Turner has a streaky shot but excels in an up-and-down system.

Sam's still the man
While it's been a disappointing season for Oklahoma and injured Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford, there is a bright spot. Bradford will finish with the highest quarterback rating in Division I-A history. A junior who has declared his intentions to enter the NFL Draft next spring, Bradford's QB efficiency rating is 175.62. That's better than the current record holder, Boise State's Ryan Dinwiddie, who finished his career with a 168.89 rating. Bradford finished with 604 attempts and the minimum needed to qualify is 500. Florida senior Tim Tebow currently has a 170.35 rating but it will be almost impossible for Tebow to close the gap during his remaining games.

Feeling a draft
Sporting News Today's draft expert Russ Lande and his team of former NFL scouts put together a mock 2010 NFL Draft with the draft order based on current records. The Big 12 Conference had the top three players on the draft list, five of the first nine and seven of the first 27.

Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was the No. 1 pick followed by Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant and Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Oklahoma State offensive tackle Russell Okung was No. 5 and Texas linebacker/defensive end Sergio Kindle was No. 7. Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham was listed at No. 21 and Sooners quarterback Sam Bradford was placed at the 27th spot in the mock draft.

Foreshadowing national college basketball writer Gary Parrish had the following blog item about his encounter with Nebraska coach Doc Sadler:

I was headed out of my hotel in downtown St. Louis Wednesday afternoon when I bumped into Nebraska coach Doc Sadler, whose Huskers were in town to play Rick Majerus' Saint Louis Billikens. Next thing you know, I'm in a 45-minute conversation about anything and everything. But when we settled on the subject of the actual game it was clear Sadler knew what he was up against Wednesday night.

"It's gonna be like playing one of Rick's teams," Sadler said. "They're gonna make us guard them for 30 seconds."

Can your guys do that?

"I think we're disciplined enough to guard them for about 20," Sadler answered. Fast-forward to late Wednesday -  after a 69-55 loss to SLU - and I wasn't surprised to see the following Tweet from Sadler. "We [have] a lot of work to get done with toughness. Shot selection horrible. No patience on D."

Turns out, Saint Louis - surprise, surprise - swung the ball from side to side, drained the shot clock on many possessions and waited for Nebraska to make a mistake. More times than not, the mistake came. It allowed Saint Louis to shoot 47.8 percent from the field in the second half, all of which proved that even when coaches know exactly what's coming it can still be difficult to prevent, particularly in mid-November.

Tuesday, November 17

3 from Big 12 on Walter Camp list
Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, Texas wide receiver Jordan Shipley and Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh are among the 15 named to the "Players To Watch" list for this year's Walter Camp Award. McCoy won the award last year. The Camp Award goes to the nation's outstanding player.

Five finalists for the Camp Award will be announced on Dec. 2 and the winner will be announced on Dec. 12 during the ESPN College Football Awards Show.

Texas A&M working on punt returns
Two fumbled punts by Texas A&M helped Oklahoma score touchdowns in last Saturday's 65-10 Sooners victory. Aggies coach Mike Sherman said that freshman Kenric McNeal will continue practicing as the team's main punt returner and that A&M is putting extra emphasis on punt returns.

"I look at punt returning as one of the toughest jobs in football," Sherman said. "You have to want to do it. And you have to be somewhat crazy to want to do it. And you have to be very courageous, make great decisions.

"I think a fumbled punt, other than an interception returned for a touchdown - or any turnover returned for a touchdown - is probably one of more deciding factors in football games, because field position changes so dramatically."

Big 12 Conference teams are averaging 29.4 points per game, tops in the nation. The Atlantic Coast and Southeastern conferences are tied for second with 28.1 points per game. Following those are are the Big East and Western Athletic conferences (each at 27.9), the Pacific-10 (27.7), the Big Ten (26.8), the Mountain West (26.3), Conference USA (26.0), the Sun Belt (25.8) and the Mid-American Conference (24.0).

Linked up
Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads has accomplished the
best turnaround among first-year coaches this season.

A question and answer session with Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.

The Big 12 North Division showdown between Kansas State and Nebraska could be called Back To The Future IV.

Iowa State senior guard Alison Lacey is writing a blog for the New York Times about her experiences this season.

Monday, November 16

Texas A&M 80, SMU 68
When is a road game more like a home game? When at least 60 percent - perhaps more - of the "home" crowd is cheering for the visitors.

