The Big 12 is there for the taking.
If there's a lesson to be learned from the bye week for Mack Brown's Texas Longhorns, it's that there should be no misunderstanding about the goals for this team in 2012. One month into the season and it's becoming more and more apparent that there's not truly an elite team in the Big 12.
There is no Ivan Drago to fear. If I'm Mack Brown on Sunday, I'm screaming at my team, "You see? You see? There aren't machines! They're men!"
West Virginia bleeds. Oklahoma bleeds a lot. Kansas State? Well, they might very well be the Thunderlips of the conference, but there's plenty of time to worry about them all the way into December.
There's simply not any team on this schedule that the Longhorns should fear. Yes, the defense has to tackle better and David Ash has to keep playing well and they have to stay healthy, but the brass ring is there for the taking.
Hell yes, it is.
For now the moral of the story for the Longhorns and every team in this conference is pretty simple - there's no team out there to fear, but there might be seven teams on everyone's schedule that you could possibly lose to if you don't bring your A-game.
Winning at home will mean everything this season because the road games figure to be minefields for everyone.
West Virginia travels to Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Iowa State. None of those are sure things.
Oklahoma travels to Texas Tech, Iowa State, West Virginia and TCU. None of those are sure things.
Kansas State travels to Iowa State, West Virginia, TCU and Baylor. None of those are sure things, even as impressive as Kansas State was on Saturday in Norman.
You get the idea. All the OU loss really meant this weekend is that the battle royal is on. In my estimation, there's a good chance that the champion of this league finishes with two conference losses. Frankly, it's hard to imagine that any of the teams I've seen through the first month have it in them to run through this league like a boss.
So, it's time to buckle up and get ready for a two-month grind. It's anyone's title to grab and that most definitely includes the Longhorns.
No. 2 - Quick impressions from the third weekend of action in the Big 12 …
BAYLOR: The Bears are exactly who we thought there were, although Nick Florence is a tick better than I imaged he'd be, which means Baylor is a run of the mill 6-8 win team that has enough offensive pieces to beat a lot of folks if they get on a run. Their win over La-Monroe on the road was a solid win over a team that beat Arkansas on the road and nearly did the same against Auburn. I just don't know what being better than Arkansas or Auburn means right now. I do know the Baylor defense is every bit as wretched as I suspended it would be, and I'm pretty sure the 560 yards of total offense (298 passing/262 rushing) is an example of that. The first team to 45 will likely win each week with these guys. Art Briles is the new Mike Leach.
Learn the name: JUCO transfer Eddie Lackey is one of their more active linebackers and he finished with 14 tackles and a tackle for loss against La-Monroe. The 6-0, 220-pound linebacker will have his hands full against the Longhorns in about a month.
Learn the name: There's no reason to learn anyone's name from this team. The Jayhawks are awful. They are that awful.
KANSAS STATE: Are they a tough bunch, or what? There wasn't anything flashy about what the Wildcats did in Norman, they just took care of the ball on offense and ran it effectively, while creating points by forcing critical turnovers on defense. Collin Klein just keeps coming after you as does that defense. It's very possible that they are the team to beat in the conference after that win, as they should not be underestimated.
Learn the name: Most hard-core Big 12 fans know the name of Ty Zimmerman, but if you don't, you need to memorize it because he's KSU's version of Kenny Vaccaro.
Oklahoma: That's a team searching for a soul right now. Both of the front lines were pushed around at times by the physicality of Kansas State's players and Landry Jones flinched in the face of a really good defense as he is often prone to do. Still, as bad as they played and with all of the mistakes that were made, that was a game that was there for the Sooners with a few more plays. You have to think Bob Stoops will get this group in order at some point, but their ceiling is much more limited than it has been in a while.
Learn the name: Trey Metoyer has received a lot of love as a true freshman, but the best young receiver I've seen in a Sooners uniform is fellow true freshman Sterling Shepard, who caught seven passes for 108 yards and a score against the Wildcats.
