Entries from blogs tagged with “12”

Big 12 media days blog: Quickfire notes from Bill Self’s one-on-one interviews

1:50 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

We're going to go ahead and sign off on our live coverage from Big 12 media days.

Be sure to look below for:

Notes from Self talking at the podium and in one-on-one interviews.

Short videos with Big 12 director of officiating Curtis Shaw explaining the new handchecking and block/charge rules.

Also, check back to KUsports.com on Wednesday for all of Gary Bedore's stories and notebook items from media day.

1:08 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

OK, here are some quickfire notes from what Self said during his hour of one-on-one interviews:

• Self still believes Perry Ellis has the potential to be KU's leading or second-leading scorer this year.

Self says he never watches tape of his team's final game of the season after an NCAA Tournament loss. "Why watch it? You can't get it back. It's over," Self said. He said he's only watched one final game during his time at KU, but he joked that he watched that one a bunch.

• Self says center Joel Embiid "has fallen in love with basketball." He says the big man has great feet. Embiid might not make an impact early, but he could make a huge impact late. Self said KU only saw Embiid in recruiting because he was the fourth-best player on Brannen Greene's AAU team.

• Self said Wayne Selden has been "one of our best players since Day One. Period." Self says once the games start, he won't be overlooked by anyone.

On the possibility of Selden being a backup poing guard for KU, Self said the last thing he wants is Selden thinking too much. "Could he do it in time? Absolutely," Self said. Self doesn't believe right away is the best time for that, though. Playing point guard requires a lot. Self compared it to having your starting running back in football also assigned to be the backup quarterback. He said that's asking quite a bit of a player.

Self said at nearly every practice, 6-10 NBA guys are watching his players. He said that's a good situation that you want to have at your program. You want your guys to get exposure.

• Self said the biggest surprises for him have been the development of Naadir Tharpe, Perry Ellis and Embiid.

• Self said Tarik Black should be the best player he's had at sealing off defenders and scoring with angles. He's also helped Embiid's development.

• Last year, Self said KU didn't have a true low-post scorer with Kevin Young and Jeff Withey in the starting lineup. KU should play through the post more this year, and it's also deeper on the perimeter than last year's team. Self still said that last year's team at the end of the year would whip the team he has right now, which doesn't completely know what it's doing yet.

Self didn't hesitate to let Andrew Wiggins do the SI cover. At the time, though, Self didn't know how SI was going to do the cover or the story. Self did think the cover was cool, even if it did perhaps add more expectations.

Self believes the attention on Wiggins could help all his players, especially ones like Conner Frankamp and Brannen Greene. Those guys should be able to develop at their own pace, whereas in another program, they'd probably have a lot expected of them right away. Self said Frankamp was going to be good, as he could shoot as well as anyone on the team. Self said one improvement Frankamp needs to make is with his defense.

• Self said KU was teaching its defense a bit differently because of the new defensive rules changes with handchekcing. The block/charge change, though, doesn't affect Self's defensive philosophy, as he's never taught guys to take charges, even though guys like Kevin Young and Travis Releford were good at it. Self said he likes to have his guys play physical on the perimeter, so he's not telling his guys to back off defensively, because he thinks that might send the wrong message. The team might have to adjust principles, though, based on how the game is officiated.

Self says his team has scrimmaged twice, and both times, it had three officials to get used to the new rules. His team will scrimmage twice a week from now on, and two officials will be present at those as well.

Embiid will not be a rim-protector like Jeff Withey was. Self said his team was spoiled the last two years. Self said Embiid is good at shot-blocking, but not as good as he could be. Embiid needs to get it more in his mind to go after blocked shots.

Self said he looks to NBA teams for information, mostly regarding how to guard ball screens.

Self said Wiggins is a guard that can post up, and KU's never had that in his time there. KU will try to get it to him there at times.

Self said KU could play with four guards this year, but he's more inclined to play his best players, and right now, the big men have been as consistent as anyone. It's going to be hard to take more than two big men out at a time.

• Last year, Tharpe was more comfortable being "a guy." "Now, he's the guy," Self said. Tharpe now believes he belongs.

• Self said Andrew White III's role could be first guard off the bench. He's listened to the coaches and improved nearly every aspect he was asked to in the offseason.

11:15 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

A quick note on the blog ... the updates might be a little more infrequent over the next hour or so, as starting at 11:30, one-on-one interviews start with both coaches and players. If you haven't yet, be sure to check out the Bill Self Cliff's notes below, along with the short videos that explain the new NCAA rule changes this year.

11:04 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Here's more clarification of OSU coach Travis Ford's quote below. Here's officially what he said from the Big 12's transcript:

"Well, we haven't talked much about where we were picked (in Big 12). We talk a lot about understanding what our goals are and what we want to try to accomplish. Winning a Big 12 Championship is something that we strive to do. It's something we talk about, but we fully grasp that Kansas is still a team to beat. I think any coach would tell you that. They're still the team in the Big 12 that everybody's trying to compete with."

10:49 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Some interesting comments a few seconds ago from Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford, who was asked about the Big 12 preseason rankings.

"We fully grasped that Kansas is a team to beat," Ford said.

I believe Ford was referencing most of the past decade as KU being the league favorite, but he also might be trying to take some pressure off his guys.

10:32 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Short note from our Gary Bedore: KU walkon Tyler Self will be out three to four weeks with a torn ligament in the top of his foot.

10:25 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

For those who haven't heard anything about the new rules ... be sure to take a look at the two short videos below. Big 12 director of officials Curtis Shaw explains — with video examples — how block/charge and handchecking calls will be different this season.

In case you were wondering, KU plays from last year make appearances on both videos.

10:04 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

A couple photos of KU's players doing radio interviews about 20 minutes ago.


Wiggins by Jesse Newell


Black by Jesse Newell

10:02 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

The Big 12 officiating coordinator Curtis Shaw just finished his talk. Here are a few of the key points:

Shaw says the intent with the new rules isn't to shoot more free throws, but that might happen early as players adjust. Handchecks have been moved up into the front part of the rulebook, so now, these aren't just guidelines. They're rules. Now, these handcheck things are automatic fouls.

He says every game's officiating will be graded within 48 hours this year. The referees and coaches will get a copy so they know the league is reviewing it. Shaw believes this will help the referees and help find some tendencies from certain officials.

More from Shaw later, as I'll post some video of him explaining the new handcheck and block/charge rules.

9:40 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

A story from our Gary Bedore about KU coach Bill Self's reaction to the new rule changes ...

8:58 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Here's the full audio from KU coach Bill Self's time at the podium.

8:42 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Big 12 media days

Big 12 media days by Jesse Newell

Here are the Cliff's notes from Self's time at the podium:

Self says there's as much anticipation with his group as any time he's been at KU.

Center Joel Embiid has a chance to be as talented a big guy as Self has had. He's just starting his third year of playing ball. If he continues to improve at this rate, he could impact the league and also the college game nationally. He has a skill-set few 7-footers have.

KU has been ranked higher preseason a lot of times than this year, but it seems to Self there's higher hype about this team because of the recruiting class and Andrew Wiggins. Self has told the young guys he has that there have been pretty good players before them that have been proven, and none of you guys have made a basket. Nothing's going to be easy, and those guys are going to get everyone's best shot. Those guys are looking forward to it, though.

Wiggins hasn't asked for the attention. He deflects attention as much as anyone Self has been around. Self says the LeBron James comparisons and such are unfair. He just needs to try to be Andrew. When you're on the cover of SI ... you could go for 20 points and 10 rebounds in the opener and be a disappointment in some people's eyes. If you know ball, Self says you will see Wiggins impact the team in ways that can help KU win that might not be points and rebounds. Self says the expectations for him should be high, and there should be hype. He is talented, and he should be able to put his handprint over almost everything that KU does.

KU had big guards last year. Some of Self's best teams have had little guards. Wiggins and Wayne Selden can make plays off the bounce, but KU isn't going to change how it plays too much. KU will run a lot of ball screens for them.

Self's initial thought with the new handchecking rules is that scoring will go up and good play will go down. Self thinks the scoring will go up because of more free throws. Self doesn't know if he rule change will create more shots; he thinks it will create more free throws. There may be games early when teams won't go up and down the court twice without a stoppage. It'll be good down the line, but there could be fragmented games to get to that point.

Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart is the best competitor Self has faced while at KU. He wills his team to win. He's going to do whatever it takes to give his team the best chance to win.

KU is going to make mistakes this year. The Jayhawks will struggle in some areas. Self thinks closing close games out could be a struggle, as you have to learn how to win. Self hopes that by league play, he won't be looking at his freshmen as young players, because if this tough non-conference schedule doesn't prepare you for conference play, none will.

8:25 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

More talk about the rule changes this year: Texas coach Rick Barnes believes zone defenses could make a comeback this year — along with pack-line defenses — with defensive contact being eliminated on the perimeter.

Barnes also noted that it will be very difficult for players to take charges with the rule changes. He said that in a scrimmage this past week, his team had three plays that he thought were charges that were called as blocks. After looking at film, he said they all were the right calls with the new rules.

Barnes said he'd like for the NCAA to continue to adjust its rules, as he'd like to see a 30-second shot clock, a wider lane and the opportunity for defenders to take the ball off the rim if it's bouncing above it. Barnes said he's in favor of an international game, so he'd prefer the NCAA go to the international rules.

8:13 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

I haven't seen many reporters from Oklahoma here, so that might let you know where college basketball falls in the pecking order as far as Oklahoma sports go at this time of the year.

One interesting thing — and it'll be a theme all day — was from OU coach Lon Kruger talking about officials enforcing handchecking rules more this season.

"It'll be extremely difficult (to adjust)," Kruger said. "That's what they want. If they're able to call it as they're describing and maintain it throughout the season, it'll be good for everyone."

Kruger called the change "as big as an adjustment as we've seen" in college basketball, and he included three-point line and clock changes in that statement.

The rule — meant to help increase scoring, which has been dipping in the NCAA for some time — is partially explained below.

The rules committee is concerned that various types of handchecking on a player with the ball drastically reduces the dribbler's ability to beat his man to create scoring opportunities. Accordingly, certain guidelines for officiating these plays have been inserted into Rule 10 and officials are instructed to call the fouls written within the rules.

Original post: By Jesse Newell

Welcome to Big 12 men's basketball media days at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Here's the schedule for the podium today:

8 a.m. — Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger
8:15 a.m. — Texas coach Rick Barnes
8:30 a.m. — Kansas coach Bill Self
8:45 a.m. — Baylor coach Scott Drew
9 a.m. — West Virginia coach Bob Huggins
9:45 a.m. — Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith
10 a.m. — Kansas State coach Bruce Weber
10:15 a.m. — TCU coach Trent Johnson
10:30 a.m. —  Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg
10:45 a.m. — Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford
11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. — Coaches' one-on-ones
12:30-1:15 p.m. — Athletes one-on-ones

Be sure to check back for more from media days as it happens, including Self's audio and Cliff's notes from his time at the podium.


Big 12 media days blog: Matt, Jesse provide their takeaways from Day 2 in Dallas

4:58 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Matt and I just finished up this video chat, talking about the biggest takeaways we had from Day 2 in Dallas.

With that, we're going to wrap up our coverage from Big 12 media days. Be sure to check back to KUsports.com for all your KU football coverage as the team begins practices in August.

4:25 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

You can find the news of the day in Matt Tait's notebook below. Also included in there is the latest on KU football signee and offensive lineman Pearce Slater.

3:26 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Was going through Big 12 media days photos from the Associated Press and couldn't resist posting this one.

Kanas quarterback Jake Heaps conducts interviews during a breakout session at the Big 12 conference football media days on Monday, July 22, 2013 in Dallas.

Kanas quarterback Jake Heaps conducts interviews during a breakout session at the Big 12 conference football media days on Monday, July 22, 2013 in Dallas.

I'll let you guys determine who is the best dressed of the two.

3:08 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

I wanted to give you guys a glimpse of what Matt was talking about with Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk's personality.

Here's a video I shot of him where he says Baylor should be seen in the same light as the Texases and Oklahomas of college football. He also says he's tired of only hearing about Robert Griffin III when people talk about Baylor.

Much like KU coach Charlie Weis yesterday, I have no problem with Seastrunk avoiding cliches and saying how he really feels. It makes days like this much more interesting.

Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk speaks to the media during Day 2 of the 2013 Big 12 Media Days in Dallas.

Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk speaks to the media during Day 2 of the 2013 Big 12 Media Days in Dallas. by Jesse Newell

2:12 p.m. update: By Matt Tait

Just got my first taste of Baylor running back Lache (pronounced Lake) Seastrunk, who has made waves this preseason by predicting a Heisman Trophy victory for himself at the end of the year.

Don't confuse Seastrunk's bold prediction for cockiness or arrogance. It's not. It's more a general feeling of, if that's what you believe, why not say it, because saying it can only help you visualize it and then attain it.

The Bears, picked to finish in the middle of the pack in 2013, have been doing a lot of that today, with the words "Big 12 championship" and "national championship" coming out of the mouths of all four BU representatives here today.

Personally, I like it. Having talked to them and listened to their explanations for why they believe those lofty goals are attainable, it seems perfectly legitimate for them to think big like that. The only time when it became an issue was when BU coach Art Briles was asked what he wanted from his defense this season. His answer? One word.

"Shutouts," Briles said. "Why would we want to shoot for anything else. We want to score 60 on offense, throw up shutouts on defense and win the Big 12 and national championships."

Briles went on to say that he understood that hoping for shutouts in a league as offensively advanced as the Big 12 was a bit of a reach, but it all came back to that philosophy of why not say what you believe.

"We're never going to go into a game saying, 'Let's hold them to 21 and hope that's enough,'" Briles said. "If we hold 'em to zero, we know that'll be enough to at least get us to overtime."

I like this Baylor team. Good dudes, confident guys, no-nonsense approach. I wouldn't bet against them this season.

As I was typing this up, I overheard Mack Brown talking about KU coach Charlie Weis a little more:

"Charlie Weis, to me, is a great coach, not a good one," Brown said. "And I think it's only a matter of time before he gets Kansas going again because he knows what he's doing and he's passionate about it."

1:07 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

The breakout session is just starting, with players and coaches from today's five schools available to media members. Not surprisingly, Texas and Oklahoma are drawing the biggest crowds.

Going to go listen in. Here are two more KU videos from yesterday, in case you missed 'em:

12:14 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads had high praise for his punter Kirby Van Der Kamp during his time at the podium.

"We believe we have the best punter in college football," Rhoads said.

Like KU men's basketball coach Bill Self, Rhoads will get the opportunity to coach his son, Jake, who is on the team as a long snapper this season.

"I've already seen him mature and grow in the five weeks he's been a part of our summer training," coach Rhoads said. "It will have its trying moments, but I'm sure it's going to be a lot of fun."

11:49 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Baylor coach Art Briles, on his team's new gold helmet: "There's two shiny things up here: that helmet and my head."

Briles also didn't seem concerned with this quote from running back Lache Seastrunk in the offseason: "I'm going to win the Heisman. I'm going to win it in 2013. If I don't, I'm going to get very close."

"I'd rather have players wanting to win the Heisman than clapping for the one that does," Briles said.

11:24 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

A few KUsports.com videos in case you missed them yesterday.

11:17 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen was asked what he thought about coaches — like Arkansas' Bret Bielema and Alabama's Nick Saban — that have publicly complained about what the spread offense has done to college football.

"I'd tell them to get over it, because it's not going to change," Holgorsen said.

While on the podium, Holgorsen also complimented former KU running back signee Dreamius Smith, who ended up going to Butler Community College before signing with WVU.

10:59 a.m. update: By Matt Tait

It was obvious Monday that KU football coach Charlie Weis' comments about using the phrase "have you seen that pile of crap" in recruiting took the Big 12 media by storm.

Here's a quick look at some of the reaction from around the league as well as my take on why it's not such a big deal.


10:53 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Texas coach Mack Brown had some interesting things to say:

Brown had high praise for Kansas, which nearly knocked off Texas last year. Brown noted that KU nearly beat every Big 12 team it played at home last year. "Charlie's doing a tremendous job, and Kansas will be back soon, in my opinion," Brown said.

Brown says Texas quarterback David Ash has grown up and says at times last year, Ash played like former UT quarterbacks Vince Young and Colt McCoy.

Brown defended his defensive coaches, who took some fire a year ago: "They didn't just get stupid."

Brown said he'd like for his team to get 80-plus plays per game. Texas ran 68 plays per game a year ago.

10:20 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops just finished his time at the podium. Here are a few notes:

Stoops has not announced a starting quarterback as of yet, but he likes what he has with Wichita native Blake Bell. Though Bell is known mostly for coming in for OU's "Bell-dozer" goal-line packages as a run-pass threat, Stoops said he "does throw the football well. We have have a history of having excellent throwers ... and Blake fits that mold."

Stoops says if you're going to go no-huddle, you have to be able to stay on the field and score. It's a balancing act with the no-huddle, hurry-up offense, as sometime that adds pressure to your defense.

Stoops says he feels appreciated by OU's fans and administration. He's never going to be appreciated by everybody, and that was even the case during the 2000 national championship season. He also was asked if his wife was participating in the Mary Kay convention in this same hotel, and he said yes. "Get your wives into it," he told media members with a smile.

9:56 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Quick note: Big 12 coordinator of officials Walt Anderson was showing video of the correct ways to hit an offensive player that is not considered "targeting."

Anderson showed a play of former KU safety Bradley McDougald hitting a TCU receiver last year, saying it was the correct way to hit a receiver. McDougald, as you might recall, was flagged 15 yards on the play. Matt even talked about the hit in this blog.

The biggest thing to remember: "Targeting" this year will carry an immediate ejection. Anderson said there were 17 instances of targeting in the Big 12 last year, and five were found later to be incorrect calls.

Interestingly, Anderson said if a player was flagged for targeting, but after the play is reviewed in the booth and it's determined the play is not targeting, an ejection will be avoided, but the 15 yards will still be penalized.

9:27 a.m. update: By Matt Tait

KU cheerleader Kiley Dombroski.

KU cheerleader Kiley Dombroski. by Jesse Newell

Charlie Weis, Jake Heaps, James Sims and the rest of the Kansas University football team may have left Dallas Monday evening after their five hours of media responsibilities ended at the Omni Hotel.

But that does not mean that KU will not be represented today, when the Big 12 Conference's five remaining schools — Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Baylor and Iowa State — take their turn in front of the 475 media members who obtained credentials to this year's Big 12 media days.

That's where KU sophomore Kiley Dombroski enters the picture. Dombroski, a second-year member of the KU dance team known as the Rock Chalk Dancers was the lone member of KU's spirit squad — other than Big Jay the mascot — who was chosen to attend the two-day event in Dallas, which features cheerleaders and mascots from all 10 schools drumming up enthusiasm and excitement throughout the week.

Dombroski, a Lakewood, Colo., native, showed up Monday in full crimson-and-blue uniform, with a signature Kansas sunflower tucked behind her left ear and a huge smile on her face.

“Mostly travel is done by seniority so I was pretty surprised and really excited when my coach called and said, 'We talked it over and we want to see you to the media days,'” Dombroski said. “It's really a great experience for me.”

Though surprised by the invitation, Dombroski, one of 46 members of KU's dance and cheer squad, said she did everything she could as a freshman to get noticed for her passion for KU.

“I had a great year last year and I love appearances,” she said. “I did everything there was to do, whether it was sitting outside of HyVee promoting the KU chicken bucket or whatever. When you do all the little small things, it builds up and then you get to do big things like this, which has been amazing. You get to meet everybody else and hear their stories and their experiences at their universities.”

Dombroski, who performed at both KU basketball and football games last season, said she had a good feeling about the fall.

“I am looking forward to football season,” she said. “We have great fans, a great atmosphere, a great coach who's so enthusiastic about the team. So we're looking forward to it and hoping for a great year.”

Original post: By Jesse Newell

Welcome back to Big 12 football media days at the Omni Hotel here in Dallas.

