Tag Archives: Pac-10

It’s For Real, ‘Horns Fans

It’s about time. No one ever wants to see wholesale changes in a coaching staff, especially one that has been together as long as Mack Brown’s Texas Longhorns staff. But, after the first losing season for Texas football since Brown’s arrival in 1997, it is time for some change.

Early reports indictate that several coaches have either resigned, or at a minimum told their players that they won’t be returning next season. The key departure (good or bad depending on your alliances) is offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who has been with Brown for all 13 years at Texas, not to mention his tenture at North Carolina and Tulane before coming to Austin.

In addition, offensive line coach Mac McWhorter, defensive line coach Mike Tolleson, have confirmed they are resigning, and wide receiver coach Bobby Kennedy is rumored to also be leaving the staff (although that has not yet been confirmed). That leaves a lot of holes to fill on the coaching staff, but they were all areas where the Longhorns have struggled the past 2-3 years. You can find more on the departures here, and it appears as though Mack Brown will not try to fill the positions until after the bowl season concludes. The resignations will also not be effective until August 31, 2011, when each of the coach’s contracts expire, although they could leave sooner if they are hired away by other teams.

Who are the likely candidates to fill some of those roles, you ask? Let’s pontificate, based on some rumors circulating Longhorn nation. Keep in mind, current defensive coordinator and future Texas Longhorns head coach Will Muschamp will also have some pull in hiring the new coaches, so he might help Brown and the staff dig in to SEC coaching talent as well. No doubt, with some top coaches departing, the ‘Horns will have some money to spend in the off-season to get top-notch talent.

Dana Holgorsen (Oklahoma State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach): Lead the nation’s #1 offensive juggernaut in 2010, and made a former Major League Baseball pitching prospect one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12. It could be tough to grab Holgorsen, though, as he’s an in-conference coach, and Cowboys alum and millionaire Boone Pickens has plenty of money to donate to keep a winning staff together in Stillwater.

Bob Bostad (Wisconsin running game/offensive line coach): When you think of the Badger’s offense, the first thing that comes to mind is a stout running game that is based on the success of an offensive line that can run block with the best in the counry year-in and year-out. The downside is Bostad hasn’t called the plays and would have to learn on the fly or defer to another member of the current Texas offensive staff (see also: Major Applewhite). Would be a solid hire as an offensive line coach, but that might not be the type of “promotion” or long-term growth opportunity that is attractive to a successful assistant coach.

Major Applewhite (Texas running backs coach): A natural progression for Applewhite, and more the likely one of the reasons he took a demotion from previous roles to come to Texas in the first place – to be Greg Davis’ replacement. As a former quarterback, he can help groom future talent, and he’s also called the offensive plays for Rice and Alabama (under none other than Nick Saban) in previous stints. He’s young – yet experienced, more than capable, repsected by the players, has name recognition and in-roads to Texas-state talent, and it is a guarantee that he wants the job.

Mark Helfrich (Oregon offensive coordinator): As much as EyesOfTX despises all things Ducks, this might be a great hire. Helfrich has only called the plays for the “Zeroes” for two years, but their offense has been prolific during that time – and he’s got the Ducks playing in the national championship game the year after his starting quarterback transferred and his best running back went off to The League. Not bad. This one comes down to how much Nike, er…Phil Knight, er…the university is willing to pay to keep him around.

Bryan Harsin (Boise State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach): This would be an interesting hire, but might be difficult given Harsin’s a Broncos graduate. It’s hard to get talent out of Boise, as head coach Chris Petersen has a well-oiled machine under his helm. The question remains whether Boise State talent can climb up the rungs and be successful at the next level – see also: former head coach Dan Hawkins, who floundered in his attempt to translate his success in Boise to Boulder and the Universityof Colorado.

Stacy Searels (Georgia line coach): There is some history with Searels and Will Muchamp, and the SEC connection might help draw him to the Lone Star State. While Searels has seen success at Georgia in previous years, the past several years have been struggles for the Bulldogs. Is that what Brown and Muschamp want to bring to town?