That was the situation Monday night when Texas A&M played at SMU. The crowd of 6,729 was definitely in the maroon color scheme. That was evident in the first half when the Aggies took the lead for good with just over eight minutes remaining. SMU called timeout and the crowd was cheering for the visiting team that was leading 17-13.

"It was a big-time atmosphere," said A&M coach Mark Turgeon, whose team is 2-0. "This was a scary game for me. We wanted to make a good impression for our fans in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and we wanted to get the seniors home."

That would be Donald Sloan (game-high 24 points), Derrick Roland (21) and Bryan Davis (9 points, 6 rebounds before fouling out). All are from the Dallas area and had not played a game in their stomping grounds since high school.

A&M missed its first seven shots against the Mustangs' zone but then heated up. The Aggies' 6-of-15 accuracy from 3-point range forced SMU to switch to man-to-man. A&M made its last six shots of the first half and 14 of its last 24 for a 36-26 halftime lead.

The Aggies made four of their first six shots to start the second half and built a 48-38 lead. "Then we seemed to go on cruise control and let them back in the game," Turgeon said.

SMU cut it to 50-46 and missed a layup. Sloan rebounded and found Roland, whose runner with 8:43 remaining stopped the bleeding.

Roland was particularly celebratory on his homecoming. He scored 11 of A&M's 12 points as the Aggies methodically pulled away. Roland scored 14 of his points over the last 8:43.

"D Ro really stepped it up," said Turgeon, whose team made 19 of its last 23 free throw attempts. "He got out in transition, he got to the foul line. I like how we finished both halves."

* The Big 12 continued its perfect start (19-0) in men's basketball. In addition to A&M's victory, Baylor defeated Southern, 61-45 and Colorado beat Coppin State, 82-58. LaceDarius Dunn had 13 points to lead the Bears. Cory Higgins had 21 to lead the Buffs, while freshman Alec Burks added 18.

Saturday, November 14

Men's basketball Saturday
Oklahoma 95, Mount St. Mary's 71:
Steven Pledger led four freshmen who were impressive in their debut for the sooners. Pledger scored 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting. Keith "Tiny" Gallon had 18 points and 15 rebounds, Andrew Fitzgerald scored 14 and Tommy Mason-Griffin scored 11. Sophomore Willie Warren, one of two starters returning from last season's Elite Eight team, had his first career double double - 15 points and a career-high 11 assists.

Oklahoma State 86, Seattle 64: It took longer than expected but the Cowboys opened their season with an easy victory. The game was delayed by an hour and 10 minutes because of a mixup with organizers of the Las Vegas Invitational; the game was a first-round contest in the tournament. The officials were late arriving and then Seattle also was late getting to Gallagher-Iba Arena. When the game started, James Anderson scored 22 and Marshall Moses added 17 for Oklahoma State. The Cowboys scored the first seven points and padded their edge with a 13-2 run later in the first half.

Texas Tech 66, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 59: The Red Raiders rallied from a 36-32 halftime deficit as four players scored in double figures. John Roberson had 15, Mike Singletary 14, Darko Cohadarevic 12 and D'Walyn Roberts 12 for Texas Tech. The Red Raiders held the Islanders to 39.7 percent shooting.

Nebraska 76, USC Upstate 49: Junior-college transfer Lance Jeter made his Cornhuskers debut by scoring 14 points to lead four Nebraska players in double figures. Huskers forced 21 turnovers and limited the visitors to 38.8 percent shooting. Freshman forward Brandon Ubel had 12 points, Eshaunte Jones had 12 and Toney McCray added 10 for Nebraska. The Huskers made 55 percent of their 3-pointers.

Women's basketball Saturday
Texas Tech 91, Sam Houston State 52:
The Lady Raiders needed about 12 minutes to get rolling but once that happened they were dominant. After taking an 18-16 lead with 8:27 remaining in the first half, Texas Tech went on a 27-11 run to take a 45-27 halftime lead. Kierra Mallard had 15 points to lead the Lady Raiders while Ashlee Robinson had a double double - 14 points, 11 rebounds.

Indiana State 77, Kansas State 73: The Wildcats shot just 35.4 percent from the field and fell to the visiting Sycamores. Ashley Sweat and Kari Kincaid each had 16 points for Kansas State. Indiana State senior guard Kelsey Luna had 37 points to lead all scorers.

Friday, November 13

Men's basketball openers Friday night
Kansas 101, Hofstra 65:
Xavier Henry made his debut for the top-ranked Jayhawks and scored a Kansas freshman record with 27 points. Henry made 8-of-12 shots and was 5-for-8 from 3-point range. Senior point guard Sherron Collins scored 23 for Kansas.

