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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.

August 2009

Monday, August 31

Cotton Bowl goes prime time in 2011
The Cotton Bowl announced Monday it has extended its television agreement with Fox Sports through 2014. Part of the deal calls for the 2011 game to be played at 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 7. The Cotton Bowl matches teams from the Big 12 and Southeastern conferences.

Fox is in its final season of televising Bowl Championship Series games. The BCS moves to ESPN starting with 2010 season. Losing the BCS games allowed Fox to give the Cotton Bowl, which has moved to the new Cowboys Stadium, a higher profile telecast window.

"I can't think of a better way to celebrate our 75th anniversary than a primetime kick off at Cowboys Stadium," Cotton Bowl President Rick Baker said. "With the BCS moving to cable, the Classic will be the only network primetime bowl game in 2011, and we couldn't be more excited."

With the move to the Cowboys Stadium, the Cotton Bowl hopes to increase its chances of being in future BCS bowl rotations. Moving away from the clutter of New Year's Day games and to a date that won't have other major bowls could help with that quest.

The new contract calls for the 2012 Cotton Bowl to be played on Friday, Jan. 6, the 2013 game on Friday Jan. 4 and 2014 game on Monday, Jan. 6. Those games could also be in prime-time but that has not been determined.

More news to use
* Texas coach Mack Brown said Monday that freshman Garrett Gilbert, the current backup to starter Colt McCoy, could play during the Longhorns' season opener against Louisiana Monroe Saturday night. Gilbert played well during training camp and moved up the depth chart when Sherrod Harris struggled to stay healthy. "We would like to get him on the field," Brown said. "You've got to be fair to your team, fair to Colt. In the past, we've sometimes put a (new) quarterback into the third series, or the fifth series, or try to get him in in the first half."

* Colorado will host Colorado State in Folsom Field Sunday night but the rivalry's next 10 games will be held at Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver. Both schools made that announcement Monday. Eight of the 10 games in the series occur on the opening weekend of the college season.

*Oklahoma State senior cornerback Perrish Cox was arrested for driving with a suspended license on Friday. The Stillwater police department confirmed the arrest to Oklahoma media outlets Monday. It is unclear if the arrest will have an effect on Cox's playing status in Saturday's season opener with Georgia.

* Gale Sayers, a two-time All-American running back at Kansas, will join the school in October as Director of Fundraising for Special Projects.  "There is no one better suited to take on this role," athletic director Lew Perkins said. Sayers is a member of the NFL and College Football halls of fame.

* Oklahoma released its depth chart for the season opener and Brody Eldridge is listed as the starting center. A 6-5, 265-pound senior, Eldridge has been a tight end during his OU career but he was moved to center two weeks ago when starter Ben Habern missed time with a bad back. Eldridge is considered one of the team's best blockers.

Football news and notes
* Kansas coach Mark Mangino praised freshman running back Toben Opurum during his portion of the Big 12 Conference coaches teleconference Monday. Opurum figures to be the main backup to senior starter Jake Sharp. "Toben is coming along," Mangino said. "He's a big, strong kid who runs really well. He has a lot to learn, but he's very talented, and he is a guy that I think, as we go along, is going to get better and better every week as he gets comfortable with what we're doing and realizes that things are a little faster-paced here than they are in high school. He has had a really good training camp."

* Senior safety James Smith led Iowa State in tackles last season but he might not be starting Thursday when the Cyclones open the season by hosting North Dakota State. Smith is listed as No. 2 on the team's depth chart behind junior Michael O'Connell.

* Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has chosen his starting quarterback for Saturday's season opener against Division I-AA Massachusetts. The announcement will be made at Tuesday's press conference in Manhattan. Junior Carson Coffman has been battling senior Grant Gregory, who transferred from South Florida and has one season of eligibility remaining.

* Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said he's not concerned about the huge videoboard that hangs over the field at Cowboys Stadium. The Sooners open the season Saturday against BYU at the new facility in Arlington, Texas. In the first NFL preseason game played at the stadium, a punt hit the board and the play was ruled a "do over." Stoops figures that will the same thing Saturday. "We'll abide by whatever the rule is, we'll abide by it," he said Monday. "We'll have a do over, I guess. Hopefully we can it because that means our punter is hitting it pretty well. ... When we're warming up, it's something we'll look at. We'll make sure our return guys can follow the ball when it's kicked.

* Texas coach Mack Brown said he is curious to see how his team's kicking game performs in the season opener against Louisiana-Monroe Saturday. "You might have the same kickers, punters and return guys but the personnel on the kicking teams change," Brown said. "You have some really young guys playing for the first time. We've got an older team so we've got some idea how they're gonna handle things." The Longhorns even have speciality specialists. Junior John Gold and sophomore Jordan Tucker are both capable punters. Gold is a traditional punter while Tucker can kick it rugby style - running either to his right or left, kicking it with either foot. "I told the team he was amphibious," Brown joked. "Some of them didn't get it."

* With last year's leading receiver Ryan Tannehill now listed as the team's No. 2 quarterback, there are questions in Aggie Land about how Texas A&M will try to get Tannehill on the field. Will he see action at quarterback in place of starter Jerrod Johnson or at receiver? Second-year coach Mike Sherman knows but he's not saying. "Tannehill is a big part of what we do but I think I'll save (how we'll use him) for game night," he said. Sherman also said that sophomore Cyrus Gray will get the start at running back Saturday but that he expects for a number of backs to see playing time.

* Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said that sophomore Grant Ressel has won the kicking job. He takes over for Jeff Wolfert, the most accurate kicker in NCAA history. Senior Tanner Mills will handle kickoff duties. Pinkel also said that sophomore right offensive tackle Dan Hoch, who suffered a sprained knee two weeks ago, returned to practice over the weekend and is probable to play in the season opener against Illinois Saturday in St. Louis.

Condolences to the Stewart family
The Kansas City Star reports that Jennifer C. Stewart, granddaughter of former Missouri basketball coach Norm Stewart, died in a one-car crash early Sunday morning in Columbia. Jon Sundvold, former MU basketball player under Norm Stewart, confirmed to The Star that Jennifer Stewart was the oldest daughter of Jeffrey Stewart of Columbia, who is the son of Norm and Virginia Stewart. Ms. Stewart, 29, was found dead in the front passenger seat, according to a information from the Columbia Police Department. The victim did not appear to have been wearing a seat belt, according to the CPD. No other vehicles or people were reported by police to have been involved.

Sunday, August 30

Conspicuous by his absence
The Orlando Sentinel's College Gridiron 365 blog is conducting a reader opinion poll about which player will be the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Perhaps it was simply an innocent omission but it would seem that Oklahoma junior quarterback Sam Bradford, the defending Heisman Trophy winner - who might have been the No. 1 selection in the 2009 NFL Draft had he decided to make himself eligible, deserved to be on the list.

Sunday reading
Kansas State co-defensive coordinator Vic Koenning happy to finally get the chance to work with Bill Snyder.

Robert Cessna of the Bryan Eagle writes that Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman prepared for his second season by getting himself in better shape.

Colorado coach Dan Hawkins faces a crossroads season in his fourth year with the Buffaloes.

Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis has become adept at adjusting the Longhorns' offensive playbook to fit the personnel.

Richard Cirminiello of CollegeFooballNews.com ranks the top dynasties in college football. Two Big 12 teams make the list.

Even a bad economy can't keep Nebraska fans from supporting their team.

Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star assesses Nebraska's preseason training camp.

Missouri's players believe that even with the loss of players like quarterback Chase Daniel the Tigers can still be a winning team this season.

Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman writes that Oklahoma's Sam Bradford is on the verge of becoming the greatest quarterback in Sooners history.

Andy Katz of ESPN.com writes that Colorado basketball coach Jeff Bzdelik decided to stay in Colorado instead of returning to the NBA.

Kansas basketball's Morris twins have spent the offseason bulking up.

Saturday, August 29

Displaying sportsmanship and poise
Dave Sittler of the Tulsa World wrote in his blog about how Oklahoma State sophomore Peter Uihlein handled a heartbreaking defeat Friday in the quarterfinals U.S. Amateur Championship at Southern Hills Country Club:

Oklahoma State sophomore Peter Uihlein has demonstrated to people more than twice his age how to simultaneously deal gracefully with the media and stress.

Uihlein, who turns 20 on Saturday, suffered the most heart-breaking loss of his young golfing career Friday in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur Championship at Southern Hills Country Club.

After he missed a 6-foot par putt that would have won the match on the 18th hole, Uihlein watched Texas senior Charlie Holland take advantage of that miss by sticking a 7-iron within two inches of the cup to win on the first extra hole.

Afterwards, a mature-actng Uihlein answered every question from writers and broadcasters. He then went out of his way to do an interview with The Sports Animal (97.1 fm), even though the radio station was located several yards away from the clubhouse.

Instead of going into seclusion, an upbeat, positive, smiling Uihlein complimented his opponent and dealt with the difficult situation like someone who was a man instead of legally still a teenager.

It's amazing the goodwill one person can create by giving just a few minutes of his time to people who needed that access to properly do their jobs.

Newsworthy
* No. 3 Nebraska and No. 22 Kansas State lost in Friday night's Runza/AVCA Showcase Friday night at Omaha's Qwest Center Omaha. The Cornhuskers were swept by No. 16 Michigan, 25-23, 25-21, 25-17. It was Nebraska's first season-opening loss since 1999, and Michigan handed the Huskers their first regular-season nonconference sweep since 2002. "We got an old-fashioned butt-kicking tonight," Huskers coach John Cook said. No. 11 Minnesota defeated Kansas State in five sets (25-19, 25-16, 29-31, 24-26, 15-11). Nebraska will face Minnesota while Kansas State plays Michigan Saturday.

* Liz Kritza opened her Colorado coaching career with a 31-29, 25-22, 25-21 over Valparaiso Friday at the University of Florida's Campus USA Credit Union Invitational. The Buffs rallied to win the first and third sets. "The good thing about this victory is that this is our first and it really sets the tone for the season," Kritza said. Colorado faces No. 8 Florida, the tournament host, Saturday.

* Chris Neimann, a 6-11 sophomore that Nebraska hoped would provide an answer to its lack of size, will miss the 2009-10 season after tearing an ACL in his knee for the second time since March. "Terrible, just terrible," Cornhuskers coach Doc Sadler said. "The kid worked his butt off." Niemann, from Germany, sat out last season when the NCAA ruled he had participated on a club team that included professionals in his native country. Neimann tore the ACL in March but had recovered and was cleared to work out. Sadler said the injury occurred when Niemann "was just jumping."

* The Alamo Bowl officially changed its bowl lineup, effect with the 2010 season. The San Antonio-based bowl signed a four-year agreement with the Pacific-10 Conference and will match a team from that league against a Big 12 team. The Pac-10 replaces the Big Ten Conference. The Alamo Bowl will get the top Pac-10 team that is not involved in a Bowl Championship Series game. In the past, that Pac-10 team played in the Holiday Bowl, which also has an agreement with the Big 12.

Hot links
Now isn't this clever? Joe Walljasper of the Columbia Daily Tribune previews the Big 12 teams - coach, top player, bottom line - in Twitter fashion; 140 characters or less on each topic.

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said he doesn't feel pressure or stressed over his return to coaching.

Future Big 12 coaches Bob Stoops of Oklahoma, Mark Mangino of Kansas and Bo Pelini of Nebraska learned the value of hard work growing up in and around Youngstown, Ohio.

Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson is putting together the puzzle pieces for Nebraska's offense.

Even though is successor has been determined, Texas coach Mack Brown is in no hurry to give up coaching the Longhorns.

Here's an in-depth profile on Texas quarterback Colt McCoy.

Oklahoma cornerbacks Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson might be the best secondary duo in the Big 12.

Kansas' defense needs to display the nasty demeanor that made the 2007 team successful.

Texas Tech is spending plenty of practice time working on its special teams.

Friday, August 28

Missouri dismisses QB Blaine Dalton
Freshman quarterback Blaine Dalton, who had been battling for the backup spot behind starter Baline Gabbert, was dismissed from the team Friday after being arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated in Columbia, Mo., early Friday morning.

Sophomore Jimmy Costello, a former walk on who went on scholarship over the summer, will become Gabbert's backup.

On April 30, Dalton was stopped by police who found 10 pills of Hydrocodone, a prescription painkiller, and a beer can. He was not charged with felony drug possession but later pleaded guilty to minor in possession of alcohol and two traffic offenses.