We’ll see how things pan out, but expect some big changes in the next month or two.

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College Football: Week 8 Viewing Guide

If any team earned redemption last weekend it was Texas, both by avoiding a third loss and by beating a top 10 team on the road. Not to mention proving to the Cornhuskers that they weren’t the better team last December 5th. So there’s your parting gift, Nebraska, thanks for playing. The Longhorns will miss their home away from home.

The BCS standings came out earlier this week and with them a lot of analysis and grumbling about who is where. There is really very little we can glean from the poll this early as we still have half the season to play out with some big time match-ups featuring the top ranked teams. Does that mean Texas will rise to the top and play for another BCS title? No, that’s still highly unlikely, but if enough things happen, it’s possible. Let’s entertain some hypothetical outcomes to envision the best case scenario:

First of course, Texas must win out. Looking at the schedule, this could still be difficult. After a challenging game against Nebraska, they play perennial patsies Iowa State and Baylor at home the next two weeks, which should be easy street, but we thought that about UCLA didn’t we? Following those games, the ‘Horns go on the road against K-State, a team Texas historically struggles against, and then top 15 team Oklahoma State comes to Austin. Finally, after a gimme against Florida Atlantic and a short week, they host A&M which is a game never to be taken lightly.

Next, oklahoma has to lose to Missouri this weekend. For Texas to play for the Big 12 title, ou needs two losses and after Mizzou, they don’t face another ranked team until they go to Stillwater on Thanksgiving weekend. The Tigers will be one of the biggest tests for the Sooners, going on the road against a ranked team for the first time this year, and only their second road game period.

Next, Kansas State must beat Missouri and Oklahoma State. Texas doesn’t play the Tigers this year, so the net result of their game against K-State will only benefit Texas if the Wildcats win. Further, if the Wildcats lose that game, they could potentially fall out of the rankings before they play Texas. Either Nebraska or OSU could potentially fall out of the rankings this weekend with a loss.

That will get Texas to the Big 12 title game, though against who is still up in the air. Nebraska is likely to win out, but so is Missouri. After this weekend’s games, it should be a lot easier to predict.

For the rest of the country, we’d like to see Auburn beat LSU and Alabama, but lose the SEC title game to anyone from the East division. Currently, that would be South Carolina. The PAC-10 and Big Ten pose the largest obstacles in Oregon, Michigan State, and Ohio State, all three of whom have few challenging games remaining. And, of course, there’s always the Boise State and TCU problem.

This space will feature more meta analysis of the state of the BCS in the weeks to come and we’ll highlight the games to watch in hoping some of these scenarios play out.

All rankings below are from the current BCS poll. Also, make sure to check your local listings for channel availability, and also these coverage maps for the mid-Saturday regional games. There’s a lot of football left to play, so enjoy the roller coaster. Here’s your Week 8 viewing guide.

Saturday, October 23
12:00 PM ET
#7 Michigan State at Northwestern (ESPN)

Northwestern actually has a chance in this game. They’re playing at home, and they have some advantages on the stat sheet. It might not be enough, but they could give the Spartans a run for their money.

Iowa State at #19 Texas (FSN, Comcast Sports)
Texas returns home and hopes to keep the momentum going. It isn’t their style, but putting up about 60 points and really get that offense in gear wouldn’t be a bad sign.

3:30 PM ET
#6 LSU at #4 Auburn (CBS)

This is the game of the week. Les Miles is getting killed by everyone for the way he’s running this team despite their undefeated record and being three years removed from a national championship. Auburn has hardly earned any credit at all. Something’s going to give.

#13 Wisconsin at #15 Iowa (ABC/ESPN)
#16 Nebraska at #14 Oklahoma State (ABC)
Georgia Tech at Clemson, (ABC/ESPN)

These are your regional games this weekend. Most of the country will not see the Big 12 match-up and it looks to be one of the best of the weekend. On the flip side, most will see how the Big 10 is shaping up which will give some clarity to the rest of the season. Oh, and there’s a dreadful ACC game that no one wants to watch.