Texas A& M 88, Angelo State 69: Sophomore forward David Loubeau came off the bench to score a career-high 20 points and grab nine rebounds for the Aggies. Seniors Bryan Davis (17), Donald Sloan (14) and Derrick Roland (12) also scored in double figures. Texas A&M had a 48-31 halftime lead but only outscored the visitors 40-38 in the second half.

Iowa State 88, Idaho State 68: All-American candidate Craig Brackins had 17 points as the Cyclones had four players in double figures. LaRon Dendy had 16, Marquis Gilstrap had 13 and Scott Christopherson had 10 for Iowa State which shot 54.7 percent from the field and was 7-of-15 on 3-pointers.

Kansas State 92, Loyola (Ill.) 54: Curtis Kelly, who sat out last season after transferring from Connecticut, had a game-high 22 points in his first game for the Wildcats. Six of Kelly's seven rebounds were on the offensive glass. Jacob Pullen had 15 points for Kansas State, which had five players in double figures.

Texas Tech 88, South Dakota 49: Junior-college transfer guard David Tairu scored 17 points in his debut for the Red Raiders. Mike Singletary added 15 points as Texas Tech had seven players with eight or more points. Texas Tech had a 42-21 halftime lead and made it a bigger blowout with a 20-0 run early in the second half.

Baylor 86, Norfolk State 58: With senior guard Tweety Carter suspended for the first four games of the season, LaceDarius Dunn - the Bears only other returning starter - scored 32 points as Baylor cruised to the victory. Ekpe Udoh, who sat out last season after transferring from Michigan had a double double in his Baylor debut - 18 points and 11 rebounds. Dunn made 10-of-16 shots and was 4-of-4 on 3-pointers.

Colorado 88, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 72: Junior Cory Higgins had 26 points and was one of five Buffaloes in double figures. Higgins made all 16 of his free throw attempts and the Buffs were 34-of-40 from the line. Freshman Alec Burks had 13 points. Colorado was coached by assistant Steve McClain. Head coach Jeff Bzdelik had to return to the East Coast Friday afternoon because of a family emergency.

Women's basketball openers Friday night
Oklahoma 108, Mercer 66:
The 13th-ranked Sooners got 17 points from Danielle Robinson and Amanda Thompson in rolling to an easy victory in the first game in four seasons without the Paris sisters on the roster. OU took control with a 15-0 first-half run sparked by a 3-pointer and three-point play by sophomore Whitney Hand. A 22-2 run in the second half made it runaway. All five Sooners starters scored in double figures.

Texas 71, Texas-San Antonio 60: Longhorns senior Brittainey Raven missed a class this week and was suspended for the first half. And at halftime, the visiting Road Runners had a 31-28 lead. In the second half, Raven scored 11 points as No. 13 Texas rallied for the record. Ashley Gayle had 12 points and six rebounds while Ashleigh Fontenette added 10 points and five assists for the Longhorns.

Nebraska 86, Davidson 62: Senior Kelsey Griffin, returning after sitting out last season recovering from an injury, had team highs of 13 points and seven rebounds for the Cornhuskers. Griffin played 18 minutes and made all five of her shot attempts. Twelve Cornhuskers played 11 or more minutes. Nebraska made its first nine shots to build a 22-6 lead.

Oklahoma State 67, Arkansas-Little Rock 58: Senior guard Andrea Riley scored 27 points as the Cowgirls won their opener despite shooting 36.2 percent from the field. Tegan Cunningham added 17 points and seven rebounds for Oklahoma State.

Baylor's Tweety Carter suspended for 4 games
Hours before Baylor opened the 2009-10 season against Norfolk State Friday night, senior guard Tweety Carter was suspended for the first four games. Baylor coach Scott Drew announced the suspension late Friday afternoon and said it was for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Carter, one of two returning starters for the Bears, will miss the opening plus Sunday's game with Harford, Monday's game with Southern and the Nov. 22 game with Hardin-Simmons. He'll be eligible to return to the lineup on Thanksgiving Day when Baylor faces Alabama in the first round of the Old Spice Classic in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Tidbits from Big 12 coaches' ESPN visit
Baylor's Scott Drew, Missouri's Mike Anderson and Oklahoma State's Travis Ford visited ESPN's "campus" Wednesday to do interviews on the cable giant's various platforms. ESPN college basketball writer Andy Katz offered the following details on his daily blog on Links lead to Katz's video interviews with the three coaches.