TCU: The Horned Frogs are going to be really good in a couple of years and they are pretty good right now, but that's probably it for right now … pretty good. Virginia is a pretty meh team that lost by 36 to a Georgia Tech team that was drilled by Miami this weekend, and they were very competitive in a 27-7 loss to the Frogs. I think this is a team that will grow up as the season goes along and you'd rather play them early than late. I found it fairly interesting that without Waymon James, the Horned Frogs struggled at times to run the ball well against a defense that ranked 101st in the nation coming into the game. If you take away the 51 yards from the back-up quarterback, you've got a team that rushed for 81 yards on 28 carries.
Learn the name: With James out of action for the rest of the season, senior short-yardage specialist Matthew Tucker gets a chance to be THE man in the backfield. He was held to 52 yards on 15 carries against the Cavs.
West Virginia: Geno Smith and Tavon Austin are worth the price of admission as the best one-two punch in the entire Big 12, but it's time to be honest about this team's identity, which was exposed a little more on Saturday against a team with a decent pulse. The West Virginia passing game is 100 pounds of TNT, but the Mountaineers can't really run the ball (25 yards on 25 carries against the Terps) when they need to and that defense of theirs is suspect to say the least after getting ripped apart by a freshman quarterback that had never thrown for 200 yards in a game until WVU let him rip them up for 205 yards. This is a group that might be closer to 2011 Baylor than 2011 Oklahoma State.
Learn the Name: You can't know too much about Tavon Austin. He's the head of the snake and basically Ryan Broyles reincarnated.
Post-Week 4 Big 12 Power Poll
Not: Last week's rankings are listed in parentheses
1. Kansas State (3)
2. Texas (2)
3. West Virginia (1)
4. Oklahoma (4)
5. TCU (6)
6. Oklahoma State (5)
7. Texas Tech (7)
8. Baylor (8)
9. Iowa State (9)
10. Kansas (10)
No. 3 - College football thoughts: From A-to-Z …
A: All My Exes live in Texas:Here's a look at the top 5 performances from Texans playing outside the state on Saturday:
1. Cobi Hamilton (WR/Arkansas/Texas High): 10 catches for 303 yards and 3 TD vs. Rutgers.
2. John Hubert (RB/Kansas St/Waco Midway): 23 carries for 130 yards and a TD at Oklahoma,
3. Storm Woods (RB/Oregon State/Pflugerville): 21 carries for 96 yards and a TD at UCLA
4. Rex Burkhead (RB/Nebraska/Plano): 8 carries for 119 yards and two touchdowns vs. Idaho State.
5. Bralon Addison (WR/Oregon/FB Hightower): 3 receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown vs. Arizona
B: Boring: Look, I love college football as much as anyone, but the last few Saturday afternoons have been borderline unwatchable. The Saturday TV schedule was so awful that Missouri/South Carolina felt like the Super Bowl compared to the other options. Freaking Oregon State at UCLA was the ABC game in the Austin market, for goodness sakes. I know that the match-ups will improve when conference play begins, but it's obvious that the best games are consistently being moved to prime-time whenever possible. Fox, CBS, ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 … you name it, they all are stealing some of the fun out of hanging out and watching football all day. By the third quarter of Missouri/South Carolina, I was kind of mad at myself for not taking a nap. (Note: After finishing this sentence, I did in fact take a short nap.)
C: Coach Boom: The Gators rolled over a terrible Kentucky team this weekend to move their record to a still undefeated 4-0. Now they get two weeks to prepare for the biggest game in his early tenure in Gainesville … a tilt with defending SEC champion LSU at home.
D: Domination: It took a little bit of time before their offense warmed up, but Oregon put an absolute beat-down on No. 22 Arizona and it absolutely earned its shutout because the Wildcats knocked on the door several times but could never put a single point up. 49-0? Somehow, I think the nation is sleeping on the Ducks.
E: Eating Crow: Just last week I mentioned that I wasn't sure if South Carolina was making the right move in turning the keys of the car back over to Connor Show after the way Dylan Thompson had played the last two weeks, but Shaw pretty much shoved it in my face with a 20-of-21 performance against Missouri that included 20 straight completions. I'll shut up now, Mr. Shaw.
F: Freshman of the Day: Former five-star Stefon Diggs had a bit of a coming out party against West Virginia, catching three passes for 113 yards and a pair of touchdowns (42 and 56 yards). That guy has a bright future for the Terps.