7:00 PM ET
#8 Alabama at Tennessee (ESPN)
This is likely to be a drubbing, but Alabama has not played well on the road and a home victory would make the season for Tennessee. Keep an eye on the first half in between the afternoon and later games.

8:00 PM ET
#1 oklahoma at #11 Missouri (ABC)

As mentioned above, Texas needs Missouri to win this game. This ou team has weaknesses, barely surviving at home against Air Force, and eeking out a win over a terrible Cincinnati. Most people don’t agree with ou being at the top of the BCS standings so it’s up to Mizzou to prove them right.

10:15 PM ET
Washington at #18 Arizona (ESPN)

Your night cap game this week features two teams that could stand in Oregon’s way of an undefeated season. Check it out if you’re not passed out by now.

Thanks to “Lil Pete” for his ongoing contributions to EyesOfTX.

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Filed under Big 12, Cornhuskers, Cowboys, Cyclones, Horned Frogs, Longhorns, NCAA Football, Sooners, Tigers, Wildcats

College Football: Week 6 Viewing Guide

Well, last week was once again unfortunate. So, as Longhorn fans hope for another 10-win season and a respectable bowl invitation, we can still enjoy the best games each week. Texas is mercifully off this week, but there’s plenty else to keep you entertained.

The rankings listed here are from the AP poll until the BCS poll begins in mid-October. Check your local listings for channel availability, and also these coverage maps for the mid-Saturday regional games.

Settle in for some indifference! Here’s the Week 6 viewing guide.

Saturday, October 9
12:00 PM ET
Indiana at #2 Ohio State (ESPN/ESPN3D)

Ohio State is easily rolling along through their schedule. Don’t expect an upset, but this is an opportunity to see one of the best teams in the country.

3:30 PM ET
#1 Alabama at #19 South Carolina (CBS)

Alabama looks unstoppable based on the way they’ve dominated so far this season. Yet they struggled the last time they went on the road against a ranked team, needing a second half comeback to pull off the win against Arkansas two weeks ago. You can bet the Ol’ Ball Coach picked up some pointers he hopes to exploit.

Check the coverage maps to see where to find which regional game will be on in your area. The regional games this week include:

#11 Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (ABC)
If you can catch it in your area, A&M facing Arkansas at Cowboy Stadium should bring back Southwest Conference memories.

#17 Michigan State at #18 Michigan (ABC/ESPN)
Michigan hosting Michigan State will finally be interesting again, especially with one of the most exciting QBs in the country under Rich Rodriguez’s tutelage.

Clemson at North Carolina (ABC/ESPN)
Once again, ACC country gets a horrible game in the mid-afternoon regional lineup.

7:30 PM ET
#8 Auburn at Kentucky (ESPN2)

Auburn is yet another SEC team that’s rolling right along and looking like a legitimate threat to Alabama’s hopes for SEC domination this season. Auburn will be looking for a little payback going to Kentucky having lost to the Wildcats at home a year ago.

#12 LSU at #14 Florida (ESPN)
Urban Meyer should have asked Nick Saban for a safe word in last week’s throttling. Either the wheels have fallen off or the Gators will be looking to make a statement against unbeaten LSU.

We also have a pair of regional games in the prime time slot:

8:00 PM ET
#23 Florida State at #13 Miami, FL (ABC)

The history in this game makes it intriguing to watch every year. This is the rivalry that brought us “Wide Right” and Jenn Sterger. Both teams are on the upswing for the first time in what seems like forever so it’s nice to finally have some meaning in it once again. If you’re east of the Rockies, this will be your game.

Southern California at #16 Stanford (ABC)
For those on the West Coast, you get the PAC-10 matchup. Both teams took their first loss last week, and the memory of the drama following last year’s Stanford win is surely fresh in everyone’s mind.

10:35 PM ET
San Jose State at #21 Nevada (ESPNU)

Your night cap game this week gives you a look at suddenly surging Nevada. Could they pose a legitimate threat to Boise State later this year? Take a look for yourself.