Linked up
Bruce Feldman of ESPN.com has a conversation with Texas quarterback Colt McCoy.

Oklahoma's offensive line, called a "weak link" by coach Bob Stoops in the spring, has responded and become a strong unit.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel says his team has to "get better fast" with pre-season practice finished and the season opener just over a week away.

Texas A&M has turned to "hybrid" tight ends.

Iowa State believes that the key to a better season will be a fast start.

Colorado coach Dan Hawkins says he won't select a starting quarterback (either his son Cody or Tyler Hansen) until game day (Sept. 6) against Colorado State.

Questsion and answer, Part One
Dave Curtis of the Sporting News conducted a question and answer session with Oklahoma State senior offensive tackle Russell Okung.
 
Q: Word is you're the best offensive lineman in the country. What do you make of that talk?
A: All I know is that we've got a quote up in our weight room that I see all the time. It says, "Individual desire fuels team success." So if I do what I can do, and we all do what we can do collectively, that individual stuff, the accolades and the awards, they're just going to fall one after the other. We set our goals as a team.
 
Q: So what are the goals?
A: Win a championship. That's the only good way for me to finish up my career.
 
Q: What do you make of your career at Oklahoma State so far?
A: I believe we've seen a lot of ups and downs. I came here on a 6-6 or 7-6 type year. Last year, we got it up to 9-4. The good thing is that we've been put in the spotlights a few times. And in some of those big games, we haven't responded very well. But now we know how it feels. We know what it's like to be up against the wall and have to get a big win. We've played Texas, Oklahoma, Oregon. We're going to play Georgia. There's nothing you can throw at us that we haven't dealt with in the last few years.
 
Q: Give me something great, that's not super-obvious, about playing with Dez Bryant, Kendall Hunter and Zac Robinson?
A: So I can't say, "We score a lot of points?"
 
Q: Right.
A: I'd probably say they make things a lot easier for big guys like me. You never want to have a whole bunch of 10-12 play drives. You're up there blocking, and you see one of those guys bust one, and you get a sigh of relief. That's probably the best thing about having those guys that are so explosive.
 
Q: Why is your team's defense going to be better this year?
A: Those guys have gotten better, and we've got some good new coaches in here. I see a lot of those guys, and they're a lot more explosive and aggressive with the things that they do. They have good hands, and they're doing things right. We're going to get upfield on teams a lot more this year.

Question and answer, Part Two
ESPN College GameDay analyst Kirk Herbstreit participated in a conference call with members of the media. Here are some of the questions he fielded that involved the Big 12.

Q. ESPN's Andre Ware predicts that Oklahoma will have four losses this season. Do you see that as a possibility?
Herbstreit: "Looking at (the Sooners') schedule and what they have returning, I can't imagine them losing four games. I think the Sooners return enough around (Sam) Bradford -  even though they have some concerns on the offensive line and at receiver -  and their defense will be one of the best in the country. They've got some tough games, but I just can't imagine them losing more than a game or two, tops."

Q. What do you expect from the Big 12 South this season?
Herbstreit: "I think it's OU and Texas. And even though Oklahoma State is trying to be this year's Texas Tech, I think people are anticipating that ... the (OU-Texas) winner has a real shot to get back in the national title."

Q. Does Oklahoma State have enough overall substance to justify a Top 10 ranking?
Herbstreit: "My theory on Oklahoma State is that I think their offense is Top 10, but their defense is a mystery. You bring (new defensive coordinator) Bill Young, who is one of the great  minds of our game, back to Oklahoma State, and I think that gives you a chance to improve. There is some leadership there - a lot of players back with experience. But for them to be this Top 10 team, especially in that conference with a lot of scoring, they've got to become better on that side of the football. If they want to beat Texas and they want to hang with Oklahoma and beat Oklahoma, they cannot just get into a scoring match. They've got to play good defense. ... All this hype about Oklahoma State is justified, but it's uncharted waters. And here comes Georgia in week one ... and they come limping in and nobody is expecting anything. I think Oklahoma State has to be very careful in week one, just because of the psychological effect of being in an area that they're just not quite used to. Oklahoma is used to it. Texas is used to it. Oklahoma State is not. They need to show some maturity, not listening to all that hype and just playing their game, and if they do that, they'll be fine. But if they get caught up in it, Georgia will come in there and get them."

Q. How would you rate the three apparent Heisman Trophy frontrunners - OU's Sam Bradford, Texas' Colt McCoy and Florida's Tim Tebow?
Herbstreit: "I'd say Colt McCoy (is No. 1) because of the players he has returning and because he has not been able to win it yet. I would say No. 2 is Sam Bradford, who is breaking in four new offensive linemen and (replaces) his top two receivers. And then I think Tim Tebow at three. We set such high expectations for Tim Tebow. (When Tebow won the Heisman in 2007), he put up ridiculous numbers on a team that had (four) losses. He had to carry the team, so people said, 'Wow, what a great individual performance.' Last year, (Florida had a better team), and he didn't win it. I think that will be more of the same this year."

Thursday, August 27

Georgia coach talks about Oklahoma State opener
No. 9 Oklahoma State faces No. 13 Georgia in a Sept. 5 season opener that is crucial to the Cowboys' gaining more respect on the national scene. This week on Sporting News Radio, Georgia coach Mark Richt talked about his team's game at Stillwater.

"They're a great football team," Richt said. "They're certainly ranked higher than us preseason, and I'm sure they'll be favored to win the ballgame. Rightfully so. They've put themselves in position to do that.

"This is one of those years where (the OSU coaches) say, 'This is our year,' and I think they believe that this year is their year. We'll have to go in there and battle the crowd, battle the distance and battle the fact that (the Cowboys have a new defensive coordinator, Bill Young). We won't be 100 percent sure (of) what they're going to do. And I'll say this - their special teams are rated by some as the No. 1 special-teams unit in all of America. So we've got our work cut out for us."

Georgia will start fifth-year quarterback Joe Cox, who takes over for NFL No. 1 draft pick Matt Stafford. The Bulldogs are 30-4 in road games in Richt's eight seasons as their coach.

"We have a chance to be extremely good," Richt said. "If we come out of (the Oklahoma State) game with a victory, then all of a sudden we're in the Top 10 and gain all kinds of momentum in just a matter of one week. If they take it to us, people won't think we're underrated."

Bob Stoops' golf pep talk
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was the keynote speaker at last Sunday's dinner for the 312 golfers who qualified for this week's U.S. Amateur in Tulsa. Stoops willingly gave up a Sunday with his family at the request of Dave Bryan, the head golf professional at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa.

"Sundays with my family are pretty special," Stoops told the Tulsa World. "But Dave Bryan and the people at Southern Hills are also very special to me. "When Dave called, I was happy I could do something for him after all he's done for me.

"I guess Jack Nicklaus wasn't available, so they had to settle for me."

Stoops spoke to the golfers about the trill of competing and the challenge of playing golf at a championship level. He said he had neither "the patience nor the (calm) temperament to play golf really well."

New basketball practice facility at Kansas
While Allen Fieldhouse is going through renovations and improvement, construction was completed on a new basketball practice facility that is connected to the west side of the Fieldhouse. The new facility, which will house both the men's and women's KU teams, opened this week.

"I think all our players were totally impressed by it," Jayhawks coach Bill Self told the Lawrence Journal World. "The design of it is absolutely perfect for the space we have. It looks good, has a good feel to it. It'll be a huge asset to our program."

As a reminder of the Jayhawks' 2008 national championship, the center court from the Final Four in San Antonio is mounted on a wall in the practice facility.

Football news and notes
*Texas Tech junior running back Baron Batch is back at practice and expects to play when the Red Raiders open the season against North Dakota on Sept. 5. Considering that the left elbow injury he suffered nearly two weeks ago could have kept him out until mid-September, his recovery - and Texas Tech's good fortune - is remarkable. Batch broke an ankle six games into his freshman season in 2006 and then endured seven surgeries to remove a stubborn staph infection. Batch was worried about missing the 2009 season when he initially hurt his elbow. "Fortunately, it wasn't as bad as they initially thought and I don't feel like I missed anything while I was out," Batch told ESPN.com. "I'll definitely be back. You can mark that down."

* Senior wide receiver Jordan Shipley will be Texas' top return man on both punts and kickoffs this season. On kickoffs, Shipley will be joined by sophomore safety Christian Scott. Malcolm Williams and Aaron Williams also might return some kickoffs. Shipley's backup on punt returns will be sophomore safety Earl Thomas.

* Texas also has set its depth chart at running back going into the season, though it might be written in pencil. Coach Mack Brown and offensive coordinator Greg Davis continue to say they'll use a committee approach in the backfield. Vondrell McGee will open at running back in the season opener. His backup will be Cody Johnson, who also can be used at fullback. Fozzy Whittaker, who has been slowed recently by a knee injury, is No. 3 on the depth chart.

* The BYU-Oklahoma game Sept. 5 in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas is officially a sellout. Organizers are now selling a $25 "spirit pass" - a standing room only ticket that will allow fans to watch the game from six giant end zone decks that encompass more than 180,000 square feet of concourses, concession areas and seven acres of outdoor plaza space.

* Iowa State gets an early start to the season when it opens against North Dakota State next Thursday in Ames. New coach Paul Rhoads and his staff are working feverishly to make sure the Cyclones are ready. Offensive coordinator Tom Herman says that his players are starting to understand his spread formation, no-huddle attack. "For whatever reason, it took a while for the offense to realize how much work and strain there is in this offense to be successful on every single play," he said. "The light clicked on after the scrimmage on Saturday. We came out and we buckled down and got it right. We're getting ready."

Swine flu costs Texas Tech a volleyball match
A swine flu outbreak on Tulane's team has for the Green Wave to withdraw from Creighton's Bluejay Invitational in Omaha, Neb., this weekend. Texas Tech is participating in what is now a three-team event and instead of three matches the Red Raiders will now have just two - facing host Creighton Friday and 10th-ranked Illinois Saturday. The matches will be the first of the season for Texas Tech.

Linked up
Georgia, Oklahoma State's opponent in the Sept. 5 season opener, is being overlooked in the Southeastern Conference.

Freshman running back Rex Burkhead is focused, ready to play in Nebraska's offense.

Tom Dienhart of Rivals.com lists his top 102 (why 102? Why not, he says) games of 2009. A Big 12 game tops the list.

Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News continues his tour of Big 12 South Division schools by writing about Texas A&M's quarterback situation.

The talent and versatility of running backs Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray give Oklahoma's offense diversity.

Kansas defensive end Jake Laptad will be a key factor in the Jayhawks' pass rush.

There's no simple solution for Colorado's quarterback situation, writes Neill Woelk of the Boulder Daily Camera.

Tuesday, August 25

 

Two people, one common thread
Former Kansas State All-American and Big 12 Conference player of the year Michael Beasley, who was a rookie this past season with the Miami Heat, is undergoing treatment for depression-related issues in a Houston-area hospital. That news followed the following revelation by Mike DeArmond of the Kansas City Star, who has covered University of Missouri sports for over two decades. DeArmond courageously related his own recent battles with depression.

2009 Skywriters Tour scorecard
Starting Aug. 7 and ending on Aug. 21, the 2009 Big 12 Skywriters Tour (Your Humble Correspondent and Internet Services Assistant/Videographer Sam Neumann) visited all the Big 12 campuses in a 15-day period to gather interviews for football previews and for Big12Sports.com. Here's the Skywriters Tour by the numbers:

Travel days: 13.

Miles driven: 2,545.

Interviews conducted: 77.

Video footage recorded: 480 minutes (approximately eight hours).

Hotel nights: 10.

Flight delays: one, 45 minutes, DFW to Denver.

Flights; time: 6; 7 hours, 50 minutes (approximately).

Iconic campus hangouts: Harpo's in Columbia, Mo.; Eskimo Joe's in Stillwater, Okla; George's in Waco, Texas; The Hill, Boulder, Colo.

Number of times Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven was heard on the radio: 3 (iPods and conversation took precedence).

 

 

Monday, August 24

Jerrod Johnson named A&M's starting quarterback
Randy Riggs of the Austin American-Statesman reports on Texas A&M's quarterbacking decision:

From the beginning, Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman said it would take a knockout punch to dislodge Jerrod Johnson as the Aggies' starting quarterback.

The punch, from contender Ryan Tannehill, has yet to come. So Sherman said Monday that Johnson will continue as the starter when A&M opens the season Sept. 5 against New Mexico.

