Texas Longhorns: Tommy Tuberville

The 2011 season was unkind to Big 12 running backs from Ames to Austin, but nobody suffered a worse injury than Texas Tech's Eric Stephens.

"He tore pretty much everything," coach Tommy Tuberville said of his back, who also dislocated his knee. Doctors gave the swelling in Stephens' knee more than a month to calm down before operating.

[+] EnlargeEric Stephens
AP Photo/Sharon EllmanTexas Tech RB Eric Stephens tore both the ACL and MCL in his left knee late last season.
Saturday, he'll finally make his return to the field. Tuberville says he'll likely start, with a target of 10-15 touches.

"We discussed that. It could be less or could be more. It just depends on the situation, how he’s doing, how he reacts," he said.

Stephens performed well in fall camp after suffering the injury early last season, derailing a likely 1,000-yard season that would have been Tech's first since 1998. The only noticeable difference now is Stephens is a little overweight and looks about 90-95 percent of his usual self.

"That’s not the knee problem, he just hasn’t played football in a long time," Tuberville said. "I don’t think physically there’s a problem at all. I’m sure he’s more than 100 percent ready to go with the knee. ... I’ve never had a serious injury like that, but I can just imagine being a major college running back and getting hit all around high and low for the first time in 10-11 months, it’d be awful tough mentally."

The offseason was rough on Iowa State's Shontrelle Johnson mentally, too. Doctors doubted whether he'd return to the game after suffering a neck injury last year against Texas. He missed the spring, but doctors cleared him just before fall camp and his long-awaited return is set for Saturday afternoon against Tulsa.

"Shontrelle’s done an excellent job and had zero ill effects coming back from neck surgery this offseason," Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. "He’ll be on the field early. If camp is any indication, we think he’s ready to go."

Oklahoma senior running back Dominique Whaley suffered an ugly broken ankle when a player landed on the back of his legs in a win over Kansas State. He'll be on the field early for the Sooners after earning the starting job once again.

"In my mind he looks to be back to what Dom always was, that's explosive, strong, fast," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. Whether he's 100 percent or not, maybe only he and the good Lord really know. But he sure looks it to me. I'm hopeful that will be the case."

Oklahoma rival running backs Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown of Texas were banged up with various minor injuries last season, but a renewed focus on health, diet and fitness has hopes high that the duo will be able to stay on the field in 2012.

The running back whose status is most in doubt? West Virginia's Dustin Garrison. The sophomore led the Mountaineers in rushing as a freshman, but suffered an injury later than any other Big 12 back. He tore his ACL in preparation for the Mountaineers' 70-33 win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

Soreness led coaches to give him a few days off last week, but if he doesn't respond well to practice this week, he could redshirt in 2012, ceding the starting spot to bigger back Shawne Alston, a senior.

"The plan all along has been get him to game week and then get him out there and see what happens," Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said.

Big 12 power rankings: Week 1

August, 27, 2012
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

The Big 12 power rankings are heavily influenced by what each team did in the previous week, and aren't necessarily a reflection of the Big 12 standings.

Think of it this way: As of right now, this is how well each Big 12 team is playing. Here's how I slot it to begin the season:

1. Oklahoma: The Sooners have an awkward opener, kicking things off on the road out in the desert against UTEP at 10:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. Still, we'll get a first look at a revamped offensive line and the new, young receivers Landry Jones will be throwing to all season. Look out for a coming out party from Trey Metoyer, the Big 12 Preseason Newcomer of the Year.

2. West Virginia: West Virginia plays Saturday's first game, kicking off against in-state rival Marshall at noon. The Big 12 newcomers have all the offense they need, but what will the pass rush look like with new defensive coordinators Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson?

3. Kansas State: K-State opens with Missouri State on Saturday night, with Collin Klein's revamped arm on display after an offseason of development. Everyone's watching that. What they should be watching? How does the offensive line look after replacing three starters?

4. Texas: The Longhorns settled on David Ash at quarterback, but the season opener Saturday night against Wyoming on the Longhorn Network. The defense will be fiendishly fun to watch this year, but how much better is Ash? We'll get somewhat of a feel in this one.

5. TCU: Oh, you poor Frogs. TCU is officially a Big 12 member, but has to sit and watch all Saturday as the rest of the Big 12 opens their respective seasons. It gives Amon G. Carter Stadium one more week to prepare for the debut of its facelift, but by the time it does next week against Grambling, 13 Big 12 games will have been completed.

