The College Football Notebook

November 3, 2010 7:06 AM

Conference Reports: Big 12

TaylorMartinezLeadsNebraskasOffense.jpg The third installment of the Notebook's college football November reports will focus on the Big 12. (The past two days have featured the Pac-10 & SEC). It will take quite a few things falling into place for the Big 12 to get a team playing for the national championship. But that's been known to happen in November, and even if it doesn't, the league has five teams in a ferocious fight for conference honors and possible at-large BCS consideration.

A three-way tie in the loss column holds in the South Division. Baylor is 4-1 and holds a half-game lead on 3-1 Oklahoma & Oklahoma State. The best is yet to come, because every head-to-head game among those three teams awaits us in November, starting with Baylor-Oklahoma State on Saturday, a game that will be featured in the Notebook's gameday previews. All three of these teams can move the ball, with Robert Griffin (Baylor), Brandon Weeden (Okla State) and Landry Jones (Oklahoma) pulling the trigger offensively. The latter two work with the best receivers in the conference, Justin Blackmon and Ryan Broyles respectively. Griffin gets support from running back Jay Finley, quietly gathering steam as a top runner in this league. All three teams need work defensively and whomever fixes that problem will be playing in Dallas on December 4 for the conference championship. The division's bottom three--Texas A&M, Texas and Texas Tech--are all .500 or better and playing to improve their bowl status.

Nebraska and Missouri are atop the North at 3-1, with the Cornhuskers having seized the inside track to Big D with their head-to-head win on Saturday. What sets Nebraska apart from Mizzou and the South contenders is that they have--with one notable exception against Oklahoma State--played good pass defense. Taylor Martinez is maturing each day as a quarterback and has stepped up in his own ability throwing the ball. Running back Roy Helu had been struggling, until he suddenly exploded for an astonishing 300-yard game against the Tigers. Nebraska needs to get by a trip to Iowa State this Saturday, but if they do that it will be clear sailing through Texas A&M, Kansas and Colorado and on to the North title. If Iowa State can pull an upset, things can get whacky--the Cyclones are 3-2 still play Missouri, so the North would being chaos. Kansas State is 5-3 overall, in bowl contention, while out of the league race. Colorado and Kansas are winless in league play and going nowhere.

Where this conference race is going to get nasty is in the angling for bowl bids after the automatic BCS slot gets doled out. There will be possibilities for an at-large spot to a major bowl game--although with Boise, the SEC runner-up and the winners of Stanford/Arizona and Utah/TCU likely holding first dibs on the four extra spots, it's going to be a tough sell. And the league's top consolation prize is the Cotton Bowl, now moved to January 7, but still offering a chance to play a decent SEC team. If Oklahoma comes up short in the South, they would seem a lock to be the first team chosen. After that, the Alamo, Insight and Holiday step up. One of the interesting spots is the newly formed Pinstripe Bowl, played in the new Yankee Stadium against a Big East team. Given the success a baseball team from Texas just had in its Bronx excursion maybe some of these Big 12 teams should be lining up at the chance.

The race for conference MVP is a good one. Nebraska's Martinez would seem to have the inside track, given that he pretty much did it all up until Helu's breakout game on Saturday. But Griffin is finally getting deserved attention at Baylor and with two big November games ahead of him, could move into the leader's spot. A receiver--either Broyles or Blackmon, if the latter can recover from a hamstring injury--would be worthy choices. And we can't overlook Weeden or Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert. The Big 12 has a lot to shake out in November.

Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily MLB playoff coverage and game analysis in college football and the NFL. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.

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