But Sherman added that Tannehill, a high school quarterback who moved to wide receiver last year as a redshirt freshman and set several school freshman receiving records, remains solidly in the quarterback picture.

"The way it finished up, we have two No. 1's that I'm very excited about," Sherman said after Monday afternoon's practice. "I believe in both our quarterbacks and am equally happy with both, but the nod will go to Jerrod as our starter for the first ballgame and we'll go from there."

Sherman didn't discount the possibility of Tannehill again logging time at receiver, where last season he caught 55 passes for 844 yards, both A&M freshman marks. But the coach said Tannehill's primary responsibility will be at quarterback.

"Ryan's going to be a heck of a quarterback here," he said. "Are there going to be some situations where he'll be on the field? Possibly. But right now we're still focusing on the quarterback aspect of it."

Johnson took over the quarterbacking duties in the second game of 2008 when starter Stephen McGee was sidelined with a shoulder injury. He completed 194 of 326 passes (59.5 percent) for 2,435 yards and 21 touchdowns. He was intercepted 10 times.

What they're writing
* Bruce Feldman of ESPN.com listed his top 10 program-building coaches. Texas' Mack Brown came in No. 5 on the list. Here's what Feldman wrote about the Longhorns' coach:

"His first (Division I-A) gig came at Tulane. After going 1-10 in his debut season, the Green Wave became a bowl team for just the fifth time in 40 years. He took plenty of lumps in his first two seasons at UNC, going 2-20, then built a legit powerhouse, going 20-3 in his last two years in Chapel Hill. He also sparked some significant facility upgrades for UNC. At Texas, he took a program that had been good and made it great again, winning a national title and making the Longhorns a virtual top-10 lock every year. This season, they begin at No. 2 behind Meyer's Florida team.

* Richard Cirminiello of CollegeFootballNews.com researched the college playing careers of the current Division I-A coaches and assembled his All-Back-In-The-Day offensive and defensive lineups. Two Big 12 coaches made the first team units.

"Bob Stoops, Iowa defensive back. Back when he was known as Bobby, Stoops was a four-year starter in Iowa City and a two-time All-Big Ten selection. Considered by many as an all-time great defensive back for the Hawkeyes, he twice led the team in interceptions and was an intimidating defender from his strong safety spot.

"Mack Brown, Florida State running back. If not for a severe injury during his playing days, Brown may never have made it as far as he did in the coaching ranks. A talented running back in the early 1970s, he began his career at Vanderbilt and graduated from Florida State, becoming a student coach after earning a pair of letters and being sidelined for the entire 1973 season."

* Here's what Matt Hayes of The Sporting News wrote about the Big 12 teams ranked in the Associated Press preseason top 25 that was announced Saturday:

2, Texas: Can a team be so focused - so hell bent - to right a wrong from 2008, that 2009 becomes a lot tougher than it should somewhere along the way?

3, Oklahoma: Sooners reload on the offensive line and everything is peachy, right? QB Sam Bradford will get hit this fall like never before.

9, Oklahoma State: We keep hearing about Cowboys as this year's Texas Tech. I've got a better example: Missouri last year. Cowboys will have a hard time reaching preseason expectations.  

24, Nebraska: A clear indication Huskers are on the right path with coach Bo Pelini: star DT Ndamukong Suh would've been a top 15 (at least) pick in last year's NFL draft. He stayed in Lincoln because of Pelini - and what Pelini could teach him about the game.

25, Kansas: Jayhawks have done just about everything right with underrated coach Mark Mangino - except beat the big boys of the Big 12. It's now or never with an explosive offense and potentially two games against either Texas or Oklahoma.

Eligibility news links
Texas A&M's secondary got a boost when junior-college transfer Coryell Judie was declared eligible for this season.

The Boulder Daily Camera reports that wide receiver Andre Simmons has been cleared to enroll at Colorado. His presence should boost a position that has depth issues 

Kentucky transfer Matt Pilgrim, a 6-8, 230-pound frontcourt player with two seasons of eligibility remaining, will be eligible to play this season for Oklahoma State's basketball team. 

Links to start your week
Bo Pelini's dismissal of running back Quentin Castille shows that the Nebraska coach isn't willing to compromise his standards in exchange for victories, writes Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald.

The success of Texas Tech's offensive line might depend on Mickey Okafor's move from tackle to guard.

Baylor senior Joe Pawelek leads a solid group of linebackers for the Bears' defense.

Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News writes that Texas' experienced offensive line might give the Longhorns the extra edge they need to play in the national championship game.

Bill Haisten of the Tulsa World wonders why Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has closed media access.

While there have been a number of changes since he took over the program, Kansas players say coach Mark Mangino hasn't changed.

Sunday, August 23

Linked up
John Martin, a singer-song writer who played at Baylor and the son of Oklahoma State associate athletic director Dave Martin, has composed a theme song for the football team - "Cowboys Forever." Martin also composed and performed the Big 12's current theme song "Live The Dream."

Because of injuries, Kansas State has depth issues at several positions.

Senior Justin Drescher has been Colorado's long snapper on punts and place kicks since his freshman season; that's a total of 355 snaps.

Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News profiles Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford.

Saturday's dismissal of junior running back Quentin Castille means that Nebraska went from deep to questionable at I-back.

Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Herman is a card-carrying member of Mensa and his spread offense sounds like a smart move for the Cyclones.

Alan Trubow of the Austin American-Statesman breaks down the national championship chances for the top five teams in the Associated Press preseason rankings that were announced Saturday.

Kansas coach Mark Mangino predicts that when senior safety Darrell Stuckey is around 40 years old, "he's gonna smoke somebody in a governor's race."

Texas Tech running back Baron Batch aims to become the first 1,000-yard rusher during Mike Leach's tenure as the Red Raiders' coach.

Saturday, August 22

Nebraska dismisses Quentin Castille
Here's the Associated Press story on Nebraska's dismissal of junior running back Quentin Castille:

OMAHA, Neb. - Running back Quentin Castille has been dismissed from the Nebraska football program for violating unspecified team rules.

Coach Bo Pelini did not elaborate on the violations committed by the junior from La Porte, Texas. Pelini announced the dismissal following the No. 24 Cornhuskers' practice on Saturday, even though Castille has not practiced with the team for several days.

"It's pretty black and white my expectations and what we lay out as a staff, and if someone doesn't follow those policies and guidelines, they're no longer going to be with the program, and that's the case with Quentin," Pelini said in a statement.

The 6-1, 235-pound Castille was expected to be a key contributor for Nebraska this season, after rushing for 467 yards and six touchdowns last season. He'd been battling Roy Helu Jr. for the starting job at running back.

Castille rotated with Helu and senior Marlon Lucky most of last season, but with both players slowed by injuries, he ran for 125 yards on 18 carries against Clemson in the Gator Bowl. His performance included second-half runs of 58 and 40 yards, and a 20-yard pass reception that helped Nebraska rally for the victory.

The bruising back also ran for 343 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman.

Pelini said he expects freshman Rex Burkhead to become Nebraska's No. 2 running back, but there will be competition for the spot.

"There's a lot of depth and a lot of talent at the running back position. We feel real good about it," Pelini said. "Time will tell. Just like a lot of other positions, there's a lot of competition going on."

Earlier this year, an arrest warrant was issued for Castille after he failed to appear in court on traffic violations. He was later fined for a missing license plate.

Links for the weekend
Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com writes about Texas safety Blake Gideon, whose dropped interception kept the Longhorns out of last year's national championship game.

A season-ending injury and a suspension has forced Oklahoma to juggle its linebacking depth chart.

Oklahoma hopes that its special teams (kicking and punting) will be better in 2009.

Baylor's defense has been bolstered by offensive skill players who have switched sides.

Big 12 North coaches are not ready to concede South Division's superiority.

Nebraska redshirt freshman Sean Fisher is playing well enough in practice that he has earned a starting spot at linebacker.

Texas' John Chiles is relaxed and happy after switching from quarterback to wide receiver last spring.

Kansas running back Jake Sharp is focused and ready for his senior season.

Texas A&M's Michael Shumard is happy after being shifted from tackle to guard on the Aggies' offensive line.

Texas Tech redshirt freshman Austin Zouzalik, a former high school quarterback, has been performing at a high level as an inside receiver. 

Friday, August 21

Road trip: Colorado
The 2009 Big 12 Skywriters Tour finished its 12-schools-in-15-days journey in Boulder, Colo., Friday. Internet Services Assistant/Videographer/Traveling Companion Sam Neumann and Your Humble Correspondent made the journey from Lubbock through DFW to Denver Thursday night so we would be in position for interviews on the Colorado campus Friday.

After enduring some oppressive heat in Texas, the final stop featured some glorious weather. Lower 80s, sunny and postcard-perfect blue skies. The campus was also in the middle of welcoming incoming freshmen with orientation and a "Global Jam" food fest.

Here are some observations from Colorado:

* The quarterback battle between junior Cody Hawkins and sophomore Tyler Hansen continues. Hawkins, son of Colorado coach Dan Hawkins, has been started most of the last two seasons. Hansen played some last season as a freshman. Hansen said he's not sure what will wind up deciding who becomes the starter. "Right now, we're both making plays out there and moving the offense proficiently," Hansen told the Boulder Daily Camera. "We're both making the right reads, throwing to the right guys. So right now I would say it's pretty even. I think either way you can go, you can go with Cody or me and I think the offense will be good this year. I think either way we will be proficient and move the ball and score on some people."

* Both quarterbacks performed well in the team's two-hour closed scrimmage Thursday night at Folsom Field. Neither Hawkins nor Hansen committed a turnover. Offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau said it will be "a tough call" deciding between the two as the starter in the Sept. 5 season opener against Colorado State. Coach Dan Hawkins said he has played two quarterbacks before and that the depth chart should be in place before the Buffs' last preseason scrimmage on Aug. 29.

* Junior offensive tackle Nate Solder is 6-9, 305 pounds. He can run a 4.8 40-yard dash and has 8 percent body fat (that's a health concept YHC can not grasp). Solder is a former tight end who has made the move to left tackle. YHC asked Solder if Colorado basketball coach Jeff Bzdelik had approached him about playing hoops for the Buffs. "I've love that," Solder said. Coach, your move.

* With the Big 12 (and, other than a few schools, all of college football), flinging the football around out of spread offenses, Colorado might be the exception. The Buffs' offensive line has size and depth. Running backs Rodney "Speedy" Stewart, Darrell Scott, Demetrius Sumler and Brian Lockridge give the Buffs plenty of options. "Everybody else in the Big 12 is doing a certain style of offense," senior tight end Riar Geer said. "We're kind of like the wild card this year. Defenses playing us will have to prepare for something else. That definitely plays into our hand."

* Football players served food to students at Global Jam, with food booths featuring edibles from around the world. Your Humble Correspondent asked senior defensive back Cha'pelle Brown which food booth he was working and he answered "Persian." He seemed as confused as YHC.

* Make sure to check out the first preseason team preview at Big12Sports.com starting Saturday.

Links for a Friday
Oklahoma State has shut off interviews with coaches and players for the next 10 days. The next time anyone from the football team will speak with the media will be the week of the season opener with Georgia.

Oklahoma State has set a school record with over 40,000 in season ticket sales.

This is an interesting take from Neill Woelk of the Boulder Daily Camera about Colorado's athletic department facing a crossroads.

The players who take over for Texas Tech's departed safetys have big shoes to fill.

Here's the background on how Oklahoma's Mike Balogun's eligibility became an issue for the NCAA.

Oklahoma's linebacker depth might be a concern after promising freshman Tom Wort was lost for the season with a torn ACL.

Thursday, August 20

 

Road trip: Texas Tech
Eleven schools down, one to go. The 2009 Big 12 Skywriters Tour is winding down. Thursday found Internet Services Assistant/Videographer/Traveling Companion Sam Neumann and Your Humble Correspondent in Lubbock to gather interviews for our preview on Texas Tech.

Here the low down from West Texas.

* Texas Tech had its kickoff luncheon Thursday. Chancellor Kent Hance fired off a couple of funnies. "I told coach Leach I might not be here because I was out raising money. He asked me what for. I told him to pay for that outrageous contract we gave him last spring." And this one regarding the Jones AT&T Stadium expansion: "Those 6,000 seats will be ready for the Texas A&M game ... because we've sold the tickets already. Now, that's pressure."

* This class of freshmen and first-year Red Raiders is considered to be the best recruiting class in school history. Leach has been happy with the group's practice effort. "This is the hardest working and most headache-free class we've had here," he said. "They're not tiptoeing around. The come each day expecting to work and practice hard."