* Missouri's Mike Anderson said sophomore forward Laurence Bowers has been a highlight. He's rebounded well and will likely be the guy who replaces DeMarre Carroll inside. Don't dismiss Keith Ramsey from contributing quite a bit inside, either. The Tigers lost their "junkyard dog" in Carroll but return the backcourt's "heart and soul" in J.T. Tiller. Tiller returns with a loaded backcourt of Zaire Taylor, Kim English and the addition of freshman Michael Dixon gives the Tigers a frenetic backcourt that will be hard to contain in the Big 12. "They are underrated," Anderson said of his backcourt. "It's a helluva backcourt that led the nation in assists [138 for Tiller and 128 for Taylor] and was second in steals [123]. We're going to beat some people."

* Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford had high praise for Kentucky transfer Matt Pilgrim, who was jettisoned from the Wildcats but was granted immediate eligibility without having to sit out a year. Pilgrim scored 18 points and 12 rebounds in an exhibition game earlier in the week. "He's the most athletic and quickest player I've ever coached," Ford said of the forward. "Pro scouts come to watch James (Anderson) and say, 'Wow, this kid is unbelievably raw offensively but has extremely high energy.'"

The big question for the Cowboys will be if Ford can find a point guard to replace Byron Eaton to help feed players like Pilgrim and take a bit of pressure off All-Big 12 wing Anderson. Ford said he'll play Keith Page at the point but anticipates freshman Ray Penn will gravitate to major minutes. "He's a helluva talent and he'll be one of the best in the Big 12 in two years." Ford said. "We've got a chance, I'll put our first group against anyone."

* Baylor coach Scott Drew isn't packing in on this season, not with the return of guards LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter. Drew is one of the most optimistic coaches and only he could spin the Bears' Top 25 ranking at the start of the season and its NIT final appearance after a disastrous 5-11 Big 12 season last year. Still, the reason for his giddiness on Wednesday was the signing of ESPNU No. 3 player Perry Jones out of Duncanville High (Texas). The 6-11 center could be a one-and-done and will make Baylor a stopping point for NBA scouts next season.

"When you bring in a person like that it opens doors," Drew said. "He's going to be a great player. We've recruited top 20 classes but haven't been able to sign that consensus top-five pick in the country. Most NBA drafts have him as a lottery pick. We'll be viewed in a whole new light because kids will say 'I want to play with that guy' or 'He went there so I can play there.'"

Drew has gone after high-profile talents with NBA potential like C.J. Miles (who opted for the NBA draft out of high school after turning down Texas), Darrell Arthur (who chose Kansas over Baylor and LSU) and most recently John Wall (who chose Kentucky even after Drew hired Dwon Clifton, a coach with ties to Wall, as a summer-league coach).

"We go after the best and we feel like if we get them on campus, and they see the academics and they see the facilities we've got a chance," Drew said.

Drew said that with the return of Dunn, Nolan Dennis (who will be a sophomore), and Michigan transfer Ekpe Udoh the Bears will have the right pieces around Jones in 2010-11 to make a significant run. "We'll have have talent around him and it will be great to have somebody that, night in and night out, everyone out there knows who that guy is," Drew said.

Tuesday, November 10

Big 12 basketball coaches at "Car Wash" Wednesday
Traveling to the Northeast in November for a car wash appears to be a dumb idea. But this car wash doesn't involve automobiles, brushes, soap and water.

Big 12 basketball coaches Scott Drew of Baylor, Mike Anderson of Missouri and Travis Ford of Oklahoma State will be in Bristol, Conn., Wednesday. They'll be at ESPN headquarters for six hours of live and taped interviews. It's a process known as the "Car Wash" because it's assembly line in nature.

The trio will be talking about their teams and Big 12 basketball on a variety of the sports network's "platforms" _ ESPN, ESNP2 and ESPNU. Each coach also will tape a segment for ESPN's College Basketball Season Preview that airs at 6 p.m. Thursday on ESPN2.

Another group of Big 12 coaches are scheduled to visit Bristol for another spin through the "car wash" in mid-December.

Leach's "Car Wash" experience
If any of the Big 12's basketball coaches need advice for what to expect during the ESPN "Car Wash" experience, they could give Texas Tech coach Mike Leach a call.

The Red Raiders didn't play last Saturday so on Nov. 2, Leach took advantage of some down time to travel to Bristol, Conn., to go through the non-stop interview process at ESPN.

