Sunday, May 29, 2011

Around the Big XII, part 6. kansas

I'm not going to lie.  I've been looking forward to this.  There are very few constants in live, but along with death and taxes, Missouri fans detest kansas and ku fans revel in misfortune that happens to Missouri.  I'm cool with that.  Basketball is king in larry, and they absolutely have a program to be envied, and they have no problem reminding you of that.  In other sports, football included, it's a different story, as was pointed out in this opinion piece that appeared in  The beaks were 3-9 last year and 1-7 in conference play.  Among those losses was the season opener at home where they were dropped 6-3 to FCS North Dakota, who finished a respectable 9-5 but lost to such teams as Northern Iowa, Western Illinois and Missouri State.  Only a huge comeback against Colorado prevented the beaks from an 0-8 conference record and the memories of 2007 are further and further in the rear view mirror.
Last year the crimson and blue replaced Mark Mangino with a former Cornhusker quarterback, head coach and aspiring deity, Turner Gill.  Gill had been passed over by his former coach director  and best friend, Tom Osbourne when he was in charge of replacing the train wreck that was Bill Callahan.  While he wasn't quite good enough to make the cut at the university he played for, former beak athletic director Lew Perkins decided to drop a 5 year, 10 million dollar contract complete with no buy out clause to obtain his services.  For Tiger fans, it was a blessing and an absolute joy to watch.  The beaks have little idea which quarterback will be on the field for them this fall, but the smart money's on Jordan Webb, a St Louis product that snapped up his only D1 offer and moved west to kansas.  A freshman, also from Missouri is Darrian Miller, who enrolled early and now sits # 2 on the depth chart at running back.  He at one time held offers from Iowa and Minnesota but rumors said both of those were retracted, leaving him no where to head but larry.
In 2007 the beaks rode a schedule that didn't include Texas, Oklahoma or Texas A&M from the Big XII south to a 11-1 record, and a chance to be ranked # 1 in the country when they met Missouri in the first Border showdown football game played in Kansas City.   Despite losing that night, the beaks were able to parley that into an Orange Bowl appearance against Virginia Tech, another over rated BCS program.  This year the squawks open with 2 cupcakes at home in McNeese State and Northern Illinois before taking their act on the road against Georgia Tech, who will have something to prove after being one of the beaks 3 wins last year.   I'm calling for ku to go 2-1 in their non conference schedule, but the over-under for conference wins is 1.  In my opinion, the only win they should be expecting, or at least hoping for is against Iowa State, and for ku, it's unfortunate that it's being played in Ames.  But somewhere I think they'll win a conference game, and regardless of who it's against it will be something of an upset.
Next time we'll talk about someone else that had a disappointing season last year, but who's hopes should be considerably brighter, the Texas Longhorns.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Around the Big XII, Part 5. Oklahoma State

Okie State cutie
Last time I talked about a team that suffers from the inferiority complex of playing 2nd fiddle in their own state, the Kansas State Wildcats.  For this discussion multiply that by about 10 and you might begin to have an understanding of what it's like to be Oklahoma State.  They've had some fabulous football seasons lately and been in a position to claim some Big XII titles, but cross state rival Oklahoma always seems to muck it up for them.  Despite that success and more in basketball as well as wrestling, baseball and other minor sports, the Cowboys are more known for T. Boone Pickens spending habits and Mike Gundy's meltdown when he announced to the world that "I'm 40, I'm a man".  And to make it even more K State similar, they can't even call themselves the rival of their in state competitor.
another receiver torches the beaks
Offensively it's entirely possible that the Cowboys could be even better than their sometime eye popping numbers from last season.  They do lose star running back Kendall Hunter, and his 1548 rushing yards aren't going to be easy to replace, but freshman Joseph Randle put up over 400 yards in a backup role and who knows if they miss a beat.  But the main thing is the Brandon Weeden to Justin Blackmon connection will continue for one more year.   Last season Weeden threw for almost 4,300 yards and 34 touchdowns and Blackmon was the recipient of 1782 of those yards while collecting 20 touchdown passes.  Okie State put up 575 points last year and while it's hard to comprehend them being better, it's just not out of the realm of possible.  Defensively it's going to be a different story however as the Cowboys lose 6 starters and 5 of their front 7 from a somewhat pedestrian bunch once conference play started.  It looks like it will be another year of play station ball games in Stillwater.
Boone Pickens Stadium
Schedule wise, the Cowboys should have little problems making another bowl game this year.  They open at home against Louisiana Lafayette and Arizona before traveling to Tulsa.  The home schedule includes laughers against kansas and Kansas State but a tougher contest against Baylor before closing their season against Bedlam rival Oklahoma.  Their final road game of the year is against hapless Iowa State, but they also make road trips to College Station, Austin and CoMO.  The critical stretch for Okie Lite will be in mid October when they travel to Texas and Missouri on back to back weeks.  Right now, I'm picking them to start the season 3-0 and then go before going 6-3 in conference to finish 9-3.  That's going to be good enough to catch them a trip to San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl.
I've kind of been saving my next preview because I think it's going to be a lot of fun to write.  We'll travel back up north to take a look at the Tigers most hated rival, the kansas jayhawks.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Around the Big XII, Part 4. Kansas State