Here's the schedule for the podium today:

10 a.m. — Oklahoma
10:30 a.m. — Texas
11 a.m. — West Virginia
11:30 a.m. — Baylor
Noon — Iowa State

Just in case you missed it, here's a video from Matt and me discussing Kansas coach Charlie Weis' controversial "piece of crap" comment Monday.

I'd also invite you to look back to Monday's live blog in case you missed any of our KU coverage, which included player videos, a short podcast with defensive back Cassius Sendish, photos and notes from Dallas.


Big 12 media days blog: Jesse, Matt discuss Weis’ ‘pile of crap’ controversy

9:00 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Here's a video wrap-up from Matt and me discussing the KU news of the day and the controversy that was Weis' "pile of crap" comment.

With that, we're going to sign off from Big 12 media days in Dallas. Be sure to check back Tuesday for the live blog as five other Big 12 schools step to the podium.

5:45 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Two more light-hearted videos ...

The guys talk about who was the best-dressed at media days — and quarterback Jake Heaps admits he helped one Jayhawk with tying his tie.

Also, KU linebacker Ben Heeney discusses his beard and says it might grow the whole season.

5:16 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Matt just posted his notebook that you can find here ...

Also, I've got a couple lighter videos coming to show more of these guys' personalities. Here I posed the question, "If the NCAA had no celebration penalties, what would your touchdown celebration be?"

4:44 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

And another video. The question this time: "Which KU players will surprise fans this season?"

4:29 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Quick video: I asked three of the Jayhawks, "What makes you optimistic about this season?"

Charlie Weis talks to reporters on Monday afternoon at media days.

Charlie Weis talks to reporters on Monday afternoon at media days. by Jesse Newell

4:02 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

I enjoyed talking to KU defensive back Cassius Sendish today, as he represented KU at Big 12 media days though he's yet to play a game for the Jayhawks as a juco transfer from Arizona Western CC.

You can learn more about Sendish in this Q-and-A podcast we recorded this afternoon.

3:26 p.m. update: By Matt Tait

Tweeted this out a while ago, but KU coach Charlie Weis said today that linebacker Marcus Jenkins-Moore, a juco transfer from Pierce College in Los Angeles, tweaked a knee on the first day of workouts and has since had a surgical procedure on the knee to fix the problem.

Weis said he did not yet know how long Jenkins-Moore would be sidelined and also did not rule him out for the entire season.

Since Jenkins-Moore has three years to play out his two years of eligibility, doing this does not hurt him in the long run. Weis said that was a big factor in them deciding how to proceed once the injury occurred.

At this point, it's a wait-and-see thing but the one thing Weis did confirm was that we should not expect to see Jenkins-Moore in action any time in the near future.

One other note of interest came in the saga of transfer wide receiver Nick Harwell, from Miami (Ohio) University. Weis said Harwell's status for 2013 was still unknown and he compared it to a soap opera, one which KU has no control over.

The only thing he could say definitively about Harwell was that he would be on campus in August and, if he was not eligible, he would be the best scout team receiver in the country.

I still think Harwell has a good shot of playing this year but any future updates will likely come from his lawyer, Don Jackson.

Stay tuned...

3:15 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Just finished with breakout interviews, and we'll have much more as we get content posted.

A few quick notes ...

KU running back James Sims said one personal goal was to beat his rushing yard total from last year (1,013). He said he was surprised he wasn't a first-team preseason all-league pick, but that might be because KU didn't win much last year.

He also said the NFL running backs he liked watching most were Pierre Thomas and Adrian Peterson, and if he could have one attribute from a running back teammate (that wasn't Tony Pierson's speed), he would take Darrian Miller's balance.

Defensive back Cassius Sendish said one of the biggest draws to playing at KU was the ability to show his abilities against pass-happy Big 12 offenses. He also said his juco (Arizona Western CC) is structured like a Div. I school, so the transition to KU was easier.

He said he'd never been to a media day before today. When asked his position, he also responded with defensive back, hinting perhaps that he could play cornerback or safety depending on the defensive matchup.

Quarterback Jake Heaps said watching last year's team without being able to help out was "excruciating." He said sitting out a year to learn the offense was the best and worst thing that could have happened to him. At the time, though, "It just felt horrible." He said he learned a lot from Dayne Crist last year, and complimented the former KU QB, saying he handled his struggles as well as anyone could have.

Heaps said it would be important to get a passing game going this year to "alleviate pressure from the running backs." He said the team's expectations are higher than any outside expectations, and he also believes this year will be different because winning and losing can both become habits, and the Jayhawks have had leaders emerge that have the mind-set that enough is enough.

Heaps also said receiver Justin McCay was playing with confidence, and his strong performance in the spring game helped that.

12:54 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Here's the full transcript of Weis' comments at the podium, in case you want to read them in their entirety.

A programming note: KU's players and Weis will be available from 1-3 p.m. here, so there might not be many updates from the blog in that time, as Matt and I work our hardest to get all the quotes we can.

After that, though, we'll come back to the blog to update with quotes, notes and also some video.

11:52 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Charlie Weis at podium.

Charlie Weis at podium. by Jesse Newell

Here is the Cliff's Notes version of Weis during his time at the podium today:

Weis started his time at the podium by saying last year KU was 1-11, that everyone had picked his team last in the Big 12, and he said he agreed with everyone believing that. "We've given you no evidence, no reason to be picked other than that."

Weis says he's going to group quarterback Jake Heaps and receiver Justin McCay together. He says the two established a rapport together on the practice field. KU had a solid running game, but it couldn't pass the ball and couldn't score points. Weis is counting on his team being more balanced this year, and Heaps and McCay should be a big part of that.

• Though KU wasn't good last year, Weis said his team had quality players at the running-back position. KU is even better at that position this year, so that has allowed Weis to use those guys more flexibly. If KU can get Tony Pierson more involved in space, it will open things up on offense.

The high number of juco players Weis took this year was a necessity. It's not a long-term plan. Weis believed his team needed to fill the holes right now. Most high-school kids need at least a year to develop. Weis needed guys that could play now, or otherwise, his team was going to be ranked 10th in the league every year.

Weis takes an honest and practical approach to recruiting. He says when he brings in recruits he tells them it's a great situation and that facilities are on par with everyone else. He says KU still needs work on the stadium, which is in the plans. Then, everyone wants to play. Weis tells recruits, 'Have you taken a look at that pile of crap out there (referring to last year's team)?' ... If you can't play here, where can you play?'

Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps' situations are totally different. Crist was coming off two ACL injuries. You can simulate a lot of things, but in training camp, you couldn't simulate players coming after him. Heaps had no physical issues. That's how it's different.

Weis says he didn't take much from the loss to Texas last season. He said he was happy for Texas coach Mack Brown but miserable for himself. Other than that, he didn't take much for the game.

Weis agreed with a media member that said his kicking game was atrocious. He said he believes one juco guy (Trevor Pardula) could handle all three responsibilities next year.

Weis believes running back James Sims might not have been put on the all-Big 12 first team because KU hasn't been winning. Weis said KU could potentially have the best stable of running backs in the Big 12, and you can't say that for the Jayhawks in many positions.

Bob Bowlsby.

Bob Bowlsby. by Jesse Newell

11:22 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Weis will be at the podium in eight minutes. Saw him chatting downstairs a few minutes ago with former NFL running back Eddie George, who now is a member of the media.

Be sure to check back for Cliff's Notes of what Weis says.

11:11 a.m. update: By Matt Tait

TCU coach Gary Patterson is on the podium now and he opened things up by answering questions about why he did not bring last year's opening-day starting QB Casey Pachall to Dallas with him this week.

Pachall, you may remember, went through all kinds of trouble last season off the field and ultimately was suspended for the remainder of the season, forcing the Horned Frogs to play the final half of the season without him.

He has since been reinstated, but Patterson stressed that he has not been handed his starting job back and that's one of the big reasons he's not here.

As Patterson put it:

  1. We don't know who our starting QB is yet. (Sophomore Trayvon Boykin, who filled in during 2012 is in the running)

  2. He told me this spring that he wanted to be a student and a football player so I'm trying to let him do his thing and keep some of the pressure of being back off of him.

Boykin can flat-out play and he's a different player than Pachall. Because of that, it sounds like the possibility exists that TCU could play two QBs this season.

Should be interesting to see how it plays out.

10:59 a.m. update: By Matt Tait

Given the recent success of the Oklahoma State football program, OSU coach Mike Gundy, an OSU alum, was asked during his time on the podium whether he had seriously entertained taking any of the other jobs to which his name has become attached in the past.

Gundy was very candid in his response and said he loved his current situation. He also said in order for the Cowboys to enjoy continued success, he had to avoid any uncertainty about his future at the school:

"From Day One when we took this over, our coaching staff going into nine years now, we felt like the most important thing that we could do for the players on our team is make a commitment to them, if they would buy in, that we would have a chance to have success.

"For me personally, I have to feel comfortable knowing there's a commitment to the young men on our team to give them the best opportunity for success in the classroom and on the football field, and if there's not, then it's hard for me to sell. So at times, whether we all like to admit it or not, there's a business aspect to this profession, probably more so than we would like to think. But I have to feel comfortable myself personally — and I don't use 'I' myself very often when we talk about Oklahoma State football — that there's a commitment in all different areas for our young men to have success.

"So when we go in those homes, the very most important thing we do is recruit young men who want to get a degree from Oklahoma State and be a part of that team, and that commitment has to be from both sides. So I'm comfortable with that. It doesn't mean I always agree with the decisions that are made, none of us do, but I do understand a chain of command, and at the end of the day, I say, yes, sir, and move forward."

10:50 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder skipped the opening statement and went straight to questions. He's become a pro at talking without saying much.

A couple notes:

Snyder was asked about being picked sixth in the conference, and he said ranking teams is a difficult task. He even declined to participate in national coaches polls in the past because he thought it would be a tough chore.

When asked about his first assistant-coaching gig, Snyder said he made $6,000 a year in Gallatin, Mo. While there, he was an assistant coach for four sports, drove the bus and also taught four hours of Spanish.

10:20 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy just finished his time at the podium. Remember, the Cowboys were the media's preseason pick to win the league. Some notes:

No decision has been made on a starting quarterback.

Gundy thinks the Big 12 using an additional official to spot the ball is a good move. He believes it allows the other guys to give more attention to officiate the game.

10:03 a.m. update: By Matt Tait

Here's a just-posted story breaking down the key points that Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby talked about this morning ...

9:21 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Big 12 commish Bob Bowlsby just announced the conference would roll out a new logo starting next July. Didn't get my phone out quick enough, but you can check it out here.

9:11 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is at the podium now, talking about how realignment has settled down. I think everyone's happy with that. We'll have some notes on what he says later.

In addition to the mannequins below, the Big 12 and Omni Hotel also have put up banners where each player and coach will sit during interviews this afternoon. These are all banners that are taller than me ... and I'm sure would be swiped up if more were printed off and available for sale.

Here's a look:


Heaps by Jesse Newell

Ben Heeney.

Ben Heeney. by Jesse Newell

Cassius Sendish.

Cassius Sendish. by Jesse Newell

James Sims.

James Sims. by Jesse Newell

Oh, and here's one more pic, this one of KU's blue-uniform mannequin.

Blue mannequin.

Blue mannequin. by Jesse Newell

Original post: By Jesse Newell

Dallas — Welcome to KUsports.com's live coverage of Big 12 football media days, live from the Omni Hotel in Dallas.

Today marks the first of two days here in Dallas. Oklahoma State, Kansas State, TCU, Kansas and Texas Tech will all have their own time at the podium today, with KU coach Charlie Weis stepping to the mic at 11:30 a.m.

The Big 12 switched locations for football media days this year, and one of the main features in the main interview room are the player mannequins that have been set up in each team's jersey. Here's a look at KU's.

KU mannequin.

KU mannequin. by Jesse Newell

Be sure to check back throughout the day, as KU football beat writer Matt Tait and I will be posting updates to the blog. which will include videos and photos. You can also follow our updates on Twitter at our handles @jessenewell and @mctait.


Big 12 media days coverage: Will Toben Opurum play both ways in 2012? Also, Charlie Weis admits interest in potential Penn State transfers

7:05 p.m.: By Jesse Newell

About to hop on a plane to get back to Kansas, so we're going to sign off for our live coverage from Big 12 media days.

Be sure to check back to the site Wednesday for additional stories and notes from today's event.

4:59 p.m.: By Matt Tait

Just following up a little on that whole Toben Opurum could play running back again this season thing that Jesse mentioned earlier.

Although Opurum said he had not been approached by Weis about the idea yet, Weis was not as convincing. Remember, Weis recruited Opurum to Notre Dame as a fullback and he reiterated Tuesday that Opurum could play some as a goal-line and short-yardage back.

When asked if he had talked to Opurum about the idea, Weis said: "That's not important to you."

Maybe he has, maybe he hasn't, but the fact remains that Opurum would be both interested and likely productive should such a scenario materialize.

Weis also mentioned that offensive lineman Duane Zlatnik, who is known as one of the strongest dudes on the team, could play some as an interior defensive lineman in goal-line and short-yardage situations.

The times they are a changin', folks. But, again, this is all about Weis getting the best players on the field in the best positions.

One other note of interest: Weis again credited his one season with the Kansas City Chiefs as one of the big reasons he took the KU job. He knew the area, he liked the environment and he liked the opportunity.

Here's another one, before we wrap up and head to the airport: Weis talking about Allen Fieldhouse and KU hoops.

"Well, first of all, I love college hoops, so let's start there. And I get great seats, too. I get great seats. But you think — let's think about: Recruiting is the lifeline of every program, right? All right. So it's a Saturday afternoon in January. And you're going out on the Fieldhouse with about 20 recruits you're bringing in. The place is rocking and rolling. The decibel level is well over 100. You've got one of the best basketball teams in the country with arguably the best coach on an annual basis playing, and the fans are going bananas. And what you're saying to these players coming in, saying: That's what we want — that's what we want Memorial Stadium to become like. You've got to come here and give them a reason to be that way. I mean, they're already seeing evidence of what the people are willing to do. But you have to help become part of it. It's a wonderful recruiting tool. So most people would look at it as second‑class citizens. I play right into that. I mean, you couldn't have a better recruiting tool than our basketball team."

4:21 p.m.: By Jesse Newell

I asked KU coach Charlie Weis what made him optimistic about the upcoming season. Here's his answer, which includes discussion of his players buying in and the potential to prove naysayers wrong.

4:02 p.m.: By Jesse Newell

A few notes from talking with KU defensive end Toben Opurum during one-on-one interviews:

• Opurum reiterated that Josh Williams had been a vocal leader in defensive drills, but he also said that fans shouldn't forget about Kevin Young and John Williams. Both players contributed to KU's defense last year before getting sidelined or hampered by injuries, and Opurum said both had performed well in the summer.

• Opurum said that, for him, the K-State game didn't take on any extra significance with Missouri out of the Big 12. He said he'd approach the game the same way.

• Opurum said he'd watched a lot of tape from last year, and he came away with it frustrated that on many plays, one breakdown on KU's defense would result in a big play for the other team. He said there were times when three blown assignments resulted in KU being down 21 points.

• Opurum also said while watching tape that he was most discouraged when he saw instances of players not giving full effort. That's a mental thing, he said, and shouldn't happen.

• Opurum said he hasn't been approached about playing both offense and defense this season, but he said he'd be interested if Weis offered that. Opurum said he'd be lying if he said he didn't still think about being an offensive player. In summer drills, he's even run some routes against KU linebacker Darius Willis.

3:41 p.m.: By Jesse Newell

Here's Charlie Weis talking about his favorite Dayne Crist story. This goes back to Weis' days at Notre Dame when he had just recruited quarterback Jimmy Clausen to play for him.

You can tell from the way that Weis tells the story that he's a big fan of Crist's.

3:27 p.m.: By Jesse Newell

A couple more AP photos from here at Big 12 media days ...

Kansas cheerleader Jordan Snyder jokes around with friends while wearing a football helmet at the Big 12 college football media days on Tuesday, July 24, 2012, in Dallas.

Kansas cheerleader Jordan Snyder jokes around with friends while wearing a football helmet at the Big 12 college football media days on Tuesday, July 24, 2012, in Dallas.

Kansas quarterback Dayne Crist speaks during the Big 12 college football media days on Tuesday, July 24, 2012, in Dallas.

Kansas quarterback Dayne Crist speaks during the Big 12 college football media days on Tuesday, July 24, 2012, in Dallas.

3:10 p.m.: By Jesse Newell

I asked Toben Opurum the same question as I asked Weis earlier: Which KU player might surprise fans with his play this year?

Here's Opurum's response, as he says one of the KU's defensive newcomers has become one of the team's best leaders.

2:38 p.m.: By Jesse Newell

While he was doing TV interviews, KU defensive end Toben Opurum was asked about the most interesting thing that happened to him during the offseason.

The senior talked about KU's new conditioning routine under strength coordinator Scott Holsopple, which includes work with boxing gloves.

2:02 p.m.: By Jesse Newell

I asked KU quarterback Dayne Crist to share his favorite Charlie Weis memory.

The senior gave an interesting response, talking about how Weis was one of the only coaches to challenge him. Crist also tells a funny story about how Weis offered him a scholarship.

1:37 p.m.: By Jesse Newell

I asked Weis if there were any KU players that should be getting more attention.

Here's his answer.

1:29 p.m.: By Matt Tait

The Jayhawks are finished with the morning session of interviews and are now in the middle of a little lunch break before heading to the one-on-one interviews with reporters between 2 and 3.

For a program coming off of two of its worst seasons in school history, there certainly was a lot of interest in the Jayhawks this morning.

Obviously, most people wanted to talk to Charlie Weis. Why did he take the job? What kind of job can he do? What are his expectations. All of those are things we've heard, but it was a good opportunity for KU to represent itself on the national stage and Weis and company did not disappoint.

Throughout the morning Weis was the Weis we have come to expect. Cool, calm, sarcastic and honest.

For the most part, I think it went over well and many of the members of the media came away with a good impression of both Weis and KU.

There seems to be a belief that the Jayhawks will be more competitive this season, and a lot of the credit for that goes to Weis and the respect he has gained throughout his career.

In fact, I talked with all nine other Big 12 coaches about Weis and, while many said they did not know him prior to him taking the job at KU, each said that they had a tremendous amount of respect for what he's done and who he is. Four Super Bowl rings will do that.

As for the players, for starters, they looked sharp. Dressed in suits — some older than others — Jayhawks Dayne Crist, Toben Opurum and Tanner Hawkinson were loose and really had a lot of fun with the day.

Many of the questions they were asked were about Weis. What it takes to play for him, what kind of person he is, were they scared when he took over? Before each answer, nearly every time, the players kind of laughed before they spoke.

It's clear that there is a real connection between Weis and this team already. And it can't be said enough how impressive that is. The guy was hired in December and he already has developed a kinship and a familiarity with all of his players.

Jesse's working on some video from the players so we'll have that up as soon as possible. From 2-3 we'll be doing more video and interviews, but be sure to check back after that for the latest from Dallas.

All in all, the Jayhawks showed very well today and gave the rest of the Big 12 media a reason to be interested in what's happening in Lawrence. That wasn't really the case during the past two seasons.

Stay tuned ...

12:45 p.m.: By Jesse Newell

Quick update: Just was able to get video interviews with Weis, Crist and Opurum.

We'll have some good things coming, including who Weis thinks could surprise in 2012, Crist's favorite memory of Weis and Opurum talking about KU's new workout routine.

It'll take a little while to get these posted, but we'll get them up as quickly as possible.

11:49 a.m.: By Jesse Newell

Weis said when he took the KU job, he decided not to talk to former KU coach Mark Mangino, even though he knew him from earlier. Because Mangino had coached some of the players, Weis wanted to make sure to do things the way he wanted to do them and give players a fresh start.

And with that, Weis' time at the podium is complete.

Also am hearing that "Charlie Weis" is trending on Twitter.

11:47 a.m.: By Jesse Newell

Weis says he was offered more jobs for more money than the KU job offered. He says that shows his interest in the program.