6. Oklahoma State: The defending Big 12 champs are the sixth team in the mix for a Big 12 title in 2012, but their hopes rest on the 18-year-old shoulders of Wes Lunt, a true freshman we haven't heard much out of all summer or fall camp. The Pokes don't know who his top target will be just yet, but the defense that supports the offense should be improved from 2011. We'll see them open up against the poor saps at Savannah State (yuck) on Saturday night.

7. Baylor: The post-RG3 era doesn't officially kick off until Sunday, when Nick Florence takes a snap against Baylor's old Southwest Conference rival, SMU. Last year's opener against TCU proved to be one of the most memorable games of the season. Florence and receivers Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese have the firepower to outgun the Mustangs in a shootout. Hyped transfer Lache Seastrunk will make his long-awaited debut after coming back home from Oregon.

8. Texas Tech: Tech opens against Northwestern State on Saturday night. That's no big challenge. Staying healthy could be after two injury-riddled years to start the Tommy Tuberville Era. Keep an eye on how running back Eric Stephens looks after returning from a catastrophic knee injury last season.

9. Iowa State: The Cyclones should be challenged in their 3:30 p.m. visit fron Tulsa. Steele Jantz quarterbacked ISU to three fourth-quarter comebacks to open last season, and he may need another one. Paul Rhoads' Cyclones are a slight underdog in this windy weather showdown.

10. Kansas: Kansas' last coach, Turner Gill, opened with a disastrous 6-3 loss against FCS outfit North Dakota State two years ago. This time, Charlie Weis takes on South Dakota State. He's got a better team. Expect a better result Saturday for the former Notre Dame coach and a former Irish quarterback, Dayne Crist.
We're overlooking the state of each conference in the country today on the ESPN Blog network. Where does every league stand entering 2012? Here's what you need to know about the Big 12:

The favorite: Oklahoma. The Sooners lost a shot at the Big 12 title in the season finale against Oklahoma State last year, but they bring back QB Landry Jones and a handful of the team's best defenders. Jones needs to find more receivers opposite Kenny Stills, and injuries on the offensive line pose a few questions, but the Sooners are in the familiar spot of the team to beat entering 2012.

The new guys: West Virginia and TCU. Texas A&M and Missouri checked out for the SEC in 2012, but the Big 12 replaced them with a pair of teams who would have been in the Big East this season. The Horned Frogs, in nearby Fort Worth, and the Mountaineers, in far-away Morgantown, bring with them two high-powered offenses that should fit right in with their new Big 12 brethren.

The stirring giant: Texas. The Longhorns have won just 13 games the past two seasons. By comparison, they won the same number in 2005, the last time they won a national title. Mack Brown has revamped his staff with new coordinators and position coaches, and young talent is taking over in Austin. Texas isn't back yet from a five-win season in 2010, but this could be the year it starts making everyone take the Longhorns seriously again as a perennial title contender.

The up-and-comer: Baylor. The Bears broke through for their best season ever and the school's first Heisman winner. Robert Griffin III is gone and the 10 wins are in the past. Still, the Bears have a new stadium under construction and enough talent to get back to a bowl in 2012. That's pretty amazing. Art Briles is building something out of nothing at Baylor. The Bears look like they're in position to go to a bowl nearly every year moving forward after reaching their first bowl in Big 12 history back in 2010.

The guys with something to prove: Oklahoma State and Kansas State. K-State's got to prove last year's 10-win season was legitimate, despite the number of games won in the final minutes. Despite returning 17 starters and all the key pieces from a 10-win team, the Wildcats aren't even in everyone's top 20. Oklahoma State, meanwhile, has to prove last year's Big 12 title was more than an accident or a one-time thing. They'll roll true freshman Wes Lunt out at quarterback to start the road back to a second league title.

Fighting to stay relevant: Texas Tech. The Red Raiders used to be the only team who could seem to beat Oklahoma and/or Texas with any consistency. Everyone feared making a trip out to the Plains of West Texas to face Mike Leach's band of pirates. Now? When teams walk into your home stadium and beat you by 60, it's hard to still be taken seriously. Coach Tommy Tuberville's been handcuffed by injuries, but he's got to get it turned around in Lubbock -- and fast. Fans are unhappy after last year's 5-7 campaign, the first losing season in almost two decades.

Trying to take the next step: Iowa State. Iowa State's cracked a bowl game in two of three seasons under Paul Rhoads, but did so just barely in both seasons, and needed huge upsets against Nebraska and Oklahoma State to make it happen. Iowa State's still trying to build, but enters 2012 with a quarterback controversy on its hands. The Cyclones were once again picked eighth in the league, but can Rhoads keep gaining momentum in Ames?