Head man Bill Snyder
Never has a fan base or a school had a bigger inferiority complex than Kansas State.  And that even includes my team and fellow fans, the Missouri Tigers.  K State was horrible for so many years, say about 100 or so, that when he arrived in 1989, they'd been pretty much beaten to a pulp.  However, he quickly began a turnaround that led to a Big XII title, several north division titles and a semi domination of the Nebraska Cornhuskers for a few seasons.  During the last of his time there they began to fall off, due to higher standards in the Big XII as far as who you could accept.  He rode off at the end of the 2005 season and the Ron Prince era began.  When "Scary Smart" flamed out 3 years later, Snyder rode back in on his mule and attempted another resuscitation that so far has been only moderately successful.
Arthur Brown
Gone will be Daniel Thomas, the Wildcats All Big XII running back who will likely be replaced by transfer Bryce Brown who left Tennessee to join his brother Arthur, a linebacker who transferred from the University of Miami after being buried on the Hurricane depth chart, but won the defensive player of spring football earlier this year.  Quarterback Carson Coffman is gone and should be replaced by Collin Klein, a junior to be who is an amazing rusher but has yet to show any sign of being a capable passer.  He did put on a nice show in the spring game, but that was also against the K State defense who stopped almost no one last year.  Both starting offensive tackles return, but the interior of the line will have to be rebuilt.  6 starters on defense, mostly unknowns will return, which might or might not be good considering they gave up numbers like 47 points to Baylor, 36 to Colorado and 41 to mighty North Texas.  If K State is to have a winning season and a 2nd consecutive bowl trip, the defense must improve.
Willie the Wildcat
The schedule opens easily enough with home games against Eastern Kentucky and Kent State before a trip to Miami of Ohio.  During the conference season the Cats will travel to Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.  The only easy trip for them will be to cross state rival kansas who the Cats beat 59-7 last season.  Home games against Oklahoma, Missouri, Baylor and Texas A&M will be no walk in the park   They'll also meet Iowa State on December 3rd in Arrowhead in the 3rd edition of Farmageddon.  I expect the Wildcats to open 2-0 with a decent opportunity to make it 3-0 facing a Hurricane team that will still be breaking in a new coaching staff.  To reach a bowl game however, they'll have to pull an upset or two to go with what should be wins against the beaks and Cyclones.  I will never discount a Bill Snyder coached team, but he still has to prove he can win without using partial qualifiers.  My gut feeling is the year ends with a record of 5-7 and questions about whether Snyder can summon up the energy to once again bring Wildcats to the upper half of the conference.
That's all for this week.  Next time we'll take a look at another school that plays 2nd fiddle in their own state, the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Around the Big XII. Part 2, Texas Tech

