Oklahoma Sooners: Mississippi State Bulldogs

Florida has Florida State. Georgia has Georgia Tech. Kentucky has Louisville. And, of course, South Carolina has Clemson.

When it comes to the new SEC scheduling format starting in 2016, those four schools are already on board. Their annual rivalry games fulfill the league’s forthcoming requirement for a yearly nonconference game against an ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12 school.

But for the rest of the teams around the league, there’s a void.

Sure, they can go year to year and rotate in nonconference opponents. But where’s the fun in that? Let’s create some new rivalries, and in the case of some programs, reignite old ones.

[+] EnlargeBob Stoops and Nick Saban
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertThe spectacular salaries of college football coaches such as Bob Stoops, left, and Nick Saban are generated mostly by the labor of unpaid workers.
Alabama-Oklahoma: If FSU wasn’t already taken, the Noles would have been a perfect fit. The physical and philosophical proximity between programs is obvious. But looking elsewhere, Oklahoma might be a fun matchup. The Sugar Bowl has already created tons of tension on both sides with Sooners coaches delighting in calling out Nick Saban and the SEC.

Arkansas-Baylor: Call it a throwback to the old Southwest Conference. Arkansas, which didn’t join the SEC until 1992, has played more games against Baylor (69) than any school in its current conference. On top of that, the differences between Bret Bielema’s physical style and Art Briles’ free-flowing offensive scheme would be a joy to watch.

Auburn-Oregon: Recent history and playing styles dictates this matchup. Not only do we get a rematch of the 2010 BCS National Championship Game, but it pits offenses that live to go fast. Maybe it could be a two-hand touch game in which whoever reaches 100 points first wins.

LSU-Notre Dame: We couldn’t make a list of nonconference matchups and leave Notre Dame off, could we? Pitting the Golden Domers against an SEC program would be appointment viewing. Make that program LSU and the opposing coach Les Miles, and television networks will scratch each other's eyes out to get the game.

Mississippi State-Texas Tech: The Bulldogs have shied away from high profile nonconference games in the past, loading up on the likes of Memphis, UAB and South Alabama. Well, it’s time to infuse a little spice into the schedule. Kliff Kingsbury is too cool to keep out of the SEC. His Red Raiders would be a good matchup with Mississippi State, which faced Texas Tech seven times from 1953-70.

Missouri-Kansas: Does this one really need to be explained? The Border War should have never gone away in the first place. Now is the perfect opportunity to save face and bring back a rivalry that goes all the way back to 1891.

Ole Miss-Miami: We’ve got to get ‘The U’ involved. Miami and Ole Miss have already played a few times in their history, with the Rebs holding a 2-1 series lead. But bigger than that, it would get the SEC back into South Florida on a permanent basis because Miami and Florida don’t have the common sense to do that already.

Tennessee-North Carolina: Even if most people don’t remember it, there’s history there. Tennessee and UNC have played 29 times, with the Vols holding a 20-8-1 advantage. Plus, even if your memory is short, you should recall the double overtime Music City Bowl from 2010 between the schools. If they can re-create that just once, it would make the rivalry worth it.

Texas A&M-Texas: See Missouri-Kansas. Don’t let conference affiliations ruin great rivalries. Texas A&M-Texas should have never been shelved in the first place. And while the UT administration might not see a reason to bring it back -- nor Texas A&M's leadership, for that matter -- surely both fan bases do.

Vanderbilt-Duke:Call it a private school showdown. The proximity is reasonable, the fan bases similar, and the rivalry could easily extend to the hard court. Plus, have you seen Derek Mason’s nonconference schedule this year? It needs help.

Lessons learned: Texas State 7-on-7 

July, 13, 2013
LEANDER, Texas -- The 2013 Texas State 7-on-7 Tournament saw a number of college football targets put on a show. It also saw some of the lesser-known players make a case for more publicity.

Graham (Texas) High School won the Division II (small-school) competition, while Southlake (Texas) Carroll claimed the Division I (large-school) prize. Carroll won the first 7-on-7 state tile 15 years ago in College Station, Texas.

Here are five things we learned from the state tournament:

2015 has one over former Carroll QBs

[+] EnlargeRyan Agnew
Damon Sayles/ESPN.comClass of 2015 QB Ryan Agnew showed poise in leading Southlake Carroll's aggressive passing attack to the Division I title.
Southlake Carroll has a tradition of producing quality quarterbacks. Chase Daniel, Greg McElroy and Kyle Padron all have NFL experience, and Daniel, McElroy, Chase Wasson, Riley Dodge and incoming Texas A&M freshman Kenny Hill have won state championships. Ryan Agnew hopes to follow those footsteps.