"It was pretty fun," Leach said on this week's coaches' teleconference. "It's a bigger operation up there than I realized. They've got studios up there, stuff going on all over the place. You walk down the hall and there's people you see on TV that you feel like you know but you don't. You go in the cafeteria and it's literally like a high school cafeteria except there's all these celebrity broadcasters and former athletes running around."

Leach was impressed with the cafeteria's food selection but he didn't have much time because of his interview schedule.

"I had a turkey sandwich," Leach said. "They had a good salad bar, but there was a pretty big line for it. I had the turkey sandwich, which was fresh, and they make it right there in front of you. They had this natural fruit smoothie thing. I had that, and some green tea."

Linked up
Nebraska's sputtering offense should turn to I-back
Roy Helu Jr. for production, says Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald.

Mike Leach, who is one victory from becoming Texas Tech's winningest football coach, has had a huge impact on the Big 12.

Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche Journal has the background on Texas Tech coach Mike Leach's cameo appearance on "Friday Night Ligthts."

Even at 9-0, Texas has some areas that need improvement, writes Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman.

Football news and notes
* Oklahoma's Brody Eldridge and Auston English will miss the rest of their senior seasons with injuries. Eldridge, a versatile player who became the first player in modern OU history to start at three positions (tight end, center, guard) suffered an AC shoulder sprain. English, a defensive end, ruptured a tendon in his ankle. Sophomore offensive tackle Jarvis Jones, who was expected to move from tackle to guard to replace Eldridge, is out for the season with a fractured heel he suffered against Nebraska.

* Missouri senior safety Hardy Ricks, a key reserve in the Tigers' secondary, will miss the rest of the season after suffering a torn ACL injury in Saturday's game with Baylor.

* Kansas coach Mark Mangino points to turnovers as being the key reason his team has lost four consecutive Big 12 games - the first time that's happened since 2004. In the last 10 quarters, the Jayhawks have committed 10 turnovers. "We're turning it over early in games, getting ourselves behind and creating a tough hill to climb," Mangino said.

* Nebraska is in the thick of the North Division race but the Cornhuskers have just four offensive touchdowns in their last four games. "It's very critical," Cornhuskers coach Bo Pelini said of his offense's struggles. "We need to get more production on that side of the ball. We need to get more consistency on that side of the ball. It's a tremendous sense of urgency."

* Nebraska freshman quarterback Cody Green played the first five series against Oklahoma but didn't produce a first down. He was replaced by junior Zac Lee, who had started the first seven games. As of Monday, Pelini wasn't sure who would start at Kansas Saturday.

* If Kansas State wins the North Division and faces Texas in the Dr Pepper Big 12 Championship game, most will make the Longhorns heavy favorites. However, the Wildcats are the only North Division team with a winning record over Texas. Kansas State has a 4-2 edge over the Longhorns and have won the last two - victories over in 2006 when Texas was ranked No. 4 and in 2007 when the Longhorns were ranked No. 7.

* In Texas' last three games, quarterback colt McCoy has completed 75 of 94 passes (80 percent) for 910 yards (303.3 yards per game) with six touchdowns and two interceptions. Over the same span, receiver Jordan Shipley has also put up big numbers: 24 receptions for 445 yards (18.5 yards per catch).

* Freshman Nick Florence, who started the season as Baylor's third-string quarterback, set a school record with 427 yards passing in the Bears' 40-32 victory at Missouri. Coach Art Briles wasn't surprised. "He's been really solid the last couple of weeks as far as placement of the ball, understanding what's going on and has been real good in practice," Briles said. "With increased reps, I think his confidence and his anticipation skills have really gotten better. It was a good deal that happened, but surprised? I don't think so. I'm just glad we got the expected outcome."

Monday, November 9

Shhhhh, it's a secret
NCAA rules allow for Division I basketball teams to scrimmage each other. However, there scrimmages are supposed to be "secret" with no fans, no media and no statistics reported. All that didn't prevent Andy Katz of from writing nearly
1,000 words about Texas' scrimmage with Gonzaga in Denver Saturday. All of the info came from "sources." The Longhorns also had a scrimmage with Davidson two weeks ago in Austin and Katz has info on that, also.

TV schedule set
Other than a few game times and some network designations, the Big 12's football schedule is set for the remainder of the season.

ABC/ESPN will wait to decide if the Kansas at Texas game on Nov. 21 will be televised at either 2:30 p.m. or 7 p.m. The network is utilizing the last of its six-day selection windows for that game. However, the game time for KU-Texas could be announced before this Sunday. Kansas State at Nebraska at 6:45 p.m. on Nov. 21 will be televised on either ESPN or ESPN2.