* Leach's observation on last year vs. this year: "People want to talk about who's not here. They want to talk about our high graduation rates and then bemoan the fact that players gradauted."

* Leach noted that Texas Tech was voted as the toughest place to play in the Big 12. "I view that like I view graduation rates - both need to be the highest in the nation."

* Senior offensive lineman Brandon Carter, who this week was placed on the pre-season watch list for the Lombardi Award that goes to the nation's top interior lineman, says this has been the best preseason camp he has been involved with. "Everybody's excited and practicing hard," he said. The coaching staff has been so pleased with the effort that the Red Raiders had Wednesday off.

* Junior quarterback Taylor Potts is confident that he's ready to step in and replace three-year starter Graham Harrell as the team's quarterback. Potts said that watching how Harrell handles the huddle and the ups and downs of being a college quarterback has prepared him well.

* Junior running back Baron Batch, the team's leading returning rusher, is being held out of contact drills as he recovers from a dislocated elbow he suffered last week. The initial report was that Batch could miss up to six weeks but it appears he could be cleared for full practices in the next week or so.

* Freshman running back Eric Stephens has been impressive thus far. In Monday's scrimmage, he scored on a 14-yard run that saw him break three tackles. His running has been so relentless that the practice jersey he had been wearing had to be replaced because it had ripped and been sewed too many times. "He's been able to step in and not take that whole lack of confidence (approach)," Leach said. "He goes out there, does what he can do, and then just learns more each day. I think he's played impressive."

Next (and last) stop: Colorado.

Wednesday, Aug. 19

Worth the time

This link leads to a story that isn't about the Big 12. But it's about college football, about a team and about heart. Your Humble Correspondent highly recommends reading it. If you've grown cynical about big-time college sports, this will renew your faith.

Hot links for Wednesday

Nebraska freshman Cody Green, who is battling to be the Cornhuskers' backup quarterback, has impressed coaches and teammates with his maturity.

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder wants to name a starting quarterback at least a week before the Sept. 5 season opener but that the competition between Carson Coffman and Grant Gregory is still too close to call.

Oklahoma linebacker Mike Balogun has filed a civil lawsuit against the NCAA regarding his eligibility with the Sooners.

Quarterback Zac Robinson's ability to run adds a dimension - and a danger - to Oklahoma State's offense.

The Austin American-Statesman's Alan Trubow explains how Texas' training staff tries to beat the summer heat.

Oklahoma senior defensive tackle DeMarcus Granger says he's healthy after undergoing off-season back surgery.

Missouri's receivers are struggling to do something that coach Gary Pinkel is the No. 1 priority in the Tigers' offense - catch the football.

Colorado's defense is focusing on stopping the run. Also, top recruit Nick Kasa, a defensive end, might have to redshirt this season after suffering a knee injury.

Texas A&M defensive end Matt Moss is working hard to help the Aggies' pass rush.

Basketball links

Kansas is in the process of updating and renovating Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas freshman Xavier Henry talks about a variety of topics regarding Jayhawks basketball. Xavier and his brother C.J. consider themselves "warriors."

Basketball coach Travis Ford spoke to an overflow crowd of Oklahoma State students and urged them to make smart decisions about alcohol.

Tuesday, Aug. 18

Road trip: Baylor

The 2009 Big 12 Skywriters Tour is winding down. If it was Tuesday, it must be Waco, Texas. Internet Services Assistant/Videographer/Traveling Companion Sam Neumann and Your Humble Correspondent were on the scene to work on the Baylor preview.

Observations and notations from Bear Country:

* Overheard before the pads started popping: "We're gonna dominate today" (a defensive player during stretches). "Come out on fire." "Finish strong, finish strong." "Let's have a great day."

* Baylor's offensive lineman wanted to show solidarity and cohesiveness so they all got Mohawk haircuts before the first practice. One of the 17 offensive lineman was allowed to keep his normal style, though. Freshman guard Stefan Huber was scheduled to serve as best man in his older brother's wedding and it was agreed a radical haircut would be out of place.

* Baylor sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin had participated in track events for as long as he can remember. But last spring, he skipped the cinders to concentrate on football. Griffin also added 10 pounds of muscle and now weighs 210 pounds. "I feel bigger and stronger," Griffin told ESPN.com. "It was good for my body to heal. You go through football and you get your tweaks here and there. But overall, my body is healed and I feel fine. It keeps me ready to get better at football and doing bigger things with the football team. ... Everybody thinks that I'm not as fast because I gained some weight. But I can still hit turbo."

* There were a handful of NFL scouts on hand for Baylor's morning practice. One, wearing a straw hat and Pittsburgh Steelers shirt, was familiar - hall of famer "Mean" Joe Greene.

* Baylor held its second and last two-a-day practice session Tuesday. YHC can sum up the heat and humidity during the morning practice in one word: oppressive. The Bears, though, have been able to maximize workouts in the heat thanks to the Jay and Jenny Allison Indoor Football Practice Facility. The 74,000 square-foot indoor practice facility features an 80-yard field and two 10-yard end zones. Located next to the team's two practice field, the recently opened facility allows Baylor to start a practice in the heat and then move indoors in order to maximize energy and effort.

* Defensive tackle Phil Taylor, selected as the Big 12 preseason newcomer of the year, is expected to have a huge impact on the Baylor defensive line. Coach Art Briles says the 6-4, 355-pound Taylor is one of the best defensive linemen in the country. Taylor, who sat out last season after transferring from Penn State, wore No. 98 in practices last season but this season will wear No. 11 - a rare number for a defensive lineman. Briles laughingly told the Waco Tribune Herald: "If Phil wants No. 11, he gets No. 11."

* Baylor strong safety Jeremy Williams is confident the Bears will finish with a winning record. "I'm not going to give you any guarantees or any predictions. I just know we're going to play hard every week and we're going to win more games than we did last year and we will go bowling this year," he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "We've got to start fast and finish strong. By halftime last year we were in every game. But after halftime we didn't come out fast and we didn't finish strong. But if we start fast and we finish strong we can play with anybody."

Next stop: Texas Tech Thursday.

Lots of hot links

George Schroeder of SI.com writes about how Nebraska is on its way back to prominence under second-year coach Bo Pelini.

Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford's chances of becoming the second player to win two Heisman Trophies are slim because of the competition he faces for the 2009 award.

Nebraska wide receiver Niles Paul is ready to take over as the Cornhuskers' top punt returner.

Boone Pickens hosted a tour of Oklahoma State's renovated stadium that bears his name.

His Oklahoma teammates say that Frank Alexander is poised to have a break-out season on the Sooners' defensive line.

Texas senior wide receiver Jordan Shipley tries to be perfect, writes Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman.

Going into his senior season, Oklahoma wide receiver Adron Tennell admits that he is disappointed with the first three years of his career.

Kansas senior defensive end Maxwell Onyegbule is majoring in economics and hopes the bottom line this season means he earns a starting role.

After starting his career at Minnesota, Kansas State wide receiver Brodrick Smith has fulfilled his childhood dream of playing for the Wildcats.

Five Colorado athletes, including four football players, are praised by the school's police department for lending aid to a cyclist who was severely injured in a campus accident.

Texas A&M's maligned offensive line appears to have more talent, depth and options.

Texas Tech junior linebacker Blake Collier appears to be healthy after missing the last two seasons with torn hamstrings.

Monday, Aug. 17

Road trip: Texas A&M

The 2009 Big 12 Skywriters Tour spent most of Monday working on the Texas A&M preview. Internet Services Assistant/Videographer/Traveling Companion Sam Neumann and Your Humble Correspondent have visited nine campuses. The heat has been on and the humidity high in Austin and College Station.

Here are some observations from AggieLand.

* Texas A&M held a 90-minute scrimmage at Kyle Field Sunday. The temperature was in the low 100s. "We came out here in the heat of the day and really wanted to see how we responded, and I thought they did a good job," Sherman said. "We played a lot of youngsters." Sophomore running back Cyrus Gray, who was limited to three carries because of a tight hamstring, scored on a 63-run on the first play of the scrimmage. Freshman running back Christine Michael (56 yards on seven carries) had two touchdown runs. Sophomore running back Bradley Stephens (49 yards on six carries) had a 40-yard touchdown run. Junior quarterback Jerrod Johnson completed 8-of-12 for 120 yards and rushed for approximately 40 yards.

* A&M held its 9th practice Monday morning and have been practicing for a week. Defensive coordinator Joe Kines, whose voice is not exactly velvet during the off-season, is in full guttural roar when trying to get through to his players.

* Kines' enthusiasm and energy were in evidence during some defensive drills YHC witnessed. Kines during a goal line drill: "Fill the gap ... square up. ... Hit him, hit him, hit him." Kines during a seven-man (line and linebackers) : "Get down and run another. ... You're walkin' ... Get back and run another. ... Get set and run another. ... That's how you do it in a damn game."

* Observers agree that the Aggies have more speed and depth than last year when both were nearly nonexistent. A&M's linebacker corps has a lot of speed but little experience.

* According to the San Antonio Express-News, freshman defensive end Spencer Nealy has been impressive. "He's going to play for us this year, I have no doubt about that," A&M coach Mike Sherman said. The son of former Kansas State and NBA player Ed Nealy, Spencer is a 6-5, 245-pound walk on who probably will go on scholarship next season.

* The quarterback battle between junior Jerrod Johnson and sophomore Ryan Tannehill continues. Sherman has said that Tannehill would need to throw a "knockout punch" to start ahead of Johnson and the sophomore is continuing to throw punches. Tannehill led the team with 55 receptions last season as a redshirt freshman wide receiver.

* When asked how scary Von Miller can be as a pass rusher off the edge of the Texas A&M defense, safety Jordan Pugh smiled and said, "Very scary. He's like the Matrix."

* In non-football news, J.T. Higgins, coach of the NCAA champion men's golf team, is slated to throw out the first pitch at Tuesday's Texas Rangers game in Arlington, Texas.

More links

Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson is a hold over from former coach Bill Callahan's staff but he's keeping the Cornhuskers attack moving.

Kansas sophomore Daymond Patterson, who moved from receiver to cornerback last season, might see some snaps at his old position if he proves he can handle his defensive assignments.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops points out five Sooners who he thinks are better than people think.

Colorado's depth chart at quarterback has yet to be finalized.

Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson is scheduled to return to practice Tuesday but will his hamstring injury nag him all season?

Texas Tech shuffled its offensive line depth chart in order to give freshman tackle LaAdrian Waddle a better chance to see action as a backup.

The story behind the picture

To paraphrase the title of a Rod Stewart album, every picture has a story. In this case, the picture is the Sports Illustrated cover photo featuring Oklahoma State. Here's the story.

For one of its regional college football issue covers, SI wanted to feature the Cowboys. In mid-July, OSU associate director of athletic media relations Gavin Lang was contacted by the magazine to set up a photograph with quarterback Zac Robinson and center Andrew Lewis as the subjects.

Lang called both players with their instructions: On July 22, show up at Gallagher-Iba Arena in full home uniform to pose for a Sports Illustrated photo shoot. And don't tell a soul.

"They both knew from the beginning that it was (a cover shoot)," Lang told the Tulsa World. "For Andrew, it was almost like disbelief. Like we were messing with him. Zac was more like, 'Wow, that's awesome.'

"We asked both of them to keep it a secret, because that's what Sports Illustrated asked us to do. Apparently, they did keep it a secret. Zac's sister, Katie Ann, works in our office, and even she didn't know about it until two days before the magazine came out."

Peter Read Miller, an SI veteran who is based in Los Angeles, took the pictures during a 40-minute session on the Cowboys' basketball court. Miller and Lewis were positioned on artificial turf that the SI photo crew provided.

In addition to Oklahoma State, the other regional covers for the SI college football preview edition included Oregon, Ole Miss and Penn State.

Robinson and Lewis are the first Oklahoma State players on a Sports Illustrated cover. Which makes one wonder what the magazine's editors were thinking in 1988 when Barry Sanders won the Heisman Trophy and set college football's single-season rushing record.

But that's another story.

Links to start your week

Texas A&M junior quarterback Jerrod Johnson continues to grow as a team leader, writes Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News.

Nebraska linebacker turned quarterback candidate Latravis Washington is getting advice from cousin Fabian Washington, a former Cornhuskers defensive back now in the NFL.

Improved line play will be crucial if Kansas State's defense is to do a better job stopping the run in 2009.