Trying to catch up: Kansas. The Jayhawks are just 1-23 in their last 24 Big 12 games, and the one team they beat (Colorado) left the Big 12. That stretch has included a whole lot of embarrassing losses for one reason or another, but former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis is in charge now, with four Super Bowl rings and a renewed sense of purpose in tow. Can he turn it around in Lawrence after KU bottomed out following its Orange Bowl win to close the 2007 season?

Sound Off: Adams on Texas Tech 

July, 30, 2012

Sean Adams sounds off on Texas Tech looking at just how hot the seat could get for Red Raiders' coach Tommy Tuberville.

Coach's Take: Tommy Tuberville 

July, 27, 2012
Tommy Tuberville is in his third year at Texas Tech. He went through a losing season in 2011, the first in 16 years for the program. That record put Tuberville in the crosshairs when it comes to coaching changes and the coach knows it.

What will be the impact of Art Kaufman on the defense?
Tuberville: You've got to have somebody that understands how to adapt to different offenses, how to make changes in terms of your personnel on defense and that only comes from experience. And Art's been there. We went through a lot of the same scenarios while we were at Ole Miss together. He did the same thing in the ACC the last few years of seeing different teams in that league each week.

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Observations from Big 12 media days 

July, 26, 2012
After talking to new Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, it seems like the conference is in really good hands going forward. The former Stanford athletics director is all things you want in a person that will lead your conference through television contract negotiations, possible conference expansion and positioning the conference on the national landscape of collegiate sports.

As for the conference members, the hype surrounds newcomers West Virginia and TCU as well as the usual suspects: Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State.

Each team has question marks and issues and anyone who thinks they have a clear-cut conference winner is off their rocker.

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Media days season has arrived, with the SEC getting us started Monday. The Big 12 won't begin until next Monday, but we're opening up a preview here Monday on ESPN.com. Here's what you can expect for the Big 12.

When: Monday, July 23 and Tuesday, July 24. TCU, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech will be up on Day 1. Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Texas and West Virginia will be speaking to the media on Day 2. Here's the full player roster.

Where: Westin Galleria hotel, north Dallas. The players could wander outside the hotel and hit up the skating rink at the Galleria mall, but they'll probably be a little too busy to strap on skates or go shopping.

Big names in attendance: West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith and Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones top the list of guys who will be hounded by media from start to finish. The same goes for Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, last season's breakout star.

Big names not in attendance: The biggest will be Oklahoma State quarterback Wes Lunt, who's staying home per Mike Gundy's rule against first-year players speaking with the media. He'll be sticking to it, even though he named the true freshman his starting quarterback in the spring. Texas also won't be bringing either of its quarterbacks, including likely starter David Ash. West Virginia is leaving its leading receiver, Stedman Bailey, at home, and Texas star defenders Alex Okafor and Kenny Vaccaro are banned from representing the team to media after an offseason incident. Oklahoma stars and two-thirds of the California trio -- safety Tony Jefferson and wide receiver Kenny Stills -- won't be representing the Sooners, either.

What to watch for:
  • Media days are traditionally full of mostly fluffy fodder, but the TCU players in attendance will face some pressing, difficult questions. Coach Gary Patterson withheld his players from media interviews for the entirety of the spring after an offseason campus drug sting that resulted in four player arrests and removals from the team. The players haven't been asked about anything surrounding the incidents since, and they're bound to come up in the first interviews since.
  • Look out for a debate on which Big 12 quarterback is the best. You could make a case for Smith, Jones or Klein, but this blog's readers are firmly in the "Smith" camp.
  • This year expect the main topic of conversation to center around "How will TCU and WVU adjust?" It's already been talked about plenty, but for the Big 12, that's better than "Is the league really stable?" or "Will Texas A&M leave?" -- a few of the simmering topics of conversation last year.
  • Each coach gets 15 minutes at the podium before a break for lunch and a return to the breakout room. Players will be available in the afternoon, too. Last year, Art Briles stole the show on the podium, and expect him to do the same with a few one-liners this year. Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville and Texas' Mack Brown are also usually pretty entertaining, but West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen might have a few cracks up his sleeve too, as he looks to make a name for himself in his first Big 12 Media Days.
  • Expect Kansas' Charlie Weis to be disarmingly honest, a refreshing change from his predecessor and the majority of coaches in attendance. Expect Oklahoma's Bob Stoops to drop an "in the end" more than a few times. Kansas State's Bill Snyder will be frivolous in referring to his players as "youngsters."
  • It'll be civil. The SEC has a few coaches who love to prod each other -- mostly Steve Spurrier. The Big 12 coaching fraternity is largely a boring one when it comes to feuds. Everybody looks up to Snyder, respects Stoops and Brown, and gets along with everyone else. If anybody's going to spice it up, it'll be Tuberville or Holgorsen. There aren't many issues or opportunities, unless they want to go out of their way to stir the pot.
  • Here's hoping Paul Rhoads shows up and is so proud of a thick beard. The Big 12 doesn't have a coach with any facial hair, and Rhoads has been rolling with one of the greatest beards in existence all offseason. Please, let it live. This is my plea.
  • We may get a little talk on what the coaches think of bringing in new teams, whether it be Florida State, Notre Dame or Louisville. For now, it's a little early, but realignment is always in the back of any college football fan's mind.
Sometimes, e-mails from you all deserve their own posts.