11:46 a.m.: By Jesse Newell

Weis said, when looking back at his experience at Notre Dame, he sometimes looks back and says, "How stupid could you be?" He says he learned a lot from that experience.

He said early on at Notre Dame, he didn't talk to a lot of alumni groups. That disgruntled some people. When he took the job at KU, one of the first things he did was go on a tour to meet alums. He believes that has paid dividends.

11:42 a.m.: By Jesse Newell

Weis says he loves college hoops, and he says that he gets great seats. Recruiting is the lifeline of every program, he says. When Weis recruits, he takes guys to KU basketball games with one of the best teams and coaches in the country. Weis says he tells recruits that they can see the support they can get at KU, but they need to come to help build that same sort of thing for the KU football team. Weis says the football team couldn't have a better recruiting tool that KU basketball.

11:37 a.m.: By Jesse Newell

Weis jokingly calls linebacker Anthony McDonald and tight end Mike Ragone "my blockheads." He said both came to KU to enhance their potential value in the NFL. Both players at their old schools were behind the best players on their respective teams.

11:35 a.m.: By Jesse Newell

Weis says one of the reasons he took the KU job was his familiarity with the Kansas City area. He says he enjoyed his time with the Chiefs when he was an offensive coordinator but had family issues that forced him to move.

11:33 a.m.: By Jesse Newell

From Matt's tweet ...

"Weis: One of guys I have most respect for is Coach Snyder and I know some of the people at Kansas will be mad at me for that"

11:32 a.m.: By Jesse Newell

• Weis starts with an opening statement about Penn State: "No one wins. Everyone loses."

• Weis says he has taken a look at Penn State's roster to see if any of the players could help KU. He still said you had to respect PSU coach Bill O'Brien and the program and go through the proper channels.

11:27 a.m.: By Jesse Newell

Weis is in the room. He gives a half-hug to Big Jay on the way to the stage.

Keep it here for updates.

11:25 a.m.: By Matt Tait

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was the third coach to step to the podium today and it was quite clear that last season's BCS success did nothing to change who Gundy is or what he believes. The main thing he's stressing now is for the Cowboys to maintain their success and take it to new heights.

"Our organization and our football program has come a long way. And hopefully we've got it set right now so that it will continue this way for a number of years."

Coach Weis is up next.

11:23 a.m.: By Jesse Newell

A few photos of the KU players here ...

Kansas quarterback Dayne Crist talks to ESPN's Samantha Steele during an interview at Big 12 media days on Tuesday in Dallas.

Kansas quarterback Dayne Crist talks to ESPN's Samantha Steele during an interview at Big 12 media days on Tuesday in Dallas. by Jesse Newell

Kansas quarterback Dayne Crist talks with ESPN's Samantha Steele before an interview on Tuesday at Big 12 media days in Dallas.

Kansas quarterback Dayne Crist talks with ESPN's Samantha Steele before an interview on Tuesday at Big 12 media days in Dallas. by Jesse Newell

Kansas defensive end Toben Opurum talks to a reporter on Big 12 media days on Tuesday in Dallas.

Kansas defensive end Toben Opurum talks to a reporter on Big 12 media days on Tuesday in Dallas. by Jesse Newell

11:10 a.m.: By Jesse Newell

Here's a video previewing where Matt and I talk about what we expect from KU at Big 12 media days today.

10:52 a.m.: By Matt Tait

UT coach Mack Brown, who always seems to charm the pants off of everyone in the room at these things, was much more business-like during his session with the media today.

1. Brown said quarterbacks like Colt McCoy and Vince Young made the Longhorns "soft" in terms of the running game. "Becuase those guys were so good and so accurate, we were throwing it on third and four," he said. Instead of seeing that continue, Brown said he would like to see a little more toughness from the running game, especially in the red zone. "You can't just throw it all the time and be successful," Brown said.

2. Midway through the session, Brown turned to the various cheerleaders standing at the front of the room and asked, 'How we doing girls? Ya OK?' They smiled, of course, and nodded their heads yes. There's the Mack Brown I remember from these things. He actually asked all of them to come in to stand up front for his session.

3. Brown really likes the talent, progress and improvement shown by cornerback Carrington Byndom, who has had a solid summer and is poised to be a leader for the Longhorns' defense.

"I think he will end up being one of the better defensive backs in the country this year," Brown said.

4. Brown said there's a great need for UT's wide receivers - especially the young guys - to step up early to help the inexperienced QBs settle in a little quicker. Still no decision on a starting QB. David Ash and Case McCoy will spend most of August battling it out and Brown said he believed the competition could go down to the last day. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is up next.

10:20 a.m.: By Matt Tait

As was the case Monday, Day 2 of the Big 12 Media Days in Dallas opened with a newcomer, as West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen was the first coach to address the media today.

KU coach Charlie Weis, who arrived Monday evening currently is doing radio interviews and will move on from there to 50 minutes with national television crews.

Weis will address the print media at 11:30 and also will be available for 30 minutes during the player and coach breakout sessions from 2 to 3. KU captains Dayne Crist, Tanner Hawkinson and Toben Opurum also will be available to print reporters during that time.

For now, here's a look at some of the highlights from Holgorsen's comments.

1. Moments after saying how excited he and his school were to be in the Big 12 Conference, Holgorsen went on to discuss what a good marriage WVU and the Big 12 have created.

"What we're getting into is the same thing we've got at home," he said. "And that didn't necessarily exist in the conference we were in last year." One note of interest: Holgorsen has coached in the Big 12 as an assistant for nine of the last 12 seasons.

2. With the Mountaineers picked to finish second in the league this season, Holgorsen knows there are a few expectations for his team to compete in the Big 12 right away. He's not worried.

"Our team is used to winning," he said. "And that's the case with the other nine schools in the Big 12."

3. Travel does not seem to be a concern for Holgorsen or West Virginia. He said most of the travel these days is done via airplane anyway and also said that the concept of bringing 15,000 home fans to road games is a thing of the past because that many tickets just aren't made available to road teams any more.

"It's gonna be an airplane ride," he said. "You're gonna jump on a plane and fly a couple of hours no matter where you go, and, from there, it's normal preparation and really no big deal."

4. Holgorsen said Geno Smith really picked up confidence late in the 2011 season and he's expecting that to carry over into 2012. He also thinks Smith's performance down the stretch helped propel him to his selection as the preseason offensive player of the year in the Big 12. As for the offense itself, Holgorsen knows what he's getting into in terms of trying to keep up in the Big 12. And he has a few plans for that.

"We'll probably put something new out there," he said with a laugh. "I'm not gonna tell you what it is."

Original post: By Jesse Newell

Welcome back to Big 12 football media days at the Westin here in Dallas. This is Day 2 of the festivities and also the day that Kansas coach Charlie Weis, quarterback Dayne Crist, offensive lineman Tanner Hawkinson and defensive end Toben Opurum meet with reporters.

Here's the schedule for the podium today:

10 a.m. — West Virginia
10:30 a.m. — Texas
11 a.m. — Oklahoma State
11:30 a.m. — Kansas
Noon — Baylor

Coaches and players also will be available for one-on-one sessions during the afternoon from 2-3 p.m.

Obviously, be sure to check back here for your KU coverage, which will include photos, videos and updates from here in Dallas.


Big 12 media days, Day 1: Wrap-up video, plus KSU linebacker Tre Walker says MU’s departure has made KU-KSU rivalry stronger

"Boomer" the Oklahoma mascot sits in the place of Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby before the start of Big 12 football media days on Monday, July 23, 2012, in Dallas.

"Boomer" the Oklahoma mascot sits in the place of Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby before the start of Big 12 football media days on Monday, July 23, 2012, in Dallas. by Jesse Newell

8:07 p.m.: By Jesse Newell

Here's a final wrap-up video from Day 1 of Big 12 media days, where Matt and I talk about the biggest takeaways we had from Monday's interviews.

With that, we're going to wrap up our live coverage from here in Dallas.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for Day 2, as KU and new coach Charlie Weis take the podium at 11:30 a.m.

4:43 p.m.: By Jesse Newell

If you're just tuning in ... don't forget to vote in our poll: Who do you think has the best hair on the KU football team?

The photos of the five finalists are below in the 10:05 a.m. update.

At last check, Dylan Admire had a commanding lead.

4:24 p.m.: By Jesse Newell

I asked Kansas State linebacker Tre Walker if he believed that Missouri leaving the Big 12 might add to the Kansas-Kansas State rivalry.

The Olathe native said he thought that had already become the case, saying, "Things we're hearing from KU right now are things we never thought we'd hear before. And it's all in good fun."

Check out Walker's full response in the video below.

4:04 p.m.: By Matt Tait

Just getting finished up with player and coach breakout interviews and here are a few things that caught my eyes and ears.

  • Yes, I did say eyes, because while today's five coaches were positioned at their stations talking to different groups of reporters, three Texas Tech student-athletes - quarterback Seth Doege, running back Eric Ward and defensive back Terrence Bullitt - put on quite a display for a Texas television station.

With Doege lined up under center and Ward split wide, the camera crew announced and filmed a mock play that featured Doege firing a pair of rolled up socks to Ward in place of a football.

The first pass fluttered and fell incomplete. But the second was flawless and even inspired Ward to begin his end zone celebration.

That moment won't mean much when it comes to Texas Tech's season, but it shows you how much fun these guys have when they come down to these things. It's a fair amount more than their head coaches who have been through it dozens of times and, though cordial, always seem to just want to get in and get out. Can't blame 'em.

  • I talked with quite a few defensive players in the room about the addition of Crist and Weis to the Kansas offense, and it's obvious, already, that the league has a lot of respect for that duo. More on that in a story sometime in the next week, but it's definitely something that the players have noticed.

  • Like new KU quarterback Jake Heaps, K-State QB Collin Klein recently got married. Klein, who enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2011, was married last Saturday to the former Shalin Spani, daughter of legendary K-State athlete Gary Spani. KSU coach Bill Snyder, whose own daughter was married two weeks prior to that, said the wedding was wonderful and that he had all the confidence in the world that Klein would be able to balance his duties as a husband, athlete and student during the coming season.

3:55 p.m.: By Jesse Newell

A couple more AP photos from here in Dallas ...

TCU quarterback Casey Pachall answers questions from the media at NCAA college football Big 12 Media Days, Monday, July 23, 2012, in Dallas.

TCU quarterback Casey Pachall answers questions from the media at NCAA college football Big 12 Media Days, Monday, July 23, 2012, in Dallas.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops answers questions at Big 12 Media Days on Monday, July 23, 2012, in Dallas.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops answers questions at Big 12 Media Days on Monday, July 23, 2012, in Dallas.

3:35 p.m.: By Jesse Newell

A few notes from listening to TCU coach Gary Patterson's talk with reporters during one-on-one interviews.

• Expect him to be prepared for KU's offense Week 3. Patterson said he had just finished watching cut-ups from each Big 12 offense for the fourth time this offseason.

In KU's case, he had to do extra studying. Patterson said he watched cut-ups from KU coach Charlie Weis' offenses at Notre Dame (when Weis was a coach there), Florida (when he was offensive coordinator last year) and KU (from TV highlights of this year's spring game).

• Patterson said has has tried to calm down TCU's fanbase's excitement regarding its move to the Big 12, but he jokingly said it wasn't working and that they hadn't listened to him for 12 years on anything anyways.

Patterson said getting to the Big 12 wasn't the accomplishment, though. His goal is to win in the conference.

• Patterson said his favorite two weeks of the year were two-a-days, because during those weeks, he focused on football from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day.

He said his players probably disagreed with him, as usually, those two weeks weren't their favorite ones of the year.

• Patterson, who is 52, said he'd like to coach about 10 more years. He said he still wants to be able to scuba dive when he retires.

He also said that he's never tailgated at a football game ... an activity he thought he'd like when his coaching career is done.

1:57 p.m.: By Matt Tait

The West Virginia Mountaineer mascot teaches a group of Big 12 cheerleaders the words to John Denver's "Country Roads" at Big 12 media days.

12:44 p.m.: By Jesse Newell

Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said he didn't have a positive experience against KU coach Charlie Weis when Weis was the coach at Notre Dame while Rhoads was defensive coordinator at Pitt.

Rhoads tells the full story below.

12:21 p.m.: By Matt Tait

Third-year Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville was the final coach of the day to step to the podium. Although the Red Raiders have made strides since Tuberville took over, they still appear to be trying to get over the hump.

Tuberville seems to think that could come this year, as long as the offense stays productive and the defense progresses.

Here are a few of his specific thoughts:

  1. Tuberville believes the Red Raiders have doubled their talent on the defensive side of the ball and, under new defensive coordinator, Art Kaufman, he thinks TTU should be better on defense. Last year, he said, Tech tried to hide its defense with the running game.

  2. Tuberville: This is a points league. We scored close to 40 points a game last year and won five games. Defensive coordinators are going to earn their money.

  3. Running back Eric Stephens is close to returning but may not play in Tech's non-conference games just to be safe. The main thing for Stephens is, to regain and rebuild his confidence. Back-up running back DeAndre Washington also should be back soon.

  4. Defensive lineman Brandon Jackson red-shirted last season, largely because Tuberville beileved he could be a heck of a player but wanted to build depth. He's excited for him to hit the field this year. Also, Tuberville said he thinks good teams have to be three-deep at almost every position. You don't have to have great players, but you have to have enough players to be able to recover if you suffer an injury and the Red Raiders are getting closer to being at that point.

That's the end of the coaches on the podium for today. More from the player and coach breakout sessions to come later.

11:51 a.m.: By Matt Tait

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder just wrapped up on the podium. As usual, Snyder was long-winded with each answer, but he did give some good insight into where KSU stands after last year's 10-2 season.

  1. Snyder says he's not worried about being the underdog or the favorite in the league. His Wildcats were picked sixth in the league by the media this preseason, but he says he's more worried about the game-to-game favorites and that kind of thing.

  2. One of the things KSU has to concern itself with this year, Snyder said, is making sure they don't take anything for granted after last year's success. So far, he believes they've handled that very well.

  3. Snyder becomes the first to make mention of Texas A&M and Missouri, but does not mention them by name. Says the league lost two very fine programs but replaced them with quality programs, as well. Also says he feels the league is in a very strong position and he had nothing but good things to say about both Chuck Neinas and Bob Bowlsby.

  4. Asked if quarterback Collin Klein's play last year surprised him, Snyder says, "First of all, I'm too old to be surprised." Snyder then went on to praise Klein in every aspect, from family man to football player. Paints him as a player and person who strives to improve every day. Also says those traits have rubbed off on a lot of Klein's teammates.

  5. Wide receiver Tyler Lockett did not participate in spring game because of a hamstring tweak. He was not seriously injured and he did practice for the first 14 days of spring ball. Snyder said Lockett has recovered fully and is having a good summer.

Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville is up next.

11:40 a.m.: By Jesse Newell

Here's our first AP photo from the event of Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby in front of a picture ... of himself.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby speaks at NCAA college football Big 12 Media Days, Monday, July 23, 2012, in Dallas.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby speaks at NCAA college football Big 12 Media Days, Monday, July 23, 2012, in Dallas.

11:22 a.m.: By Matt Tait

The always entertaining Paul Rhoads was a little more subdued during today's session at the podium.

  1. Rhoads believes that the Cyclones will put their most talented team on the field this season. Questions remain about the always-difficult schedule that the Cyclones play, but Rhoads said everyone is excited about the prospects for 2012.

  2. Win over Oklahoma State last year was huge for ISU in terms of national exposure, national branding and recruiting.

  3. Cyclones need better play from QB position if they're going to become a better football team ... especially in terms of accuracy. "If we're going to be a better offensive team, which is very important in this league, we have to get better quarterback play." ISU QBs Jared Barnett and Steele Jantz both still batting for starting job.

  4. Rhoads on Penn State: First and foremost this is a matter for the legal system and the courts and there's more of that to come. I can't say anything or give my opinion about anything that's going to help the victims or their families.

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder is up next.

11:17 a.m.: By Jesse Newell

TCU coach Gary Patterson talks in this video about one of the advantages of playing in the Big 12, which will be playing in front of full stadiums.

10:49 a.m.: By Matt Tait

Nothing too surprising from OU coach Bob Stoops.

Here are the highlights:

  1. He's excited for the upcoming season and believes OU has a chance to get back to competing for championships.

  2. Stoops is looking forward to the return of his brother, Mike, (formerly the head coach at Arizona) not only for personal reasons, but also for football reasons. Stoops hopes brother Mike can help get the OU defense back to the level it was during OU's more dominant years.

  3. In order for QB Landry Jones to have a monster year, the Sooners will have to run the ball better and everyone around Jones will have to elevate their game. Stoops believes Jones played well last season but that the rest of the offense may not have done its job. One other note on Jones: He got married in the offseason. When Stoops was asked if he would coach a married guy any differently, he laughed and said, "Good for him. He's got a special wife, too. We'll coach Landy just as we always have and he's got a great mentor and coach in Josh Heupel."

Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads is up next.

10:23 a.m.: By Matt Tait

TCU coach Gary Patterson just finished up at the podium and here are a couple of quick thoughts on his Q&A session.

  1. Patterson and TCU feel very honor and privileged to be a part of the Big 12 and they are planning on making the Big 12 glad it invited them both on and off the field for years to come.

  2. Patterson knows that his schedule just got a heck of a lot tougher, but he's not too worried about it. His guys will work the same, play the same and believe they can compete.

  3. Speaking of the schedule, Patterson gave KU a little love twice during his comments. First, he said he expects Charlie Weis' crew to be 2-0 when TCU comes to Lawrence for the Week 3 Big 12 opener. Second, he said the games start to get tough beginning in Week 3 at KU and don't stop being tough until the end of the season.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is up next.

10:08 a.m.: By Matt Tait

Just kicking off the team portion of today's session at Big 12 media days. TCU and head coach Gary Patterson will get things started today and, in a similar manner, West Virginia will begin things tomorrow. Nice welcome to the Big 12 gesture there.

Anyway, earlier we had the opportunity to hear new Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby address the media on a number of topics and a few things stood out.

First, Bowlsby was exactly the kind of image the Big 12 would want to project up at the podium. Calm, confident and very in control of the room and his message. Seems like he was an outstanding selection for this role and everyone we talk to continues to confirm that thought.

As for Bowlsby's general message, he talked a little about expansion (it's not happening any time soon), a lot about the Champions Bowl and college football's four-team playoff system and how that will not only change college football but also impact the Big 12.

He did not stand up there and fire off sunshine and rainbows. He was happy to admit that there remains a lot of work to be done and also admitted that the landscape of college athletics, both in and out of the Big 12, was far from a perfect system. There is work to be done and one of the main reasons he was attracted to the opportunity to be this league's commissioner was that it gives him a chance to help right the ship on a grand scale.

From here, Bowlsby will be heading to London due to a previous commitment to the Olympics and he's already very well versed in the presence of the Big 12 at this year's summer games. Bowlsby said 93 former Big 12 athletes will be competing in this year's Olympic games and he was very proud of that number.

While Bowlsby is away, former interim commissioner Chuck Neinas, who was surprised today to hear that the Big 12's college football coach of the year award is now named in his honor, will remain on call for the Big 12, should the league need anyone to speak on its behalf while Bowlsby is busy.

If I had to sum up Bowlsby's address in a couple of sentences, I would go with this: The Big 12 Conference is in great shape, heading in the right direction and ready to flourish. It's going to take some work to get where everybody wants the league to be, but everyone is committed to the same vision and the league is as strong and stable as ever.

I know that sounds corny, but Bowlsby gave a very strong and clear address, something that even the biggest critics would have a hard time breaking down.

10:05 a.m.: By Jesse Newell

With the release of the KU football media guide, let's take a light-hearted look at the KU player's bio photos.

I've come up with five candidates for best hair on the KU football team.

The candidates are below.

Dylan Admire

Dylan Admire by Jesse Newell

Michael Cummings

Michael Cummings by Jesse Newell

James Sims

James Sims by Jesse Newell

Taylor Cox

Taylor Cox by Jesse Newell

Schyler Miles

Schyler Miles by Jesse Newell

Just for fun, here's a poll: Who do you think has the best hair on the KU football team?