Kansas running back Jake Sharp goes into the final season of a career where he has had to answer the doubters.

Despite all the improvements at Pickens Stadium, Oklahoma State is still lacking an indoor practice facility, says Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman.

Nebraska players get a look at the "throwback" uniforms that are based on the ones worn in 1962, the year the Cornhuskers started their streak of stadium sell outs.

Baylor is confident in its special teams with the returns of its kicker and punter from last season.

Oklahoma junior Mossis Madu is embracing his move from running back to slot receiver.

Iowa State's offense is trying to toughen up and get in "football shape" to handle the fast pace of the new no-huddle attack.

Kansas State receivers Brandon Banks and Tramaine Thompson are small in stature but hope to produce big numbers.

According to the players themselves, Colorado's unproven defensive line could be a strength this season.

Lucas Patterson's move from defensive tackle has provided a boost for Texas A&M's offensive line.

Sunday, Aug. 16 

Road trip update

Greetings from College Station, Texas. Hopefully, the Rivalry Gods won't smite Your Humble Correspondent for writing at Texas update from a hotel about a mile from Texas A&M's campus.

Internet Services Assistant/Videographer/Traveling Companion Sam Neumann and I drove from Dallas to Austin Sunday as we continued the 2009 Big 12 Skywriters Tour; we spent the late afternoon doing interviews for the Longhorns season preview.

Here are some observations from the Forty Acres:

* The Texas secondary had its problems last season as the Longhorns were 104th in pass defense. Quarterback Colt McCoy says that the secondary is vastly improved so far in preseason camp. Linebacker/defensive end Sergio Kindle agrees. "A lot of the time, Colt gets back there to throw and he has to wait, wait, wait because nobody can get open," Kindle said.

* Texas second-year defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has said that opposing teams will need a GPS to keep track of where Kindle lines up on defense.

* Texas forced just 16 turnovers last season. After charting charted college and NFL games, Muschamp says that three turnovers per game is the Longhorns' goal. Teams that have three takeaways per game win 90 percent of the time while teams that force two turnovers win 67 percent and teams that force just one turnover win just 55 percent of the time.

* Most of the Longhorns are growing "camp beards." The shaving ban will end before the season opener Sept. 5 when the players will be clean shaven.

* Marquise Goodwin, a walk on freshman who is at Texas on a track scholarship, has been impressive at receiver and as a punt returner. He set the national high school record in the long jump this summer. If he plays a down for the Longhorns this season, he'll wind up counting as one of the team's 85 scholarship players.

* If Texas has a Bermuda Triangle on its roster, it's at tight end. The team has lost two players at that position before practice started. Blaine Irby is still recovering after suffering a severe knee injury last season and Josh Marshall had to give up football because of a chronic shoulder injury. Last week, redshirt freshman D.J. Grant, who had moved to tight end from wide receiver in the spring, was lost for the season with a knee injury. Former offensive lineman Greg Smith and former defensive end Ahmard Howard are now the Longhorns' two tight ends.

* The Longhorns might have questions about who will be a reliable, go-to running back this season. But one thing Texas should be able to count on is ball security. The last time a UT running back lost a fumble was Oct. 20, 2007 at Baylor. In the last 18 games, no Longhorns running back has lost a fumble. The team is 16-2 in those games.

Next team: Texas A&M.

Click and read

Missouri sophomore Blaine Gabbert likely sewed up the starting quarterback job after Saturday's scrimmage, according to Dave Matter of the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman sees an improvement in the team's offensive line, a unit that was a weak link last season.

Kansas coach Mark Mangino recounts his early days with the Jayhawks and how the program has improved.

Freshman wide receiver Derrick Mays has caught the attention of Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, who says that Mays has "great raw ability."

At 6-2, 235 pounds, freshman Toben Opurum is the biggest running back on the Kansas roster and he is battling to be the backup to starter Jake Sharp.

Most preseason polls list Florida at No. 1 and Texas at No. 2. But here's a ranking that has the Longhorns ahead of the Gators.

Oklahoma's defense figures to have a mean streak this season, writes Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News.

Finding replacements for special team stars Jeremy Maclin and Jeff Woolfert are big challenges at Missouri.

Danny Watkins, an ex-firefighter who has just two years of junior-college experience, is slated to replace an NFL No. 1 draft pick on Baylor's offensive line. Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com writes about Watkins' story.

Sam Bradford ... at Torrey Pines

In his daily "Three-Point Stance on ESPN.com, Ivan Maisel had this item on Oklahoma's Heisman Trophy quarterback: Sam Bradford is a scratch golfer, so when he and a few buddies went to San Diego this summer, they got up at 4 a.m. and drove to Torrey Pines to get in the line to play the South Course, site of the 2007 U.S. Open. They waited two hours and got to go off as the first foursome of the day. Bradford played from the tips and, despite a "double or triple bogey" on No. 18, shot 78. Even better, no one recognized him. "It was the greatest thing," he said.

Friday, Aug. 14

Oklahoma LB Balogun ineligible

The NCAA has de-certified the eligibility of Oklahoma senior linebacker Mike Balogun. He can continue to practice through next Wednesday. Oklahoma furnished information to the NCAA that led to the eligibility decision.

At issue is Balogun's participation in the North American Football League, a semi-professional league, and whether he played after his 21st birthday. Any participation in such a league during each 12-month period after the age of 21 results in a corresponding loss of a season of eligibility.

The NCAA reviewed Balogun's participation and certified him for last season. After more information came to light, Oklahoma reviewed Balogun's status and informed the NCAA.

Coach Bob Stoops said Wednesday that he doesn't believe Oklahoma was in danger of forfeiting any games in which Balogun played last season. He started for the Sooners in the Dr Pepper Big 12 Championship game.

Road trip, weekend update

We have completed Phase Two of the 2009 Big 12 Skywriters Tour. Friday, Internet Services Assistant/Videographer/Traveling Companion Sam Neumann and I completed the second part of the Oklahoma Two Step. We were in Norman, Okla., to work on the Oklahoma video preview.

Observations and ruminations from the Sooner stop:

* Senior tight end Jermaine Gresham looks like he's better suited to playing linebacker or defensive end. He is a BIG dude. He and Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant are two of the most impressive athletes you'll see wearing helmets and pads.

* Last season, Mossis Madu made the most of his opportunities as Oklahoma's third-team running back. This season, he has been shifted to receiver. He could line up in the slot, out wide or could take snaps at running back. "I like wherever I'm at," Madu told The Oklahoman, "as long as the ball is in my hands. "My job is to just make plays for the team and help us win." Coach Bob Stoops challenged his offensive staff to find a way to play Madu or lose him to the defense.

* Madu said that the coaching staff told the team that someone on ESPN's College Football Live precicted an 8-4 record for Oklahoma. Like the Sooners need any more incentive for this season.

* Oklahoma has been practicing on the school's rugby fields so it can save wear and tear on its practice fields that are closer to campus.

* The Sooners have a portable sound system - a CD player with speakers strapped to a golf cart. During stretches and individual drills, a combination of rap/hip-hop/oldies. A couple of titles probably help with subliminal team goals - "I'm A Believer", "We Are Family" and "It's My Time."

* The Sooners opened an hour of Thursday's practice to the public. Approximately 500 fans cheered the first play, a 40-yard touchdown pass from Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford to senior wide receiver Adron Tennell. When kicker Jimmy Stevens drilled field goals of 50 and 53 yards, coach Bob Stoops turned to the fans and said they couldn't "just cheer for Sam."

* Junior running back DeMarco Murray, whose career has been hampered by injuries, has been limited in recent practices by a strained hamstring. Stoops expects Murray to be cleared for full contact next week.

* The Sooners have a number of talented freshmen who could see action, partciularly on special teams. Linebacker Tom Wort, linebacker Jaydan Bird, defensive back Demontre Hurst, defensive back Javon Harris and running back Jonathan Miller all have caught the attention of OU's coaching staff.

* Redshirt freshman punter Tress Way has been impressive in practice so far. His main competition is coming from junior Cameron Kenney, who is a wide receiver. Way also has been kicking field goals; he was 3-of-5 in Thursday's scrimmage.

Next stop: Austin, Texas on Sunday.

Linked up

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel is on Twitter and he has come up with rules for his team in this era of social networking.

Tanner Hawkinson, a redshirt freshman, is slated to take over as Kansas' left offensive tackle. He has increased his weight to 290 pounds by ... eating.

Texas A&M hopes that youngsters will help boost its running game this season.

Rivals.com college football senior writer Olin Buchanan breaks down and previews the Big 12 Conference.

BYU is taking a business-like approach to its Sept. 5 season opener against Oklahoma.

Baylor sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin is the type of difference maker who can get the Bears to a bowl game, writes Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com.

Dave Curtis lists his two quarterback-receiver duos in college football and the top three are from the Big 12.

Second-year Nebraska coach Bo Pelini appears to be bringing a harder edge to the Cornhuskers practices.

Oklahoma State is starting to focus its attention on the Sept. 5 season opener against Georgia in Stillwater.

As a freshman last season, Texas A&M wide receiver Jeff Fuller had 50 catches for 630 yards and a school-record nine TDs. He thinks he can improve in 2009.

Texas Tech has yet to find a backup for starting quarterback Taylor Potts.

Thursday, Aug. 13

Road trip, Part Four

Phase Two of the 2009 Big 12 Skywriters Tour is underway. Internet Services Assistant/Videographer/Traveling Companion Sam Neumann and I are doing the Oklahoma Two Step Thursday and Friday.

We spent Thursday in Stillwater doing Oklahoma State interviews, watching practice and getting a tour of the new football facilities in the west end of Boone Pickens Stadium. Let's go to the observations, notes and nuggets.

* Everybody knows about Oklahoma State senior quarterback Zac Robinson. But there's another player by the same name on the Cowboys' roster. Zach Robinson is a walkon freshman punter from Flower Mound, Texas.

* Freshman linebacker Connor Sinko has earned an obvious nickname: "Ocho."

* Robinson has missed the last five days of practice as a precautionary measure. He has a strained hamstring and could probably play if the Cowboys were playing a game. Robinson joked that he's pedaled about 20 miles on the exercise bike stationed along the sidelines.

* With Robinson not playing, neither of the potential backup quarterbacks have been able to gain ground in the race to be No. 2. Junior Alex Cate is battling sophomore Brandon Weeden. Robinson will miss Saturday's scrimmage, which will give the two backups a chance to distinguish themselves.

* By the way, Weeden turns 26 on Oct. 14. He played pro baseball before turning to college football.

* Robinson and senior center Andrew Lewis are on the cover of Sports Illustrated's regionalized college football issue. The magazine delivered two boxes of the magazine to Stillwater but the wrong magazines were inside; OSU received copies of the southern regional cover that featured Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead.

* Oklahoma State ended its morning practice with the "Champions Drill" aka The Nutcracker. It's a drill older than Rockne and features one-on-one collisions in a confined space. The most spirited confrontations occurred between the receivers and defensive backs.

* The new football complex at Pickens Stadium is indeed impressive. The coaches' offices look out on the field and each has a private balcony where the coaches' families can watch games. The football 14,000-square-foot locker room has eight different light settings (one for recruits, one for parents, one for games, etc.) The locker room resembles the lobby of a five-star hotel. The 22,000-square-foot weight room is big enough it needs its own zip code.

* Oklahoma State opens the season against Georgia on Sept. 5. In the OSU weight room, there's a clock in the weight room counting down the days, hours and minutes with the words "Beat Georgia."

News and notes

* Sports Illustrated's college football preview issue is out. The magazine has Texas No. 2, Oklahoma No. 3 and Oklahoma State No. 7 in its preseason rankings. SI projects Texas to face Florida in the BCS national title game with Oklahoma meeting Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. SI's preseason All-American team included Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant, Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and Oklahoma State kick returner Perrish Cox.

* It appears the Alamo Bowl is switching up the bowl partner for the Big 12 in the San Antonio-based game. The Seattle Times reported the Alamo Bowl is offering a $3 million per team payout to match the Pacific-10 Conference's No. 2 team against the Big 12's No. 3 team. If the deal is finalized, it would take effect after the 2010 season. The current Alamo deal matches a Big Ten team against a Big 12 team with each team earning $2.3 million.

* Brandon Batch, Texas Tech's most experienced running back, will be out three to six weeks after suffering an elbow injury during Wednesday's practice. Batch is projected to return to action in time for the Red Raiders' Big 12 opener in Austin on Sept. 19.