Here's the remainder of the Big 12's television schedule (all times CT):

Thursday, Nov. 19    
Colorado at Oklahoma State   6:30 p.m.   ESPN
Saturday Nov. 21    
Oklahoma at Texas Tech   11:30 a.m.   FSN
Kansas at Texas   2:30 p.m./7 p.m.   ABC
Kansas State at Nebraska   6:45 p.m.   ESPN/ESPN2
Thursday, Nov. 26    
Texas at Texas A&M   7 p.m.   ESPN
Friday, Nov. 27    
Nebraska at Colorado   2:30 p.m.   ABC
Saturday, Nov. 28    
Oklahoma State at Oklahoma   11:30 a.m.   FSN
Missouri vs. Kansas   2:30 p.m.   ABC
Texas Tech vs. Baylor   5 p.m.   FSN

Tuesday, November 3

Big 12 players among Thorpe semifinalists
Oklahoma State's Perish Cox, Kansas' Darrell Stuckey and Texas' Earl Thomas are among the 12 semifinalists for the 2009 Jim Thorpe Award that is presented each year to the nation's top defensive back. The three finalists for this year's award will be announced on Nov. 23. The Thorpe screening committee was limited to selecting a dozen semifinalists but determined that five additional defensive backs needed recognition. Included on that list of five honorable mentions was Oklahoma defensive back Brian Jackson.

Big 12 BCS trivia
Since 2000, there have been 74 weeks of Bowl Championship Series ratings. In those 74 rankings, the Big 12 Conference has had a team in the top two spots 53 times (the top two teams in the final BCS rankings play for the national championship.) Over the same time period, the Big Ten Conference has had a team in the top two spots 25 times, the Pacific-10 has had 23 teams, the Big East 19, the Southeastern Conference 9 and the Atlantic Coast Conference six.

What they're writing about the Big 12
* College basketball analyst Jay Bilas wrote a column on about 10 players who don't "get enough ink, mention, blog or tweet." Colorado's Cory Higgins made the list and here's what Bilas wrote about Higgins: "A crafty scorer with really good body control in the lane, Higgins is 6-4 with good quickness and a knack for scoring. The free throw line is a weapon for him, and he has a terrific pull-up game. While not a high-level athlete, Higgins finds a way when all defenses are geared to stop him."

* Bilas' colleague, former Oklahoma State guard Doug Gottlieb, lists 10 "cold, hard facts about this season" in a column for Here's No. 1 on his list: "If Kentucky, Texas and Kansas are not in the Final Four, it will be a surprise. Barring injury, those three teams have significantly more talent than the rest of the field. Kentucky lacks shooting, Texas has only gotten there once under Rick Barnes and KU might have too many guys, but the raw talent combined with quality coaching and experience should leave those three teams above all the others by the time March comes along."

* Josh Hewitt of has the Big 12 ranked as the nation's top conference headed into the 2009-10 season: "With two of the nation's top five teams, including next season's national title favorite and potential preseason No. 1, the Big 12 makes a convincing argument to be the top conference in 2009-10. While Kansas and Texas will be among the country's elite teams and could even meet in Indianapolis when April rolls around, the conference also features two of the top big men in Kansas' Cole Aldrich and Iowa State's Craig Brackins. Throw other big-time returning players like Kansas' Sherron Collins, Oklahoma State's James Anderson, Oklahoma's Willie Warren, Texas' Damion James, Kansas State's Jacob Pullen and Texas A&M's Donald Sloan into the conversation, along with highly-touted freshmen Xavier Henry (Kansas), Avery Bradley (Texas) and Keith Gallon (Oklahoma), and there's no question that the Big 12 has the strongest crop of talent on the hardwood next year."

* Mark Schlabach of breaks down the national championship race. He has Texas facing Alabama in the BCS national championship game. Here's what he wrote about the Longhorns:

"The Longhorns moved past Alabama for the No. 2 spot in the BCS standings on Sunday, and it could be argued they've looked like the country's best team the past two weeks. Texas routed Missouri 41-7 on Oct. 24 and then walloped No. 14 Oklahoma State 41-14 on the road on Saturday.

"The Longhorns seem to be hitting their stride on offense and they're playing defense as well as Alabama or Florida. Texas shouldn't have much trouble in its next three games: home against Central Florida on Saturday, at Baylor on Nov. 14 and home against reeling Kansas on Nov. 21. A Thanksgiving night contest at Texas A&M could be tricky, though, because it's a big rivalry game.

