Big 12 mailbag: Will OU's Balogun remain eligible in 2009?

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

I feel badly I wasn't able to get to these last Friday. But duty called and I was scrambling at Oklahoma to finish my interviews, hammer out a few posts and still make it to the airport in time to get back home that night.

It made for an eventful day, and the e-nails did pile up. Here are the best of the questions I received over the last several days to try to clear the decks.

Nathan Winslow of Austin writes: What new information was revealed to the NCAA after the 2008 season in Oklahoma linebacker Mike Balogun's case that was not presented in his first review?

Tim Griffin: The question at case was Balogun's age when he played for the Prince George Jets, a winter semipro team, and the Maryland Marauders of the semipro North American Football League.

Under NCAA rules, any participation during each 12-month period after a player's 21st birthday would result in a corresponding loss of a season of collegiate eligibility. Balogun signed with the Sooners at the age of 24 after two seasons at Lackawanna College last season.

The NCAA now is in the process of determining if Balogun played in any semipro games after his 21st birthday, and if so, for how many 12-month periods after turning 21.

Different newspapers have different accounts of how long Balogun played semipro ball. The New York Times reported that Balogun played only a year and a half before starting at Lackawanna in 2006 and 2007. But a Maryland paper reported that Balogun played for the Jets, in the fall of 2005.

The matter was thought to be resolved before last season when Balogun was certified for the 2008 season by the NCAA. Also scrambling enforcement of the penalty is the fact the Jets no longer exist, according to the Tulsa World.

Balogun was certified by the NCAA to play two seasons at Oklahoma. But if it turns out that Balogun turned 21 and then participated on a semipro team during a 12-month period, he would be eligible to play in only one season - which would turn out to be last season.

That matter will be determined between now and Wednesday. Balogun remains working out with the Sooners until his decision is announced.

It obviously would hurt Oklahoma's depth at linebacker, although Ryan Reynolds has come back healthy after knee surgery and Oklahoma coaches have been raving about the play of freshman Tom Wort in the middle. If Balogun can't play, it would hurt the Sooners' depth but wouldn't be a catastrophic loss.

Charles Mitchell from Las Vegas, N.M., writes: Tim, an educated guess, please. Will Georgia make more money playing OSU in Stillwater or playing the Citadel in Athens?

Tim Griffin: Just a guess on my account, but I'm guessing with a 92,746-seat capacity at home at Sanford Stadium, the Bulldogs would be in line for a multi-million dollar payout at home for almost any game. Even with television payments they might get for the Oklahoma State game, I'd be doubtful to think they can come close to those numbers for any road game.

Dusty McAfee from McKinney, Texas, writes: Tim, I've always enjoyed reading your columns, always believed you to be objective, and frankly, better than most others in your profession.

That being said, I have to question why Brandon Carter, a consensus All-American in 2008, was noticeably absent from your preseason All-Big 12 team. It's assumed that a returning consensus All-American would be expected to earn all-conference honors; however, I'm sure you had a reason for why he didn't make the team. Why, I'm wondering did you leave him off?

Tim Griffin: Dusty, first, thanks for the kind words. I'm not taking anything away from Carter, who I think is one of best offensive linemen in the conference. But I keep remembering his struggles - like all of Texas Tech - at the end of the Cotton Bowl against Mississippi. I don't think any of the Red Raiders' offensive line had a particularly good game protecting Graham Harrell in that game and that is the freshest memory for me.

Maybe that game stuck with me, but that's what I kept remembering and why I elevated my choices in front of Carter.

Obviously, my team is merely a guess at this time of year and solely my choice. Carter can play his way onto my final first-team squad if he has a big season.

It might behoove him to keep the films of that second half of the Mississippi game handy for some ready inspiration.

Nick Beaty of Waco, Texas, writes: After covering the Big 12 for as long as you have and watching Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy grow up and mature in this league, I have a question for you.