G: Good grief: The Big 10 is such a bad league that it currently defies words. Consider Saturday as just another example of how things have been going. Central Michigan beat Iowa. Illinois lost by 28 to Louisiana Tech at home. Michigan couldn't score a touchdown against Notre Dame. Michigan State and Ohio State both had their hands full with Eastern Michigan and UAB, respectively. Thank goodness for Northwestern.
H: Heisman Tracker After Week 3 1. Geno Smith (QB/West Virginia) 2. Manti Te'o (Linebacker/Notre Dame) 3. Stephan Taylor (RB/Stanford) 4. De'Anthony Thomas (RB/Oregon) 5. Jarvis Jones (LB ? Georgia)
I: If I had a vote that mattered… (last week in parenthesis)
1. Alabama (1)
2. Oregon (3)
3. LSU (2)
4. Kansas State (NR)
5. Georgia (5)
6. Stanford (6)
7. Florida State (7)
8. South Carolina (8)
9. Notre Dame (NR)
10. Texas (10)
J: Just Bob Being Bob: In the event that any of you missed Coach Stoops in the post-game on Saturday, I have this gift for you . Do yourself a favor and watch the entire thing.
K: Keep an eye on these games next week: It's fairly slim pickings … Baylor at West Virginia, Ohio State at Michigan State and Wisconsin at Nebraska is about as good as it gets outside of the Texas/Oklahoma State game.
L: Loving life: No. 1 Alabama played a game this weekend against Florida Atlantic and nobody paid attention because everyone already has the Tice penciled into the national title game. Shame on the Tide for giving up 110 yards of total offense.
M: My Lying Eyes: It's basically impossible for me to believe that Notre Dame's defense is carrying its team at a high national level right now, yet that's exactly what happened against Michigan on Saturday night. In the last eight quarters of football, the Irish have held Michigan State and Michigan to nine combined points.
N: Not ready for prime-time: I'm really not sure what to say about Denard Robinson other than in his two big games against Alabama and Notre Dame this season, he's looked like Chris Simms in the 2001 Big 12 title game each time.
O: Oh, BTW …: You might not have noticed because you've never thought to pay attention to them, but UTSA is 4-0 in the Mountain West Conference after a blowout win over Northwestern Oklahoma State. We'll see if they can keep it up next week at New Mexico State.
P: Player of the weekend: Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke completed 55 of 79 passes for a Division I record 730 yards and five touchdowns in a 64-61 win over New Hampshire.
Q: Quote of the weekend: "We weren't joking, double-doubles for everyone!"
R: Roller-coaster ride of the Weekend: Miami jumped out to a 19-0 lead over Georgia Tech on the road, only to let the Yellow Jackets blast off a 36-0 run on them. Just when it looked like the Hurricanes were about to get knocked out, they charged back and scored 23 unanswered points to steal a 42-36 overtime win. Junior quarterback Steven Morris might have had a coming-of-age performance, as he completed 31-of-52 passes for 436 yards and a pair of touchdowns in bringing the Canes back from near-death.
S: Snap judgment I'm still not ready to buy Florida State as a nationally elite team. Sorry, but Clemson came into that game with a scarlet letter on its chest after the last year's bowl season, so it's hard me to know exactly what Saturday's butt-kicking by the Seminoles actually meant. While the Seminoles are obviously very talented, all they did this weekend was beat some other flawed ACC team. You'll excuse me if I'm not spewing anointing oil right now. That's not me hating on the Noles, as much as it's me using common sense.
T: Time to Move On: Hey LSU, it's not 2011 any longer, just in case you were wondering. I've been giving the Tigers a ton of benefit of the doubt, but it's time they start flexing some muscle against teams with a pulse and that hasn't happened. Hell, they didn't even flex their muscle against a team (Auburn) that barely has any pulse. Les, I'm starting to wonder about your guys a little …
U: U.G.L.Y. You ain't got no alibi, you ugly, hey! I'm really starting to feel bad for Arkansas coach John L. Smith right now. First, the situation in Fayetteville was humorous in a Shakespeare kind of way, but in light of the fact that Smith is $25 million and debt and might not survive this season, the Razorbacks' loss at home to Rutgers WITH Tyler Wilson was just too much to watch. The next time someone thinks about hiring the Ol' Motorcycle Coach, I hope they remember the carnage he left in his last job. The wrong guy is going to take the brunt of what this season has become in the Land of Wal-Mart.