This is one of those e-mails. We took a look at what each program in the Big 12 would look like without the program's winningest coach this week, but Cal in Chelsea, Okla. was left clamoring for more. He writes:
Expanding on your Programs Without Winningest Coaches article, I think it would be great to see the winning percentages of each team vs. the winning percentages of their coach.

Great idea, Cal. We provided the total wins with and without each coach, but how do the win percentages compare? Here's that ranking of which current coaches are above the line currently.

1. Gary Patterson, TCU (+.25)
  • Patterson is 109-30, for a win percentage of .784. That's .25 higher than TCU's all-time percentage of .534. However, it's also important to take into account Patterson's competition (Mountain West) vs. past TCU coaches (Southwest Conference). To me, that's what makes what Bill Snyder's done (as well as its longer sustained success) more impressive. Still, though.
2. Bill Snyder, Kansas State (+.217)
  • Snyder is 159-83-1 at Kansas State for a win percentage of .656. That's .217 higher than K-State's all-time winning percentage of .439. Crazy.
3. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia (+.168)
  • Holgorsen is 10-3 at West Virginia, a win percentage of .769. That's .168 higher than WVU's percentage of .601 all-time. However, he's done it for only one season.
4. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State (+.16)
  • Gundy is 59-30 all-time for a win percentage of .663. That's .160 higher than Oklahoma State's all-time win percentage of .503. Gundy's three wins from being the winningest coach in school history, and he's taken the Cowboys to new heights.
5. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma (+.085)
  • Stoops is 139-34 at Oklahoma for a win percentage of .803. That's .085 higher than Oklahoma's all-time win percentage of .718. The bar is really, really high, and Stoops is clearing it.
6. Mack Brown, Texas (+.067)
  • Brown is 141-39 at Texas for a win percentage of .783. That's .067 higher than Texas' all-time percentage of .716. Like Stoops, Brown is excelling even for a place known for excellence.
7. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State (+.016)
  • Rhoads is 18-20 for a win percentage of .474. That's .016 higher than Iowa State's all-time winning percentage of .458.
8. Art Briles, Baylor (+.003)
  • Briles is 25-25 for a win percentage of .500. That's .003 higher than Baylor's all-time winning percentage of .497.
9. Charlie Weis, Kansas (+.000)
  • Weis hasn't coached his first game at Kansas, but the Jayhawks have won 50.5 percent of their games all-time. The bar is set.
10. Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech (-.042)
  • Tuberville is 13-12 at Texas Tech for a win percentage of .520. That's .042 below Texas Tech's winning percentage of .562. He's the only coach on our list to have a worse win percentage than his program all-time.

Interesting numbers, and proof that we're in a very good era for the Big 12. Only one coach isn't above the curve for his program? Amazing. What else stuck out to you?
The Big 12 coaching hot seat has been pretty quiet lately, but Kansas' Turner Gill heated his up in a hurry by losing the final 10 games of 2011 and failing to win a conference game. It's pretty difficult to get fired after two seasons in college football, but going 5-19 and winning one conference game in two seasons is a good way to do it.

Losing six games last season by 30 points or more helped, too.

So, what's the hot seat in the Big 12 look like heading into 2012? Here's what CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd says, followed by my comments:

Art Briles, Baylor
  • 2011: 2.0 (safe, but you never know)
  • 2012: 0.5 (Can't be touched)

This is what a 10-win season and Heisman winner at Baylor does. You could easily make the case that Briles is now a living legend in Waco.

Paul Rhoads, Iowa State
  • 2010: 1.0 (Very safe, change unlikely)
  • 2011: 0.0 (Can't be touched)

Rhoads led ISU to an amazing second bowl game in three years, and capped off the season by signing a 10-year extension to his contract. Big upsets (Nebraska '09, Iowa/Texas '10, Oklahoma State '11) have put ISU on the national college football map, too.