Thanks to “Lil Pete” for his ongoing contributions to EyesOfTX.

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College Football: Week 5 Viewing Guide

After last week’s debacle in Austin, any hopes the Longhorns had of making it to the national title game went out the window. Nonetheless, there is still the prospect of playing in a BCS bowl game and for the Big 12 title. With this week’s game against ou, and Nebraska in two weeks, Texas has the ability to redeem themselves in a hurry. The ‘Horns have fallen considerably in both polls, to #21 and #16 in the AP and Coaches polls, respectively, but those rankings mean little when you’re out of the title hunt.

At this point it’s all about conference domination, but just for fun, we can hope for a late season run and focus on all the help we’ll need along the way. With more teams to root against, the rest of the season should be interesting.

The rankings listed here are from the AP poll until the BCS poll begins in mid-October. Check your local listings for channel availability, and also these coverage maps for the mid-Saturday regional games.

Now let’s get to it. Put on your “hater” hat and follow the week 5 viewing guide.

Saturday, October 2
12:00 PM ET
Louisiana-Monroe at #10 Auburn (ESPNU)

Auburn should handle business at home against an inferior team, but this game will do little to move the needle for them.

No. 16 Miami, FL at Clemson (ESPN2/ESPN3D)
Both of these teams will be playing their first conference game of the season. Expect this to be a good game with Clemson trying to make a statement at home.

3:30 PM ET
#21 Texas vs. #8 oklahoma (ABC/ESPN)

The Horns’ path to redemption begins in Dallas this weekend. Reference EyesOfTX’s game preview here. Note: This game will not be shown on TV in the mid- and south Atlantic regions. Check the coverage maps to see where you can find it in your area.

Virginia Tech at #23 North Carolina State (ABC)
Another regional coverage game. A Tech loss here only weakens Boise State’s case for their lofty ranking.

#11 Wisconsin at #24 Michigan State (ABC/ESPN)
The final of the regional trio this week has highly-ranked Wisconsin going on the road. Michigan State is getting a lot of credit for the way they’ve played the last few weeks, and they’ll prove they’re worthy of it if they knock off the Badgers. Their head coach Mark Dantonio will be coaching from the booth as he returns from the mild heart attack he suffered two weeks ago.

Tennessee at #12 LSU (CBS)
Keep an eye on what’s happening in Baton Rouge and hope for a major upset. LSU head coach Les Miles is beginning to take a lot of criticism, let’s hope it’s merited.

#19 Michigan at Indiana (ESPNU)
Michigan is finally getting on track for the first time since head coach Rich Rodriguez took over the team. A conference road game could be just what we need to see them lose their way again.

8:00 PM ET
#7 Florida at #1 Alabama (CBS)

This should be one of the better games of the season. From the standpoint of a Texas fan, there is no good scenario with this game. Both teams will remain ranked higher than Texas despite who wins here or what happens in Dallas. That said, the lesser of two evils would be for Alabama to roll on and knock Florida back a few slots, leaving the status quo at the top of the SEC for now and hoping for some other spoiler down the road.

#9 Stanford at #4 Oregon (ABC/ESPN2)
This is a similar situation to the aforementioned game, and ‘Horns fans should take the same position as before and hope for the higher ranked team to hold on to that position for the time being. The PAC-10 is usually a cluster, so it’s foreseeable that both of these teams will lose at least one more time as well.

Washington at #18 Southern California (ESPN2)
Ah, USC, how we’ve loved to hate you for these last few years. But now that you’re bowl ineligible, you can play hero. By wreaking havoc throughout the conference, USC can determine the fates of many teams this year, without taking a bowl spot for themselves. Let’s hope for an undefeated Trojans season going into their final game against UCLA on December 4th and then getting crushed.

