Big 12 Sports.com Correspondent
With the start of conference play Saturday, I thought it might be worthwhile to ask some writers who follow the Big 12 and the national scene for their thoughts about the what's happened so far and what might happen over the next two months.
What have you learned from the non-conference games?
Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com: Clearly, the Big 12 and SEC have pulled away this year as the top two leagues.
Tom Dienhart, Rivals.com: This is one of the best leagues in America. Maybe the best. But there really have been few impressive non-conference wins. The QBs are as good as advertised. And I expect a Big 12 team to play for the BCS title.
Tim Griffin, ESPN.com: The Big 12 is right up there with the SEC as the nation's best. By my count, the Big 12 has had one really bad loss - A&M's loss to Arkansas State. Any of the other ones could have big expected. So I think the conference's strength - particularly at the top - is as good as anybody in the country.
Stewart Mandel, SI.com: That the collection of quarterbacks is scary.
Chris Dufresne, Los Angeles Times: That this is probably the best year the Big 12 has ever had. I wasn't convinced at first because there were a lot of 1-AA fraud wins on the schedule but the totality of the Big 12 has sort of won me over.
Any surprises? Disappointments?
Dodd: I think you can literally make a case that every team in the conference with the possible exception of Kansas State is on the uptick.
Dienhart: I thought Missouri's defense would be better. Baylor is a great surprise. I think the Bears may get to a bowl. Like Missouri, I thought Texas Tech's defense would be better. And I thought Kansas State would make a move but it looks to be a long year in Manhattan.
Griffin: Biggest suprise for me has been how good Oklahoma State's offense has been. I think they might be even better than last season's group with the emergence of Dez Bryant and Kendall Hunter. I think that Robinson is much better. But we'll see how good the Cowboys really are in the next couple of weeks. My biggest disappointment has been Texas A&M. I think Sherman's going to have trouble getting them to a bowl game. And I'm a little disappointed in how Missouri's defense started off the season. They made Juice Williams look like Charlie Ward. They are going to have to play a lot better in the Big 12 to win the North.
Mandel: Baylor has been a bit of a surprise. Otherwise, nothing too earth-shattering so far.
Dufresne: Colorado's win over West Virginia was certainly surprise, so much so I actually thought the Buffs had a shot against Florida State, but that wasnt the case.
Anything in particular that you're looking forward to or are curious about with conference play starting?
Dodd: Texas is lying in the weeds. The Horns look surprisingly strong. I don't know if it's a good thing or bad thing that Colt McCoy is leading them in rushing.
Dienhart: The Red River game will be HUGE. Can Kansas match its success of last year with a tougher schedule? Can Tech REALLY contend in the South? Will Texas A&M win a Big 12 game? How will Nebraska's shaky defense hold up against these killer offenses?
Griffin: I'm looking forward to seeing exactly how balanced the Big 12 is. Will there be some cannibalization from teams beating up on each other? Or will there be a couple that rise above everybody else. We'll see.
Mandel: I'm wondering if any of the defenses are going to prove capable of shutting down all those prolific QBs.
Dufresne: I want to see this QB situation get flushed out. There are so many Big 12 QBs with huge numbers it's hard to tell what's legit and what's not. That will be ironed out when these schools have to start playing each other. My suspicion is Bradford, Daniel, McCoy and Harrell will start to separate from the rest.
Yes or no: Will any team get through the Big 12 regular-season undefeated?
Dodd: No, no, no.!!!!
Dienhart: Yes. OU or Missouri.
Griffin: Yes ... and maybe even two. If that happens, the Big 12's championship will be a monster.
Mandel: I think Oklahoma will make it through the regular season undefeated. No guarantee about the conference title game.
Dufresne: No team will get through unscathed, but a one-loss Big 12 is going to beat out a one-loss Big Ten or Pac-10 team I think if the conference strength holds up.
Moore frustrated by less
Missouri senior free safety William Moore, who didn't play in the Tigers' most recent game because of a sprained foot, returned to practice over the weekend. Moore has missed two of Missouri's non-conference games because of the injury. He's probable to be on the field when the fourth-ranked Tigers play at Nebraska Saturday.
“It’s been pretty frustrating,” said Moore, who early in the week assessed his health at 85 percent. “You know, what I came here to do is play ball. I don’t want to sit on the sidelines.”
- Texas quarterback Colt McCoy says he never tries to pick up any good luck by rubbing the Heisman trophies of Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams. His focus appears to be on a team-oriented goal. “I do rub the national championship trophy, though,” he said.
- From USA Today columnist Mike Lopresti: Thumbs up to Big 12 quarterbacks. Most efficient organization this side of Toyota. Six of the nation's 10 top ranked passers come from the league. Texas Tech's Graham Harrell is the 20th-rated quarterback in pass efficiency in the country ... but ninth in his own conference.
- Time to play the comparative scores game: Oklahoma is better than USC because ... the Sooners beat TCU which beat Stanford which beat Oregon State which beat ... USC.
- Colorado sophomore offensive tackle Ryan Miller will miss the rest of the season after suffering a fracture of his left fibula on Saturday against Florida State. Coach Dan Hawkins said Miller and freshman guard Max Tuioti-Mariner (who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament last week in practice) will apply to NCAA for an injury hardship that could turn this season into a redshirt season.
- Oklahoma State was 101st in total defense last season. Through four games, the Cowboys are ranked 42nd. Opponents are 14-of-55 on third-down attempts (25 percent). In 2007, OSU allowed 37 percent of third-down tries to be successful.
- Washington is 0-4 and quarterback Jake Locker - the team's only offensive threat - might not play again this season. It appears that coach Tyrone Willingham will be dismissed. If that happens, expect a lot of successor speculation to focus on two Big 12 coaches - Missouri's Gary Pinkel, a former Washington assistant, and Texas Tech's Mike Leach.
"It's loud and it's crazy and they are real nice fans. They kind of clap for you when you come out on the field for practice or when you leave. It's not what you always would expect."
- Missouri junior offensive lineman Kurtis Gregory on the fans at Nebraska's Memorial Stadium.