By KEVIN LONNQUIST
Big 12 Insider
Well, it’s that unsettling time of the college football offseason known as the coaching carousel.
After Thanksgiving turkey was consumed and the games ended Saturday evening, the axe fell at several places around college football, including Auburn and Purdue and “officially” at Arkansas. Some even fell before then, such as Tennessee.
The Big 12 has been immune from it.
Last year, the only change came at Kansas when Turner Gill was fired and replaced by Charlie Weis. Texas A&M doesn’t count because the Aggies were already on their way out of the league and just contractually had to finish the 2011 season with the Big 12.
But when you have a conference as deep, talented and in my opinion the best in college football as the Big 12 – nine of the 10 teams are going to bowls, have won at least three conference games and seven could finish with as many as four conference wins – that’s going to get the attention of many other suitors.
So let’s start with the annual November/December candidate in TCU’s Gary Patterson. His name is attached to every big job that comes up. This season, it’s Arkansas and Auburn. Patterson didn’t go into a foxhole when asked about it toward the end of his Tuesday’s press conference.
“I give the same answer Bob Stoops gives,’’ Patterson said. “My actions are that I love this job. And right now, I’m trying to beat Oklahoma. I can’t control what the rest of the people do.’’
While true, it’s going to be hard for many programs to beat the reported near $3.5 million salary he makes. He’s been at TCU for 15 seasons (14 as a head coach), played in two BCS games and has this program competing soundly at the BCS level.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to listen.
That takes us to Austin, where the heat on Texas’ Mack Brown is growing. It became even warmer when the Longhorns lost at home to TCU, 20-13, on Thanksgiving night. When asked if he was still committed to coaching Texas, Brown told Texas’ Rivals’ affiliate Orangebloods.com, “”Yes. For the 19th time, yes.”
But if Texas really rolls out a stinker at Kansas State that could make it very difficult for him to return. The thought is that it likely would be his choice.
Then you have Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy. Based on the BCS win in the Fiesta Bowl last year and guiding this team to another bowl game using three different starting quarterbacks, his name is now attached to the Arkansas and Tennessee jobs. Gundy has downplayed the interest. And he’s making $3.2 million.
And of course, Baylor’s Art Briles has his name circulating because pundits believe it’s time for him to take his career to the next level since he did the unthinkable by getting Baylor to three consecutive bowl games.
This is a great time to be in the rumor and Internet gossip business. The rule to follow here is don’t pay attention to what coaches say. Make sure you listen for what they don’t say.
Stability in the Big 12 appears to be here in a lot facets. It would be ironic if all 10 coaches return for 2013.
BIG 12 WEEKEND
A look at the upcoming weekend action involving the Big 12 along with their TV listings. All times are Central. All rankings are BCS.
11:00 a.m. Saturday, Amon Carter Stadium, Fort Worth (ESPN)
What to Watch: This should be a great battle between the Sooners’ terrific receiver corps and TCU’s ball hawking secondary. Kenny Stills and Justin Brown average nearly 13 receptions and 200 yards per game. TCU leads the conference with 20 interceptions led by Jason Verrett’s six. He will get Stills. Kevin White is expected to be matched up against Brown. The Horned Frogs are looking for their first Big 12 home win; they’ve lost to Iowa State, Texas Tech and Kansas State at home.
11:00 a.m. Saturday, Floyd Casey Stadium, Waco (FX)
What to Watch: Baylor would like to end a six-game losing streak to the Cowboys. Quarterback Nick Florence continues to lead the nation in total offense at 389.5 yards per game. He’s thrown 30 touchdowns. Wide receiver Terrance Williams is a finalist for the Fred Biletnikoff Award. Oklahoma State has started three different quarterbacks and is sticking with senior Clint Chelf. However, redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh, who was supposed to be out for the year with an injury, is being used for short-yardage running plays in recent games.
1:30 p.m. Saturday, Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, W VA (FSN)
What to Watch: The Jayhawks would love to pull an upset and finish the season with their first conference win. If they get great production from backs James Sims and Tony Pierson, they’ll have a chance. Kansas is second in the conference at 216.6 yards per game rushing. Too bad KU is the worst passing team in the conference, because West Virginia still has the Big 12′s worst pass defense. Mountaineer quarterback Geno Smith wants to lead his team to clinching a winning record. He’s the highest rated passer in the conference.