8:05 PM ET
#22 Penn State at #17 Iowa (ESPN)

It would be easy to hope that Penn State could knock of Iowa on the road thereby removing one higher-ranked team from Texas’ path, but a victory like that would be one to vault the Nittany Lions over Texas in the rankings. For the time being that might be acceptable, being that the Big Ten has a way of knocking off all of its teams on its own. With this game, Iowa begins a four game stretch of ranked opponents and then still has to face Ohio State in late November. Penn State’s competition is more spread out and their one loss to-date was on the road at #1 Alabama. Hope for Iowa to win this one knowing that they’ll likely fall again in the next few weeks.

Thanks to “Lil Pete” for his ongoing weekly viewing guide contributions to EyesOfTX.

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Filed under Big 12, Longhorns, NCAA Football, Sooners

Week 4 Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. UCLA Bruins

Was anyone else stressed out last Saturday? The referees seemed to try to steal the game from the ‘Horns for much of the night, but the defense stepped up in a big way and kept the offense in the game until it was time to catch the plane home. For the ‘Horns, it was the first hurdle in a challenging 4-game stretch that includes the Red Raiders, UCLA Bruins, #8 oklahoma sooners, and #6 Nebraska Cornhuskers. Write in down in the books – Texas moves to 4-3 in the Mack Brown era in Lubbock. And, EyesOfTX’s prediction that Texas Tech QB Taylor Potts would be “injured” at some point in last week’s game comes to fruition.

On to week 4, let’s get to it…

Texas Longhorns v. UCLA Bruins
2:30 p.m. CT (ABC)

Prediction:
Texas 35, UCLA 14

We remember, don’t we Texas fans? It doesn’t matter that both coaches weren’t in their respective coaching positions yet. It doesn’t matter that most of the players in this weekend’s game were 70-pound youngsters the last time these two powerhouses saw each other on the playing field. The score was 66-3. And the ‘Horns weren’t on the winning end of that debacle.

It’s time for redemption. Longhorn fans have waited too long for it, and it’s finally here. It’s time to show UCLA why they’re lucky the ‘Horns didn’t venture West this off-season in the conference realignment. It’s time to jump to 4-0, and get “right” before the showdown in Dallas in October.


UCLA’s Keys To The Game:
In uncharacteristic fashion for a West coast team not named Oregon, this match-up is all about the running game for UCLA. While the Bruins return an experienced QB in Kevin Prince, he won’t be the one to watch on Saturday. After all, in 3 games, Prince has only thrown for 258 yards (or, 86 yards per game), one TD, and – count ‘em – four INTs. Not the stats you want from the field general when trying to run a balanced offense. In fact, even going in to last weekend, Prince’s job was up for grabs – and he won it back. Not sure what that says about head coach Rick Neuheisal and offensive coordinator Norm Chow’s recruiting in SoCal, but I’ll venture a guess – it sucks.

UCLA RB Johnathan Franklin

Instead, all eyes will be on the two guys that will share carries and line-up in Chow’s “pistol” formation – Johnathan Franklin and Malcolm Jones. The pistol is basically the zone read formation that Texas has “enjoyed” for several years, but instead of lining up next to the QB, the RBs line-up behind the QB. This allows the backs to getting a running start before getting to the line of scrimmage and thus hitting the gaps the offensive line creates with a full head of steam. Can you imagine that? Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis can’t. Franklin (291 yards, three TDs) and Jones (101 yards) will be the keys to UCLA controlling the clock, wearing down the interior of the Texas defense, and keeping Texas’ offense off the field while scoring points.

The Bruins defense – at least on paper – doesn’t look that great. But, don’t be fooled. The secondary can more then hold their own, as can their very physical linebackers, but what those position players bring to the table is off-set by a less than stellar defensive line that can’t help their back seven by putting pressure on the QB or stop the running game. The defense ranks near the bottom of Division I schools in stopping the running game, but this early in the season, it’d be easy to argue that their first game of the year against Kansas State’s Daniel Thomas didn’t help pad their run defense stats. That being said, the opposite will likely be true on Saturday, as the ‘Horns offense can’t put any semblance of a running game together through September. If the Bruins defensive line can’t stop the Texas running attack (can we even call it that?), and then force QB Garrett Gilbert to force throws or make bad decisions, it’s going to be a long day for a secondary who actually does a credible job of holding opponents to a mere 155 yards through the air.