V: Voldermort Update: Yes, Iowa lost to Central Michigan this weekend. Yes, that happened. However, you can hardly blame Greg Davis, whose offense churned out 31 points and 430 yards of offense with perfect balance (215 passing/215 rushing) that consisted of 8.6 yards per pass and 7.7 yards per rush. Just ignore the whole 1 of 8 on third downs stat.
W: Worth the Price of Admission: I love watching South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore play the game of football. Against Missouri on Saturday, he did his thing as always, rushing for 85 yards and a pair of touchdowns while catching seven passes for 60 yards as a receiver out of the backfield. He's the definition of a great all-around running back.
X: X-Factor: In a true spotlight game, Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel picked Clemson apart like he was Geno Smith, completing 27-of-35 passes for 380 yards and two touchdowns. His presence makes the Seminoles whatever they are. Bobby Bowden could have won a few more titles with that dude as his quarterback.
Y: Yesterday's News: That would be the USC Trojans, who did beat California this weekend, but only had a one-score lead going to the fourth quarter. Matt Barkley threw as many picks (2) as touchdowns (2) and you've got to think his status as a possible No. 1 overall pick is losing some steam. He's kind of been a JAG this season and doesn't currently rank among the top 50 passers in America in terms of passing efficiency.
Z: Zoolander look of the day: Mike Leach's Washington State squad lost at home to what I thought was the most wretched college program among the current BCS Conference programs. That's right … Colorado 35 Washington State 34. That happened.
No. 4 - Two wins, two different stories…
The Cowboys won the game, but they are losing the war …
A win is a win is a win is a win. Believe me, I respect what it means to win in the NFL every week, so don't think that I'm not happy right now with a 2-1 record after a 16-10 win over Tampa Bay.
Still, I'm a realist with these Cowboys and I came into the year thinking they were an 8-8 type of football team and I saw nothing Sunday that has me changing my mind.
Their play is still radically up and down. They still commit penalties as if their very last breath on earth depends on them. They still can't get out of their own way. On top of all that, they lost an emerging Barry Church for the rest of the season with an Achilles injury and Jason Witten hasn't been a plus-player through three games. Hell, you could make a case that if they lost the game, he'd have been the goat.
As if all that wasn't bad enough, the middle of the offensive line can't block a soul and it's only a matter of time before Tony Romo spends a few weeks in the hospital.
Still, as gloom and doom as I feel on a day when the Cowboys actually won, the reality is that they sit 2-1 and tied for the division lead.
I want to believe, I want to be happy, but this team makes it very difficult.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the state …
Don't get too confused about what happened in Denver. That was a 31-11 game in the fourth quarter and Houston let its guard down a little. That was an ass-kicking for most of the 60 minutes of the clock.
In fact, it might be time that we start calling the Houston Texans that after they moved to 3-0 by beating Denver on the road. Perhaps that's the kind of title that you can't give a team three games into a season when they've only won a single playoff game in their entire history as a franchise, but I'll have to say …
Damn, the Texans look g-o-o-d.
If the Broncos were supposed to represent some sort of a test for the Texans, they weren't for most of the game. The Texans ran the ball when they wanted to, they passed the ball when they wanted to and they sure played defense like they wanted to.
What else is there to say at this point? It's a long season, but this is a team playing for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Barring a series of injuries, this team has a chance to win it all if Matt Schaub plays as well in the playoffs as he did on Sunday.
No. 5 - It's the sport of kings, better than diamond rings, That's why we're here to sing, football Sunday in the snow, referee's whistle blows, We've been warriors toe-to-toe…
… Man, you just can't ever tell in the NFL. Right when you think you've got some stuff figured out, the 49ers lose to Christian Ponder, Hail Mary's are sending games to overtime, the Patriots are 1-2 and the Saints are 0-3. You are a crazy person if you bet on the NFL.
… Jamaal Charles is back in a big, bad way. Just when the Saints thought they had a win under their belts, the former Texas star took over, rushing for 233 yards and a touchdown (92 yards) on 33 carries. Oh, he's back, alright.