7:00 p.m. Saturday, Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, KS. (ABC)
What to Watch: Although the Wildcats are out of the national title chase, they still can go to the BCS as the Big 12 representative in the Fiesta Bowl with a win. Quarterback Collin Klein has had two weeks to try and put the disaster at Baylor (three interceptions) behind him. He gets the last say to make his case for the Heisman Trophy. Texas starts Case McCoy at quarterback, which means that the passing game will struggle like it did last week against TCU. The Longhorns have lost four straight to KSU.
Iowa State and Texas Tech have completed their regular seasons.
BIG 12 POWER RANKINGS
Each week, RattleandHumSports unveils its weekly power rankings. Agree or disagree, these make for great water cooler talk.
1. Kansas State – While no longer pursuing a national championship, they control the Big 12 race.
2. Oklahoma – The last two wins have come in the final seconds or in overtime.
3. Oklahoma State – Mike Gundy has arguably done his best job this year.
4. TCU – 4-1 in Big 12 road games and 0-3 in Big 12 home games.
5. Texas – Where is running back Malcolm Brown?
6. Texas Tech – The Raiders lost four of their last five.
7. Baylor – Reaching bowl eligibility was huge for this program.
8. West Virginia – The five-game slide is over and now comes a chance to clinch a winning record.
9. Iowa State – LB A.J. Klein has 16 career double-digit tackle performances.
10. Kansas – Soph LB Ben Heeney is third in the Big 12 in tackles with 104.
NEWS & NOTES
Baylor’s rushing surge
You can point to Baylor’s run of winning of its last four games to become bowl eligible to the defense improving. However, an equal amount of credit also goes toward a surge with its running attack.
Following a dismal effort at Iowa State in late October in which the Bears rushed for 115 yards, coach Art Briles and his staff made changes. Starter Jared Salubi was out and transfer running back Lache Seastrunk became the lead ball carrier. His speed and adjustments to the offense have worked very well with Glasco Martin, who is entrenched as the tough yardage back.
In the last four games, Baylor has rushed 1,171 yards (292.8 ypg) and gone from fifth in the Big 12 at 173.7 to leading the conference at 217.0.
“Really, it starts up front with our offensive line because we had four of five guys who were new,’’ Briles said. “It takes a little time to gel. But they’ve progressed. We’ve used their [the running backs' ] abilities and emphasized to both of them to be tough inside runners and then when they get past the line of scrimmage to extend the play. They’ve been very productive.’’
Martin leads with 739 yards (5.2 ypc) and 11 TDs. Seastrunk is at 696 (7.0 ypc) and five TDs.
Snyder wants expansion
While the Big Ten, the ACC and the Big East are going through expansion changes, the Big 12 remains firm with its 10 members.
But Kansas State coach Bill Snyder is in favor of the conference expanding, creating divisions and a conference championship game. The league did away from that starting last year and uses the round robin format.
Before Nebraska and Colorado left, Kansas State shared the North Division with them, Kansas and Iowa State. Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor made up the South Division.
Snyder believes the championship game could generate interest for teams that have multiple losses, yet would still be playing for a title.
In his weekly meeting with the media on Tuesday, Snyder said, “there are a number of programs in our conference who have and would profit from that type of system. You walk out here and you walk through the lobby and you see a trophy case here, and if we didn’t have divisions that would probably be a single trophy case,” Snyder said. “We had a chance to play for division championships, and then conference championships, and that was positive.”
However, the league’s best chances to expand may come from the ACC because there aren’t as many as attractive choices in the Big East or anywhere else.
In August, we unveiled our inaugural Big 12 bowl projections. Nine members of the conference – Baylor, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia – are already bowl eligible.
West Virginia and Baylor just joined the ranks. Kansas is not bowl eligible.
Of course, this is subject to change:
BCS Fiesta Bowl – Kansas State. Another loss could kill BCS at large chances.
BCS Sugar – Oklahoma. Sooners still control their fate. Just be careful of Kent State.
Cotton – Texas. I still like the Longhorns in this spot.
Alamo – Oklahoma State. This could flip to the Cotton if they win and Texas loses.
Holiday – Texas Tech. This just seems like the Red Raiders’ destination.
Buffalo Wild Wings (formerly Insight) – Iowa State. At 6-6, it’s either here or Heart of Texas.
New Era Pinstripe – West Virginia. This one still makes sense for the Mountaineers given their slide and the ease to get to New York City.
Meineke Car Care – TCU. The Horned Frogs could wind up in the Alamo as well.
Heart of Texas Bowl – Baylor. If TCU jumps to the Alamo, I think the Bears go to the Meineke Car Care.
BY THE NUMBER
– The number of non-offensive touchdowns scored by Big 12 teams this season.