"If Texas finishes unbeaten and wins the Dec. 5 Big 12 championship game, it will play for the BCS National Championship."

Hot links
Here's Texas Tech coach
Mike Leach on ESPN's College Football Live Monday. You can find out if the Red Raiders coach ever does the dishes in the Leach household.

Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson is being criticized by some fans after throwing four interceptions against Texas last Saturday.

Luke Winn of reports from a Kansas State practice that the Wildcats have a chance to be a dark horse contender in this season's Big 12 Conference men's basketball race.

College basketball writer Jeff Goodman of previews Kansas and Texas and predicts both teams will make the Elite Eight.

Monday, November 2

 Big 12 televised games for Nov. 14 

Game Time Network
Texas at Baylor   11 a.m.   FSN
Missouri at Kansas State   11:30 a.m.   Versus
Nebraska at Kansas   2:30 p.m.   ABC
Texas A&M at Oklahoma   6 p.m.   FSN
Texas Tech at Oklahoma State   7 p.m.   ABC

News and notes
Interesting items from Monday's Big 12 coaches teleconference.

* Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said that junior Austen Arnaud would start at quarterback against Oklahoma State Saturday. Arnaud has missed the last two games with a bruised throwing hand and has been replaced by redshirt freshman Jerome Tiller. "Austen was really close to starting (against Texas A&M) but he was still having trouble gripping the football and he didn't quite have the velocity we'd like."

* Kansas coach replied with Mark Magino "of course" when asked if senior Todd Reesing would start at quarterback against Kansas State. The question became an issue when Reesing was replaced by Kale Pick in the fourth quarter at Texas Tech and the Jayhawks trailing by 14 points. "I don't think it was a difficult decision at all, it was the appropriate thing to do," Mangino said. "No. 1, he was getting limited protection from our offensive line. No. 2, things weren't in sync for the whole offense. I thought it was in his best interests and the team's best interests to take him out."

* Oklahoma plays at Nebraska Saturday. The old rivals from the Big Eight Conference only meet two out of every four years in the Big 12 divisional scheduling format. Sooners coach Bob Stoops will devote some time to educating his players about the rivalry. "We always want to put the history in front of them," Stoops said. "In today's world, for young guys, history is a year or two ago. We want them to understand where the rivalry used to be, the intensity of the rivalry."

* Stoops is happy he's seen the last of Kansas State kick returner Brandon Banks, who was named the Big 12's special teams player of the week. Banks returned had 351 all-purpose yards and returned six kickoffs for a career-high 195 yards and had a 98-yard kickoff return for the Wildcats against Oklahoma Saturday. "After the game I gave him a hug and asked if he was a senior," Stoops said. "He's one of those guys where you hold your breath each time he touches the ball. With his speed, he'll get you."

* Second-ranked Texas steps out of conference this week to play host to Central Florida of Conference USA Saturday in Austin. UCF is 5-3 after scoring 14 fourth-quarter points to defeat Marshall Sunday night. "It's a unique game for us," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "We haven't played an out-of-conference game this late. A lot of the SEC teams do it. We've got to continue to be focused and keep playing at a high level. People will expect a let down but I don't see it. This is a national game for us."

* Kansas State coach Bill Snyder on coaching this year's Wildcats team: "When we play well, it's enjoyable. When we don't, it's not. I certainly didn't enjoy the first quarter Saturday. I like this group, they're just good young guys."

* After losing three games to fall to 3-3 on the season, Texas A&M has won two consecutive Big 12 games heading into Saturday's game at Colorado: "The last eight quarters we've played pretty good ball," Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman said. "We're confident but I don't think we're that much more confident than when we started the season. Just because we lost some games, I never lost confidence in this team."

* Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said that sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert is close to being 100 percent healthy. He suffered a sprained right ankle in the Big 12 opener against Nebraska. Gabbert hasn't missed a start and Saturday against Colorado, he was 17-of-29 for 192 yards and two touchdowns. "He's shown a tremendous amount of courage in playing through this injury," Pinkel said. "He's finally starting to get around, he might be near 100 percent. When he's 100 percent, his ability to run can put a lot of pressure on the defense."