We've talked about a couple of the less successful programs in the conference so far, with Baylor and Iowa State.  Today, I'd like to take a look at a team that while not being a power, does sport the longest bowl streak in the conference with 11 straight appearances.  In his first season as head coach, Tommy Tuberville started slow, but closed out with 3 straight wins, admittedly over inferior competition Weber State, Houston and Northwestern to close out with an 8-5 record, so the jury may well still be out on him.  The Red Raiders biggest win of the year had to be the 24-17 win over Missouri when inexplicably, MU offensive coordinator David Yost went away from the run after the Tigers opened up with a 14-0 lead.  Tuberville is never going to be mistaken for former coach Mike Leach but he's a damn fine coach and for the sake of the conference, I hope Tech is able to keep him.
The big question for Tech this year is who replaces Taylor Potts at quarterback.  Despite his reputation as a defensive guru the Red Raiders still ranked 7th nationally last season in passing.  The early favorite would probably be Seth Doege, a 22 year old junior that only had 4 passing attempts last season.   They return 3 offensive linemen but also have questions at running back.  Defensively, they return only 5 starters so it's going to be  tough to repeat last years record.  However, I expect Tech's defense to still be stout.
Tech's non conference schedule remains weak this year, opening with Texas State and a trip to New Mexico before returning home to play a rebuilding Nevada squad.  The confernce schedule is another matter however with trips to Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri and Baylor.  Their only break there is an early trip to lawrence to face a kansas team that may well be the worst in the conference.  Kansas State and Iowa State are home games that should be very winnable but Texas A&M and Oklahoma State will be rough contests.  If I'm guessing right now, and I am, I expect Tech to open 3-0 before going either 4-5 or 5-4 in conference.  A big swing game for them will be the finale at Waco in late November.  Either way, I expect this to make an even dozen consecutive bowl games for the Red Raiders.
Next time we'll talk about the Baylor Bears.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Around the Big XII. Part 3, Baylor

Last entry I was talking about Iowa State, a team that had a young coach that had broken a bowl drought in '09 only to fall back last season, and not a lot of hope for this year.  Today I'd like to talk about the Baylor Bears, a team with a not nearly as young coach that broke a 15 year absence with an appearance in the Texas Bowl.  The two schools share a lot in common in that they're both hard to recruit to and don't spend the money on athletics like their competition.  However, Baylor is still in Texas and that's going to give them a big leg up with the Texas kids, which is a main component of Big XII football.  Their future looks a little brighter right now.  Last year the Bears stood at 7-2 with a win over Texas before falling flat to end the year with 4 straight losses, including aa 38-14 trouncing to Missouri's favorite whipping boy, Illinois.
Head coach Art Briles is a native Texan who moved from the job at Houston to Baylor in 2008 and began the slow process of trying to make a small, private college competitive with the like of Texas, Oklahoma and the other south powers.  Probably nothing he accomplished that first year was bigger than recruiting a kid named Robert Griffin.  Griffin was a highly rated, highly sought 4 star recruit who chose the Bears over a host of better known schools.  He's turned out to be Coach Briles version of what Brad Smith was for Gary Pinkel.  A star on a team full of somewhat average players that gave them some credibility.  Frankly, I'm kind of surprised he returned this year, but it's good for Baylor as well as the rest of the Big XII.  Recruiting has since picked up and I expect them to remain competitive as long as they can hang on to Briles.
Their schedule this season is still very respectable as it will be with all conference teams with the new round robin format.  In addition to the conference games, the Bears open with a biggie, TCU at home before settling down with games against Stephen F. Austin and Rice.  Road trips to Oklahoma State and Texas A&M will certainly be tough, but they also travel to kansas and Kansas State which won't be nearly as daunting.   Their home schedule is very tough with Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech and Missouri coming to Waco.  The only breather there is an Oct. 8th match up with Iowa State.  It's not going to be easy for the Bears to make a second straight bowl game without a little help and an upset or two.  Right now, I'd pick them to go 2-1 in the non conference schedule, and hope for a 4-5 conference record.  The final 2 games of the season, at home against UT and Texas Tech will be critical.  They, in my opinion will have to at least win one of those games.  But regardless, the Bears are going to be fun  to watch and for some reason, those lily white cheerleaders of theirs have always been among my favorites.
Next time, we'll talk about another north team, the Kansas State Wildcats and head coach Bill Snyder.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Around the Big XII part 1. Iowa State