* Texas will wear a small yellow ribbon on the back of its helmets this season as a tribute to United States service men and women. Longhorns coach Mack Brown said his recent visit with troops in the Middle East and Europe inspired him to do something in their honor.

* The Big 12, which had all three finalists for the award last season, has seven players of the 37 players named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list. Big 12 nominees included Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier of Kansas, Oklahoma State's Dez Byrant, Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles, Texas' Jordan Shipley, Texas Tech's Detron Lewis and Kansas State's Brandon Banks.

* When Missouri running back Derrick Washington was left off the Doak Walker Award preseason watch list, eyebrows were raised. Washington gained 1,036 yards last season as a sophomore. It turns out that any player nominated by his school makes the Walker watch list. Missouri failed to nominate Washington, a mistake it has corrected. When the next Walker list is announced, Washington's name will be on it.

* Nebraska's quarterback depth will be a question mark now that redshirt freshman quarterback Kody Spano will miss the season after suffering a torn ACL for the second time in four months. It appears the Huskers' backup to starter Zac Lee will be freshman Cody Green. Nebraska also has converted linebacker Latravis Washington and freshmen Ron Kellogg Jr. and Taylor Martinez at quarterback. Kellogg is the son of former Kansas basketball standout Ron Kellogg.

Hot links

Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne is concerned that the Big 12's championship events are moving to South Division sites.

Texas Tech freshman running back Harrison Jeffers is listed on the team's roster as standing 5-9 but he admits that he's really three inches shorter.

Kansas has two outstanding receivers in Kerry Meier and Dez Briscoe, but junior Jonathan Wilson has emerged to give the Jayhawks another productive pass catcher.

Iowa State running back Alexander Robinson could be a perfect fit in the Cyclones' new no-huddle spread attack.

Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star writes that Kansas will win the Big 12 North Division.

Cedric Golden of the Austin American-Statesman writes that Texas quarterback Colt McCoy is proving to be an outstanding leader.

Wednesday, Aug. 12

Linkage

Because of injuries, Oklahoma reserve tight end Brody Eldridge has been working as the Sooners' starting center.

Stewart Mandel of SI.com predicts a Florida vs. Texas BCS title game this season and writes how that would be a clash of football cultures.

ESPN.com Big 12 beat writer Tim Griffin breaks down the conference's top five contenders to win the Heisman Trophy.

Colorado is counting on an unproven group of wide receivers.

The latest edition of Texas Monthly magazine has Texas Tech coach Mike Leach on the cover. The story's headline: "This Crazy Pirate May Be The Best College Football Coach In The Country." (It is strongly recommended that you click the link to see the cover photo.)

First year Oklahoma State running backs coach Robert Gillespie started learning about football at an early age.

Kansas wide receiver Dez Briscoe is happy to be back with the team after serving an academic suspension.

Tuesday, Aug. 11

Road trip, Part Three

The first of four segments of the 2009 Big 12 Skywriters Tour is complete. Internet Services Assistant/Videographer/Traveling Companion Sam Neumann and I spent Monday and Tuesday driving as much as interviewing. We drove from Kansas City to Lincoln, Neb. Monday morning, from Lincoln to Ames, Iowa Monday afternoon and from Ames to Kansas City Tuesday afternoon to catch a flight home.

After encountering Texas-style heat during the first three stops (Kansas State, Kansas and Missouri), the weather was perfect for our visit to Nebraska Monday and Iowa State Tuesday.

Observations from Huskers Nation and The Land Of The Cyclones:

* Nebraska has a Unity Council that allows for the players to govern themselves and promote self discipline. Coach Bo Pelini believes in peer accountability. "It's everything. It's one thing if the emphasis comes from us. But when it starts coming from them ... that's a great thing," he said. "It means your culture is starting to take over and I think that is slowly but surely happening. But it's not where we want it to be yet."

* One form of discipline makes Nebraska players want to adhere to every rule and always be on time. Strength coach James Dobson has players do "Turkish Get Ups." A player lies on his back holding a 45-pound plate. Without using his hands, he must rock himself back and forth to get on his feet. Then he must press the plate above his head. After 100 of those, the message gets through.

* Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson figures to officially announce a starting quarterback in the near future. Zac Lee is No. 1 on the depth chart. "It's going to be hard to unseat Zac to be honest with you," Watson said.

* Nebraska junior kicker Alex Henery is competing for a dual role - he would also like to be the team's punter. . Redshirt freshman Brett Maher and sophomore Jon Damkroger are punting as well. "It's something I want to do," Henery told the Omaha World Herald. "You've got to cut down the numbers (of kicking reps) a little bit. But at the same time, you can't cut down the numbers and also not practice. You have to get the best amount of reps in as possible."

* Prediction from Your Humble Correspondent: If he stays healthy, Iowa State junior quarterback Austen Arnaud will put up big numbers this season. New offensive coordinator Tom Hermann had success with his spread offensive system at Rice and he might have more talent with the Cyclones. Arnaud will be operating out of the shotgun and has plenty of talent at receiver and running back. Arnaud passed for 2,792 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. His TD total could double.

* Hermann has an effective way of communicating his tenets. The skill players say the coordinator wants them to go "1-0" on every play. In other words, win each play. Hermann also explains that his spread, no huddle attack doesn't always get the X and O edge on the defense. "They've always got the chalk last," he says.

* This isn't a football note but we did an interview with Iowa State women's basketball coach Bill Fennelly Tuesday. After we finished chatting, he was off for a five-hour drive to St. Louis to see his beloved St. Louis Cardinals (the National League Central Division-leading St. Louis Cardinals) play Cincinnati.

We're talkin' 'bout practice

Your Humble Correspondent is a Practice Geek. Watching the drills and how the coaches work the players can be illuminating.

* Nebraska assistant coach Ron Brown works with the teams' tight ends. Early in Monday's practice, Brown drilled his players on contested catches. Another assistant wore long pads on each hand that made him look like a praying mantis. The tight ends would run a route with the assistant banging his hands with the pads. The player had to fight off the attack as Brown fired a pass from about 10 yards away.

* Iowa State likes to practice in "sections." During a special teams portion of Tuesday's practice, three groups were working on punt coverage. Two players who would line up on the outside worked on blocking and releasing downfield while another group worked on rushing up the middle against blockers while the punter kicked. After a few minutes, the three groups came together and the entire unit worked on punt protection and coverage.

* Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Hermann likes to emphasize the details. Working with his four QBs Tuesday, Hermann had them taking shotgun snaps and then moving away from a "rush" by a student manager. The QBs ducked a high rush and rolled away from a low rush. After the escape, Hermann would call out "one" or "two" and the QB would throw to one of two receivers.

Next stops: Oklahoma State Thursday, followed by Oklahoma on Friday.

Rivals.com ranks Oklahoma State trio as tops

Mike Huguenin, the college football editor for Rivals.com, ranks Oklahoma State's quarterback, running back and wide receiver as college football's top trio. Here's what he wrote about quarterback Zac Robinson, tailback Kendall Hunter and wide receiver Dez Bryant:

"Robinson isn't the typical pro-style, drop-back quarterback; instead, he's a great fit for the Cowboys' offense. He threw for 3,064 yards and 25 touchdowns last season and also ran for 562 yards and eight scores. Hunter is a little guy (5 feet 8/190 pounds) who has good speed and is tougher than he looks; he ran for 1,555 yards and 16 touchdowns in '08. We've saved the best for last: Bryant is the best wide receiver in the nation. He's a big target (6-2/215) who really can move. He had 87 receptions for 1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns last season; best of all, he averaged 17 yards per catch. Bryant can beat you deep. He can outjump you. And he can take a short slant pass and sprint 65 yards for a score. There are a few reasons Oklahoma State should average 40 points a game this season, and these three are the biggest."

Hugenin listed Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, running back DeMarco Murray and tight end Jermaine Gresham as the nation's third-best trio.

Hot links

Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman writes about a rule change that could have a big impact on how aggressive defenders can be.

Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express News writes that sophomore Ryan Tannehill wants to try and win the starting quarterback job at Texas A&M but that if he doesn't succeed he wants to return to wide receiver.

From the "You've-Got-To-Be-Kidding" file: Former Kansas State football coach Ron Prince has filed a $3 million counter suit against the school.

Here's a couple of stories about Iowa State's women's coach Bill Fennelly, who spent nearly a month as an assistant coach with the USA team during the women's basketball world championships.

Monday, Aug. 10

Big 12 tabbed best college basketball conference

Josh Herwitt of Foxsports.com ranked the top 10 conferences in college basketball and placed the Big 12 at No. 1. Here's what he wrote about the Conference:

"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."

Here's the rest of Foxsports.com's top 10 conferences: No. 2 Big Ten; No. 3 Atlantic Coast; No. 4 Southeastern; No. 5 Big East; No. 6 Pacific-10; No. 7 Atlantic 10; No. 8 Conference USA; No. 9 West Coast; No. 10 Mountain West.

Six Big 12 players on all-decade team

College football writer Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com has been reviewing the first decade of the 21st century. He selected an all-decade team and six Big 12 players made the list: Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson; Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree; Oklahoma offensive tackle Jammal Brown; Oklahoma linebacker Rocky Calmus; Oklahoma safety Roy Williams; Kansas State cornerback Terence Newman and Baylor punter Daniel Sepulveda.

Sunday, Aug. 9

Links to start your week

Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin is a difference maker that can make the Bears winners, according to Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Jennifer Floyd Engel.

Mark Schalbach of ESPN.com ranks the top eight conferences in Division I-A college football.

A legal battle three years ago between Texas A&M and the Seattle Seahawks over the "12th Man' trademark helped the Aggies land a punting prospect from the Northwest.

Interesting story about how Missouri's wrestling program takes steps to prevent MRSA, the potentially fatal skin infection.

Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News ranks the top 10 games to watch in the Big 12 this season.

A closer look at the much-discussed gap between the Big 12's North and South divisions.

Here's a video of a crazy H-O-R-S-E quality shot by Kansas State' Denis Clemente.

Road trip, Part Two

Three schools down, nine to go. Internet Services Assistant/Videographer/Traveling Companion Sam Neumann and I were in Columbia, Mo., Sunday to interview players and coaches for our preview series. Here are some observations from a hot and sunny afternoon spent with the Tigers.

* Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has to replace quarterback Chase Daniel, a three-year starter, plus 21 key seniors. He doesn't act like a coach who has to retool his team. Pinkel appears confident that the Tigers' roster is talented enough to keep the wins coming.

* Sophomore Blaine Gabbert, the Tigers' heir apparent to Chase Daniel, carries himself like a confident, starting quarterback.

* The heat index was in the low 100s Sunday. Missouri had a practice in the morning with the afternoon reserved for official photo taking and a meet-the-fans event. The players wore (slightly) cooler white jerseys while the coaching and support staff wore black shirts.

* The photographer who directed the players, coaches and support staff for the team photo had a voice like a drill instructor. Still, it took nearly 10 minutes to get nearly 130 people lined up correctly. There were five rows of 25. Some of the seniors sat on the front row of the metal bleachers and were the first players in position. By the time the shutters started clicking, they were sweatin' buckets.

* When it was over, redshirt freshman defensive end Aldon Smith walked to his position photo session saying, "Can I get an I.V.? Can I get an I.V.?" He was kidding. ... probably.

* Two will probably stand out in the team photo because of their hair. Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Jimmy Burge has blonde curly hair but for the team picture the curls were considerable. And offensive coordinator Dave Yost has the long, flowing locks you would expect to see on a surfer.

* Folks in Columbia, Mo., sure are curious about what's going on at Kansas. Sam and I got quizzed by a couple of folks when we informed them our previous stop had been in Lawrence.

* Derrion Thomas, the son of Derrick Thomas, has decided to attend a junior-college instead of walking on at Missouri. The late Derrick Thomas, a former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker, was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame Saturday. Derrion, who didn't start playing football until his sophomore season in high school, has developed into a pass-rushing defensive end. He had said he would walk on at Missouri but has instead decided to attend Longview Community College in Lee's Summit, Mo., in order to improve his grade-point average.

* Next stop: Nebraska, Monday.

Saturday, Aug. 8

Road trip, Part One

Greetings from Kansas City. The Big 12 Skywriters Tour has completed two of its assignments. Friday we were in Manhattan to gather interviews at Kansas State's media day. Saturday morning found us in Lawrence for a Kansas practice. Here are some observations thus far.

* Kansas State coach Bill Snyder appears relaxed and rested. He turns 70 in October. Here's hoping he looks the same at season's end.