* Colorado freshman defensive end Nick Kasa, the Buffs' top recruit this season, told the Boulder Daily Camera he won't play again this season. Kasa missed Saturday's game with Missouri because of illness and said after the game he planned to apply for a medical redshirt. He played 47 snaps in four games. Kasa missed half of August practices and the first three games this season after suffering a sprained ligament in his knee. Kasa becomes the second Colorado top recruit in as many years to be hampered by injuries. Running back Darrell Scott, considered the nation's top running back in 2008, has never gotten untracked in his two seasons in Boulder. "Nick was getting better," Colorado coach Dan Hawkins said. "Hopefully he'll be able to get this year back."

* Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill filled in for coach Mike Leach on Monday's teleconference. The Red Raiders are idle Saturday and Leach was in Bristol, Conn., Monday to go through ESPN's "car wash" - interviews on the sports network's various delivery platforms. "Any time we get exposure for Texas Tech, it's a plus," McNeill said. "It gives people a chance to find out about the city of Lubbock. It's always good to advertise our school, our program, it's a major plus."

Reviewing the national championship chase
Now that college football, version 2009, is heading into its final full month, it's time to take a look at the nine schools that can be considered national championship contenders. Here's the rundown, in order of this week's Bowl Championship Series standings:

1. Florida: The defending national champions are No. 1 in both the coaches and Harris polls. The Gators are first in five of the six computer rankings. Despite some struggles in recent games, Florida controls its destiny: win its last four regular-season games plus the Southeastern Conference championship game and it can book passage to the BCS Championship game in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 7.

2. Texas: The Longhorns moved up to No. 2 in this week's BCS standings. Texas is No. 2 in both human polls, slipping past Alabama this week. The Longhorns and the Crimson Tide are tied in the computer rankings. Texas has the same mantra as Florida - keep winning. If the Longhorns finish the season undefeated, they'll be in Pasadena playing for the national title.

3. Alabama: The Crimson Tide control in the SEC's West Division and figure to reach the SEC title game on Dec. 5 in Atlanta. If the opponent there is Florida, it could be a winner-take-all as far as a spot in the national championship is concerned.

4. Iowa: The Hawkeyes have survived thanks to fourth quarter comebacks. Iowa is 9-0 and have three games remaining - home games with Northwestern and Minnesota and a road game at Ohio State. Even if the Hawkeyes finish 12-0, they could get left out of the national championship picture if Florida/Alabama and Texas remain perfect. Iowa needs Texas to lose in order to have a shot at playing the SEC winner in the national title game.

5. Cincinnati: The Bearcats of the Big East Conference have tough games with West Virginia and Pittsburgh remaining and they need for November to be naughty for the teams in front of them. Cincinnati needs to finish undefeated while Texas and Iowa each lose at least once.

6. TCU: The Horned Frogs are the highest-rated team from a non-automatic qualifying conference. An undefeated TCU would be assured of an at-large BCS bowl invitation. To play for the national championship, TCU needs losses by Cincinnati, Texas and Iowa in order to get within range of the national title game.

7. Boise State: Like TCU, the Broncos are from a non-automatic qualifying conference. To earn an at-large BCS bid, they'll need to finish ranked higher than TCU in the final BCS standings. Playing for the national championship would require a series of upsets.

8. Oregon: The Ducks are the top-ranked one-loss team. That one loss came in the season opener against ... Boise State. Oregon's impressive demolition of USC Saturday night eliminated the Trojans from the national championship race and put the Ducks into contention even if they're long shots at playing for the national championship.

9. LSU: The Tigers' one loss came to Florida but LSU is one team that can win its way to Pasadena. The Tigers play at Alabama Saturday. If LSU wins, it would have the tiebreaker on the Tide in the SEC West and be in position to win out to reach the SEC championship game. In Atlanta, they could face a rematch with undefeated Florida. A defeat of the Gators would give LSU two late-season victories over current contenders. Remember, the Tigers' two national championships during the BCS Era have been the result of late-season "miracles."

Linked up
Brice Cherry of the Waco Tribune-Herald
criticizes Baylor fans for their lack of support of the football team Saturday against Nebraska.

Neill Woelk of the Boulder Daily Camera writes about how coach Dan Hawkins can fix his Colorado program.

Texas Tech coach Mike Leach continues to defend his comments from last week about his players' girlfriends.

The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel writes in his block that Oklahoma State doesn't have a home-field advantage when it plays Texas.

Even with the loss at Oklahoma Saturday, Kansas State has accomplished a remarkable turnaround and is the favorite to win the Big 12 North, according to Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star.

Cool time-lapse video from Saturday's Iowa State-Texas A&M game that focuses on Kyle Field. (Scroll down to "An Afternoon In College Station.")


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