Texas’ Keys To The Game:
It’s a flip of the switch for Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp’s boys this week. Whereas last week the ‘Horns ran a nickel package with an extra defensive back on the field to corral all of Tech’s wide receivers, this week is all about loading up the box and stopping the power running game from the boys in baby blue. The Texas LBs and defensive line – namely that rotation of defensive tackles and defensive-ends-turned-defensive-tackles holding down the center of the line of scrimmage – will have their hands full with Franklin and Jones, but they can’t sit back in third-and-long situations either, as they need to force Prince to throw in to Texas’ highly-touted defensive backfield.

On offense, the ‘Horns need to eliminate some errors – namely, stupid penalties, dropped passes, and turnovers. The coaches and fans alike want to see any kind of consistency in the offensive line’s run blocking, more consistency from the wide receivers corps as a whole, and see Gilbert making smart decisions with the football. The Texas offense is still adjusting to a new QB and offensive scheme, and it’s the last week to test things out and open up the game a bit more than they have before the sooners become top of mind. Repetition and mental acuity are key. Forget about fried Oreos and turkey legs at the Texas State Fair, because next week’s match-up won’t matter if the ‘Horns don’t win this week.

Overall, Texas should win this game going away. The ‘Horns might not score 60 points on Saturday – or hell, in any game this season – but the defense will remain an elite unit, giving the offense time to get settled, and every single player on the burnt orange sideline will battle it out for four quarters. With focus and effort at every position, improvements can be made, and victories are had. Even Neuheisal would bank on that.

Hook ‘em!

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Filed under Big 12, Cornhuskers, Longhorns, NCAA Football, Red Raiders, Sooners, Wildcats

The Big 10 Switcharoo

Let’s get one thing straight – Eyes Of TX is no prognosticator. No reading minds here. The tarot cards have long since been packed away. No gypsy headdress tucked in the closet. Along with that (or perhaps not along with that) was the lack of a math degree from the 40 Acres. But, if one does the old school arithmetic, the Big 12 and the Big 10 have now officially switched places.

With Colorado heading west to the PAC-10, and Nebraska heading east to the Big 10, the remaining Big 12 conference universities were left to their own devices to decide their fate and that of the conference as a whole. Eyes Of TX has long predicted – for right or wrong – that Texas would be the deciding factor in the conference re-alignment race. And, indeed that was the case these past few weeks. Apparently, orange runs in our blood, and our blood is the Big 12 glue.

In the event you’ve been dodging tumbleweeds in nowhere America, Texas (and the remaining Big 12 schools) decided last week to decline invitations from other Division I BCS conferences and keep the conference together. For the likes of Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Baylor and Missouri, the decision was a dream come true – no one wanted them. They were scared for their monetary lives. They had a vested interest in keeping the conference together, latching on to any hopes of the Big 12 staying alive, and locking in the powerhouse universities like Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma on their schedules for years to come.

Eyes Of TX, though, has had mixed feelings about the conference-formally-known-as-the-Big-12 and its impact on the ‘Horns. In part, Texas may miss out on a longer term opportunity – what if this new conference doesn’t work out, and those conferences so willing to extend invitations this spring are no longer interested down the road after getting shunned the first time around? Will Texas’ brand recognition still help them out of a desperate situation 5, 10 or 20 years down the road if the “new” conference doesn’t work out? On the other hand, if Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe’s plan is legit, and the league can expect a $7-10 million bump in their next TV contract, maybe its worth it. Of course, Texas made sure that the teams with the most exposure got the most dollars in their pockets – for that we can all be thankful. Add to that the fact that Texas will get what they so desperately desired (and other conferences weren’t willing to allow) with the university’s own TV network – an additional $3-5 million in revenue. Now you’re talking SEC-type money. But, without a conference championship game (which they won’t play with only 10 teams), that is lost TV revenue as well. Of course, none of the future TV money is guaranteed today. It’ll be another year before those negotiations begin in earnest.