My vote is in for Dylan Admire.

9:25 a.m.: By Jesse Newell

Bowlsby announces that from this point forward, the Big 12 football coach of the year will be honored with the "Chuck Neinas Big 12 football coach of the year," named after the recent conference interim commissioner.

9:18 a.m.: By Jesse Newell

Here are a few Tweets from KU football beat writer Matt Tait, as he gives updates from Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby's address, which began at 9 a.m.

• Bowlsby re: Big 12 expansion: "I don't know that we'd get 2 votes for moving to a larger number."

• Bowlsby says one of the reasons he took Big 12 commish job was b/c it gives him opportunity to make a difference on national level. #KUfball

• Bowlsby says Big 12 is "salty from top to bottom." #KUfball

• Bowlsby: "Talent pool in the Big 12 conference takes a back seat to no organization." #KUfball

• Here they are: 2012 #kufball media guides. Pretty plain. KU takes turn at B12 media days Tues but 5 others go today. pic.twitter.com/thHcBUUE

Original post: By Jesse Newell

Dallas — Welcome to KUsports.com's live coverage of Big 12 football media days, live from the Westin Galleria in Dallas.

Today marks the first of two days here in Dallas. TCU, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Kansas State and Texas Tech will all have their own time at the podium today.

In case you were wondering, Kansas and new coach Charlie Weis will be up on Tuesday, with Weis' time at the mic set to begin at 11:30 a.m.

Obviously, one of the big stories of today will be TCU's first year with the conference. In fact, the Horned Frogs are the first team that will meet the print reporters today at 10 a.m. They will be followed at the podium by the Sooners (10:30 a.m.), Cyclones (11 a.m.), Wildcats (11:30 a.m.) and Red Raiders (noon).

Be sure to check back throughout the day, as KU football beat writer Matt Tait and I will be posting updates to the blog. which will include videos, photos and audio. You can also follow our updates on Twitter at our handles @jessenewell and @mctait.


Week 6 Big 12 picks: A farewell and thank you from Conference Chatter

I want to start this blog entry by thanking the loyal readers, fans and commenters of KUsports.com.

For more than three years, I've had the honor of keeping the Conference Chatter blog, where I've detailed my observations about hot topics in the Big 12. I reflect with fond memories, for instance, on live blogging two BCS Championship games involving Big 12 teams (Oklahoma in 2008 season, Texas in 2009 season), interacting with the KUsports.com community during the over/under contest of 2010 and chiming in during the conference realignment craziness last June and this year.

Much of the reason I enjoyed writing the blog was because of the lively discussion generated by the readers. You guys made this blog relevant for more than three years, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

With that in mind, I wanted to write this entry to bid the KUsports.com community farewell.

I recently accepted an offer to become the social media manager at Grantham University in Kansas City, Mo. It's an exciting and incredible opportunity, and I look forward to building and maintaining professional relationships at Grantham as I did at the Journal-World and KUsports.com since February 2008.

Thank you for making these last three years so memorable.

I will still make picks on the KUsports.com weekly staff football predictions this season, and look forward to catching up with you guys in the comments section.

We still have some Big 12 games this weekend, so let's close the blog with predicting those battles, straight up and against the spread. Here's how I've done this season:

Season, straight up: 27-8
Season, vs. spread: 16-13


No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 11 Texas, 11 a.m.
Line: Oklahoma by 10.5
Pick: vs. line: Texas; straight up: Oklahoma
One-line reason: I could see UT's defense (12th in country in scoring defense at 14.75 points surrendered per game) keeping the Longhorns in the game, but I'm not expecting Texas to threaten OU's bid at a perfect season.

Missouri at No. 20 Kansas State, 2:30 p.m.
Line: Missouri by 3.5
Pick: vs line: Missouri; straight up: Missouri
One-line reason: I don't like doubting this Bill Snyder-led Wildcats squad, but the late-game comebacks can't last all season.

Kansas at No. 6 Oklahoma State, 2:30 p.m.
Line: Oklahoma State by 31.5
Pick: vs. line: Oklahoma State; straight up: Oklahoma State
One-line reason: This matchup will cause trouble for a Jayhawks' defense against an OSU juggernaut that puts up 571.75 yards (third in country) and 46.75 points (sixth in country) per game. OSU covers by a half point, 52-20.

Iowa State at No. 25 Baylor, 6 p.m.
Line: Baylor by 15
Pick: vs. line: Iowa State; straight up: Baylor
One-line reason: ISU's 3-0 start was nice and this game could be close for a while, but the Cyclones were finally exposed in a 37-14 home loss to Texas last week. I'm expecting losses to follow.

No. 24 Texas A&M at Texas Tech, 6 p.m.

Line: Texas A&M by 8
Pick: vs. line: Texas Tech; straight up: Texas A&M
One-line reason: The Aggies have lost their last two games by a combined five points; I could see them ending up on the other side of a close game on Saturday by pounding the football with Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael; Texas Tech is fourth-to-last in the country in rushing defense, allowing a whopping 229 yards on the ground per game.

That should be all, friends. As always, discuss.

And, again, thank you.


Week 5 Big 12 picks: Will Kansas protect home field, cover 6.5-point spread vs. TTU?

Here are my week 5 Big 12 football picks for this weekend's slate of games.

The results, so far, for this season's picks:

Season, straight up: 24-6
Season, vs. spread: 13-11

Picking against the spread isn't easy. Someone on the blog last week asked if I take these picks to the bank. Not exactly. The picks are just for fun. I might be broke by now if I actually took these picks to the bank.

Let's move on to this weekend's Big 12 slate:


Texas Tech at Kansas, 11 a.m.
Line: Texas Tech by 6.5
Pick: vs. line: Texas Tech; straight up: Texas Tech
One-line reason: Both teams are somewhat of an enigma (Texas Tech has only looked good against an 0-4 New Mexico team, while Kansas showed promise against Northern Illinois, but then was routed at Georgia Tech). The guess here is the home field will keep the Jayhawks competitive, but the image of Red Raiders quarterback Seth Doege throwing at will all over the field (he's averaged 316 yards, more than three touchdown passes per game and has completed 76.3 percent of his passes, all without an interception) can't escape the mind. Most of that reasoning stems from KU ranking dead last in the country in rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense.

No. 14 Texas A&M vs. No. 18 Arkansas (Arlington, Texas), 11 a.m.
Line: Texas A&M by 3
Pick: vs. line: Texas A&M; straight up: Texas A&M
One-line reason: For the sake of this pick, here's hoping the Aggies clean up their four turnovers last week against Oklahoma State, a game they still led, 20-3, at halftime. Should that happen, I like their chances to cover here.

No. 15 Baylor at Kansas State, 2:30 p.m.
Line: Baylor by 3.5
Pick: vs. line: Baylor; straight up: Baylor
One-line reason: It may be a bold prediction, but I don't see K-State, which currently flaunts the Big 12's top-ranked scoring defense and total defense, holding onto that distinction after running into Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin. The junior QB is a legitimate Heisman contender who's thrown for 13 touchdowns versus only 12 incompletions and zero interceptions in three games.

Ball State at No. 2 Oklahoma, 6 p.m.
Line: Oklahoma by 37.5
Pick: vs. line: Oklahoma; straight up: Oklahoma

One-line reason: Perhaps the Sooners, who fell from No. 1 to No. 2 in the latest Associated Press poll without losing a game, approach this battle with the mind-set of putting up some style points for the voters. If that happens, they should win by 40 at bare minimum.

No. 17 Texas at Iowa State, 6 p.m.
Line: Texas by 9.5
Pick: vs. line: Iowa State; straight up: Texas
One-line reason: Paul Rhoads and the Cyclones, who stunned Texas (28-21) last year in Austin, are off to an improbable 3-0 start. I'm looking for the Longhorns to reverse that fortune, but 9.5 is a big spread. I'll take the points against the line.

That should be all for now, friends. As always, discuss.


Big 12 review, week 4: OSU fans let SEC-bound A&M have it with Big 12 chant

I feel the need to issue digital props to Oklahoma State fans for showing some conference pride this weekend in College Station, Texas.

In a riveting, back-and-forth battle between top 10 teams, No. 7 Oklahoma State held on for a 30-29 victory over No. 8 Texas A&M on Saturday at Kyle Field.

After securing the victory, visiting Cowboys fans apparently wanted to let the home team know what they thought about the Aggies' departure to the SEC, which was made official on Sunday.

Chants of "Big 12, Big 12, Big 12!" could be heard over the ABC telecast. Nice touch, OSU fans.

I wondered last week, with college realignment rumors flying around by the minute, if any conference pride still existed from Big 12 fan bases. Clearly, recent developments of Big 12 stability — the conference ousted Dan Beebe as commissioner, and announced a plan to bind the remaining nine schools together by holding their TV rights if a school tries to leave — has re-energized Big 12 fans. That much was evident on Saturday in College Station.

CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd said that was the first time he heard a Big 12 chant in his 16 years of covering the league.

When it comes to conference chants, everyone knows how that tune plays out. Look, I roll my eyes as much as you do with the "S-E-C, S-E-C!" ear-bleeder, but when you've won the previous five BCS Championships, there's really nothing we can do to take away from the SEC's dominance of college football. The conference's schools have beaten teams from the Pac-10 (Oregon), Big 12 (Oklahoma, Texas) and Big Ten (Ohio State twice) since 2006, so as far as I'm concerned, their fans can chant all they want.

The Big 12 needs more of these moments, though, especially in a time the conference is starting over and rebuilding its image, from the brink of extinction (twice) to respectability and stability.

SEC teams clearly like playing in the SEC. They aren't going anywhere. The Big 12 is not anywhere close to there yet, but that should be the goal.

Maybe we'll look back one day and praise Oklahoma State fans for being the pioneers of Big 12 pride.

There's a lot to like about this conference right now. Half the league is ranked in the latest Associated Press poll, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are in the BCS Championship hunt, and the combined non-conference record of Big 12 members is currently 26-2.

I'm hopeful one day the Big 12 can become a more desirable, stable and respectable conference that is not mocked on a national level, especially given the on-field football success the league is enjoying in 2011.

Let's move to some bullet-point observations from week 4.

I completed my fourth week of picking every Big 12 football game, straight up and against the spread. The results:

Straight up: 3-2
vs. spread: 2-3
Season, straight up: 24-6
Season, vs. spread: 13-11

OU fans should not be too livid the Sooners dropped from No. 1 to No. 2 in the latest Associated Press poll, despite the fact that they remain undefeated at 3-0. Sure, Oklahoma has beaten some nice teams in Florida State and Missouri, but don't fret about LSU jumping to No. 1. I have nothing against LSU being No. 1 at the moment, with victories over three ranked teams (Oregon, Mississippi State, West Virginia). LSU still needs to complete a rigorous SEC schedule, including a road contest at No. 3 Alabama on Nov. 5, and I'm guessing that results in at least one loss. OU could soon realize the benefit of competition in a 10-team, major BCS league. Should the Sooners finish the regular season undefeated, they will undoubtedly play for the BCS Championship without having to play a Big 12 championship game.

OU's biggest test figures to come in the final game of the season, when the Sooners travel to No. 5 Oklahoma State. Could be one of the most significant Bedlam games in the history of the rivalry that dates back to 1904.

Player of the week: Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin.

This is getting to be ridiculous. The junior has thrown more touchdown passes (13) than incomplete passes (12) through three games this season. It's silly. His season numbers: 70-of-82 for 962 yards, 13 TDs, 0 INTs. Heisman, anyone?

The following is the latest edition of the Sorrentino Scale. The number in parentheses is what the team was ranked last week:

1 (1). Oklahoma (3-0): Beat Mizzou by 10, but should beat Ball State next weekend by 50.
2 (2). Oklahoma State (4-0): Well-deserved week off before playing host to Kansas on Oct. 8.
3 (4). Baylor (3-0): Interesting test awaits at Kansas State next weekend.
4 (3). Texas A&M (2-1): Schedule doesn't get any easier with future SEC matchup against No. 18 Arkansas in Arlington, Texas.
5 (5). Texas (3-0): Could Longhorns lose to upstart Iowa State two years in a row?
6 (6). Iowa State (3-0): If ISU coach Paul Rhoads beats UT, he'd be an early Big 12 coach of the year favorite.
7 (9). Kansas State (3-0): Wildcats' D looked strong in a stunning road upset at Miami (Fla.).
8 (7). Missouri (2-2): Record doesn't look good, but two losses were at Arizona State, at Oklahoma.
9 (8). Texas Tech (3-0): 3-0 is 3-0, but 35-34 victory over Nevada in Lubbock didn't win Red Raiders any style points.
10 (10). Kansas (2-1): Jayhawks open as 7.5-point underdogs in home contest against Texas Tech next weekend.

That should be all for now, friends. As always, discuss.


Week 4 Big 12 picks: Will Mizzou cover 22-point spread at OU?

I feel the need for a baseball-inspired lead-in to the blog this week after seeing an advanced screening of 'Moneyball' last night in Kansas City, Mo.

Very enjoyable film, especially for baseball dorks like myself. Brad Pitt was a very believable Billy Beane, the Oakland A's general manager who adopted the sabermetric philosophy of Kansas University graduate Bill James. There's even a brief reference to Lawrence in the film, when going over James' rise to baseball relevance. Take note.

Pitt, in true Ocean's 10-11-12 style, is frequently seen eating in countless scenes, which was pretty funny. It was also quite comical to hear the theater applaud the portrayal of the Kansas City Royals comeback against the protagonist Oakland A's in a game toward the end of the 2002 regular season.

I won't get into spoilers. It's a movie that's definitely worth your hard-earned cash, however. Anyone else seen it yet?

You know how much I love lists, so here are my favorite baseball movies of all-time:

  1. Bull Durham
  2. The Natural
  3. Field of Dreams
  4. Moneyball
  5. Eight Men Out


Let's move to Conference Chatter's regularly-scheduled programming, meaning it's time for week 4 picks in the Big 12. Here's how my record stands:

Season, straight up: 21-4
Season, vs. spread: 11-8


No. 7 Oklahoma State at No. 8 Texas A&M, 2:30 p.m.

Line: Texas A&M by 4
Pick: vs line: Texas A&M; straight up: Texas A&M
One-line reason: In conference game of the week, the Aggies (41.50 points per game) and Cowboys (52.33 ppg, third in country) should score a lot of points, but Oklahoma State's defense (27 points surrendered per game) hasn't shown much of anything this season.

Kansas State at Miami (Fla.), 2:30 p.m.
Line: Miami by 12
Pick: vs. line: Kansas State; straight up: Miami
One-line reason: The Hurricanes played well last season in beating Ohio State, 24-6, at home, but the 'U' doesn't seem like a juggernaut. K-State should be able to keep it close.

Nevada at Texas Tech, 6 p.m.
Line: Texas Tech by 19
Pick: vs. line: Texas Tech; straight up: Texas Tech
One-line reason: For reference, Nevada lost at Oregon in week 1, 69-20. Texas Tech, coming off a dominating 59-13 performance that saw quarterback Seth Doege go 40-44 (the 90.9 completion percentage was a national record for quarterbacks with at least 40 completions) for 401 yards and five touchdowns, shouldn't have any problems.

Rice at No. 17, Baylor, 6 p.m.
Line: Baylor by 20.5
Pick: vs. line: Rice; straight up: Baylor
One-line reason: Rice lost, 34-9, in week 1 at Texas, but followed that up with a 24-22 victory over Purdue. The Owls have had two weeks to prepare for Baylor QB Robert Griffin (41-of-49, 624 yards, eight TDs, 0 INTs in two games). Griffin may continue to be dominant, but 20.5 is a significant spread.

Missouri at No. 1 Oklahoma, 7 p.m.

Line: Oklahoma by 22
Pick: vs. line: Missouri; straight up: Oklahoma
One-line reason: This is the most interesting line of the week. OU, which carries the nation's longest home winning streak at 37 consecutive games, doesn't lose at home. But yikes, 22 points? MU hung with Arizona State on the road (37-30, OT). Of course, OU is a superior opponent, but I'm gong to give Missouri's defense, which surrenders only 14.33 points per game, a chance to keep the Tigers in this one. For three quarters.

That should be all for now, folks. As always, discuss.


Big 12 review, week 3: The realignment circus continues

In trying to keep up with college football realignment, a few questions have repeatedly crept into my mind during this time of anxiety and uncertainty.

How exactly did we get to this point in the first place? Did Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe destroy the league by allowing for the creation of the Longhorn Network? Would Nebraska (Big Ten), Colorado (Pac-12) and Texas A&M (SEC, eventually) have stayed in the conference if the Longhorn Network would have never been rolled out?

It just seems odd the ACC — a mediocre football league at best — is adding teams (Pittsburgh, Syrcause), while the Big 12 can't seem to add anyone and may be on the brink of extinction. Is the trust among Big 12 schools really that bad?

If conference realignment is all about football, something is off here. The Big 12 flaunts three teams ranked in the top 10 of the latest Associated Press poll, including Oklahoma, the No. 1 team in the country. And yet, the conference may be forced to take the Big 12 leftovers (Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Baylor, Iowa State) and merge with Big East leftovers (TCU, South Florida, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Louisville, Rutgers, Connecticut). That's 12 teams, but who knows if any of those 12 will explore other options, should the opportunity present itself. Most likely.

Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are expected to explore the option of jumping to the Pac-12.

It was a bittersweet feeling this weekend watching top-ranked Oklahoma take down No. 5 Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla. On one hand, it was a great victory for the Big 12, and further paved the way for OU potentially running the table and playing for a BCS Championship. On the other hand, though, does anyone have conference pride anymore, with all this realignment stuff going on?

I want to see what happens if Oklahoma wins it all this season. I get the sense it would feel like the Pac-12 (or wherever OU lands) would be winning the title, not the Big 12.

To me, the fans don't gain anything from this mess. Traditional rivalries are lost to forced, start-up, exhibition-type atmospheres, and the geography of these 16-team super conferences makes absolutely no sense.

Let's say I'm an Oklahoma State fan, for instance, and the Cowboys eventually jump with OU, UT and TTU to the Pac-12. You're telling me in this time of economic difficulty, that in order to watch my team play on the road, I'd have to make trips to (not for sure, but just for grins) Pullman, Wash. (Washington State) and Salt Lake City (Utah)? No chance I'm spending my hard-earned money on those expensive trips.

The fans are getting hosed the most in these realignment developments. While these institutions look to join a league in which they turn the most profit, the fans are left with no control, having to sit back and take it. Will Kansas fans really get excited about facing Rutgers, in the event of a Big 12-Big East merger, to the point where they'd fly to the East Coast? That's not exactly easy on the wallet. For a series that has zero history? No thanks.

This whole thing has the feeling of the 'Back to the Future 2' alternate, gloomy, dark universe where Biff Tannen is running the town and chaos, deceit and crime run rampant with no regard to moral decency or common sense.

I completed my third week of picking every Big 12 football game, straight up and against the spread. The results, from week 3:

Straight up: 9-1
vs. spread: 5-3
Season, straight up: 21-4
Season, vs. spread: 11-8

Thanks, Iowa State, for messing up my perfect week of straight-up predictions. I have to give the Cyclones credit, though. They are easily the surprise team in the Big 12 to date, with mammoth victories over Iowa and Connecticut, and sit atop the league at 3-0. No coach gets more out of his players on the field than ISU coach Paul Rhoads.

Some statistical juggernauts from the previous weekend: Let's start with Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege, who completed 40 of 44 passes for 401 yards and five scores in a 59-13 victory over New Mexico. Hello. Second on the list is Missouri running back Henry Josey, who ran wild for 263 yards and three scores — on only 14 carries. That's an absurd 18.8 yards per carry, as MU steamrolled Western Illinois, 69-0.

Player of the week: Josey, Missouri. Even more ridiculous about his 263-yard rushing performance is that it all came in the first half.