… I don't want to say the Saints are done three weeks into the season, but the Saints might be done after three weeks. You can't lose that game.
… That was one heck of an impressive win for the Falcons. For them to go on the road on a short week and beat a 2-0 San Diego team, well, that's the stuff of a team that might be poised for big things. It didn't even feel like they broke a sweat on Sunday.
… The new overtime rule is a great addition to the game.
… I'm still trying to wrap y head around the fact that Christian Ponder took the 49ers to school.
… Arizona can flat out play some defense.
… The entire Eagles organization has to be questioning where it is going with Michael Vick because he has been the opposite of good.
… There was zero chance Seabass was missing that kick against the Steelers. Seriously, he was in automatic range as far as I'm concerned when they crossed the 50.
… A lot of C.J. Spiller fantasy owners are shaking their heads right now.
… The officiating really is terrible right now. Come on, NFL. Get these posers off the field. It's shameful what is happening to this season.
No. 6 - No, I didn't forget about you …
… Every time Jon "Bones" Jones enters the Octagon, he does something that adds a little to his growing legend. Caught in an arm-bar in the first round of his fight against Vitor Belfort and with his right arm on the verge of snapping into multiple pieces, Bones refused to tap out for the chance to fight for another day. Instead, he found a way to get out of the arm-bar in one piece and then he went about his business, dominating Belfort until the former champion tapped out in round four. It was an all-time gut-check moment for the champion, who was amazingly brutalized Belfort with no regard to an arm that might have sustained ligament damage. N-n-n-nails.
… Jones was nearly beaten by an 8:1 underdog. We've seen Anderson Silva in trouble before. Perhaps not even the NFL can truly say "On any given day" quite like you can in the UFC. Even the baddest dudes in the world can get caught.
… Yo Brant Snedeker, go on with your bad self. That might be your Ryder Cup go-to-guy.
… The season essentially ended for the Phillies this weekend at the hands of the Braves. That makes me want to curse loudly.
… Miguel Cabrera is a freak. I'll never forget the sound the ball made off of his bat when I saw him at Fenway last year. I'm rooting for the guy to win the Triple Crown.
… There will be fireworks in the American League this week, you can just feel it.
No. 7 - Randomness from the mind of a scatterbrained traveler …
The opening in the schedule this weekend allowed for the Mrs. and me to make a family wedding in Azle on Friday night. Below is a list of random thoughts I had during the course of a 24-hour trip up and down I-35.
a. What's the average distance from my eye-sight to the horizon on an average spot along I-35? What spot in America can you visually see the greatest distance in the horizon? Is it simply a matter of being in the highest point? Is there some magic spot in the world where the height and weather allow for the best view? How far can one see out in an airplane from 25,000 feet?
b. The speed limit on I-35 should probably be moved to 90MPH based on the flow of traffic on Saturday afternoon. Wow. I mean … everyone was flying down the highway.
c. George's in Waco really does make a mean chicken-fried steak.
d. I don't know that the Czech Stop in West is so good that it's worth going into the zoo. Does that place ever have a lull?
e. Who in the hell are some of those people on the wall at the Czech Stop.?
f. What in the world is going on in Salado that has that community growing like a weed? I couldn't believe all of the construction and build-up that was going on in one of my favorite little travel spots.
g. My wife and I have slightly different taste in Led Zeppelin. I'm not sure that she's a big fan of the blues. How could I let that slip by before saying my vows?
h. My wife wants to stalk Robert Plant now that she knows he can be found in Austin so that she can stick a photo of the encounter on Facebook.
i. Not much makes me feel older than explaining to my wife what the different areas of the drive used to look like until I realize my memories are from 30 years ago when my wife was barely out of kindergarten.
j. It makes zero sense that "The Circle" in Waco could possibly exist in 2012. I watched almost a half-dozen accidents in that intersection before I took my chance to dart into traffic at my own risk.
No. 8 - Pop goes the culture because the culture goes pop.…
… Movie Trailer of the Week: The Hobbit FTMFW
… Movie Trailer of the Week II: Daniel Craig vs. Javier Bardem
… For the second straight week: Heidi Klum makes 10TFTW. When you see these legs, you'll understand why.