Charlie Weis, Kansas
  • 2011: 2.0 (safe, but you never know)

Weis is a newcomer with a fresh slate at KU. Expectations are low, which may aid him in the short run.

Bill Snyder, Kansas State
  • 2010: 0.5 (Can't be touched)
  • 2011: 0.5 (Can't be touched)

You don't fire a coach whose name is on the highway entering the city. Moving on ...

Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
  • 2010: 0.0 (Can't be touched)
  • 2011: 0.5 (Can't be touched)

Stoops didn't shy away from national championship expectations last year, but the Sooners fell well short, all the way to three losses and the Insight Bowl. There's no reason to believe that was the start of a program decline, though.

Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
  • 2010: 1.0 (Very safe, change unlikely)
  • 2011: 0.0 (Can't be touched)

Gundy loves Oklahoma State, and OSU loves him even more than ever after giving the program its first-ever Big 12 title and returning a team that should easily make a bowl game in 2012. These two are stuck together for the long haul.

Mack Brown, Texas
  • 2010: 2.0 (safe, but you never know)
  • 2011: 2.5 (safe, but you never know)

Totally disagree with this one. How does an improvement from five wins to eight wins equal a rise in seat heat? This is the year where Texas has some more expectations, and if the Longhorns stumble to 6-7 wins, Brown will be feeling a lot of heat entering 2013. It'll only come from the fans to start, but the administration will be forced to listen if the Longhorns can't climb back near the top of the Big 12 heap.

Gary Patterson, TCU
  • 2010: 0.0 (Can't be touched)
  • 2011: 0.0 (Can't be touched)

Where's MC Hammer on those rare occasions when he's needed? Welcome to the Big 12.

Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech
  • 2010: 1.5 (Very safe, change unlikely)
  • 2011: 3.5 (On the bubble, feeling pressure)

Tuberville might even be pushing a four in my book. He's had lots of legitimate excuses for Tech's recent slide, most notably injuries. That said, patience is wearing thin, even in the face of record contributions and outstanding recruiting classes. Tech needs wins now.

Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
  • 2010: 1.5 (Very safe, change unlikely)
  • 2011: 0.5 (Can't be touched)

Holgorsen doesn't have enough capital built up to the point where a couple rough seasons wouldn't faze the fan love he's feeling, but WVU is doing everything to move in the right direction, and winning a Big East title and BCS game in your first season earns a whole lot of love from the Mountaineer faithful.
Strike up the band. Ring the bells from here to the Swamp to the Coliseum. College football's playoff has arrived after more than a century of playing the game, which essentially means more than a century of clamoring for a playoff like every other major sport in America.

"This playoff is long overdue. It took some time to get to the right model, but I think we have found something that will only make college football better," Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said in a statement while on a Red Raiders alumni cruise in Rome. "This is a great day for our sport, and most importantly it will give us a national champion that is settled on the field."

Fans surely welcome the development, but for each conference's supporters and teams, a batch of new questions arises: How will this affect us, and how can we best take advantage of this new world in college football?

[+] EnlargeCowboys Stadium
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThe chance that Cowboys Stadium will host games with national-title implications should have Big 12 teams -- and fans -- excited.
As we've mentioned before, the Big 12 likely had the least to gain and the least to lose of any conference in these discussions the past few months.

The league has had big success in the BCS era, reaching the title game seven times, more than any league but the SEC, though the Big 12 has gone just 2-5 in those appearances. The league's chances to place more than one team in a four-team playoff seem minimal at best.

Where does the Big 12 have the most to gain?

The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex-based Cotton Bowl was squeezed out of the major-bowl rotation with the advent of the Bowl Alliance in 1995. It'll almost certainly be folded back into the rotation as one of the six bowl sites for the semifinal games when the new plan takes effect in 2014, with the championship game likely to be bid out to neutral sites.

When the Cotton Bowl got pushed out, so did the Big 12's chances of playing in a national title game within its footprint. Oklahoma had to play Florida and Florida State in national championship games in Miami. Texas had to try to take down USC at the Rose Bowl (it succeeded). Oklahoma had to walk inside a powder keg called the New Orleans Superdome to try to knock off LSU (it failed).

The Cotton Bowl released a statement in the wake of Tuesday evening's playoff news that surely brought smiles to plenty of Big 12 faces.
"It’s a great day for college football. We congratulate the conference commissioners and presidents for their diligent work to enhance the post season. We look forward to learning more about the opportunities that will be created by today’s announcement. With partners like AT&T and Cowboys Stadium, we believe we have a great story to tell."