The 2015 quarterback did something that the others hadn’t, and that’s lead Carroll to the state 7-on-7 title. Agnew connected with receivers such as Luke Timian and Keaton Duhon en route to an undefeated run in the tournament.

Agnew, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound quarterback, has early looks from Northwestern, Iowa State, Texas Tech and Ole Miss.

Lessons learned: ETSN Combine 

May, 19, 2013
TYLER, Texas -- East Texas often is considered one of the nation’s most underrated areas in finding elite talent when it comes to college football recruiting. Sunday featured the inaugural East Texas Sports Network combine, which showcased more than 100 players from East Texas.

The event took place at the Accelerate Performance Enhancement Center (APEC) training facility, which has trained professionals such as quarterback Graham Harrell, running back Kendall Hunter and pro baseball pitchers Phillip Humber and Josh Tomlin.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

#BlueChipBattles: ESPN 150 release edition

April, 19, 2013
Speedy Noil, Adoree Jackson, Da'Shawn HandStudent Sports, ESPN, ESPNSpeedy Noil, Adoree Jackson and Da'Shawn Hand are three of the most coveted recruits in the Class of 2014.
#BlueChipBattles Insider: RecruitingNation summoned its writers from around the country to outline the recruiting battles for the ESPN 150's top 10 prospects.

Plus, rank the battles in SportsNation.

#TopFBMixtapes: Athlete mixtapes are all the rage in this highlight-crazed era of sports. We reached out to our Twitter followers to find out which 2014 football stars had the best highlight reels on YouTube, then had our staff rank and comment on the top submissions.

Tom Luginbill writes Insider: After talking to many coaches across the country and hearing their frustrations, here are their five biggest complaints about homemade highlight videos.
Nonconference schedules can reveal many things. They can be the difference between a BCS championship berth or being left behind, and they can provide a glimpse of future success or future disappointments. Here's a look at the Big 12's 2013 nonconference schedules ranked from toughest to easiest.

1. Oklahoma: Louisiana-Monroe, Tulsa, at Notre Dame

All three of OU’s nonconference opponents won at least eight games in 2012, making the Sooners’ nonconference schedule a solid test as they look to break in a new quarterback. And their visit to South Bend, Ind., could be one of college football’s top matchups in 2013.

2. TCU: LSU (at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas), Southeastern Louisiana, SMU

The opener against the Tigers will be one of the highlight games of opening weekend and raises the overall ranking of TCU's nonconference schedule. It’s an opportunity for TCU to prove itself and send a message for the Big 12. And TCU's home contest against SMU should be a solid test, as well.

3. Texas: New Mexico, at BYU, Ole Miss

After a fairly easy season opener, the Longhorns travel to Provo, Utah, to face BYU in a game that could be tougher than most people expect. Then UT hosts Ole Miss, giving the Rebels a chance to avenge their home loss to the Longhorns in 2012. Facing the Cougars and Rebels in back-to-back weeks will be a tough test for Mack Brown's squad.

4. Iowa State: Northern Iowa, Iowa, at Tulsa

The Cyclones' road test at Tulsa won’t be easy as ISU looks to avenge its Liberty Bowl loss to the Golden Hurricane. This game could be considered a conference matchup in some ways as it will be the third meeting between the two teams in two years. Add rival Iowa to the mix and suddenly ISU has one of the conference’s tougher nonconference slates.

5. Oklahoma State: Mississippi State (at Reliant Stadium in Houston), at Texas-San Antonio, Lamar

The Cowboys' season opener is the lone saving grace in this nonconference lineup. The Bulldogs should be a solid early test for OSU, but neither UTSA nor Lamar should prove to be major hurdles.

6. Kansas: South Dakota, at Rice, Louisiana Tech

Rice, which defeated KU in Manhattan, Kan., last season, and Louisiana Tech will be tough tests for the Jayhawks. Both games should give a glimpse of how much KU has improved in Charlie Weis’ second season at the helm.

7. Texas Tech: at SMU, Stephen F. Austin, Texas State

The Red Raiders' toughest matchup should be its opener at SMU. In Kliff Kingsbury’s first season, Texas Tech will have the chance to get its feet wet in nonconference play even though a Big 12 battle with TCU is sandwiched between its matchups with SFA and Texas State.

8. West Virginia: William & Mary, Georgia State, vs. Maryland (at Ravens Stadium in Baltimore)

Not much of a nonconference slate for WVU, with the Terps as the lone BCS team on the schedule. Things set up well for Dana Holgorsen’s offense as the Mountaineers try to replace quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.

9. Kansas State: North Dakota State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Massachusetts

Louisiana-Lafayette could provide the sternest test for the Wildcats, but there’s no reason why KSU can’t enter Big 12 play undefeated. Their nonconference schedule sets up well for a team looking to replace standout quarterback Collin Klein.