The fact of the matter is, the “new” Big 10 is expecting to bring in a significant amount of revenue from a new TV contract when they’re losing the Denver television market (Colorado) and a marquee brand name in Nebraska. There is as much fuzzy math involved here as there is with trying to lower the government’s deficit. It’s not adding up on this writer’s abacus.

On the plus side, Texas fans will still get their annual rivalries with oklahoma and Texas A&M. But, the draw of potential PAC-10 match-ups would have made that Texas sweet tea a little sweeter than Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Baylor on a consistent basis.

For now, until TV money is guaranteed, Eyes Of TX has to believe the move to keep the Big 12 together was a selfish move by Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds and the powers that be. They seem to have missed out on a huge opportunity by joining forces with the PAC-10 and competing head-to-head with the “new” Big 12 and the SEC, hell, even the ACC who just locked in to a lucrative TV deal this past year. Perhaps the money comes, perhaps Eyes Of TX gets to see more games in the Pacific Northwest based on the Longhorns’ forthcoming television network. Perhaps the league falls apart.

It remains to be seen, which reinforces the idea that there are no mind readers here. What do you think?

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Filed under Aggies, Bears, Big 12, Buffaloes, Cornhuskers, Cyclones, Jayhawks, Longhorns, NCAA Football, Red Raiders, Sooners, Tigers, Wildcats

NCAA Conference Re-Alignment Begins…

There’s been a lot of talk about conference realignment in the college ranks – even more so in the last week, given the Big 12’s deadline to Nebraska and Missouri to make a commitment to stay or go in the conference by this Friday.

Yesterday, all eyes were squarely on the Cornhuskers, as athletic director Tom Osbourne was deflecting questions like only a former politician-hopeful can, was he referred to leaving the Big 12 and joining the Big 10. In public relations terms, he confirmed nothing. Of course, the kicker was that the Big 10 claimed they hadn’t even extended invitations, but nonetheless Nebraska was chomping at the bit, akin to inviting themselves to the party in high school. Would Nebraska be the surprise team to make the first move? If so, who would follow the Big Red Machine?

Well, hold your horses. The PAC-10, meanwhile, had swung the doors wide open earlier this week when they approved expansion, even going so far to say the group didn’t need to reconvene before extending invites to prospective teams – in other words, they already had a good sense for who they wanted on board. Rumors flew – just Colorado? What about adding six teams, or nearly the entire Big 12 South division? Would Texas, and thus A&M, go? Who would be the odd teams out if the Big 12 disintegrated only 15 years after its inception?

Today, the dominoes started to fall, but not with the universities initially thought to make the first move. The PAC-10 offered, and Colorado accepted. With it, Colorado brings to the Premier Athletic Conference (yes, that’s really what “PAC” stands for) a football program in shambles, an athletic budget in more need of an economic stimulus package than the government’s, and a typical 6-year graduation rate (at least that’s what they told EyesOfTX at a campus visit 10+ years ago). In fact, earlier this week, the NCAA released their academic progress reports (APRs), and Colorado was one of the schools that made the “naughty” list. It’s not a good start to help the PAC-10 keep up their academic standards. Where are Stanford and Cal to stand up and complain about that? Will this academic debacle lead to another Dan Hawkins lecture YouTube sensation?

All told, this the beginning of the end for the Big 12. With Colorado out, and Nebraska apparently on the brink, the bricks are crumbling. Even TMZ is now reporting from a source that Oklahoma State is heading to the PAC-10, and are just waiting to make the official announcement. What we know from football coach Mike Gundy is that we should talk to him, because “…he’s 40 and he’s a man…” Who else is in line? Will Texas and Texas A&M hold out as long as possible, to see if other bidders (like the SEC, perhaps?) come calling or get something locked up sooner than later?