For no exact reason, I stayed up until 3:30 a.m. on Saturday night/Sunday morning watching the Oklahoma State-Tulsa game. Anyone else make it? I figured I was witnessing some sort of history with the game kicking off just after midnight because of lightning in the Tulsa area. It helped that I work nights and am used to staying up, but I think that's the first time I've ever left work and been able to watch nearly an entire live Big 12 game on TV. OSU won, 59-33.

The following is the latest edition of the Sorrentino Scale. The number in parentheses is what the team was ranked last week:

1 (1). Oklahoma (2-0): Florida State checked off list; interesting early-season matchup vs. Missouri looms.
2 (2). Oklahoma State (3-0): Huge game up next at Texas A&M.
3 (3). Texas A&M (2-0): Big early test against OSU to see who has best chance of challenging OU for conference crown.
4 (4). Baylor (2-0): Another Robert Griffin clinic (20-22, 265 yards, 3 TDs; 78 additional rushing yards) against Stephen F. Austin.
5 (5). Texas (3-0): Longhorns seemed to find their QB in Colt McCoy's younger brother, Case (12-15, 168 yards, 2 TDs in UT's 49-20 drubbing of UCLA in Pasadena, Calif.).
6 (7). Iowa State (3-0): Cyclones have built up quite the resume already.
7 (6). Missouri (2-1): Tigers continue brutal, front-heavy schedule with trip to OU next weekend.
8 (9). Texas Tech (2-0): New Mexico still wondering where Seth Doege will throw the ball next.
9 (10). Kansas State (2-0): Wildcats rebound from ugly week 1, drill Kent State, 37-0. Tough road test at Miami (Fla.) awaits next weekend.
10 (8). Kansas (2-1): Jayhawks back in cellar after surrendering 768 total yards of offense in 66-24 loss at Georgia Tech.

That should be all for now, friends. As always, discuss.


Week 3 Big 12 picks: Kansas or Georgia Tech? Oklahoma or Florida St.?

After two weeks of picking every Big 12 game here in the Conference Chatter blog, I've come away with a 12-3 record of predicting games straight up, and a 6-5 record of selecting games against the spread.

Here's what in store for week 3:


Iowa State at Connecticut, 7 p.m.
Line: UConn by 4.5
Pick: vs. line: UConn; straight up: UConn
One-line reason: The Huskies' defense (10th in country in total defense) appears to be considerably ahead of its offense (95th, total offense), and I'm expecting UConn, at home, to create a turnover or two to make it easier on its offense against Iowa State, which is 3-8 on the road the last two years under coach Paul Rhoads.


Kansas at Georgia Tech, 11:30 a.m.
Line: Georgia Tech by 14
Pick: vs. line: Kansas; straight up: Georgia Tech
One-line reason: KU's suddenly potent offense (43.5-point average in first two games) keeps the Jayhawks close, but the Yellow Jackets are rather potent themselves (56-point average in first two games, second in country) and should have the revenge factor in their favor for last year's 28-25 loss in Lawrence.

No. 23 Texas at UCLA, 2:30 p.m.
Line: Texas by 4
Pick: vs. line: Texas; straight up: Texas
One-line reason: In an ugly, low-scoring affair, the Longhorns do just enough on offense with their new, two-quarterback system (true freshman David Ash, sophomore Case McCoy) to hold off a UCLA team that struggled to beat San Jose State (27-17) at home last week.

Texas Tech at New Mexico, 2:30 p.m.
Line: Texas Tech by 21
Pick: vs. line: Texas Tech; straight up: Texas Tech
One-line reason: New Mexico has put up only 13 points in two home losses this season.

Stephen F. Austin at No. 19 Baylor, 6 p.m.
Line: n/a
Pick: straight up: Baylor
One-line reason: Stephen F. Austin lost at home to Northern Iowa last week.

Kent State at Kansas State, 6 p.m.
Line: Kansas State by 17.5
Pick: vs. line: Kansas State; straight up: Kansas State
One-line reason: Kent State lost by 41 on the road at Alabama in week 1, and I'm guessing Kansas State can rebound from an embarrassing week 1 (10-7 victory over FCS opponent Eastern Kentucky) and topple the Golden Flashes by at least 18.

Western Illinois at Missouri, 6 p.m.
Line: n/a
Pick: straight up: Missouri
One-line reason: Western Illinois had trouble on the road in week 1 in a 20-6 loss at Sam Houston State.

Idaho at No. 9 Texas A&M, 6 p.m.
Line: Texas A&M by 35.5
Pick: vs. line: Texas A&M; straight up: Texas A&M
One-line reason: Now this will be fun; Idaho lost at home to Bowling Green by 17, and beat North Dakota at home by 30; my guess is the Aggies take this one by 40+.

No. 1 Oklahoma at No. 5 Florida State, 7 p.m.

Line: Oklahoma by 3
Pick: vs. line: Oklahoma; straight up: Oklahoma
One-line reason: In the nation's game of the week, Sooners keep their BCS title hopes alive, and Florida State is introduced to the fact that this isn't Louisiana-Monroe (34-0) or Charleston Southern (62-10).

No. 8 Oklahoma State at Tulsa, 9 p.m.
Line: Oklahoma State by 13.5
Pick: vs. line: Oklahoma State; straight up: Oklahoma State
One-line reason: The Cowboys proved last week they can score in bunches and blow out a decent team (Arizona); OSU's average margin of victory in its first two games was 25 points.

That should be all for now, friends. As always, discuss.


Big 12 review, week 2: League may not exist in future, but it’s pretty darned talented in 2011

It's a shame the Big 12 is so unstable at the moment. One minute, the league seems like it could be saved, while the next minute, doomsday strikes, plays the role of Buzz Killington and threatens the existence of the conference.

Repeat cycle.

Depending on the decisions from Oklahoma and Texas, this could be the final year of the Big 12, which began athletic competition in 1996.

All the more reason it's tough not to feel a little uneasy when tallying up the Big 12's combined football record after the first two weeks: 13-1, tops among BCS-level power conferences.

It's not like Big 12 schools are beating up on cupcakes, either. TCU, Iowa, Arizona, BYU, Northern Illinois, Tulsa and SMU — each of these teams made bowl games last year — have already fallen to Big 12 squads this fall.

Furthermore, five Big 12 schools are ranked in the latest Associated Press top 25 poll, including the top team in America, No. 1 Oklahoma.

Nonetheless, there may not be a Big 12 after this year. Ridiculous and crazy to think about.

This past weekend completed my second week of picks on every Big 12 game, straight up and against the spread. The results, from week 2:

Straight up: 3-2
vs. spread: 2-3
Season, straight up: 12-3
Season, vs. spread: 6-5

An unpredictable second week in the Big 12, which actually made picking games straight up difficult. My two missed picks: Iowa State pulled off a 44-41 triple overtime thriller over Iowa, while Kansas took down Northern Illinois in a riveting shootout, 45-42.

Some bullet-point observations from week 2:

Kansas currently ranks No. 10 in the country in rushing offense, with 277 yards on the ground per game. That figure is also tops in the Big 12. Yes, it's a small sample size, but the Jayhawks ranked 87th in the country in rushing offense last season with only 134.58 yards per game.

The presence of an effective ground game has made KU's Jordan Webb a better quarterback. The sophomore signal caller has a super-efficient touchdown-to-interception ratio of 6-0 after two games. The six touchdown passes are one shy of Webb's entire 2010 season total.

Player of the week: Jordan Webb, Kansas. Has anyone looked more improved from last season so far? This honor could have also gone to Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz (25-of-37, 279 yards, four TDs), but Webb (21-of-30, 281 yards, three TDs) steals the award because of his ability to tilt the clutch-o-meter the farthest in his favor. Webb tossed a game-winning, six-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Beshears on fourth down with nine seconds left against Northern Illinois on Saturday.

Saturday essentially marked the end of the Garrett Gilbert era at quarterback in Austin, Texas. How's this for a line: 2-of-8, eight yards, two interceptions. It confuses me why Gilbert never figured it out at Texas, especially after showing promise in the BCS Championship as a freshman two years ago and taking over for an injured Colt McCoy. Since then, he's thrown 11 touchdowns versus 19 interceptions. True freshman David Ash and sophomore Case McCoy (yes, they're related) will take over in a two-quarterback system.

Earlier in the blog, I mentioned the Big 12 was 13-1 after two weeks of play. The one loss came late Friday night/early Saturday morning, when Missouri fell at Arizona State. MU quarterback James Franklin looked good, however, completing 26 of 42 passes for 319 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 59 yards and an additional score. MU should rebound against Western Illinois this weekend.

Upcoming game of the week: Saturday night primetime, when No. 1 Oklahoma travels to No. 5 Florida State. OU's path to the BCS Championship could take a hit. OU destroyed Florida State last season, 47-17, in Norman, Okla. The Sooners enter this year's contest as 3.5-point favorites.

The latest edition of the Sorrentino Scale is listed below. The number in parentheses is what the team was ranked last week:

1 (1). Oklahoma (1-0): Had off week to prepare for Florida State.
2 (3). Oklahoma State (2-0): Cowboys made easy work of Arizona, 37-14.
3 (2). Texas A&M (1-0): Had off week to prepare for Idaho, but I wouldn't blame Aggies for looking ahead to Oklahoma State on Sept. 24 in College Station.
4 (5). Baylor (1-0): Bears move up with Missouri's loss. Baylor shouldn't suffer a non-conference loss this season (vs. Stephen F. Austin, Rice).
5 (6). Texas (2-0): I don't have much faith in two-quarterback systems.
6 (4). Missouri (1-1): Yes, Tigers drop two spots, but they lost to a solid Arizona State team on the road. Not a horrible loss.
7 (10). Iowa State (2-0): With a brutal schedule (Friday at Connecticut being next up), this could be best ranking for Cyclones all year.
8 (9). Kansas (2-0): How good is Georgia Tech? Tough to know for sure, after 63-21 victory over Western Carolina, and 49-21 victory at Middle Tennessee. Big road contest this weekend for KU.
9 (7). Texas Tech (1-0): ISU and KU have beaten better teams so far. Red Raiders, who trailed Texas State at halftime in week 1, will have many chances to rise back up.
10 (8). Kansas State (1-0): Wildcats only have a 10-7 victory over FCS Eastern Kentucky on their resume at the moment. Until further notice, they sleep in the basement.

That should be all for now, friends. As always, discuss.


Week 2 Big 12 picks: Baylor deserves credit for making a stand

I'm trying to picture the scene on Oct. 15, when the Baylor football team travels to College Station, Texas, to take on Texas A&M.

Complete mayhem, in all likelihood.

Baylor's threat on Wednesday to sue Texas A&M if it left the Big 12 to join the SEC caused a momentary pause in college football realignment, which is beginning to more closely resemble a circus act than a gathering of rational minds that make decisions for the good of the sport.

The SEC agreed to extend an invitation to Texas A&M only if the nine other Big 12 schools waived their rights to pursue litigation against the SEC. Baylor refused. No formal invitation for Texas A&M, at least for now.

Good for Baylor.

Laugh all you want, but I applaud the Bears for sticking up for themselves.

Sure, Baylor isn't Texas or Oklahoma, but can you blame the Bears? Baylor is set to receive between $17 and $20 million in TV revenue starting next year with the Big 12's new TV deal. If Texas A&M peaces out to the SEC, and the Big 12 collapses, Baylor could be left out of a major conference. In this scenario, it's safe to say the Bears wouldn't make between $17 and $20 million in TV revenue, and their plans to renovate Floyd Casey Stadium with some of that money would not be feasible.

Plus, look what happened after Baylor decided to make a stand. Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas State joined the Bears in their refusal. All after Baylor showed a little pride and stood up for itself.

In this every-man-for-himself era of college football realignment, where decency, common sense and tradition are thrown by the wayside, who in their right mind can blame Baylor for wanting the Big 12 to remain intact?

I have no idea what will happen to the Big 12. But I'm confident in saying this: Good for Baylor.

So I hear there are actually games to be played this weekend.

I keep a running tally of picks on Big 12 football games here on the Conference Chatter blog every week. I make two sets of picks, one against the spread, and one straight up. After week 1:

Straight up: 9-1
Vs. spread: 4-2

Let's see what's in store for week 2.


Arizona at No. 9 Oklahoma State, 7 p.m.
Line: Oklahoma State by 13
Pick: vs. line: Arizona; straight up: Oklahoma State
One-line reason: In a rematch of last year's Alamo Bowl (a 36-10 OSU victory), Arizona makes it more respectable, but Justin Blackmon (held without a score last week) finds the end zone once or twice and the Cowboys play just enough D to hold on.


No. 21 Missouri at Arizona State, 9:30 p.m.
Line: Arizona State by 8
Pick: vs. line: Missouri; straight up: Arizona State
One-line reason: I think MU's defense is good enough to keep the Tigers close all game, but it's asking a lot of sophomore quarterback James Franklin to engineer a victory in his first road start against a stout opponent.


Iowa at Iowa State, 11 a.m.
Line: Iowa by 7
Pick: vs. line: Iowa; straight up: Iowa
One-line reason: Iowa has won six of the last eight against Iowa State, and for the last two years, it hasn't been close (35-7 in Iowa City in 2010; 35-3 in Ames in 2009).

Northern Illinois at Kansas, 6 p.m.
Line: Northern Illinois by 6.5
Pick: vs. line: Kansas; straight up: Northern Illinois
One-line reason: KU's ability to run the ball effectively should keep the game close, but the Jayhawks could struggle against senior dual-threat quarterback Chandler Harnish, who threw for five touchdowns and ran for another against Army last weekend.

BYU at No. 24 Texas, 6 p.m.
Line: Texas by 7
Pick: vs. line: Texas; straight up: Texas
One-line reason: In a potential future Big 12 matchup, Garrett Gilbert continues to involve freshman receiver Jaxon Shipley (two catches, 54 yards, TD in season opener against Rice), and UT's defense holds its own at home.

That should be all for now, friends. As always, discuss.


Big 12 review, week 1: Realignment rearing its ugly head again

This is starting to feel like that course in advanced statistics that everyone tells you is impossible to understand.

Head spinning. Mind exploding. No end in sight.

When thinking about college realignment, v. 2.0, I have no idea what to think anymore.

For the second consecutive year, realignment dealing primarily with the Big 12 has dominated college football. The only difference this year is that the rampant speculation is taking place during the season, stealing the focus away from the field and putting it somewhere in outer space. Seriously.

Oklahoma might join the Pac-12 and take Oklahoma State with it.

Reports have tied Kansas with potential landing spots in the Pac-12 or Big East. Ditto for Missouri and the Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12 or Big East.

Who knows what Texas will do. But the Longhorns, like last summer, are the heavy hitters who likely hold the key to either saving the league again or dissolving it into oblivion.

Texas A&M still has to accept an invitation from the SEC.

Can anyone make any sense of these developments?

Then, there's the financial side of this mess. Texas signed a 20-year, $300 million deal with ESPN for the Longhorn Network in January. Could UT keep the LHN in the Pac-12, which has equal revenue sharing? Last summer, the answer was no. That's essentially why UT is still a member of the Big 12. For now.

Furthermore, there's the 13-year, $1.17 billion deal commissioner Dan Beebe and the Big 12 landed with Fox in April. What happens to this deal if there are no teams left in the Big 12 to play any games next year?

Our Matt Tait mentioned this on Monday, but there's simply too much financial uncertainty for this thing to be completely resolved in a week.

There is no fixed penalty for a member institution leaving the Big 12. The conference bylaws are complicated and vague. For reference, Nebraska (Big Ten) settled for $9.25 million, while Colorado (Pac-12) settled for $6.86 million in exit fees last year.

I have no idea what will happen, but I do hope Kansas stays in a BCS Conference, as Tom Keegan pointed out today.

Now, for the put-on-the-back-shelf, on-the-field analysis from the first week of action in the Big 12:

I completed my first week of ConferenceChatterTV, where I make picks (straight up, and against the spread) on every game in the Big 12.

After week 1 ...

Straight up: 9-1
Vs. spread: 4-2.

Not a bad showing for the first week. My one straight-up loss was Baylor pulling off a 50-48 thriller over TCU on Friday. If quarterback Robert Griffin (21-of-27, 359 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INT) keeps putting those numbers up, he could find himself in the Heisman conversation.

Some bullet-point observations from the first week:

After one week, the top two teams in the country in total offense? 1. Oklahoma State (666 yards); 2. Oklahoma (663 yards).

Every Big 12 team won its week 1 games, netting the conference a 10-0 record to begin the season, the best mark in the country. The Big East also went undefeated in week 1 at 8-0.

Big 12 team that looked the best: Oklahoma (47-14 rout of Tulsa). How the Sooners play on the road (at No. 6 Florida State on Sept. 17) will define their season.

Big 12 team that looked the worst: Tie between Kansas State (10-7 escape over Eastern Kentucky) and Iowa State (20-19 scare of a victory over Northern Iowa). Iowa State needed a game-winning touchdown with 40 seconds left, while Kansas State trailed Eastern Kentucky for three quarters. Kansas fans have to feel a little better about potentially beating these two teams this season (Oct. 22 at home vs. K-State; Nov. 5 at Iowa State).

Player of the week: Baylor's Robert Griffin. As mentioned above, he was sensational on Friday against TCU in Baylor's 50-48 victory. He was also more accurate with the ball than in the earlier stages of his college career. People will compare him to Vince Young, but Griffin throws a much better deep ball, and is also more accurate. Could that translate into NFL success for Griffin?

Keep in mind two Big 12 games before Saturday this week: Arizona at No. 9 Oklahoma State, 7 p.m. Thursday; and No. 21 Missouri at Arizona State, 9:30 p.m. Friday.

Here's the first edition this season of the Sorrentino Scale, which ranks each Big 12 football team every week:

  1. Oklahoma (1-0): Offense could be most electric in country.
  2. Texas A&M (1-0): Aggies can beat teams in variety of ways; A&M dismantled SMU, 46-14, behind two touchdowns apiece on the ground from Cyrus Gray (132 yards) and Christine Michael (85 yards).
  3. Oklahoma State (1-0): Big 12 should have three of top scoring offenses in country, with Cowboys (61-34 winners over Louisiana-Lafayette) potentially leading the way.
  4. Missouri (1-0): Once James Franklin and Missouri's offense come around, Tigers will be dangerous.
  5. Baylor (1-0): If defense steps up, Bears could threaten with seven or eight wins. Don't forget about receiver Kendall Wright (12-189-2).
  6. Texas (1-0): Interesting Saturday matchup at home vs. BYU.
  7. Texas Tech (1-0): Red Raiders' pass defense (sore spot last year) off to great start (held Texas State to 75 net passing yards in 50-10 victory).
  8. Kansas State (1-0): Have a week off to try to figure out just what the heck that was against Eastern Kentucky.
  9. Kansas (1-0): Beautiful formula for offensive success in week 1: Jordan Webb plays the caretaker (7-10, 146 passing yards, 3 TDs), lets talented ground game go wild (301 rushing yards, 3 TDs).
  10. Iowa State (1-0): If Cyclones play like they did in week 1 for rest of season, they may not win another game.

That should be all for now, friends. As always, discuss.


Week 1 Big 12 picks: At last, games take focus away from talk of scandal, realignment

It's nice to finally focus on the action again.

In the midst of an ugly offseason, the most prominent college football headlines essentially had nothing to do with the games.

Miami (Fla.) was investigated for rules violations centering around improper benefits given by booster Nevin Shapiro in one of the largest scandals in the history of college sports.

Ohio State players sold memorabilia to the owner of a Columbus tattoo parlor.

Arrest warrants were obtained for LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson and a teammate on charges of second-degree battery for a bar fight that injured four people. The school suspended the players indefinitely.

Texas A&M surely will cause another realignment cluster of a situation across college football after notifying the Big 12 that it planned to leave the conference in the summer of 2012. The SEC, A&M's likely destination, would have 13 teams. The Big 12 would be down to nine. How many more will each add? Will the Big 12 survive a third member school leaving in the past year? It's unknown. And it's a mess.