10. Baylor: Wofford, Buffalo, Louisiana-Monroe

It’s unlikely Baylor will get tested before its first conference game. The Bears were recently forced to add FCS opponent Wofford after their game with SMU was cancelled, so Louisiana-Monroe could be their toughest nonconference test. They should pile up the victories but might not know much about their team before conference play.

Juco 100 DT pushes back decision 

February, 1, 2013
The nation’s top undecided junior college prospect will remain that way longer than he orginally planned.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Juco 100 DT talks UGA in-home 

January, 28, 2013
Considered the biggest junior college name left uncommitted, four-star defensive tackle Toby Johnson (Hutchinson, Kan./Hutchinson Community College) is taking his decision to national signing day.

Johnson, the No. 4 player in the ESPN Junior College 100, said he will choose among Georgia, Oklahoma, Mississippi State and Auburn on Feb. 6. On Monday, Johnson hosted Georgia on an in-home visit.

“It was a good visit. They were making sure I’m good with everything,” said Johnson, who is rehabbing a torn ACL in his right knee. “With signing day coming, they were just making sure everybody’s on the right page. They’re still in the mix for me.”

Johnson said he still keeps in contact with Auburn defensive line coach Rodney Garner quite frequently. Johnson also is preparing for in-home visits with Mississippi State and Oklahoma. The 6-foot-4, 305-pound defensive tackle originally from College Park, Ga., has additional offers from Florida, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Nebraska, USC, Missouri and a host of other programs.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Juco DT Johnson weighing options 

December, 18, 2012
A lot of top junior college prospects will be signing Wednesday, but four-star defensive tackle Toby Johnson (College Park, Ga./Hutchinson CC) is not one of them.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

DT Hooks to visit Miami, not Auburn 

December, 12, 2012
There has been a significant change in Lavon Hooks' recruitment.

Originally scheduled to visit Auburn this weekend, the highly coveted junior college defensive tackle from Northeast Mississippi Community College will take an official visit to Miami instead. Hooks said Auburn is still a finalist despite not taking an official visit there.

Hooks has already taken his other four official visits -- to Nebraska, Arizona State, Ole Miss and Baylor -- in November. Still, he's familiar with Mississippi State and Auburn from previous unofficial visits there. Despite not taking an official visit to see the Tigers up close, Hooks maintained that Auburn if a finalist.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

DL De'Asian Richardson ready to decide 

August, 17, 2012
Four-star defensive lineman De'Asian Richardson (Orange Park, Fla./Orange Park) will make a verbal commitment this weekend, Orange Park assistant coach Ryan Wolfe said.

The 6-foot-3, 280-pound senior will choose between West Virginia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Missouri.

"He's probably going to make the decision sometime Sunday and we might wait until Monday morning to call the school and announce it at that time," said Wolfe.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Jakari Dillard (Princeton, Texas/Princeton) could be a name to remember for Sooners fans. A class of 2014 prospect, Dillard had a solid showing at Oklahoma’s football camp on June 3.

OU fans already know Dillard’s father, Stacey Dillard, who starred at defensive tackle for the Sooners from 1989 to 1992 before playing 53 games for the New York Giants from 1992 to 1995.

Don’t expect the younger Dillard to become a dominant player in the trenches. He excels on the perimeter. Jakari Dillard was one of the standouts at OU’s camp, showing excellent athleticism for a 6-foot-4, 195-pound junior. He held his own in one-on-one matchups with defensive backs and displayed good body control during his only session in Norman.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Ellis Jefferson (Denton, Texas/Guyer) left Oklahoma’s football camp with a twinge of disappointment.

“I was hoping I would perform better,” the 2013 receiver prospect said. “I kept slipping because of the rain. But I can’t blame the rain, I have to blame my footwork.”

[+] EnlargeEllis Jefferson
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comReceiver Ellis Jefferson has offers from Colorado, Mississippi State, Tulsa and North Texas.
Nonetheless, Jefferson’s subpar showing didn’t take away from his overall experience.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

2014 DB Tony Brown gets OU offer 

June, 12, 2012
After an impressive showing at the Oklahoma camp, 2014 cornerback Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen) picked up an offer Tuesday from the Sooners.

Brown, a 6-foot, 180-pound cornerback and ball hawk, left the OU camp with his eighth offer overall. He now has offers from Alabama, LSU, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, TCU and Mississippi State, along with the Sooners.

“There was good competition there,” Brown said of the OU camp. “I went there to compete. They had a few guys there who were supposed to be good, and I wanted to go against them.”

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider


Stoops, Players Want To Effect Change
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops sits down with Gene Wojciechowski to discuss his team's stand against racism.