Who’s “out” in all of this? The biggest loser from the Big 12 might very well be Kansas, followed by Baylor, Iowa State, and Kansas State – maybe even Missouri, as the Big 10 sounds like it’s gone cold it’s thinking for the Columbia crew. Let’s take a look at some specifics:

Kansas
Are Kansas and Kansas State a joint deal, similar to Texas and Texas A&M? Could the Jayhawks end up in Conference USA, or even the Big East (as that conference potentially try to fill gaps from Big 10 thieves as well)? Kansas will likely look for a conference that has strong basketball ties, so that probably rules out the Mountain West. If KU ends up anywhere other than a top 4 conference, it will be sad day for the history of their basketball program akin to North Carolina being part of the Southern Conference and playing Appalachian State and Citadel every year. Sad. It’d also be a tough day for football coach Turner Gill, who in EyesOfTX’s opinion, deserved a chance to make a name for himself in a big-name conference after building a great program at Buffalo. Gill might be bringing his new team right back to a mid-major conference.

Baylor
Baylor’s another big loser in this discussion, especially given they’re on the brink of reviving their athletics program from a years-long fallout from incidents from the men’s basketball program. With their football team on the rise, and both men’s and women’s basketball making significant impacts in recent years, a move to a new, lesser-known conference could be both good and bad. Wait, why aren’t they in the “Big 12 South” package that PAC-10’s exploring? Quite honestly, rumors have been circulating that Cal-Berkeley has major issues with the religious affiliation of the university, and secondly, Baylor lacks the political prowess in the Texas state legislature to drive a deal these days (like they did when the Big 12 was formed).

For a new conference affiliation, however, Baylor’s got to see the good: they might finally be able to compete in football. Let’s face it, although they had a lot of hype this last season, Baylor football is a bottom-dweller of the Big 12 (and South division specifically) every year since the league’s inception. In a new, less-“loaded” conference, they have a chance to put themselves on the map and go bowling for the first time in many, many years. The bad: they lose the clout of being in a major conference for the first time since pre-Southwest Conference days, not to mention they still aren’t allowed to dance on campus.

Iowa State
Quite honestly, EyesOfTX will miss the opportunity to get the Cyclones on the field so long as Paul Rhodes is coach – he seems like a good guy who’s passionate about where he’s at and brings the best to that program. It’s an exciting time for football in Ames. But, what’s the best move for ISU? Get the Big 10 to come calling…especially if the conference is now cold on Missouri. Plus, it makes sense given their in-state and Big 10-affiliated Hawkeyes are causing trouble in Ann Arbor and Columbus these days.

Missouri
They talked a big game early, and now it looks like it just all might backfire. All signs pointed to the Big 10 initially having some interest in Missouri, but now that well seems to have dried up – something BP could only wish for in the Gulf of Mexico. With Nebraska on the horizon for the Big 10, and as that conference continues to mull over Notre Dame, Syracuse, Rutgers, and Pittsburgh, the Tigers all of the sudden appear in the rear-view mirror. Now’s the time for M-I-Z-Z-O-U to start a nice courting relationship with the SEC.

What about the conference affiliations with bowl games? Well, the Big 12 will definitely give up some nice deals for post-season play if it indeed goes away, but a new conference affiliation also might benefit from a majority of Big 12 schools bringing those bowl games to the negotiating table with the new conference(s). Right now, the Big 12 has a total of eight bowl game affiliations, including: Fiesta/BCS, Holiday, Cotton, Alamo, Texas, Yankees Stadium (new), Insight, and Independence. Compare that to the PAC-10’s six-game (and weaker) bowl pull: Rose/BCS, Alamo, Holiday, Sun, Las Vegas, and Emerald. Both conferences are nearing bowl game negotiations – supposedly with the Big 12 in 2012, and PAC-10 in 2013. Perfect timing for conference re-alignment news.

Lots of moving parts…it will be interesting to see what plays out through the weekend. Expect more blockbuster news later today or Friday, as more conferences and teams get antsy so as not to get left in the dust. Texas, where you headed?

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