Perhaps what college football needs is some game action. A time to sit back in front of the TV over the weekend and unwind. Or a time to catch a game live. Follow it online. Anything to detract from probation, rules violations or realignment. It kind of feels like a break.

At long last, the games are back. I'm kicking off the Big 12 season here on the Conference Chatter blog with some predictions for week 1.

I'll post my predictions for each Big 12 game around this time every week, picking against the spread and straight up. I'll keep a running tally of both.

If you think some or any of my predictions are absurd, feel free to let me know about it. Or maybe you agree with some of my forecasts. Either way, I'd be glad to interact with our loyal KUsports.com readers every week in the comments section.

For a brief video version of my picks, check out my ConferenceChatterTV account on YouTube.

The last two seasons, I picked every Big 12 game, straight up, on YouTube. Here are those results:

2010 season: 82-23 (78.1 percent accurate, straight up)
2009 season: 81-24 (77.1 percent accurate, straight up)

This is my first year of picking against the spread. Let's get this thing going.


No. 14 TCU at Baylor, 7 p.m.
Line: TCU by 3.5
Pick: vs. line: TCU; straight up: TCU.
One-line reason: Baylor needs to prove it can stop someone on 'D' before I have more faith in the Bears, led by junior do-it-all quarterback Robert Griffin.


Miami (Ohio) at No. 21 Missouri, 11 a.m.
Line: Missouri by 20.5
Pick: vs line: Miami (Ohio); straight up: Missouri.
One-line reason: The Tigers, even with new sophomore QB James Franklin making his first start, should provide noticeable separation along offense and defensive lines. But 20.5 points are a whole lot.

Louisiana-Lafayette at Oklahoma State, 6 p.m.
Line: Oklahoma State by 37
Pick: vs. line: Louisiana-Lafayette; straight up: Oklahoma State
One-line reason: Cowboys beat Lafayette by 26 last year on the road, but 37? That's asking a lot, as much as I love watching the Brandon Weeden-Justin Blackmon touchdown show.

Northern Iowa at Iowa State, 6 p.m.
Line: n/a
Pick: straight up: Iowa State
One-line reason: Cyclones won, 27-0, vs. UNI last season.

Eastern Kentucky at Kansas State, 6 p.m.
Line: n/a
Pick: straight up: Kansas State
One-line reason: Should be a yawner. More interesting: How many rushing yards will Bryce Brown have? Set line around 50.

McNeese State at Kansas, 6 p.m.
Line: n/a
Pick: straight up: Kansas
One-line reason: Because a North Dakota State catastrophe can't happen two times in two years; Kansas should score as many points as it can and not worry about running up the score; confidence will build, as a result.

Texas State at Texas Tech, 6 p.m.
Line: n/a
Pick: straight up: Texas Tech
One-line reason: Let's just play this one and quickly move on.

Rice at Texas, 7 p.m.
Line: Texas by 24.5
Pick: vs. line: Rice; straight up: Texas
One-line reason: I want to see something from Longhorns before picking them by more than three touchdowns.

Tulsa at Oklahoma, 7 p.m.
Line: Oklahoma by 25
Pick: vs. line: Oklahoma; straight up: Oklahoma
One-line reason: OU has won 36 straight home games, tops in the country; with talent level, Sooners should blow people out this year at home.


SMU at Texas A&M, 6:30 p.m.
Line: Texas A&M by 15.5
Pick: vs. line: Texas A&M; straight up: Texas A&M
One-line reason: If realignment talk isn't a distraction, Aggies should cruise at home.

That should be all for now, friends. As always, discuss.


It’s game week: Top question facing each Big 12 football squad

This time of year — more specifically this week — holds a certain amount of special sports significance across the country.

Perhaps you'll feel an added jolt of enthusiasm this week as you go about your daily routine.

College football is upon us. The seven-month drought is over, and thankfully, we're pretty much done hearing about fall practices and anything pertaining to the offseason.

Yes, we've officially hit game week.

The Big 12 will take part in its first game Friday, when Baylor plays host to No. 14 TCU, one year after the Horned Frogs destroyed the Bears, 45-10, in Fort Worth, Texas. Eight conference teams will jump into action Saturday, while Texas A&M will open its season Sunday.

In the meantime, here are my top questions facing each Big 12 team before the season starts.

No. 1 Oklahoma

Week 1: Saturday vs. Tulsa, 7 p.m.

Biggest question: How will the absence of Travis Lewis, chosen as preseason Big 12 defensive player of the year, affect the Sooners and their quest for a national championship?

Lewis, who broke his toe on Aug. 8, is expected to miss eight weeks. If that timetable holds, eight weeks from the time of injury would be Oct. 3.

The good news: OU faces archrival Texas on Oct. 10 in Dallas. The bad news: The Sooners have a front-heavy schedule, with games at No. 6 Florida State on Sept. 17, and a home tilt against No. 21 Missouri on Sept. 24. Can OU remain undefeated in the time Lewis misses?

Oklahoma is a factory for producing above-average Big 12 players at virtually every position on the field, but this injury came at an inopportune time. The Sooners are still trying to cope with losing senior linebacker Austin Box, who died in May because of a toxic mix of pain pills.

No. 8 Texas A&M

Week 1: Sunday vs. SMU, 6:30 p.m.

Biggest question: How many games would the Aggies win in the SEC this season?

Texas A&M reportedly notified the Big 12 late Monday night its intentions of withdrawing from the conference. Today, Texas A&M denied that it sent the withdrawal letter. This will be a long, dragged-out process that should still result in A&M bolting.

In a similar manner to Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12) last year, A&M's announced departure should make for some super-awkward matchups this season with the Aggies still in the Big 12. A&M may take the heat off Texas for one season as the Big 12's most despised team. Maybe not, but we'll see.

If greener pastures await the Aggies in the SEC, then best of luck, but their path to any kind of BCS appearance will take a mammoth hit. A&M figures to be the second- or third-best team in the Big 12 this season. Without a Big 12 championship game, the Aggies will be legitimate contenders to take the Big 12 crown and an automatic berth to a BCS bowl game.

But what if A&M played in the SEC this year? Eight of 12 SEC teams are ranked to begin the season. Add an SEC Championship game to the mix, and the path to a BCS game just became a whole lot more difficult for the Aggies.

More long-term stability in the SEC? Probably. But I'm not expecting the Aggies to play in many BCS games coming out of their new conference.

No. 9 Oklahoma State

Week 1: Saturday vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, 6 p.m.

Biggest question: Can OSU finally take the next step and win its first-ever Big 12 Championship?

The Pokes never won or even represented the South in the Big 12 Championship game (back in the good old days when there was one).

The Cowboys took a significant step last year by going 11-2 and capturing the most victories in a single season in program history. Clearly, though, they want more.

This year seems to be as good a year as any to accomplish something bigger. Senior quarterback Brandon Weeden and junior wide receiver Justin Blackmon are the most dangerous pass-catch combo in America, the offensive line returns everyone and is known as the best in the conference, OSU's defense returns six starters and the Cowboys draw Oklahoma in Stillwater this year. What's not to like?

"It's very motivating. We all are striving to get there," Blackmon told me last month at Big 12 media days in Dallas, about breaking through and winning the conference. "We all look at the big picture. We think about it every time we're in the weight room. We have a big sign that says Big 12 champs. That's what we want to do. And that's where we're trying to get."

No. 21 Missouri

Week 1: Saturday vs. Miami (Ohio), 11 a.m.

Biggest question: How ready for the big-time is James Franklin?

The sophomore will follow a list of successful MU quarterbacks that went on to have careers in the NFL (Brad Smith, Chase Daniel, Blaine Gabbert).

Franklin, though, doesn't have to be the focal point of the offense with the Tigers' returning talent. Losing left tackle Elvis Fisher to season-ending knee surgery certainly hurts, but Missouri will still return three of five starters on the offensive line, to go along with receiver T.J. Moe and tight end Michael Egnew.

If Franklin steps in as a caretaker who doesn't turn the ball over, MU has a shot at double-digit victories this season. But is he up to the challenge?


Week 1: Saturday vs. McNeese State, 6 p.m.

Biggest question: Who knows what state McNeese State is in?

OK, I'll move on to a serious question (the answer is Louisiana for those who didn't know. I sure as heck didn't before looking it up).

Real question: How much maturity on the field will we see from quarterback Jordan Webb?

Webb went through his share of freshman mistakes in 2010. More interceptions (eight) than touchdowns (seven). Being sacked 21 times in nine games. Only averaging 132.8 passing yards per game.

How much difference will we see in 2011? With an expected boost from the running game and an experienced offensive line, Webb enters a more favorable situation this season. He has speedster Daymond Patterson back at receiver, along with a slew of promising, young targets looking to prove themselves.

KU receivers caught only six touchdown passes last year. That should change with a more developed and experienced Webb. Webb's maturation could be directly tied to how many more victories, if any, the Jayhawks see this year after a dismal 3-9 showing in 2010.

Kansas State

Week 1: Saturday vs. Eastern Kentucky, 6 p.m.

Biggest question: Will Bryce Brown exhibit a consistent enough work ethic to be able to take over the reins at running back from Daniel Thomas?

It seems foolish to even ask this question, based on Brown's sky-high ceiling. Naturally, the 6-foot, 220-pound Tennessee transfer seems to be the guy to replace Thomas, who led the Big 12 in rushing the previous two seasons. But Brown has not separated himself from the pack, which includes sophomore John Hubert and junior college transfer Angelo Pease.

Brown, a sophomore, was the No. 1-ranked high school recruit in the country by Rivals.com in 2009. Maybe he feels a sense of entitlement. Perhaps coach Bill Snyder is just pushing the motivation buttons. From the recent reports I've seen, Brown has not been the clear-cut No. 1 running back in practice KSU fans expected. Brown, for all we know, could view fall practice like Allen Iverson, only to explode on the scene once the season starts. Either way, he better start getting on Snyder's good side.


Week 1: Friday vs. No 14 TCU

Biggest question: How much has the defense improved from last year?

By now, Big 12 fans know that Robert Griffin can move the Bears offense down the field. But the Bears couldn't stop anybody last season on defense. BU ranked 114th out of 120 Div. I teams in pass defense with 265.08 yards allowed per game last year.

Over the offseason, Baylor hired new defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, who previously held the same position at Pittsburgh. Bennett installed a new system, the 4-2-5 defense, in an attempt to put more speed on the field. How well BU picks up the new defense will determine how much success it has in the win column after a 7-6 season in 2010 that saw the Bears make their first bowl appearance since 1994.

Iowa State

Week 1: Saturday vs. Northern Iowa, 6 p.m.

Biggest question: How much early success will quarterback Steele Jantz have in the Cyclones' system?

Jantz, a junior college transfer, recently won the starting quarterback job over Jerome Tiller, who was declared academically ineligible and won't play in 2011. Jantz is coming off a season in which he accumulated 3,676 total yards and 37 total touchdowns at City College of San Francisco.

Of course, the competition will be just a bit more fierce in the Big 12. Iowa State's non-conference schedule won't offer much down time for Jantz, either. After opening at home to Northern Iowa, ISU will play host to Iowa on Sept. 10 and travel to Connecticut on Sept. 16. Welcome to Div. I, Mr. Jantz.


Week 1: Saturday vs. Rice, 7 p.m.

Biggest question: The Longhorns' record should be better than their abominable 5-7 showing from last year. But how many more victories will that equal?

UT has new offensive coordinators (Bryan Harsin, previously at Boise State, and Major Applewhite will take over for Greg Davis), and a new defensive coordinator (Manny Diaz, previously at Mississippi State, will take over for Will Muschamp).

The coaching staff recently tapped junior quarterback Garrett Gilbert to be the starter. Gilbert must improve from his 10 touchdowns against 17 interceptions one year ago.

Gilbert's help on the perimeter took a hit over the summer when UT lost Malcolm Williams (left team to deal with family issues) and Marquise Goodwin (took redshirt to focus on track and field after winning national title in long jump).

Gilbert has a No. 1 receiver in the making in sophomore Mike Davis, and Jaxon Shipley, younger brother of UT career receiving leader Jordan Shipley, has turned heads in summer and fall camps. Freshman Malcolm Brown could be UT's best running back since Jamaal Charles, and could help take the pressure off Gilbert.

UT's defense will be solid. But how much progress will the offense make?

Texas Tech

Week 1: Saturday vs. Texas State, 6 p.m.

Biggest question: How much more will the Red Raiders and second-year coach Tommy Tuberville run the football than previous Tech teams?

Tech's strength on offense, for a change, appears to come from pounding the football on the ground. All five offensive linemen return, and TTU boasts three solid running backs in junior Eric Stephens, senior Aaron Crawford and true freshman Ronnie Daniels.

The Red Raiders will still look to the air with junior quarterback Seth Doege and junior receiver Alex Torres, but TTU doesn't possess the same depth at receiver as it had in previous years.

That should be all for now, friends. As always, discuss.


Big 12 Media Days, Day 2: KU sets goal of ‘Going to Mass Street’; Jeremiah Hatch trims down; Gill says communication better in Year 2

4:05 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

We're going to go ahead and wrap up our online coverage from Big 12 football media days.

Be sure to check back to KUsports.com for more stories in the coming days from our time here in Dallas.

3:57 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Two more videos before we wrap up our live blog from Dallas.

First, KU coach Turner Gill was asked what his team's goal was this year. He didn't back down, saying it was to win the Big 12 championship.

Also, KU offensive lineman Jeremiah Hatch (like tight end Tim Biere) has been impressed by KU's incoming freshmen.

3:45 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Matt mentioned in his 11:02 a.m. update that KU offensive lineman Jeremiah Hatch was in great shape after dropping between 35 and 40 pounds this offseason.

The senior explains (in an entertaining way) how he went about losing that weight in this video.

3:31 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

It's official: KU will be switching to a base 3-4 defense this fall.

KU linebacker Steven Johnson said new defensive coordinator Vic Shealy had informed the team of the change about two weeks ago.

"We have a lot of good linebackers," Johnson said, "so we're trying to make our defense built to our favor."

Last year, the Jayhawks ran a base 4-3 defense. The year before, under former coach Mark Mangino, KU's base set was a 4-2-5.

Matt Tait previously reported that KU might switch to a base 3-4 in this article from last month.

3:05 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Kansas coach Turner Gill said KU's second offseason under his watch was more productive than their first. See video below:

2:28 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Evidently, the Jayhawks getting picked last in the Big 12 changed linebacker Steven Johnson's shopping habits.

The KU senior said — though he was tempted — he avoided buying all of the preseason magazines he saw at Wal-Mart.

Check out the video below:

2:15 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Though last year's 3-9 record was tough on KU fans, it sounds like it was even tougher on offensive lineman Jeremiah Hatch.

He talks about how last year's struggles motivated him this offseason in the video below:

2:05 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

KU coach Turner Gill said Tuesday that he anticipated that the Jayhawks would win more games in 2010 than they did. Video below:

12:46 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

I know there's no cheering in the press box, but it's still hard to not like KU linebacker Steven Johnson (Here's a feature on his remarkable journey from walk-on to starter from last year, in case you haven't seen it).

Not only is he engaging in interviews and a good storyteller, he also isn't somebody that takes himself too seriously.

That can be seen in the video below as Johnson — who said one of his goals was to represent KU at Big 12 media days — actually thanks media members for interviewing him.

12:35 p.m. update: By Matt Tait

One of the more incredible things to watch at these types of events during the past couple of years has been the increased role Twitter has played.

Like with any other aspect of our society, Twitter seems to be one of the media's favorite methods to deliver news fast.

With all kinds of Tweets flying around throughout the morning, it can become tough to keep an eye on the best ones out there. Some are funny, some are newsy and others are just flat-out baffling.

One of the most interesting Tweets to pop up so far today came from Brian Hanni, host of Rock Chalk Sports Talk on 1320 KLWN. During the radio portion of the day, Hanni had KU coach Turner Gill one-on-one. When he asked him if freshman QB Brock Berglund could come in and compete, provided he arrives as scheduled on Aug. 3, Gill delivered an interesting response. Here's a look at Hanni's Tweet:

"Asked if Berglund has his issues enough behind him to come in & compete, Gill said "Michael Cummings is gonna be able to compete" #kufball"

Earlier in the day, I asked Gill if he had any further comment on the Berglund situation, considering that Berglund's lawyers [released another statement yesterday][1] about him planning to report to camp on Aug. 3 and having a trial date set for December.

Gill was mostly quiet and simply said, "That's about it, he'll be here Aug. 3, ready to go."

Maybe his response to Hanni was unintentional, but we'll definitely check back with him during the one-on-one sessions with the print media later today.

More to come...

12:15 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

To view photos from Day 2's action of Big 12 football media days on Tuesday, [visit our online photo gallery][2].

12:10 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Kansas senior tight end Tim Biere says KU's 2011 recruiting class is the best he's seen since he's been in Lawrence. Video below:

Noon update: By Eric Sorrentino

I thought one of the most interesting topics of Turner Gill's press conference regarded the levels of communication between the Jayhawks' players as last season progressed.

"I thought early on in our season and all that, our players didn't talk to each other very much," Gill said on Tuesday at the Westin Galleria. "Not just football-wise, I'm just talking about just in general."

KU suffered back-to-back brutal losses of 55-7 (at Baylor) and 59-7 (vs. Kansas State) in the first half of last season. The Jayhawks' highlight of the second half of last season was the historic 52-45 comeback victory against Colorado on Nov. 6, 2010 in Lawrence, the greatest comeback in KU history (35 unanswered points in the final 11:05).

Gill took action himself last season to assure better communication amongst his players.

"I'm trying to find ways and did a little bit of seminars and trying to get our players to be able to communicate," Gill said. "If you're not able to communicate, we're not going to be able to move forward in our program to be champions."

11:38 a.m. update: By Eric Sorrentino

Here are some Tweets I had (follow me [@Big12_Spotlight][3]) from Turner Gill's press conference, which ended a few minutes ago:

• Turner Gill: I'm a little bit more at ease as I go into this football season. Last year at this time, I didn't quite understand deep details.

• Gill: Everybody is a lot more confident ... I really feel good about our work ethic. We have gotten faster.

• This year, we got competition. That's what we didn't have last year at some positions.

• On Big 12 schedule/round-robin format: I think that's a plus for the Big 12. It's good for our fans. I think it will be a long-term deal.

• I think there was tremendous improvement as a football team in the last four games of the season ... There was communication. At the beginning of last season, our players didn't talk to each other too much.

Stay tuned for more updates shortly...

11:35 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Kansas coach Turner Gill says that he doesn't think it will take a long time for the Jayhawks to become a winning football program. Video below:

11:15 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Kansas linebacker Steven Johnson talks about the Jayhawks' goal in 2011 of "going to Mass. St." See below:

11:02 a.m. update: By Matt Tait

We've heard about it all summer but now we've finally seen it. KU senior Jeremiah Hatch is in fantastic shape and looks as good as he's looked in years. The reason? Consistency. Hatch, who's dropped about 40 pounds, said he's always been able to lose the weight but keeping it off was the problem.

This year, the end of his career looming has inspired him to amp it up a notch and the result has put him in the best shape of his life.

Hatch credits strength coach John Williams and offensive line coach J.B. Grimes for helping him focus in and said his faith, his pride and his family have all played key roles in getting him ready for a big senior year.

Beyond shedding the extra weight, Hatch said he's entering the season at 100 percent and added that knee and back problems that have plagued him in the past are now behind him.

More to come...

10:35 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Kansas tight end Tim Biere reads over the KU media guide on Tuesday morning at Big 12 Media Days at the Westin Galleria in Dallas.

Kansas tight end Tim Biere reads over the KU media guide on Tuesday morning at Big 12 Media Days at the Westin Galleria in Dallas. by Eric Sorrentino

Stay tuned for video of several Kansas football topics, including Jeremiah Hatch's weight loss, KU's goal of "running to Mass," Turner Gill talking about how long it will take to turn around the program, and Tim Biere talking about KU's impressive 2011 recruiting class.