Up in Ames, it's hard to build a contending team and even tougher to retain one.  Last year the Cyclones fell to 5-7, 3-5 in the conference after going 7-6 including an Insight Bowl win in 2009.  If you've followed this blog a little, then you know I'm a huge fan of Paul Rhodes.  He's a good man in a tough job.  Not only does he have to compete with the University of Iowa in his own home state, but the Big XII where a facilities arms race has been in force for the last decade.  It's not just competing with OU and UT anymore.  The facilities at A&M, Missouri, Tech and even kansas are leaving ISU far behind.  I think Rhodes is an excellent coach and I'm afraid the Cyclones aren't going to be able to keep him for much longer.
Making things worse for the clones is that after 10 years former quarterback Austen Arnaud finally graduated.  It appears that the early favorite to pick up the nod this year would be Jerome Tiller, who filled in last year after Arnaud was injured.  He completed 39 of 82 passes for 363 yards and a touchdown and a quarterback rating of 88.8.  That just isn't going to get it done in the Big XII.  Toss in losing their leading rusher, a starting wide receiver, tight end and 3 offensive linemen and you better be hoping for a stifling defense.  Things look a little better on that side of the ball as only 4 starters depart from last years team that was remarkably average.
And if all this wasn't bad enough, taking a look at ISU's schedule, we all knew the round robin format was going to make the conference tougher, but their 3 non cons feature Northern Iowa, Iowa and UConn.  I don't see any fattening up at the beginning of the season there.  Throw in road trips to Baylor, Mizzou, OU, Tech and K State with home games against Texas, A&M, Okie State and the beaks and it's really tough finding 3 wins here.   Of course things can change and injuries happen once the season starts, but right now I see the Cyclones going 2-10 and 1-8 in conference.  If that happens, you may see Rhodes looking around for another job before his name begins cooling off too much.
We'll move to what used to be the south division whipping boy next time and see what's going on at Baylor.  Have a great week and please stop by my website and catch up on some current events. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Rumors and more random thoughts

The first day of the draft went well for 2 former Tigers as Aldon Smith was selected by San Francisco with the 7th selection and Blaine Gabbert went 3 picks later to the Jacksonville Jaguars.  That makes 5 first round picks in the last 3 years for Mizzou and should end the myth that the Tigers and Coach Gary Pinkel can't get players drafted.  Throw in some later round pickups like William Moore and free agents such as Chase Daniel and we're getting a nice representation from the black and gold.  Will it help recruiting?  I really don't see how it can't help to.  All kids want to go to the next level and think that the only thing that would stop them would be poor coaching.  That just shouldn't be a problem anymore, and next years draft should just continue the process as I believe we'll see another 4 or 5 players drafted.
As spring camp ended, there were some questions about the post spring depth chart.  A lot of fans are disappointed that we didn't see more movement from the kids of the 2010 class that included such highly regarded recruits as Lucas Vincent, Nick Demien and the wide receivers.  To me, it just shows that we had some fairly decent athletes to begin with and kids that used to come in and start as freshmen are now having to earn their way to a starting position.  Another possibility is also keeping the younger kids hungry.  I'm still going to be really surprised if we aren't hearing a lot of Hunt, Sasser and Lucas this fall.  James Franklin sits at the top for the starting QB job this fall, but that battle is far from over.  If I was going to make a prediction concerning quarterback, it would be to possibly look for Ashton Glaser to seek a transfer if he's buried 3rd on the depth chart.  The kid can play, but it just doesn't look like he's ever going to do it in CoMO.
Something happened this week that was just funny, I don't care who you are.   The new pride of the Big Ten, hick nation was booted out of the AAU this week.  Apparently, after 102 years of membership, the association of 63 top research universities finally realized what a collection of dumb fucks lived in Lincoln.  The Big Ten can no longer say that all their members belong to the AAU and I imagine some academia types aren't really happy with Jim Delaney today.   I know it probably seems petty to be getting enjoyment out of this, but I do.  I'm just that way.
Lots of news from around the new lean Big XII following spring football.  We'll start talking about that later this week.  First stop, Ames, Iowa and the Cyclones.