* Snyder said Friday that junior-college transfer Daniel is a "running back." That apparently ends the speculation that Thomas would compete for time at quarterback. However, he's enough of a passing threat that he could line up as the QB in a shotgun formation. Yes, you could call that the Wildcats' wildcat formation.

* The battle at quarterback probably will come down to senior Carson Coffman and Grant Gregory, a transfer from South Florida with one season of eligibility remaining. Redshirt freshman Joe Kassanvoid and Collin Klein also might be in the QB depth chart mix.

* Neither Coffman nor sophomore linebacker Alex Hrebec were able to attend media day Friday. They weren't being media snobs; each had to take a final exam.

* Kansas State senior tight end Jeron Murstad could be ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit's brother.

* Kansas fans are relieved that wide receiver Dez Briscoe has completed his academic requirements and is eligible to practice with the Jayhawks. Briscoe, a preseason All-Big 12 First Team selection, caught 92 passes for 1,407 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Coach Mark Mangino suspended Briscoe for spring practice and then reinstated him.

* When Kansas running back Jake Sharp sat down for his interview, Internet Services Assistant/Videographer/Traveling Companion Sam Neumann asked him to say his name as a microphone sound check. His response: "Van Halen."

* KU's Memorial Stadium has a new FieldTurf surface. The field is flat. Most fields are crowned in the middle to help with drainage but Kansas' FieldTurf allows for fast drainage.

* Kansas senior quarterback Todd Reesing has a future as a college football television analyst should he decide to pursue that career path.

* Day Three of the tour will find us at Missouri Sunday.

Friday, Aug. 7

Hot links to end the week

Bruce Feldman of ESPN.com weighs in on the Big 12 vs. Southeastern Conference debate.

Alan Trubow of the Austin American-Statesman writes that Texas coach Mack Brown will earn a $2 million bonus if he is still the Longhorns' coach on Jan. 15. Assuming that, Brown will make at least $5.1 million this season.

Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald writes that new Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads might be a carbon copy of former coach Dan McCarney.

Oklahoma wide receiver Corey Wilson, who suffered lower body paralysis in a car accident last February, continues his rehabilitation.

Tim Griffin, ESPN.com's man on the Big 12 beat, reports from Baylor's practice Thursday that the Bears beat the 102-degree heat by finishing their work out inside their new air-conditioned practice facility.

Thursday, Aug. 6

Filling big shoes

Olin Buchanan, senior college football writer for Rivals.com, details some of the most important college football players that must be replaced this season and the players who will step into those shoes. Three of the holes that must be filled are on Big 12 teams.

Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree, by Detron Lewis: Lewis caught 76 passes for 913 yards last season, which would indicate he has some talent. But this season, Lewis ascends to the role as the Red Raiders' No. 1 target, a distinction held the past two seasons by Crabtree, one of the best players in school history. A two-time All-America, Crabtree caught 231 passes and scored 41 touchdowns in his brief career. More important, he led Texas Tech's rise from solid program to championship contender. Lewis may find getting open more difficult without Crabtree drawing double coverage and occupying opponents' best defensive backs.

Missouri QB Chase Daniel, by Blaine Gabbert: All Gabbert has to do is step in for the most successful quarterback in Missouri history. The Tigers were 30-11 with two appearances in the Big 12 championship game and two bowl victories with Daniel as the starter. Daniel also left Missouri with several school records, including career total offense. Gabbert, a sophomore, hasn't thrown a college touchdown pass. But take heart, Mizzou fans: Daniel took over for Brad Smith, who at the time was considered the best quarterback in school history. Maybe history will repeat itself.

Texas DE Brian Orakpo, by Sam Acho: Last season, Texas led the nation with 47 sacks. The biggest reason was Orakpo, who had 11.5 of them. When Orakpo didn't get to the quarterback, his presence helped teammates get there. Acho, a junior who had three sacks in '08, likely will take Orakpo's place in the lineup. He doesn't necessarily have to match Orakpo's totals, but he does have to be an effective complement for Sergio Kindle. If Acho or another end isn't able to apply consistent pressure, Texas' defense may be considerably weakened.

Six Big 12 teams in Vitale's top 40

ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale listed his top 40 teams for the 2009-10 season on ESPN.com. Here's what Dickie V had to say about the six Big 12 teams on the list.

1. Kansas Bill Self's team is led by Cole Aldrich and Sheronn, two members of my All-Rolls-Royce first team. The Jayhawks are loaded with the Morris twins, Tyshawn Taylor  and newcomer Xavier Henry.

4. Texas: AJ Abrams is gone, but Rick Barnes still has reason for optimism. Damon James pulled out of the NBA draft to return to Austin. The Longhorn recruiting class, led by Avery Bradley, is outstanding. The Big 12 will have a great battle between Kansas and Texas.

21. Oklahoma: Blake Griffin is gone, off to the NBA as the No. 1 pick. Jeff Capel's team still has firepower, and Willie Warren will take charge.

30. Oklahoma State: Travis Ford's club will be tough. James Anderson is one of the best players that America needs to learn more about.

32. Texas A&M: Mark Turgeon was surely happy to see Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis pull out of the NBA draft and return to College Station.

39. Kansas State:  Denis Clemente is an unsung performer on the national stage. Frank Martin will have a dangerous team.

Volleyball news and notes

* Three Big 12 teams are ranked in the preseason Top 20 announced by Volleyball Magazine. Texas is ranked No. 2, Nebraska No. 3 and Iowa State No. 11. Texas and Nebraska both reached the national semifinals last season.

* The 2009 Runza/AVCA Showcase August 28-29 at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb. will be televised by CBS College Sports Network. Big 12 teams Nebraska and Kansas State will meet Big Ten Conference foes Michigan and Minnesota during the two-day competition. Several experiments will be used to help make volleyball more television-friendly. There will be two media timeouts (instead of one) during each set. The court will be three-color, with the third added color between the 3-meter lines. Also, an officials' "call to beckon" will be used to hold play while replays are being aired.

* Single-game tickets for Nebraska volleyball home matches at NU Coliseum sold out in less than an hour Wednesday. Tickets remain for the Huskers' Sept. 13 match with UCLA at the Devaney Center. Last September, Nebraska set an NCAA regular-season single-match record with a crowd of 13,412 against LSU.

Road trip

Those fans of the movie "Animal House" know that the boys in Delta House liked to ease their stress and escape their Faber College problems by jumping in a car and hitting the highway.

This isn't that kind of road trip.

For the second consecutive year, Big12Sports.com is doing a football preview tour of the 12 schools.  Starting Friday and ending Aug. 22 (yes, that's 12 schools in 15 days), Internet Services Assistant/Videographer Sam Neumann and Your Humble Correspondent will be traveling the highways and bi-ways of the Big 12 to gather interviews for the Web site.

Sam is an Iowa State graduate and is 22. YHC is 55. Yes, this could be called a Father/Son Tour. (And don't you dare say it could be called a Grandfather/Grandson Tour.) For those hours in the car, YHC hopes Sam likes NPR and big band music.

The tour starts with a North Division swing: Kansas State, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa State. After that, it's Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Then it's Texas, Texas A&M and Baylor. The Dynamic Duo finishes its whirlwind journey with a two-day trip to Texas Tech and Colorado.

Watch for reports and updates from the road here on the Big 12 Insider and on Twitter (Twitter@Big12Conference).

Our football journey is called the Skywriters Tour. A history lesson: In the 1960s and 1970s, the Big Eight Skywriters Tour was a group of sportswriters visiting the eight campuses by bus and airplane. There was reporting, writing, good food and drink and other activities.

You know, an "Animal House" kind of road trip.

Wednesday, Aug. 5

An incredible story

Iowa State senior defensive back James Smith has an amazing history. He came to the United States from impoverished Haiti when an aunt took Smith from his mother when he was three. They wound up in Omaha and Smith was abandoned. He lived with five foster families, became a U.S. citizen and earned a scholarship to play football at Iowa State. This summer, he was reunited with his mother in Haiti. Here's the story from the Des Moines Register.

Three Big 12 teams in CFB top 10

CollegeFootballNews.com, a site that's tough to beat when it comes to objective, in-depth analysis of the sport, ranked all Division I-A teams from 1 through 120. Three Big 12 teams were in the top eight. Here's what CFBNews had to say about the threesome.

No. 8: Oklahoma State

Why Oklahoma State should be No. 1: If you're not planning on putting at least 45 points on the board, don't bother showing up to play the Cowboys. OSU scored 50 points or more five times last year and averaged 41 per outing, and all the key parts are back. The skill trio of QB Zac Robinson, RB Kendall Hunter, and WR Dez Bryant is as good, if not better, as any in college football, while OT Russell Okung and the line should be terrific. The defense might not be special, but it should be better, especially at linebacker, and the special teams are fantastic..
Why Oklahoma State isn't No. 1: The defense. It's not awful, but defense hasn't exactly been head coach Mike Gundy's thing. No one in the Big 12 does much defensively when it comes to stats, but while OU and Texas might give up points and yards against desperate offenses trying to keep up the pace, the Cowboy D is simply mediocre. The pass rush was the worst in the Big 12 last year and isn't likely to be appreciably better. And then there's the prove-it factor. For all the good things OSU did last year, it came up with a good win over Missouri and that's it. Against the other four elite teams on the slate, OU, Texas, Texas Tech and Oregon, the Cowboys allowed a total of 187 points and lost all four games.
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Quarterback
Relative Weaknesses: Secondary, Linebacker
What to watch for on offense: The secondary receivers. No. 1 target Dez Bryant has to stay healthy, which has been a wee bit of a problem, even though he's been able to tough it out when needed, but even if he's 100% the second and third receivers need to start doing more. So who will they be? DeMarcus Conner and Justin Blackmon are projected to be starters, but Isaiah Anderson and Hubert Anyiam are good options ready to make a splash.
What to look for on defense: More of a pass rush. New defensive coordinator Bill Young will try to release the hounds and get all the speed an athleticism on the Cowboy defense to start to produce big things. The pass rush was non-existent throughout last year and the secondary suffered. At all costs against the pass-happy Big 12 attacks, OSU has to sell out to hit a quarterback. The results can't be too much worse after getting picked apart for 270 yards per game and 28 scores.

No. 4 Texas

Why Texas should be No. 1: All the same positives of last year are the same plusses as this year, only better. QB Colt McCoy should be even sharper, the special teams will be the positive different in at least one game, the receiving corps has a great blend of terrific young stars and trusted veterans, and the pass rush should be excellent again with Sergio Kindle moving from linebacker to end, at least in key situations. And then there's the motivation factor. After what happened last year, there's unfinished business to be taken care of.
Why Texas isn't No. 1: All of the same negatives of last year are the same negatives as this year ... maybe. The running backs have to prove they can handle the ground attack to take the pressure off McCoy. The line, while talented, has to do a better job of being consistent and has to be able to take over from time to time. The secondary hasn't been strong for a few years, even with the benefit of a pass rush. and while it should be better, it's not going to be elite. And then there are the expectations, which are high even for Texas. Anything less than a national title will do, but there are landmines at Missouri, at Oklahoma State, and against Kansas, to go along with the showdown against Oklahoma.
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Offensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Secondary, Running Back
What to watch for on offense: The young receivers. The running backs will again operate by committee, with the hope to do more so Colt McCoy doesn't have to lead the team in rushing again, and the offensive line should pave the way for a more consistent season. However, the key to the Texas offense is the precision passing attack that McCoy was so masterful at last year. Getting top target Jordan Shipley back with a sixth year of eligibility was key, but the stars of the show could be from last year's recruiting class. Malcolm Williams already showed what he could do with a whale of a performance in the loss to Texas Tech, Dan Buckner has the size and potential to be great, and DeSean Hales has the gamebreaking ability to potentially be the best of the three. The emergence of the young receivers might be the difference between a great year and a national title.
What to look for on defense: Sergio Kindle doing his Brian Orakpo imitation. Kindle is an All-America caliber linebacker who saw a little bit of time as a rush end late in the year when Orakpo went down. While Kindle might still play a more natural outside linebacker spot from time to time, he'll use his speed, smarts, and talent to be used as the Buck end and be asked to be a pure pass rusher. Don't be shocked if he puts up better numbers than Orakpo(who made 10.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss).