Do you think that Robert Griffin possesses the same ability and will have the same kind of career that those two Heisman Trophy finalists have done? Will he be the next great quarterback in the conference when they both go to the NFL? Also, with Coach Art Briles there and producing what looks to be a very good recruiting class, what are your projections for Baylor this season and then next season? Thanks for your thoughts.

Tim Griffin: Nick, just looking ahead, I guess you would have to put Griffin as the top Big 12 quarterback for the 2010 season, maybe along with Blaine Gabbert of Missouri, Zac Lee of Nebraska, Taylor Potts of Texas Tech, Austen Arnaud of Iowa State and maybe Gilbert Garrett of Texas if he's as good as advertised. Obviously, Griffin has accomplished more than any of them at this stage of his college career.

One thing that will make it difficult for Griffin to match what McCoy and Bradford have been able to accomplish will be the team goals they have done because their surrounding players are better than Baylor's. The Bears are narrowing that gap, but the Sooners and Longhorns still are far ahead. That's what is keeping Briles working on the recruiting trail as he tries to attract more players.

I think that Baylor has a great shot of snapping the school's bowl drought if it can claim at least three games in the non-conference part of the schedule. If the Bears start 2-2, they are going to have a lot of problems getting to six wins. I still predict they will get to six wins this season, but it would help them get there if they could win a game or two on the road along the way.

K.C. from Norman, Okla., writes: Tim, while you were in Norman and Stillwater last week, where did you end up eating? There seemed to be many good suggestions and I was just curious as to where you ended up?

Tim Griffin: K.C., sorry to inform you K.C. there wasn't anything out of the ordinary on my trip. I was so busy catching players and blogging that I was kind of a creature of my computer during my entire time there.

I ate at Marie Callender's in Norman before practice on Wednesday, as much because I needed a place where I could blog from my table as much as anything on their menu. I grabbed a quick burger at the Steak-and-Shake in Edmond on the way to Stillwater late that night. On Thursday, it was a quick meal at McDonald's in Stillwater for breakfast, a burger at Eskimo Joe's with some reporters for lunch and a pizza to take home with me from the Old Chic
ago's Restaurant in Norman on my way back to Oklahoma City as I finished a couple of late stories that night. On Friday, I ate some cold leftover pizza on my way out of Oklahoma City and was so busy I didn't have time to eat lunch until I grabbed a quick sandwich at the Salt Lick Bar-B-Q Restaurant with a few minutes to spare at Will Rogers Airport.

So much for the glamorous life of a sportswriter, huh? Maybe when I get there during the season, I'll have a better chance to explore the city and find that elusive onion-fried burger everybody was telling me about.

Ross Struss of Hastings, Neb., writes: Tim, do you think Virginia Tech losing Darren Evans for the season affects the possible outcome of their game against Nebraska game? I can't help but think that without a reasonable running back, the Nebraska defensive line might be able to better focus on Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor now...What do you think?

Tim Griffin: It certainly doesn't help the Hokies' chances to lose their top running back, but coaches have always told me that running back is the easiest position to find a replacement. I also know that Tech coaches were very excited about freshman running back David Wilson, who was one of their top recruits. They also have one of the Atlantic Coast Conference's top redshirt freshmen running backs in Ryan Williams.

Frank Beamer is a wise coach. I expect him to be able to cobble together a running game by the Sept. 19 game against Nebraska. And the fact that both Wilson and Williams will have to play against Alabama two weeks earlier should help them get ready for the Cornhuskers in what still be an extremely difficult early-season road game for Bo Pelini's team.

Robert Johnson from Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Tim, who are some Big 12 players that you find so exciting that you would pay money to buy tickets to watch them play.

Tim Griffin: Robert, anybody who has read this blog for an extended period knows how much I like football. And there are a lot of players that fit that category. How about my top 10?

Those would be Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, Dez Bryant, Dezmon Briscoe, Ndamukong Suh, Travis Lewis, Gerald McCoy, Brandon Banks, Robert Griffin and Sean Weatherspoon.

I could go on, but those are a good start.

Check back on Friday and I'll have some more letters. And again, sorry about the delay.