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The College Football Notebook


December 8, 2010 8:16 AM

Postseason Awards: Big 12

MikeSherman.jpgThe Notebook's individual awards tour stops at the Big 12 today (You can also check out the ACC & Big Ten in the archives). Perhaps no team showcased as much star power at the skill positions as did Oklahoma State. The Cowboys troika of Brandon Weeden at quarterback, Kendall Hunter at Oklahoma State and Justin Blackmon at receiver was as good a troika as this part of the country has seen since Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin were leading another set of Cowboys--the NFL's Dallas brand--to three Super Bowl titles in the early 1990s. But does that make any of them an MVP? I'm inclined to dismiss Blackmon right away. He's an extraordinary talent, having racked up 100-plus receiving yards in each conference game he played and all but one of those were double-digit catch performances. So you have a player who was both a regular part of the offense and also made big plays. But the problem is that he didn't play every conference game. He missed one due to a DUI violation. When there's only eight games comprising a league schedule, missing even one is a big omission. Blackmon is the best skill position player in the Big 12, but he's not the MVP. I'm also going to eliminate Weeden, because as good as he was, I think Blackmon was still more valuable to the pass offense and Weeden did not have good games against Oklahoma and Nebraska.

That leaves Hunter, who won the league's rushing title. You have a very strong candidacy here, with six 100-yard games in Big 12 play, including a 201-yard effort against Nebraska. The weakness is that the strength of his team's passing game makes an argument against Hunter's ultimate status as the MVP. But to replace him, we need a viable candidate, so let's run through the rest of the league and see if there is one.

Taylor Martinez carried Nebraska's offense to the North division title, but he missed two games. Daniel Thomas was the focal point of Kansas State's offense as he finished second to Hunter in rush yards without nearly the support. He was consistent and steady, but there wasn't the breakout, dominating game you want to see from an MVP. Baylor's Robert Griffin might have won a vote held a month ago, but the quarterback's ability to make big plays was cut down during the Bears' season-ending three-game losing streak. Ryan Broyles, the top target of Landry Jones, had an excellent season overall, but pedestrian numbers against Texas and Texas A&M knock him down enough.

That leaves Jones himself. He got the season off to a strong start, before a so-so game against Texas took him off the radar. But in the final seven games he was dominant. He threw for 300-plus yards six times in league play. Two of those times he went over 400 yards. His TD-Interception ratio was 25-7, and he had a big game against Oklahoma State with the South division title on the line. The running game was a bit of disappointment, so the Sooner offense was dependent on Jones. And they won a championship. That's an MVP description to me and he gets the Notebook nod.

For Coach of the Year, I give credit to Mike Gundy, who kept Oklahoma State moving forward in a year where not a lot was expected. But I'm going with a personal favorite as my choice. Texas A&M's Mike Sherman was under the gun in October, as his team lost three in a row. The Aggies surged down the stretch, winning their final six and even though they lost a South Division tiebreaker, were probably being the best football in this conference by year's end. Sherman inherited a program on hard times and in a ruthlessly competitive area. He improved to 6-6 last year and won nine games this year. He had a good NFL track record prior to this--let's remember that well before Green Bay Packer GM Ted Thompson ran Brett Favre out of town, he did the same to Sherman, a man who'd delivered the Packers four straight 10-win plus seasons, before having one bad year in 2005. Sherman's found his vindication in College Station and I'm happy for him.

Image from rudyjax.blogspot.com


Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in college football ,game analysis in the NFL. and coverage of college basketball. 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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