It looks like the Big 12 Roundtable has run out of steam, so Tuesday Commentary is arriving early. Also, since the Roundtable is gone and TC usually includes the conference rankings of two Big 12 columnists, I will do my conference ranking in this space from now on.
From the KC Star, it sounds like we are nearing a decision on Rashaad Norwood's status for the rest of the season. In case you forgot, Norwood was arrested--twice--before the season started for, among other things, throwing a chair through a sliding-glass door and abusing his ex-girlfriend...and then returning to the scene of the alleged crime after the crack squad of Riley County cops told him to stay away.
Anyway, Norwood's trial date is November 9, and he is represented by Barry Clark, who is a very good attorney in Manhattan. It sounds possible that, if the trial result is an acquittal or some other favorable result, Norwood could be on the field in Lincoln, Neb., the next day. If things turn out well for Norwood--still a big question, probably--I say let him play. Stay tuned.
Blair Kerkhoff's (KC Star) weekly ranking of the Big 12 teams is out, and the Cats remain steady in fifth place. Kerkhoff also reminds us that the "Wildcats lost this matchup (Baylor) last year." Really, Blair? I'd forgotten already. Not like that was the low point of my life or anything, failing to score a touchdown against Baylor.
About 180 miles to the north, Lee Barfknecht also ranks the conference, by division. The accompanying article is pretty good, as Barfy talks about marked improvement of K-State, Mizzou and KU. For the record, he has us third in the North.
Apparently Josh Freeman now is channeling the powers of Miss Cleo, as the Topeka Capital-Journal reports he had a premonition that he would have a big day against Oklahoma State. Coach Ron Prince chimed in with the following...
"Based on the way they played defense coming into the game, I told him he could have that kind of game...I talked to him at the hotel today and told him he could end up having a career high, but it wouldn't be because of the career high that we would win. It would be because of the decisions he made in the final part of the game. I thought he made good decisions in the final part of the game and gave us the opportunity to win. We did not."
It's a shame we didn't try to get James Johnson and Leon Patton career highs running the ball, or we might have controlled the ball long enough to keep our defense from wearing down.
Because of the poor defensive outings the last couple weeks, notably against the run, the media apparently feels the need to question whether moving to a 3-4 defense was a good idea. Prince defended the idea, and I will, too. It's not like this has been a total bust all year. We held Auburn pretty well in check, to the tune of less than 100 yards rushing. And while everybody likes to talk about Hugh Charles' 171 yards rushing in the Colorado game, nobody mentions that 114 of those came in the first half. I can't comment much on the Okie State game because it wasn't on TV, but it sounds like poor tackling--possibly due to fatigue at playing almost 34 minutes of the game--was more responsible than a poor scheme.
Moving on, here is the official BOTC's weekly Big 12 ranking:
The Sooners will be here until further notice, with further notice defined as a Sooner loss. Missouri had its chance and, despite a valiant effort, failed. KU cannot be considered a contender against an elite team until they play, let alone beat, an elite team. The Sooners get a breather this week before gearing up for closing games against Texas A&M, Baylor, at Texas Tech, and against Oklahoma State.
Apparently I'm going against conventional wisdom here, but the Tigers have proven more than that school down the river. Last week's dismantling of Texas Tech may be more evidence the Mizzou defense is coming around, and it's not like Chase Daniel/Martin Rucker/Chase Coffman/Jeremy Maclin, et al, have forgotten how to play. This week Iowa State comes to Columbia...think the Tigers might have a little revenge on their mind after the "loss" (in Pinkel parlance) last year?
Solid road win against Colorado last week should be all the proof anybody needs that the 'beaks are legitimate North title contenders. The only real obstacle left for this team--besides Mizzou--is itself. Can a team that hasn't been in this position before handle the prosperity? It's led by Mark Mangino, who has been there before, so I wouldn't be surprised. KU travels to take on the Noble Men of Kyle this weekend in College Station.
Who would have thought this would be the case one month ago? Certainly not I. But the Pokes have outlasted Texas Tech, dismantled Nebraska in Lincoln, and somehow pulled out a win against K-State. The loss to A&M is largely inexplicable to me. Will the off week kill that momentum, or will it refresh the Cowboys for a rough stretch run that includes games against Texas, KU, at Baylor, and at OU?
I really would like to see a replay of the game in Stillwater, because I'm still not sure how it was lost, other than the obvious fumbles and inability to stop Dantrelle Savage. Still, the Cats have conference wins over Texas (in Austin) and Colorado, justifying this ranking, at least in my mind. Next up is a home date with Baylor.
Most people have Texas ahead of K-State and/or Okie State, but I'm still not convinced. The Horns two conference wins thus far are against Iowa State and Baylor, and the latter was not won in convincing fashion. The going does not get significantly more difficult this weekend when the soon-to-be-coachless Nebraska Cornhuskers limp into Austin.
Old habits die hard, and it's really hard for me to break the habit that going into Lincoln and winning a game is a significant accomplishment. If that were all the Aggies had done, this ranking would not be justified, but they also have defeated Okie State...somehow. Good luck the rest of the way, Ags. A rough stretch run begins this weekend when KU comes to B/CS.
I don't know anyone who would go to the "Ron Prince and Mike Leach Coaching Clinic: How to Get Consistently Great Effort from Your Team." Much like the Wildcats, the Red Raiders have been up-and-down all year, losing a heartbreaker to Okie State (sound familiar?), blowing out Iowa State, blowing out A&M, and then looking thoroughly lost against Mizzou. Leach better get his band of scurvy patch-eyes in shape, quickly, because a desperate Colorado team comes to Lubbock this weekend.
It was very surprising to me that the Buffs didn't pull off a win last weekend. I figured that after the tough loss to K-State, CU would bounce back with a home win, but maybe I'm still underestimating the 'beaks. Just like Leach, Hawkins needs to get this team together quickly, because they've lost two in a row and travel to Lubbock this weekend. It doesn't get any easier next week, either, when Mizzou travels to the Flatirons.
Absolutely unbelievable. I would have never seen this coming in a million years. The Huskers are now 4-4, and likely won't be favored in a single game the rest of the way. Bill Callahan might as well put his house on the market now and avoid the Christmas rush. The reward for this reeling state? A trip to Austin. Good luck.
Showed some signs of life against Texas, but still lost by three touchdowns. Also had an assistant coach quit after peeing on THE bar at a local Waco establishment. Not good. Should be a win for the Cats this weekend, but that assumes our own players come to play, which has been far from a guarantee this year.
Another downtrodden team that showed some life this weekend, against Oklahoma. I didn't get to watch it, so I don't know if the final score was caused more by Cyclone spunk or Sooner sleepwalking, but either way it's an impressive result, for a loss. This week the 'Clones travel to Mizzou.