Original post: By Eric Sorrentino

Dallas — After a rough start in coach Turner Gill's first season, in which the Kansas football team finished 3-9 overall and 1-7 in Big 12 Conference play, not many pundits pinned the Jayhawks as bounceback contenders in 2011.

Earlier this month in the Big 12 preseason poll, [the media predicted Kansas][4] would make a return appearance to the basement of the conference.

Will the Jayhawks surprise folks and string together some victories, or continue their downward spiral in Gill's second season in Lawrence?

Welcome back to the second day of KUsports.com's live coverage of [Big 12 football media days][5] at the Westin Galleria.

We'll have live updates throughout the day, so keep it locked on KUsports.com and follow us on Twitter. I'm live in Dallas with KU football beat writer Matt Tait (Twitter [@mctait][6]) and KUsports.com online editor Jesse Newell (Twitter [@jessenewell][7]). My Twitter feed is [@Big12_Spotlight][8]. We plan to string together video, text updates, pictures and more from today's proceedings.

Gill is scheduled to address the media at 11:20 a.m.

Should you have any questions, comments or otherwise, post in the comments section below or Tweet at us. Is there a question you want us to ask one of the players? Seniors Tim Biere, Steven Johnson and Jeremiah Hatch will be available to the media from 2-3 p.m. today. Ask your question in the comments section and we'll do our best to try and have it answered.

Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville will begin Day 2 at 11 a.m. The Red Raiders will be followed by Gill (11:20 a.m.), Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads (11:40 a.m.), Kansas State coach Bill Snyder (noon) and


Big 12 Media Days, Day 1: KU media guide unveiled; Pinkel says prep games on Longhorn Network ‘ludicrous’

5:30 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

We're going to wrap up our Day 1 coverage from Media Days here in Dallas.

Check back Tuesday morning for live blog posts, videos and photos from KU's day in front of the press.

5:12 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Just in case anyone was wondering, Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon has no problem with Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles.

You can see for yourself in the video below.

So why would there be bad blood between this year's two preseason Big 12 first-team selections at receiver?

Turns out that last week, OU receiver Kenny Stills tweeted that Blackmon "is all about big bodying people and sloppy routes."

That should add a little fire to the Bedlam Series this year, which already has the potential to be a top-10 matchup.

4:58 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Last year, Missouri receiver T.J. Moe made headlines before the KU-Missouri game with some bulletin-board material.

“I hate them,” Moe said of the Jayhawks. “I’ve been a Mizzou fan my whole life. From day one. Every time I see a [KU] shirt I just want to burn it.”

Moe told me Monday that his strong feelings about MU and KU came from growing up in St. Louis.

“Mizzou was my team,” Moe said. “I don’t care if we’re losing 62 to zero against Oklahoma, I’m still a diehard Mizzou fan when I’m 8 years old.

“So I just went, ‘We hate Kansas. OK, so do I then.’ I did what I was told, because that’s what we did. We’re Tigers. That’s what happens.”

When I asked Moe if he’d rather play the KU-MU game at Arrowhead or on the campus sites, he interrupted me before I could even get the question out.

“I don’t ever want to play at Kansas,” Moe said. “And they probably never want to play at Missouri. So let’s play at Arrowhead.”

Moe, like his teammates in videos below in this blog, said the KU-MU rivalry hasn’t been hurt by the Jayhawks’ recent struggles.

“Not in our minds. In fact, I don’t even know what their record was last year. I’m not worried about that,” Moe said. “As far as I’m concerned, we’re playing Kansas, and we’re both 0-0 and we’ve got to figure out a way to beat them.”

Right before the interviewed ended, I asked Moe specifically about his comment about wanting to burn KU T-shirts when he saw them.

“I’m not supposed to talk about Kansas,” he said.

Fair enough.

4:39 p.m. update: By Matt Tait

One of the things that always amazes me at these things is how well players from different teams know each other. It's probably foolish of me to be amazed by that seeing how many of the players in the league are from Texas AND many of them played with or against each other growing up. However, it always gets me.

Today's one-on-one sessions with the players are finished and here are a few of the "amazing" highlights that came from them.

Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright said he's great friends with new KU linebacker Malcolm Walker. Wright, one of the top targets in the league, said he was looking forward to playing against Walker this fall in Lawrence but still kind of bummed that the Bears weren't able to sign his buddy. They tried and Walker was interested, but the juco transfer chose Kansas instead, a move that he'll probably be glad he made considering the fact that Walker's in line for serious playing time this fall.

Trent Hunter, of Texas A&M, said he had committed to Kansas State before getting an offer from the Aggies.

Kenji Jackson, of Mizzou, said he visited Kansas, Missouri and TCU out of high school and nearly picked the Jayhawks. In the end, Jackson said MU was the best fit for him but, surprisingly, he doesn't seem to have anything against KU. I doubt his teammates will be too happy about that.

Another Sunflower State note of interest comes from Markelle Martin, of Oklahoma State. Martin, a Texas native, said he always used to play with the Wildcats on the old college football video games growing up because he liked the look of the Powercat. Outside of that, Martin admitted to not knowing a single thing about Kansas.

While all of those tidbits struck me as interesting, by far the most surprising moment came from Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray, who said that KU legend Gale Sayers is his favorite running back of all-time.

When asked how that happened, Gray proved he knew his stuff. He admitted to knowing Sayers more as a Chicago Bear than a Kansas Jayhawk but gave big-time props to the Kansas Comet for being the first true home run threat to ever play the game. Gray said he modeled some of his game after Sayers and is hoping to meet him face-to-face when the Jayhawks head down to College Station, Texas, later this year to play A&M.

Continuing with the theme of this entry, Gray and teammate Tony Jerod-Eddie both grew up playing little league football with KU's Lubbock Smith (see Jesse's update below) and Jeremiah Hatch.

More to come...

4:35 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

If you remember, in a feature last year about KU safety Lubbock Smith, we had a photo of Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray and Smith in a photo together.

Lubbock Smith, right, is shown with current Texas A&M football player Cyrus Gray, left, and godfather Willie Weeks. Gray and Smith were teammates during youth football in Dallas.

Lubbock Smith, right, is shown with current Texas A&M football player Cyrus Gray, left, and godfather Willie Weeks. Gray and Smith were teammates during youth football in Dallas.

The two played on the same youth football teams growing up in Dallas.

When I talked to Gray — a preseason Big 12 first-team selection this season — he said he still talked to Smith at least once a week and referred to him as his "brother."

"He's been on a team where they've won, and I've been on a team where we lost. It's kind of reversed right now," Gray said. "We just talk about finishing out strong."

Gray — whose older brother actually dated Smith's sister a while back — said he didn't rag Smith at all following the Aggies' 45-10 victory over KU in Lawrence last year.

"When I saw him, I hugged him after the game," Gray said. "He was just like, 'Man, I didn't play my best.' I was like, 'Hey, what I want you to do is get in that film room and just learn from that.'

"I know that's what Lubbock's going to do."

4:30 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

While here, I wanted to make sure to ask Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden what he thought about recent Kansas City Royals first-round draft pick Bubba Starling.

For those that don't know, Starling — from Gardner-Edgerton High School — has not yet signed with the Royals and has a scholarship offer to Nebraska to play football. Soon, he'll have decide which sport he wants to play.

Weeden comes from a similar situation. He was drafted in the second round of the 2002 MLB Draft by the New York Yankees. He spent five years in minor-league baseball before an injury ended his baseball career.

"I know what I would do," Weeden said about Starling. " ... I don't know what his situation is or what he's thinking, but that's a lot of money as an 18-year-old kid. You can always go back to school."

After baseball, Weeden chose to play college football at Oklahoma State, where he is now a senior. He is 27 years old and — it's hard for me to believe this — just 41 days younger than me.

"I was able to enjoy minor-league baseball for five years. Enjoyed every single minute of it," Weeden said. "I get to flip the script, turn the page and do something completely different, and enjoy every single minute of this.

"I feel pretty fortunate. I'm lucky to have the opportunity."

3:53 p.m. update: By Matt Tait

Though the Kansas University football team won't officially be a part of the 2011 Big 12 media days until tomorrow, the Jayhawks have arrived in Dallas and are currently getting settled into their rooms in preparation for tomorrow's big day.

One element of the KU program that came along with head coach Turner Gill, player reps Steven Johnson, Jeremiah Hatch and Tim Biere and athletic director Sheahon Zenger, was the 2011 media guide, unveiled for the first time around 3 p.m. Monday afternoon.

We'll flip through it and try to bring you the best notes and nuggets at some other time. For now, though, here's a photo of the cover. Not bad.

The 2011 Kansas University football media guide, first unveiled at the Big 12 media days in Dallas.

The 2011 Kansas University football media guide, first unveiled at the Big 12 media days in Dallas. by Eric Sorrentino

More to come...

3:35 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

I asked Missouri safety Kenji Jackson and offensive lineman Elvis Fisher whether the KU-MU game had lost any luster with KU's recent struggles.

Their responses are below.

2:27 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

I have to give credit to Missouri coach Gary Pinkel.

While most coaches have dodged questions about the Longhorn Network, Pinkel has been the most honest with his thoughts.

Below, Pinkel says the idea of having high school games on a college network is "ludicrous."

A lot of coaches seem to be thinking that, but Pinkel is the one, so far, that has had the guts to say it with the cameras rolling.

2:07 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

We'll have a few Missouri videos up in a few minutes, but for now, here's another video of Texas coach Mack Brown.

Below, he says that he thinks that the impact of potentially having high school football games on the Longhorn Network is "overplayed a little bit." Very interesting ...

12:50 p.m. update: By Eric Sorrentino

Texas coach Mack Brown was asked about the Longhorn Network and said the added exposure could actually work against his program.

"I can tell by the work that we've put in in the first six months, it's not going to be an easy partnership, because they're (ESPN) paying us $300 million for access, and we gotta figure out how much access we can give them and not hurt our chance to have an edge to win the game," Brown said. "So Dave Brown (of ESPN) called me mid-summer and said: 'We want to have your first scrimmage online. Everybody's going to want to see it.' And I said: Yeah, Oklahoma, A&M, Kansas, Texas Tech, they're going to be sitting there grading our practice as we do it. We can't do that."

Brown also joked about UT's disappointing 5-7 finish last season.

"My wife told me most hotels don't have a 13th floor. And (2010) was my 13th year, so I should have skipped it. Some people thought I did (laughter). But it didn't work well. So we're starting over on year 14."

The Longhorns were picked fifth in the Big 12 in the preseason media poll.

"You all (media) make our players mad daily," Brown said. "And you motivate them first. One of them told me last night: 'Do you know they picked us fifth in the league?' I don't know that. I do now. Thank you for reminding me."

Player interviews begin at 2 p.m., so stay tuned throughout the day.

12:43 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Baylor coach Art Briles spoke earlier about the Bears, who finished 7-6 last season and made an appearance in a bowl game for the first time since 1994, trying to avoid being a one-hit wonder, like the infamous Vanilla Ice (you're welcome):

12:32 p.m. update: By Matt Tait

Texas A&M Wide receiver Jeff Fuller, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound senior from McKinney, Texas, was asked about how good the wide receivers were in the Big 12.

He said, in no uncertain terms, that they were great and then mentioned a couple. First, he singled out OSU's Justin Blackmon and OU's Ryan Broyles. He then even mentioned a couple of other guys on his own team.

So where does Fuller fall in? He was asked that very question and wasn't too worried about the answer.

"I kind of leave that up to you guys to decide who's the best."

Color me a Fuller fan.

More to come...

12:20 p.m. update: By Eric Sorrentino

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel was asked about the Tigers' new starting quarterback this season, sophomore quarterback James Franklin. He was the backup last season to Blaine Gabbert, who was selected by the Jaguars in April's NFL Draft.

"James is a really good athlete, at 6-3, 225 (pounds)," Pinkel said. "People ask me to compare him to Brad Smith. Brad is a leaner, more extreme athlete. James has great movement, can extend the play, can do damage in running game. We haven't really had that since Brad Smith. He has a good arm, has good touch and has a lot going for him."

Pinkel has done a solid job of molding quarterbacks these last few years between Smith, Chase Daniel and Gabbert. Franklin is young, but MU returns four of five offensive linemen, who should make the transition a smoother one.

11:56 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Interesting tidbit: Texas coach Mack Brown spoke about the Longhorn Network perhaps working against his program. View the video below:

11:47 a.m. update: By Matt Tait

A lot of the talk from Texas A&M camp was about senior QB Ryan Tannehill and his status as the clear-cut starter heading into this season.

Last year, Tannehill split time at WR and QB and started just six games under center. Despite his inexperience, A&M coach Mike Sherman believes 100 percent in his QB's ability and he's looking forward to watching him lead the Aggies on the field.

"He's got all the tools we're looking for," Sherman said. "He's extremely competitive, highly confident in his ability and he's a tremendous leader."

Never was that more evident than during the offseason when Tannehill used his power of persuasion to entice wide receiver Jeff Fuller to return to A&M for another season instead of leaving for the NFL.

"I sent him a text every day just trying to nudge him to come back," Tannehill said. "He's a great player and it's huge for me to have a weapon like that down the field."

Tannehill wasn't the only one sending those texts. Fuller said he heard from several teammates and even his parents on the matter. When asked if he ever asked any of them to leave him alone, Fuller smiled and said, "I'd never tell 'em to leave me alone."

More to come...

11:35 a.m. update: By Jesse Newell

Below is video of Baylor junior quarterback Robert Griffin speaking about the similarities between him and teammate Robert T. Griffin, a 6-foot-6, 335-pound senior offensive lineman. At one point as a high school athlete, the talented quarterback Griffin wasn't even ranked by Rivals.com:

11:20 a.m. update: By Matt Tait

While a good chunk of the talk has been and will continue to be about the ongoing feud between Texas and Texas A&M and how it will shape the future of the conference, UT coach Mack Brown took time out to answer plenty of questions about last year's rough season in which the Longhorns finished 5-7 and missed a bowl.

Of the challenge of bouncing back, Brown said: "Sometimes you need to get kicked in the face to wake up. We've been one of the top teams in America and last year we weren't. The challenge for us is to get to work and make sure we get there again. It's a fun time for us, a challenging time for us. And it's time to get to work."

Like UT or hate UT, you gotta appreciate the way Mack Brown answers questions.

More to come...

11:10 a.m. update: By Eric Sorrentino

Not surprisingly, the first question to Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman on Day 1 of Big 12 media days concerned his thoughts on the Longhorn Network airing high school football games. The fourth-year Texas A&M coach didn't really take a side on the issue.

"I've got enough on my plate to get my team ready to play," Sherman said at the Westin Galleria in Dallas. "There will be half a million Aggies watching it. Truthfully, I'm just focused on what I have to do. I'm focused on my job and winning the first ballgame. I'm sure you guys can sort that one out yourselves."

Questions regarding the Longhorn network probably won't go away today and Tuesday. Stay tuned. More coming soon from coaches who take the podium, including Baylor's Art Briles (11:20 a.m.), Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy (11:40 a.m.), Missouri's Gary Pinkel (noon) and Texas' Mack Brown (12:20 p.m.).

10:44 a.m. update: By Matt Tait

Big 12 coordinator of officials Walt Anderson wraps up rules talk with the following statement: "We will continue to place an emphasis on hits on defenseless players."

We could not confirm whether he was talking directly to KU cornerback Isiah Barfield, but those KU fans dying for football to get here might enjoy looking back at this hit. Flag or no flag.

10:25 a.m. update: By Matt Tait

The lobby of the Westin Galleria in Dallas is buzzing with Big 12 flavor as the conference's 2011 football media days gets set to begin Day 1.

The lobby of the Westin Galleria in Dallas is buzzing with Big 12 flavor as the conference's 2011 football media days gets set to begin Day 1. by Eric Sorrentino

Day 1 getting off to a slow start. No teams in the print room yet. They're all off doing TV and radio stuff. Our own Jesse Newell is in there with the big boy cameras getting what he can get. Check back throughout the day for videos from Newell. Should be some good stuff.

Texas coach Mack Brown unofficially got things started today by stepping to the podium around 9:40 for a live interview with ESPN's SportsCenter. Brown was pretty loose and personable throughout but I couldn't help but notice how funny it was that Texas cut in line to kick things off. Hey, it's their conference, right?

First team to step to the podium will be Texas A&M around 11 a.m. They'll be followed by Baylor, Oklahoma State, Missouri and Texas. After that players will be available for one-on-one's from 2-3 p.m. and head coaches again from 3-4 p.m.

Big 12 coordinator of officials, Walt Anderson, is talking now about the rule changes for the 2011 season. Incredibly, and probably appropriately, he kicked off his presentation with a look back at the infamous K-State salute that cost the Wildcats in last year's Pinstripe Bowl.

Anderson said the rule hasn't changed, just the language so that something like that must be made in the direction of an opponent for it to be flagged. Good change. Poor Cats.

Stay tuned for more as the teams step to the podium.

Original post: By Eric Sorrentino

Dallas — Texas A&M and Oklahoma State have plans to dethrone the defending Big 12 football champion Oklahoma Sooners, who have won four of the past five league crowns. Texas is on a quest to prove it belongs back in the race for conference supremacy. Missouri's defense should give it a chance to be in every game as the Tigers attempt to reach double-digit win totals for the fourth time in five years. Baylor, fresh off its first bowl appearance since 1994, flaunts arguably the most electrifying quarterback in college football in Robert Griffin.

Adding to the intrigue of recent Big 12 storylines, Texas A&M already doesn't like how the Longhorn Network is choosing to televise high school football games. Will the Aggies flirt with the pretty girl in the nice dress and think about leaving for the SEC, thus creating another rumor thunderstorm that threatens the Big 12's existence?

Welcome to KUsports.com's live coverage of Big 12 football media days, live from the Westin Galleria in Dallas. College football is back.

The above storylines will surely be addressed and discussed today, when Texas A&M (11 a.m.), Baylor (11:20 a.m.), Oklahoma State (11:40 a.m.) Missouri (noon) and Texas (12:20 p.m.) take the podium at Big 12 media days. Player representatives will speak from 2-3 p.m. today.

The rest of the conference will meet with the media on Tuesday. That includes Kansas and coach Turner Gill, who's scheduled to speak at 11:20 a.m. on Day 2.

It should be interesting to listen to what Texas A&M and Oklahoma State have to say about contending for the Big 12 title. The last time a school not named Oklahoma or Texas won the league was 2003. Remember who that was?

Texas A&M has competed in two Big 12 championships and won in 1998. Oklahoma State has never competed for a Big 12 title. Both have top 10-caliber squads entering the 2011 season. The unfortunate part for the Aggies and Cowboys: OU isn't going anywhere. The Sooners are loaded with talent and could enter the fall ranked No. 1 in the country.

This season, of course, won't have a conference championship game with Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12) in different leagues. The formula, then, is pretty simple: The best regular season record in the Big 12 will win the league and earn the conference's automatic BCS bowl berth. The only question left to ask: Who will it be?

I'll be posting live today from the Westin Galleria alongside KUsports.com online editor Jesse Newell (Twitter @jessenewell) and KU football beat writer Matt Tait (Twitter @mctait). All three of us will have fresh updates throughout both days of the proceedings. My Twitter account is @Big12_Spotlight. Hit us up with questions and comments at any time and we'll do our best to get back to you.

Be back on with updates all day, so keep it locked on KUsports.com. And as always, discuss.


Big 12 topics in threes to get ready for next week’s football media days

Plano, Texas — Mark your calendars, iPhones, iPads or technological device of choice for 10 a.m. on Monday and Tuesday, July 25-26, when Big 12 football media days take place at the Westin Galleria in Dallas.

I arrived a few days early to visit the family in Plano and take some vacation time before the two-day event. Next week, I'll attend media days with KU football beat writer Matt Tait and KUsports.com online editor Jesse Newell. Hit us up on Twitter (I'm @Big12_Spotlight, Matt is @mctait, Jesse is @jessenewell) with media days inquiries and/or comments.

We'll have live updates Monday and Tuesday on the Conference Chatter blog, so feel free to become sidetracked from work for a few hours, join the online discussion, ask questions or make requests in preparation for the 2011 college football season, which is 44 days away from opening weekend.