… Sign that the apocalypse is upon us (Part I): Reality TV hitting a new low? Is that even possible?
… Sign that the apocalypse is upon us (Part II) : Lattimr Arrested for Allegedly Hoarding Dogs in Urine-Scented Mobile Home
… Box Office Flop: The Master might own the Oscars, but it was a bomb this weekend.
… Hottie of the Week: Rashida Jones in Flaunt Magazine
… The must-click link of the day!: 25 years anniversary of the TV show Full House (sans the twins)
No. 9 - The List: Led Zeppelin
So, last week I'm having lunch at a local eatery when Stairway to Heaven comes on inside the restaurant. Already a week into my Led Zeppelin experience, I remarked out loud to nobody in particular, "Hey, it's my homework assignment."
It's at this point that the story stats to get interesting.
Out of nowhere, a waitress walks over and remarks, "Who is this?"
"Led Zeppelin," I replied. "You know Led Zeppelin, even if you don't think you know who Led Zeppelin is."
After explaining to hear the virtues of the entire band, the waitress again remarks that she's never heard Stairway to Heaven and doesn't know the band. However, just when I was starting to think humanity was falling to pieces, her face came alive.
"Wait, I think I know who you're talking about," she said while referencing Robert Plant. "He's the guy in that 80s video with all of the girls dancing behind him."
After giving her a puzzled look, I ask, "Were they all in black miniskirts?"
She replied with excitement, "Yes!"
"Yeah, you're talking about Robert Palmer," I said with dismay.
On that note, let's get on with the list.
Just a flat out great jam.
John Bonham goes to work like a mad man in of the fastest and hardest songs in their playlist. It's about as close to metal as they get.
Page is simply on fire on this track.
The more bluesy they get, the more I love them. It's not the most dynamic song in their playlist, but it's in my wheelhouse.
It's fast, primitive and every part of the group is on fire. It's a classic for a reason.
It's one of the sexiest rock songs ever recorded. How many babies were created to this track?
It's bluesy, rough, raw and uniquely fantastic. It's about as bad ass as rock music gets.
It's Stairway to Heaven… even if you hate the song or think it's slightly overrated… it's still Stairway to Heaven.
No less than Plant says this "the definitive Led Zeppelin song."
In my mind, the band was at its absolute best when it incorporated a heavy blues sound and there's no better song in its catalog than this classic that allows Plant and Page to destroy rock music like it has rarely been destroyed. It's perfection.
Previous Lists: 2-Pac, Beastie Boys, Beethoven, Biggie Smalls, Boyz II Men, Chuck Brown, Jeff Buckley, Cartoon themes, Eva Cassidy,Phil Collins, Sam Cooke, The Eagles, Joe Ely, Al Green, Guns N' Roses, Hall and Oats, HBO Shows, Jimi Hendrix, Whitney Houston, Kool and the Gang, Metallica, George Michael, Mo-Town, Bill Murray, Willie Nelson, Stevie Nicks,Pink Floyd, Prince, Outkast, Queen, Otis Redding, The Rolling Stones, Scarface, Sexiest Women of All-Time, Snoop Dogg . Gary Stewart , George Strait, TV Themes, UGK, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Hank Williams Sr.
Previous Lists on Spotify: 2-Pac, Beastie Boys, Beethoven, Biggie Smalls, Boyz II Men, Jeff Buckley, Phil Collins, Sam Cooke, Joe Ely, Al Green, Guns N' Roses, Hall and Oats, Jimi Hendrix, Whitney Houston, Metallica, George Michael, Mo-Town, Willie Nelson, Stevie Nicks,Prince, Prince (After Hours), Outkast, Queen, Otis Redding, The Rolling Stones, Scarface, Snoop Dogg . Gary Stewart , George Strait, UGK, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Hank Williams Sr.
No. 10 - And finally …
I have to end things this weekend with a special shout out for the performance that Torrey Smith put on Sunday night in the wake of his 19-year old brother's death at 2AM on Sunday.
That dude performed out his mind and carried the Ravens on his back at times in that game.
With all due respect to Jamaal Charles, Smith has to be the AFC Player of the Week. I'll never forget watching him play with such a heavy heart.
Prayers and best wishes to his family in this incredibly difficult time.