Nobody wants to hear that story more than Texas, Oklahoma and the rest of the Big 12. The Cotton Bowl stepped under the big top three seasons ago when it moved from the State Fair of Texas fairgrounds in Dallas to Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, ready to play its game at America's finest football cathedral.

The Big 12 will no longer have to worry about situations such as in 2011, when No. 3 Oklahoma State was pushed out of the national championship game in favor of eventual champion Alabama, which knocked off fellow SEC team LSU in a rematch of a 6-3 November rugby match.

That'll be nice, but nothing will be nicer for the Big 12 than getting a chance to suit up with everything on the line only a few hours from its campus, in a city full of its alumni.
Next Monday, start the countdown.

Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas will have two months left as the boss of a league that's seen plenty of tumultuous times over the past two years.

"We were kind of saved by the bell by Chuck Neinas. He kept it going in terms of getting us on the right track and getting everybody involved, all the teams in the conference," Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said during the Big 12 coaches teleconference this week. "We had lost two teams each of the last two years, which has been devastating to this league, but with Chuck’s leadership, it’s come on pretty good."

[+] EnlargeChuck Neinas
AP Photo/Alonzo J. AdamsChuck Neinas' stint as Big 12 interim commissioner is up June 30.
TCU and West Virginia replaced Texas A&M and Missouri to bring the Big 12 back to 10 members, but now it's Neinas who must be replaced.

He agreed to stay on in an interim role through June 30, but his replacement could be named before then. What do the league's coaches want to see?

"The answer is very obvious. You’d like to have a good person. You’d like to have a very honest, forthright person, with a balance in how he operates the conference itself, with the idea that everybody is treated equally and what he would do would be in the very, very best interest of the 10-12 teams that would make up the conference itself," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. "Somebody that’s highly respected across the country and well-known across the country as well, has a reputation that would be very, very prominent as it relates to conference commissioners across the country."

For Tuberville, the new guy needs experience.

"Hopefully we get a strong-personality guy that can work with everybody, put their touch on it, somebody with experience, somebody that has maybe been a commissioner or a deputy commissioner for one of the other leagues," Tuberville said. "I think experience is going to be key for us, somebody that’s been there, done that, seen all the problems. It’s no different than coaching a football team in that experience usually pays off for you."

He added: "We’ve obviously had some setbacks the past few years, if we can get somebody who understands our league, maybe somebody from another conference looking from the outside in, understanding what’s going on and bringing their philosophy in would really help us."

For Texas coach Mack Brown, it's simple: He wants someone who can maintain stability, and unity is the first way to help establish it.

"We’ve been through so much turmoil over the past two years in the Big 12. I think what I would like to see is stability. I’d like to see someone come with confidence and new ideas and making sure that it sounds like our league is really stable at 10. I know some are looking at the possibility of 12," he said. "I’d like to see somebody who can really lead the group and get everybody on the same page, because it’s a wonderful conference. I love the additions that we’ve made, and I think it can be again, one of the top conferences in the country because the teams are all winning. But you gotta have a boss."

Recruiting season got started in earnest on Tuesday with the release of the ESPN 150, so it's time to offer our first real check-in on where the Big 12 recruiting classes sit with a little less than 10 months before players can officially sign.

Remember, this card is in pencil. Players are free to switch commitments until they sign a letter of intent with a school.

1. Texas Longhorns

Total commits: 13
ESPNU 150 commits: 7
Key commits: QB Tyrone Swoopes, WR Ricky Seals-Jones, C Darius James, OT Jake Raulerson
Class notes: Texas' top three commits are all the best at their positions, and 10 of the class' 13 commitments are four stars or higher. That's nothing new in Austin, but Swoopes looks like the quarterback of the future in Austin, though he hails from a smaller school in Whitewright, Texas. Seals-Jones is a physical presence at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds.

2. Oklahoma Sooners

Total commits: 4
ESPNU 150 commits: 3
Key commits: RB Greg Bryant, RB Keith Ford, DE D.J. Ward
Class notes: Oklahoma's class is still pretty small for now, but the Sooners are getting some much needed help at running back, where numbers are suddenly thin following a rash of transfers after the season. Ward joins fellow DE Matt Dimon in the class, too.

3. Baylor Bears

Total commits: 6
ESPNU 150 commits: 1
Key commits: QB Chris Johnson, RB Johnny Jefferson, WR Quan Jones
Class notes: No surprise here: Baylor's new class is loaded with skill position talent. Johnson is the nation's No. 2 dual-threat passer and Jefferson is the nation's No. 36 running back. It seems like almost every year, Baylor reels in a huge prospect. For now, 2013 is no different, and coach Art Briles looks like he can continue his QB lineage. Johnson is a four-star, and Jefferson and Jones are three-star recruits.

4. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Total commits: 5
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: ATH Devin Lauderdale, WR Dylan Cantrell, CB Will Barrow
Class notes: Texas Tech has landed top-25 recruiting classes in each of Tommy Tuberville's first full seasons in Lubbock, and the Red Raiders are off to another nice start in 2013. Super recruiter Robert Prunty's developed a penchant for reeling in ESPN 150 talent, so keep an eye on the newest major player on the recruiting scene. Lauderdale is a four-star recruit.

5. Kansas State Wildcats

Total commits: 3
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: ILB Tanner Wood, DE Jordan Willis, WR LeAndrew Gordon
Class notes: Two of Kansas State's three commits are three-star recruits. The Wildcats won 10 games in 2011, but another solid year in 2012 could help spur recruiting efforts even further.

6. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Total commits: 1
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: WR Fred Ross Jr.
Class notes: Ross is a four-star and the nation's No. 21 receiver, but OSU could climb this list quickly, riding the success from its first Big 12 title in 2011. It's a slower start than you'd envision for OSU, but we'll see if the Cowboys can win some battles with Texas Tech, TCU and others.

7. TCU Horned Frogs

Total commits: 2
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: OLB Sammy Douglas, OG Patrick Morris
Class notes: Douglas is a three-star recruit and the nation's No. 36 outside linebacker. That's a big position of need for TCU, but the Big 12 entrance and recent campus drug sting that resulted in four players being arrested will be battling for positive and negative pushes on the recruiting trail. We'll see which one wins out in 2012.

8. Kansas Jayhawks

Total commits: 3
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: QB Montell Cozart, TE Ben Johnson, LB Kellen Ash
Class notes: Kansas doesn't have a nationally ranked recruit, but Weis sounds like he's high on Cozart, a highly recruited QB from the Kansas City area who had offers from West Virginia and Minnesota.

9. West Virginia Mountaineers

Total commits: 0
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: None
Class notes: WVU is one of two teams without a commit yet in the 2013 class. We'll see if that picks up if WVU can validate its membership in the Big 12 with a strong debut season.

10. Iowa State Cyclones

Total commits: 0
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: None
Class notes: Iowa State has started slow, too. Another bowl appearance would help, but it has to be a bit frustrating for the Cyclones to be behind the eight-ball for now. That's especially true considering what Kansas has done thus far.
Across our little blog village here at ESPN, we're taking a look at the top newcomers in college football this year. You (probably) don't know their names yet, but here's who you need to watch this fall in the Big 12.

Will Smith, LB, Texas Tech: The Red Raiders only found Smith while recruiting another possible impact transfer, running back SaDale Foster. The California juco transfer stepped on campus this winter and by the end of spring, coach Tommy Tuberville called him the team's best linebacker. He started playing outside, but Tuberville moved the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder to starting middle linebacker in the middle of camp so he'd be on the field even during passing downs. He'll be important to Tech's new 4-3 scheme. Think K-State's Arthur Brown, a Miami transfer who's almost the exact same size.

[+] EnlargeDayne Crist
Andrew Weber/US PresswireFormer Notre Dame QB Dayne Crist brings experience as a starter to Kansas.
Dayne Crist, QB, Kansas: You probably know this name, but Crist started nine games in 2010 for Notre Dame and appeared in 17 career games. He began 2011 as the starter, but was benched and transferred to KU to play his final season of college football for Charlie Weis, the coach who recruited him to South Bend as the nation's No. 2 quarterback and No. 22 overall prospect in the 2008 class. He threw 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2010.

Brandon Moore, DT, Texas: Moore is part of a changing world in Austin, thanks to a revamped coaching staff with some SEC sensibilites. He and OT Donald Hawkins were the first juco transfers to sign with Texas since 2002 and Moore may be the lynchpin of the Big 12's best defense this year. Teammates have described the "full-grown man" as "unstoppable." Such is life at 6-6 and 330 pounds. Moore has to work on his conditioning, but he's going to wreak havoc on Big 12 offensive lines when he's on the field this year. Look for him to collapse a pocket or two early and often this season.

Trey Metoyer, WR, Oklahoma: Metoyer spent a year in military school after not qualifying academically, but he's already made an impact this spring after finally arriving at Oklahoma. He was the nation's No. 8 receiver in the 2011 class and offers the Sooners some much-needed sure hands. The unit came down with the dropsies late last season, and the FBS career leader for receptions, Ryan Broyles, is NFL-bound. Metoyer is exactly what the Sooners need to keep their offense on pace with the league's best, and he'll be catching passes from a Heisman candidate in Landry Jones.

Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor: Seastrunk's short-lived career at Oregon was marred by a recruiting scandal, but he's back home, 30 miles north of his hometown in Temple, Texas, and ready for a fresh start. Baylor needs a replacement for Big 12 rushing champ Terrance Ganaway, and Seastrunk, the nation's No. 6 running back and No. 40 overall prospect in the 2010 class, is battling Glasco Martin and Jarred Salubi for the chance to be the man.

West Virginia and TCU: Have y'all heard about this? It's gonna be kind of crazy. After losing four teams since June 2010, the Big 12 poached the Big East and added the former Southwest Conference-dwelling Frogs and the Mountaineers, badly in need of a home away from the weakened Big East. Here's how we welcomed the Frogs and did the same for WVU earlier this year.

Final Big 12 Power Rankings

January, 10, 2012
Welp, this is it. The college football season is over, and two teams have closed up shop in the Big 12. This will be Texas A&M's and Missouri's last time to make an appearance in the Big 12 Power Rankings.

After 14 weeks of the regular season and eight bowl games (the Big 12 went 6-2), here's how the league sits.

1. Oklahoma State (12-1, beat Stanford, 41-38 in overtime): The Cowboys needed some help from Stanford's kicker to get their BCS win, but their spot atop the Big 12 was never at stake. The Cowboys proved themselves as the Big 12's best team throughout the season and beat Stanford to make history. Stillwater's never seen a season like this, and Mike Gundy was rewarded with a $1.6 million raise after the season for his efforts.

(Read full post)

Hang on tight, because it's about to get dizzy.

Texas Tech beat Oklahoma, 41-38, last week before losing to Iowa State, 41-7, on Saturday.

The Red Raiders play Texas on Saturday, though, who beat Iowa State, 37-14, and lost to Oklahoma, 55-17 in consecutive weeks.

It sounds complex. Texas coach Mack Brown says it's rather simple.

[+] EnlargeIowa State's Jarred Barnett
Michael C. Johnson/US PRESSWIREA week after shocking Oklahoma, Texas Tech was shocked by Jarred Barnett and Iowa State.
"We’re not playing with video games, we’re playing with human beings," he said.

The easily forgettable fact about sports -- and college sports especially, relying often on teenagers -- is players don't duplicate identical outputs every Saturday.

"You have good days and bad days, and I think it happens to everybody, it happens in daily life," Brown said. "If you go back and look at the companies that have been bankrupt, the great companies of America, usually the bankruptcy comes after their best year. It’s just very, very difficult when people are bragging on you to continue to compete and do your best all the time."

Texas Tech's highest high of the Tommy Tuberville Era was followed by its lowest low, a lopsided home loss to a team that had lost its previous four games by an average of almost 25 points.

"We don’t know how to handle success, obviously. But it’s a good lesson to learn," Tuberville said.

He saw the emotion his team played with, especially in the win over Oklahoma, where his team took the field as four-touchdown underdogs. The emotional win was followed by pats on the back from just about everyone.

"This past game, we were flat. You know you’re going to have 1-2 games a year that you’ll play that way, but hopefully, you’re good enough to win your way out of it," Tuberville said, "and we’re obviously not."

Texas may be at an equilibrium now after tearing into a Kansas team winless in conference play, but the Red Raiders will be looking to regain some of the goodwill gained from the win over Oklahoma.

Texas Tech became the first team since 1989 to have no votes in the AP Top 25 poll one week to being ranked the next to having no votes the next. The Red Raiders, with momentum swinging out of control, have reached anything but equilibrium. Brown told reporters, though, that the Tech loss to Iowa State was "the worst thing that could have happened to us."

"It’s just very, very difficult when people are bragging on you to continue to compete and do your best all the time. The great teams are able to do that, and last year we were not," Brown said.

Brown says solid senior leadership can help make sure a team stays focus, but how can a coaching staff be sure?

"I didn’t fix it last year, so I can’t answer that," Brown said.

Iowa State's win is a third shocker in three years under Paul Rhoads, who knocked off Big 12 North champion Nebraska in 2009 and a ranked Texas team in 2010.

On that, Brown and Tuberville can relate.

"This is the best this league’s been in a long time," Tuberville said.

And, perhaps, the most confusing it's been in a long time.


Celebrating Black History Month With Texas HC Charlie Strong
Charlie Strong sat down with Longhorn Network and discussed the impact of race relations on him and his career.