Kansas coach Turner Gill will take the podium at 11:20 a.m. on Tuesday, followed by players Tim Biere, Jeremiah Hatch and Steven Johnson from 2-3 p.m.

Click here for the complete two-day schedule, which includes when each Big 12 coach will speak, along with player representatives who were selected to make the trip.

Before next week's media days, I thought of a few topics to help get us in the college football frame of mind.

Answers will come in threes. Feel free to include your answers in the comments section below. Let's do this:

Three bold predictions for upcoming season in Big 12

1. Oklahoma will average 45 points per game. Oregon led the country in scoring offense with 47 points per game last season, and I think the Sooners will put up similar, gargantuan numbers in 2011. Three years ago, Sam Bradford-led OU put up 51.14 points per game during the year it lost to Florida in the BCS Championship. This OU team is just as loaded.

2. Kansas running back James Sims will amass 1,000 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. The Jayhawks' record may not look good in 2011 due to its brutal schedule, but fans should notice visible progress in coach Turner Gill's product on the field. Running the football will be the strength of KU's offense this year, and Sims should have a chance to build off a productive freshman year in which he scampered for 735 rushing yards and nine scores.

3. Missouri will rank in the top five in the country in quarterback sacks. The Tigers ranked ninth last year with 37 sacks (2.85 per game). Despite losing Aldon Smith to the NFL, MU's defensive front is stocked with talent (Brad Madison, Jacquies Smith, Dominique Hamilton, Kony Ealy, Sheldon Richardson). Missouri should make a push for 40 total sacks.

Top quote-makers in last three years of Big 12 media days

1. Former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach. The pirate king was also the quote king.

2. Former Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson. Didn't work out for him last year (benched in favor of Ryan Tannehill), but he was extremely articulate and an interesting guy.

3. Former Missouri wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. A very original quote who three years ago said he tried to mimic Torry Holt on the field. He might turn out to be better.

Top quarterbacks in Big 12 for 2011

1. Landry Jones, Oklahoma. Threw for 4,718 yards and 38 TDs vs. 12 INTs last season. Crazy to think the junior should improve those numbers this year.

2. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State. All-world receiver Justin Blackmon is also back for the Cowboys. Most fun tandem to watch in the country.

3. Robert Griffin, Baylor. As long as RG3 (only a junior) is under center, the Bears will most likely go bowling.

Top skill position players in Big 12 for 2011

1. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State. Put in its simplest form: the best wide receiver in college football.

2. Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma. Put in its simplest form: the second-best receiver in college football.

3. Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M. Prototypical NFL size (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) who will find the end zone plenty in 2011.

Top Big 12 games for 2011

1. Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, Dec. 3. Bedlam could decide regular season champion this year in Stillwater, Okla. The Sooners carry an eight-game winning streak in the series.

2. Texas A&M at Oklahoma, Nov. 5. The Sooners don't lose at home. They've won 36 straight in Norman, Okla., the longest active streak in the country. However, if A&M wants to contend for the Big 12 crown, this is a game the Aggies would likely need to steal.

3. Oklahoma at Florida State, Sept. 17. For all the hype surrounding the Sooners, a perfect season and a potential BCS title berth could be on the line in their second game of the season in Tallahassee, Fla. The Seminoles should be ranked around the top five in the country to start the season.

Three things to look forward to in 2011

1. Offensive firepower. The Big 12 only had two teams ranked in the top 15 last season in scoring offense (Oklahoma State, No. 3, 44.23 points per game; Oklahoma, No. 14, 37.21). This season, I expect OU, OSU and Texas A&M to rank in the top 10.

2. Wide receivers. Sure, we know about Blackmon, Broyles and Fuller, but don't forget about Baylor's Kendall Wright, Missouri's T.J. Moe and Oklahoma's Kenny Stills. It's certainly the best crop of Big 12 receivers since 2008, when the conference had Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, Dez Bryant, Dezmon Briscoe, Kerry Meier, Brandon Banks, Quan Cosby, Jordan Shipley, etc.

3. No Big 12 Championship game. At first, I felt like I'd miss the conference title game. I thought with the basketball postseason tournament at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., and the football championship game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the Big 12 had the best hardwood-gridiron postseason combination of any conference. I don't think I'm going to miss the football title game too much, though. The North division had lost seven straight title games and nothing suggested the South's dominance was going to end any time soon. Plus, without a championship game, a Big 12 squad will have an easier path to the BCS Championship.

Three things to dread in 2011

1. The absence of elite running backs in the Big 12. Cyrus Gray from Texas A&M is the exception. Other than that, no back in the Big 12 is truly elite yet.

2. The thought of dethroning the SEC. Just because it seems so far-fetched. The SEC has won the past five national championships, and the Big 12 has lost two in that time. Can anyone knock off the SEC in the title game?

3. No Mike Leach at media days. Long live the pirate.

That should be all for now, friends. Looking forward to taking part in media days conversations next week on KUsports.com.

As always, discuss.


Big 12 fall football preview: As new-look conference moves forward, league crown remains OU’s to lose

It's easy to forget how much has happened with the Big 12 Conference in the last year.

Just one summer ago, the Big 12 was on the brink of extinction, stuck in the every-school-for-itself realignment mess that altered the landscape of collegiate athletics.

Nebraska said adios and joined the Big Ten, while Colorado, fearful with the league on life support, bolted for the Pac-10.

Texas heavily considered joining Colorado in the Pac-10, whose commissioner Larry Scott had a vision of starting college football's first 16-team super conference. Instead, the Longhorns remained in the Big 12, saving the league from crumbling. The Pac-10 added Colorado and Utah and became the Pac-12.

The other nine Big 12 schools remained loyal to the league, and the Big 12 moved forward without Nebraska and Colorado.

Reasons vary for UT staying put, but the Longhorns could not have started their own television network as a member of the Pac-12/16. They could, however, in the Big 12. In April, UT agreed to a 20-year, $300 million deal with ESPN for a 24-hour television network to broadcast Longhorn sports. It's set to launch in August.

Essentially, TV revenue was the focus of last summer's realignment talks.

The Big 12 strengthened its long-term stability in April by signing a 13-year deal with Fox Sports that will bring in $90 million per year — more than four times the current deal — starting in the fall of 2012. Combine that with the conference's ABC-ESPN deal that runs through 2015-16, and the Big 12 is looking at roughly $130 million in annual TV revenue.

It's been a roller coaster of a last year, but Dan Beebe's conference is finally stable again. New deals are in place, TV revenue is flowing and Big 12 members appear pleased with the new configuration.

When the 2011 college football season kicks off — the first Big 12 game is Friday, Sept. 2, when Baylor plays host to TCU — the race for the Big 12 Championship will have a bit of a different feel.

For the first time in 15 years, there will be no Big 12 Championship game in December. The NCAA requires a conference to have at least 12 teams to stage a championship game.

There won't be North or South divisions, either. Big 12 teams will play each other once in a round-robin format every year.

The absence of a conference championship game should make it easier for a Big 12 school to reach the BCS Championship. It's one fewer game a powerhouse team like Oklahoma has to trip up and have its BCS title hopes destroyed.

As it is, the Big 12 has put a representative in the national title game seven times in the 13-year history of the BCS. That number should continue to grow without a Big 12 Championship.

That brings us to right now, roughly two months until college football begins. Which team from the Big 12 has the best chance at securing a BCS title berth?

Welcome to Conference Chatter's Big 12 fall football preview. Here are my league rankings heading into the 2011 season, with analysis to follow:

1. Oklahoma

Good news: Remember the 2008 OU offense led by Sam Bradford that put up 51.14 points per game? The 2011 edition is just as talented.

The Sooners are loaded. With junior Landry Jones (4,718 yards, 38 TDs, 12 INTs) back at quarterback, along with senior receiver Ryan Broyles (131 catches, 1,622 yards, 14 TDs) back at wide receiver, OU should average 40 points per game at minimum.

Sophomore receiver Kenny Stills (61 catches, 786 yards, five TDs) is one of the most explosive deep threats in the league. Senior tight end James Hanna (seven TD grabs) also has all-league potential.

If that's not enough, four of five offensive linemen are back for the Sooners. Jones should have plenty of time to locate his weapons. Broyles and Jones are early-season Heisman Trophy candidates, and the Sooners could enter the season ranked No. 1 in the country.

Oklahoma will have to replace DeMarco Murray's production at running back, but that shouldn't be a problem. Sophomore Roy Finch has experience and a lightning-fast running style, while incoming freshman five-star recruit Brandon Williams should be one of the top newbies in the country.

All the defense has to do is hold the opposition to a respectable number. Senior linebacker Travis Lewis has led OU in tackles since his freshman year, accumulating a ridiculous 362 stops in three years. Senior defensive end Frank Alexander could crack double-digit sack totals.

Bad news: Honestly, not much. A difficult road matchup in week 2 against Florida State could threaten a perfect season. The secondary is somewhat inexperienced and returns only one starter in junior cornerback Demontre Hurst. That's about it.

Bottom line: Similar to Kansas in men's basketball, Oklahoma football has a certain aura about it that screams 'class of the Big 12.' Since the Big 12's inception in 1996, no football team has been more consistent or dominant. The Sooners have won the Big 12 seven of the past 11 years, and four of the past five years. This season, coach Bob Stoops' squad is in a class of its own atop the conference in a quest to repeat as Big 12 champs and play for a national title.

2. Oklahoma State

Good news: A message for college students, ages 21 and up, in Stillwater: Do not play drinking games involving OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden and OSU wide receiver Justin Blackmon, or you'll run the risk of being blitzed by halftime. Seriously, though, this duo was the most lethal pass-catch combo in college football last season, and they both return, Weeden (4,277 yards, 34 TDs, 13 INTs) for his senior season and Blackmon (111 catches, 1,782 yards, 20 touchdowns) for his junior campaign. It's quite possible the Heisman Trophy candidates match or eclipse their staggering numbers from last year. Reason numero uno: All five offensive linemen are back. Hello end zone.

The Cowboys must replace running back Kendall Hunter, but sophomores Joseph Randle (82 carries, 452 yards, two TDs) and Jeremy Smith (56-262-7) are more than capable. Oklahoma State was the top-scoring offense in the Big 12 and third in the country last year with 44.23 points per game. They shouldn't be far off that pace this year, even with the loss of offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen (head coach at West Virginia). Todd Monken, previously the wide receivers coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars and a former OSU receivers coach, should pick up right where Holgorsen left off as offensive coordinator.

Bad news: The defensive line might struggle to put pressure on the quarterback, as the unit returns one starter in senior defensive end Jamie Blatnick.

Bottom line: If any league team challenges Oklahoma this year, it's the in-state rival Cowboys. OSU faces difficult road tests at Texas A&M, Texas and Missouri. If the Pokes survive those tests, a Dec. 3 Bedlam meeting against OU in Stillwater could decide the conference race.

3. Texas A&M

Good news: The Aggies possess the top one-two running back combination in the Big 12 with senior Cyrus Gray (200 carries, 1,133 yards, 12 TDs) and junior Christine Michael (126 carries, 631 yards, four TDs). Michael missed the last five games last season with a broken leg, but is back to full strength. Gray excelled in Michael's absence, rushing for at least 100 yards in A&M's last seven games.

To label the Aggies as a one-dimensional offense that can only run the ball would be a huge mistake. Senior Ryan Tannehill is a legitimate threat at quarterback, steering A&M to a 5-1 record in games he started after taking over for Jerrod Johnson at the midway point of last season. Tannehill will have the luxury of the top three receivers from a year ago returning to College Station. Senior Jeff Fuller (72 receptions, 1,066 yards, 12 TDs) is one of the most physically-imposing receivers in college football. At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Fuller isn't necessarily a burner, but his strength in fighting off defenders, particularly on jump balls, will play to Tannehill's advantage. Any pass in Fuller's vicinity has a chance of being caught.

Bad news: Replacing Von Miller, the No. 2 overall pick by the Denver Broncos in April's NFL Draft, will be difficult. The top two candidates to replace Miller at the 'jack' position, a hybrid defensive end/linebacker position, are sophomore Damontre Moore (Miller's backup last season, 5.5 sacks, 40 tackles) and junior Caleb Russell (impressed in spring).

Bottom line: A&M has the talent to win the Big 12. Coach Mike Sherman enters his fourth year with higher expectations than in his previous three seasons in College Station. This is an A&M team that should be disappointed if it doesn't reach double-digit win totals. Sherman has gone 4-8, 6-7 and 9-4 in three seasons at A&M. Time for the next step.

4. Missouri

Good news: The Tigers should be able to maintain the defensive standard set last season when they led the Big 12 in scoring defense with only 16.1 points allowed per game (sixth in country). It's tough to imagine Missouri actually better without defensive end Aldon Smith, taken by the San Francisco 49ers with the No. 7 overall pick the draft, but that may be the case.

MU will boast a ridiculous front led by Brad Madison and Jacquies Smith on the ends. Madison was a pest last year in the backfield, accounting for 7.5 sacks despite starting only two games. Imagine what he can do as a starter. MU has incredible depth on the ends, with freshman Kony Ealy impressing coaches in the spring, and sophomore Sheldon Richardson, a highly-touted former recruit whose eligibility is still in question. If Richardson suits up this fall, the Tigers will have four starting-caliber ends.

Bad news: The Tigers will enter the season with an unproven quarterback in sophomore James Franklin, who will take over for Blaine Gabbert (10th overall pick, Jacksonville Jaguars). On the positive side, Franklin will have returning stud receiver T.J. Moe (92 catches, 1,045 yards, six TDs) and tight end Michael Egnew (90 catches, 762 yards, five TDs) back this year.

Bottom line: Missouri will face two early tests, the first in week 2 at Arizona State, and then in week 4 at Oklahoma. It's a stretch to suggest the Tigers will win the Big 12, but double-digit victories are not out of the question.

5. Texas

Good news: Surely, it can't get much worse than last year, when the Longhorns sputtered to a 5-7 record, lost seven of their last nine and missed a bowl game. The uncharacteristic finish prompted coach Mack Brown to bring in five new assistant coaches and a new strength and conditioning coach.

UT's strength figures to be its defense, led by returning seniors Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson at linebacker, and senior safety Blake Gideon.

Bad news: Quarterback Garrett Gilbert appeared to have his confidence shattered last season, throwing 10 touchdowns compared to 17 interceptions. As a junior, he's the most experienced option the Longhorns have, and should start in the fall. He must be better.

What really would help Gilbert's cause is the threat of a running game. Freshman Malcolm Brown may be just what Gilbert needs. The five-star running back figures to make immediate impact this fall. UT hasn't had a reliable tailback since Jamaal Charles in 2007.

Bottom line: UT has as much talent as anyone in the conference, especially on defense. But for Texas to win the Big 12, it will need a playmaker to break out on offense (like Brown, or sophomore receiver Mike Davis, for instance).

6. Baylor

Good news: Quarterback Robert Griffin proved last season his surgically repaired right knee was fine. He's back this season as a junior because he was granted a medical redshirt after the injury in 2009. As long as Griffin is leading the offense, the Bears, who went bowling last season for the first time since 1994, have a chance to reach the postseason again.

The dual-threat Griffin (3,501 passing yards, 22 TDs, eight INTs; 635 rushing yards, eight TDs) will engineer an offense that returns its top four receivers, led by senior standout Kendall Wright (78 catches, 952 yards, seven TDs).

Bad news: The Bears won't have any trouble putting points on the board. But can they stop anybody? Baylor ranked in the bottom half of the Big 12 last season in scoring defense, rushing defense, passing defense and total defense. New defensive coordinator Phil Bennett (previously defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh) has a tall task ahead.

Bottom line: Briles, entering his fourth season in Waco, has gone 4-8, 4-8 and 7-6 in three years. The Bears were 7-2 at one point last season, but lost their final four contests. Expect a similar record to last year in 2011.

7. Texas Tech

Good news: The schedule sets up nicely for the Red Raiders to start the season 6-0 or 5-1. Tech, which will enter its second season under Tommy Tuberville, faces the unusual position of being deeper at running back than at receiver. Junior Eric Stephens (127 carries, 668 yards, six TDs) and senior Aaron Crawford will receive the bulk of the carries.

Bad news: Trivia question: After Oklahoma State's Blackmon (20 TD catches), who was second in the country in TD grabs last year? The answer may surprise you: Texas Tech's Lyle Leong (19).

The Red Raiders no longer have reliable receivers Leong or Detron Lewis. Junior Alex Torres has the talent to be a No. 1 receiver, but battled a back injury all of last year. If he's fully healed for 2011, he must provide consistency, especially with Tech breaking in junior quarterback Seth Doege.

Bottom line: Tech should make a bowl game in Tuberville's second season. Fun fact: The Red Raiders have been bowl eligible for 18 straight seasons. Only three other teams — Florida, Florida State and Ohio State — have longer active bowl eligibility streaks.

8. Kansas State

Good news: Bryce Brown, the former Rivals.com No. 1 recruit in the country in the Class of 2009, transferred to K-State from Tennessee and will join the Wildcats this fall. The Wichita native rushed for 460 yards his freshman year in 2009 at Tennessee, and sat out last season due to transfer rules. Brown should create some buzz around Manhattan.

Bad news: The Wildcats still need to replace Daniel Thomas. Brown carries incredible hype, but he's still unproven. And, let's be honest, Thomas was the K-State offense. Handoffs. Screen passes. Shotgun/wildcat formations. KSU will miss Thomas, who rushed for 2,850 yards and 30 scores in two masterful years in Manhattan after transferring from Northwest Mississippi CC.

Bottom line: K-State has some pieces on defense (like Bryce Brown's brother, Arthur, a transfer linebacker from Miami), but the Wildcats must improve their defensive front, which was routinely gashed last season. KSU surrendered a whopping 231.4 rushing yards per game in 2010, dead last in the league and 119th in the country. If that number doesn't improve quite dramatically, KSU could struggle to reach a bowl game.

9. Iowa State

Good news: The Cyclones have some solid pieces on defense, particularly at linebacker with returning junior starters A.J. Klein and Jake Knott, who combined for 241 tackles last season. ISU also returns three of four in the secondary, including senior cornerback Leonard Johnson, who has all-league potential.

Bad news: The Cyclones lack playmakers on offense. Even with quarterback Austen Arnaud and running back Alexander Robinson, who exhausted their eligibility, Iowa State failed to make big plays last season. ISU's longest pass from scrimmage was 39 yards. In the age of the spread offense? Come on, fellas.

Bottom line: Iowa State has a rough nonconference slate, with games against Iowa and at Connecticut. Combine that with the newly-designed Big 12 schedule (i.e. no avoiding Big 12 South teams), and the losses could start to pile up.

10. Kansas

Good news: Well, it's not 2010, when the Jayhawks finished 3-9 and 1-7 in Big 12 play. Kansas must run the football as much as possible with talented backfield options at its disposal. Sophomore James Sims (742 yards, eight TDs) was fantastic last season. True freshman Darrian Miller electrified spring onlookers with his home run potential. Red-shirt freshman Brandon Bourbon could get looks, as could true freshman Anthony Pierson. Junior Rell Lewis, if healthy, could also be in the mix. Run. The. Football.

Bad news: Quarterback issues still linger. Freshman Brock Berglund's status remains in question. Jordan Webb looks like he'll start. But the sophomore threw more interceptions (eight) than touchdowns (seven) last season. Senior Quinn Mecham, more of a game manager under center, appears to have a limited ceiling. The Jayhawks don't need a game manager at QB, though; they need a playmaker.

Last season, KU quarterbacks tossed only 11 touchdown passes, and had 14 passes picked off.

Bottom line: The schedule is brutal, with nonconference tilts against Northern Illinois and at Georgia Tech. The Jayhawks are also at Oklahoma State, at Texas and at Texas A&M. There's not a game on the schedule that can be pinpointed as a guaranteed victory. The Jayhawks should play better than last year, but it may not reflect in their record.

That should be all for now, friends. Agree with the picks? Disagree? As always, discuss.


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