No. 3 Oklahoma

Why Oklahoma should be No. 1: The defensive line is too deep, the second team would start at about 100 other places, the rushing tandem of Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray is NFL-caliber, Jermaine Gresham is the nation's best tight end, and Heisman winner Sam Bradford is still living in Norman instead of Detroit, New York, or Tampa. While there might be concerns on offense, the defense, unlike last year, should pick up the slack. The return of LB Ryan Reynolds from a knee injury gives the Sooner D a leader and a quarterback, but it's Gerald McCoy and the defensive front that'll shine brightest..
Why Oklahoma isn't No. 1: Bradford might make everyone around him better, but there are still concerns at wide receiver. The group looks the part, but now it has to prove it can produce on a consistent basis. Can Bradford put up big numbers under pressure? The team might have to find out with four starters off last year's O line, the best in America, gone. However, left tackle Trent Williams, the lone returning starter, could be the first lineman taken in next year's NFL draft.
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Defensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Secondary, Receiver
What to watch for on offense: The offensive line. Last year's front five was the best in America, and this year it has to replace tackle Phil Loadholt, guards Duke Robinson and Brandon Walker, and center Jon Cooper. Tackle Trent Williams might have been the best of the bunch, and while he's back and will move over from right tackle to the left, there are some major question marks after a rocky offseason. Brian Simmons has the potential to be a strong left guard, and there are good, big options at the other three spots, but it's asking a lot to keep Sam Bradford upright like last year's line did. OU allowed just 13 sacks last season and paved the way for 2,779 rushing yards and 45 touchdowns. This year's front five might not be as good, but it can't be a liability in the up-tempo, no-huddle attack.
What to look for on defense: A dominant front seven. It's not an overstatement to suggest that OU has six legitimate pro prospects to rotate around up front, while the linebacking trio of Ryan Reynolds in the middle, leading-tackler Travis Lewis on the weakside, and Keenan Clayton on the strongside will make its pitch to be among the best in college football. Last year, the line was camped out in opposing backfields making 42 tacks and 106 tackles for loss. Those numbers might not even be close to what this year's group should come up with thanks to a devastating end rotation and Gerald McCoy, Adrian Taylor, and DeMarcus Granger at tackle. No one's going to run on this group.

Tuesday, Aug. 4

Seven Big 12 running backs on Doak Walker list
In the category of “can you top this?” Big 12 running backs answered in the affirmative.

A day after six Big 12 quarterbacks were named to the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award preseason watch list, seven running backs from the Conference were named to the preseason watch list for the Doak Walk Award. The O’Brien list had 33 players, the Walker 44.

Oklahoma’s Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray made the list as did Kendall Hunter of Oklahoma State, Baron Batch of Texas A&M, Roy Helu Jr. of Nebraska, Jake Sharp of Kansas and Cyrus Gray of Texas A&M. Derrick Washington of Missouri and Jay Finley of Baylor were arguably deserving but didn’t make the list.

It’s worth mentioning that preseason watch lists are like preseason rankings. It’s in-season performance that will determine award winners. Being on a watch list – or not being on a watch list – doesn’t help or hurt a player’s chances.

4 Big 12 teams get early season tournament opponents, times
The first-round matchups for four Big 12 teams playing in early season college basketball events were announced Tuesday afternoon by ESPN.

* Kansas State will play Boston University at 6:30 p.m. CT Nov. 17 in the first round of the O’Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The eight-team field also includes Villanova, George Mason, Indiana, Ole Miss, Dayton and Georgia Tech.

* Texas A&M will face Clemson at 3:30 p.m. CT Nov. 26 in the opening round of the 76 Classic. That game will be televised on ESPN2. The rest of the field includes West Virginia, Long Beach State, Minnesota, Butler, UCLA and Portland.

* Baylor will play Alabama at 5:30 p.m. CT Nov. 26 in the first round of the Old Spice Classic. The game will be televised on ESPN2. The rest of the field includes Creighton, Michigan, Marquette, Xavier, Florida State and Iona.

* Colorado will face Gonzaga at 2 p.m. CT Nov. 23 in the first round of the Maui Invitational in Hawaii. Other teams in the field include Arizona, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Vanderbilt, Maryland and host Chaminade.

OSU's Kendall Hunter ranked in top 10 running backs
Bruce Feldman of ESPN.com listed his top 10 running backs for the upcoming season. Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter made the list at No. 5. Here's what Feldman wrote about Hunter:

"A little dynamo from Tyler, Texas (better known as the hometown of Earl Campbell), Hunter has been overshadowed by the great Dez Bryant and quarterback Zac Robinson. But he is a star in his own right. Last season, he ran for 1,555 yards, including 161 at Texas. The downside: He managed just 37 rushing yards against Oregon in the Holiday Bowl. He'll have a great chance to get his name out there in the opener against Georgia, which has a really strong interior defense."

Feldman had Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray, Missouri's Derrick Washington and Colorado's Darrell Scott on his "just missed the cut" list.

Monday, Aug. 3

Basketball on the brain
Dick “Hoops” Weiss, who covers college football and basketball for the New York Daily News, attended last week’s football media days in Dallas. But “Hoops” writes that hoops was a hot topic:

“Just got back from Big 12 football media day and all anyone wanted to talk to me about was Big 12 basketball and the fact that the conference - which has eight potential NCAA teams - might be the best conference in country. We know this much: f Craig Brackins of Iowa State, c Cole Aldrich and g Sherron Collins of Kansas, f Damion James of Texas, f James Anderson of Oklahoma State, g Willie Warren of Oklahoma and g Denis Clemente of Kansas State are all All-American candidates.”

More hoops notes
* Here’s a great read by the Ames Tribune’s Courtney Linehan on former Iowa State basketball coach Johnny Orr.

* Iowa State women’s coach Bill Fennelly was an assistant coach on the USA Under19 National Team that won its third consecutive gold medal in the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championships in Bangkok, Thailand. The USA team won the gold medal with an 87-71 victory over Spain Sunday night.

*Jeff Goodman of FoxSports.com wrote about the 10 things he learned during the July recruiting period. This was No. 3 on his list: "In the Class of 2010, there aren't a ton of guys that blow you away with pro potential. The guy who will have NBA execs fawning all over him is Baylor commit Perry Jones - a 6-foot-10 long and versatile forward who has a ridiculous upside." And here’s a story from Michael DeCourcy, The Sporting News’ excellent college basketball writer, on Jones.

* Oklahoma women’s coach Sherri Coale discusses Sooners basketball in this Q and A with the Tulsa World’s Lynn Jacobsen.

Six Big 12 quarterbacks on O’Brien watch list
The Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award announced its 33-player preseason watch list and the Big 12 placed six on the list, more than any other conference. Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, who won the Heisman Trophy and the O’Brien last year, is on the list along with Baylor’s Robert Griffin, Texas’ Colt McCoy, Texas Tech’s Taylor Potts, Kansas’ Todd Reesing and Oklahoma State’s Zac Robinson. The Southeastern,  Big Ten, Pacific-10 and Atlantic Coast conferences each had four players on the preseason watch list.

The decade’s best
Few writers cover college football as well as Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com. Dodd ranked all Division I-A teams for the first decade of the 21st century as we go into the 2009 season. Dodd ranked USC No. 1 followed by Oklahoma and Texas. Other Big 12 teams on his list: 13, Nebraska; 25, Kansas State; 33, Texas Tech; 46, Missouri; 51, Kansas; 52, Oklahoma State; 53, Colorado; 63, Texas A&M; 69, Iowa State; 98, Baylor. Here’s a link to the top 10 that includes links to the complete 1 through 120 rankings.

Ticket talk
* Tickets for the Texas Tech-Baylor football game on Nov. 28 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas went on sale Monday morning. Ticket prices are $40, $60 and $100 and can be purchased by calling 1-888-462-4412.

* Oklahoma State is on pace to set a school record for season ticket sales for a second consecutive year. Last year, the school sold 29,993 season tickets to the public and 9,983 to students; a total of 39,976. Athletic director Mike Holder said last week that just over 31,000 season tickets have been sold with an expectation of over 10,000 student season tickets. Oklahoma State had its best football attendance in school history, averaging 48,254 per game.

* Kansas is on pace to set a season ticket sales record for the fifth consecutive season. Last year, Kansas sold just over 38,000 season tickets following the 2007 season’s 12-1 record and Orange Bowl victory. As of Friday, Kansas had sold approximately 35,000 season ticket packages. That’s about 1,000 more than the school had sold by Aug. 1 a year ago.

Links to start your week
In the current issue of ESPN The Magazine, Bruce Feldman explains the buzz in Waco going into coach Art Briles' second season at Baylor.

Yes, it’s true. The quarterbacks of two of the biggest rivals in college football are friends. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star details how Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford and Texas’ Colt McCoy have become BFFs.

The football writers at Rivals.com held a roundtable discussion about predicting division winners in the Big 12.

Randy Riggs of the Austin American-Statesman writes that Texas Tech offensive lineman Brandon Carter’s tattoos are menacing but that Carter is more than his body ink.

Four Oklahoma players, including Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Sam Bradford, decided to stick together and skip the NFL Draft in order to play this season with the Sooners.

Kansas has concentrated on recruiting in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

With the offenses in the Big 12 again potent, the conference’s defenders are trying to figure out how to improve.

B.G. Brooks of the Colorado web site writes about a  68-year-old assistant coach who has signed on to help coach the Buffs this season.

Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald lists the 12 things he learned at Big 12 football media days.

A great column by Dave Sittler of the Tulsa World on the Three Quarterbacking Amigos – Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow – and why their decision to return to play the 2009 season is good for college football.

First-year Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads has a tough task ahead in making the Cyclones winners but he has the support of his players.

Two opposite opinions on the future site of the Dr Pepper Big 12 Football Championship: Kevin Haskin of the Topeka Capital Journal says the new Cowboys Stadium should be the game’s permanent site. Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star is opposed to parking the title game at the $1.2 billion stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Sunday, Aug. 2

Reporting, practice dates
Here's the run down for Big 12 football teams as far as when players report and the first practice at each school.
 

School Players report First practice
Baylor Aug. 4 Aug. 5
Colorado Aug. 6 Aug. 7
Iowa State Aug. 4 Aug. 6
Kansas Aug. 6 Aug. 7
Kansas State Aug. 5 Aug. 6
Missouri Aug. 5 Aug. 6
Nebraska Aug. 7 Aug. 8
Oklahoma Aug. 5 Aug. 6
Oklahoma State Aug. 4 Aug. 5
Texas Aug. 8 Aug. 9
Texas A&M Aug. 9 Aug. 10
Texas Tech Aug. 7 Aug. 8

Swine flu costs Texas Tech a volleyball match

A swine flu outbreak on Tulane's team has for the Green Wave to withdraw from Creighton's Bluejay Invtational in Omaha, Neb., this weekend. Texas Tech is participating in what is now a three-team event and instead of three matches the Red Raiders will now have just two - facing host Creighton Friday and 10th-ranked Illinois Saturday. The matches will be the first of the season for Texas Tech.

Texas basketball roster gets another boost
Texas, which figures to be a pre-season top five team in men's basketball, added to its loaded roster Monday night. J'Covan Brown, a basketball recruit from Port Arthur Memorial High, has received academic eligibility clearance from the NCAA to play for the Longhorns in 2009-10. A 6-2 guard, Brown hoped to join UT last season but he did not meet NCAA academic requirements. The NCAA Clearinghouse sent word to Texas Monday night that Brown was academically eligible.

According to ESPN's medical expert Stephania Bell, a Grade 1 sprain is fairly minor, a Grade 2 sprain is moderate while a Grade 3 sprain usually involves a ligament tear. The recovery time can vary. ESPN.com reported Monday that Bradford has started rehab work and is hoping to avoid surgery.

"It's going to be a fairly long process, probably a week or two before we know," Stoops said. "It depends on how he heals and how he feels as he heals."

Stoops said that tight end Jermaine Gresham, who damaged cartilage in his knee in a practice early last week, is in a similar situation to Bradford. "Hopefully we'll know within the next few days what the doctors feel is best for Jermaine."

Oklahoma's Gresham out for year after surgery
Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma's All-American tight end who returned to the Sooners instead of declaring for the NFL Draft, will miss the season after undergoing knee surgery Tuesday.

During an arthroscopic procedure, doctors determined that the cartilage damage in his right knee needed to be repaired. He faces a five-month recovery period.

Gresham was injured during practice a week ago. He missed Oklahoma's 14-13 loss to BYU Saturday. Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Sam Bradford suffered a sprained throwing shoulder in the game and will be out a minimum of two weeks.