Tim's mailbag: Game-day atmosphere and revised rankings

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Steve from Kansas City writes: Tim, I saw something in your chat last week that I wish you would expound on. Somebody asked you what your favorite stadiums were as far as game-day experiences. Could you give me a full list and how you rank the Big 12 schools?

Tim Griffin: I'll try. To be honest, I don't think there's a bad stop along the Big 12. I can legitimately be excited about watching a game in any stadium in the league. But that's just how I am, I'm easily satisfied.

But if you asked me to come up with a critical list, here's my rankings.

1. Texas A&M: Unmatched atmosphere from fans. Kyle Field reeks of tradition and it's always been that way -- whether the Aggies were good or not.

2. Texas: The best of everything in press box accommodations and other creature comforts.

3. Oklahoma: What they are missing in plushness, the Sooners' stellar sports information office makes up for the rest with their dedication.

4. Nebraska: Memorial Stadium has the best "big-game feel" in the conference. The excitement is palpable in a walk around the stadium before the game. And I also loved the grilled sausages sold by the vendors outside the stadium. Kind of reminds me of walking into a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park.

5. Colorado: While I might struggle getting used to the altitude, Folsom Field has a picturesque quality that sets it apart from most stadiums.

6. Texas Tech: It's the only game in town and you can tell it with the excitement generated by Mike Leach's recent success. The Tech athletic people also make you feel like a long-lost friend when you arrive.

7. Oklahoma State: You never know what will happen in the interview room after the game here.

8. Kansas State: The best tailgating in the league and a nice comfortable press box. Who could ask for more?

9. Missouri: After a couple of early trips there a few years ago, I wondered if Faurot Field could ever be exciting. Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin are changing those perceptions pretty quickly. But I don't like driving there -- from either St. Louis or Kansas City.

10. Baylor: One of the most hospitable places to watch a game -- at least when the press box is closed rather than open for a hot summer afternoon. Sportswriters will always vote for cool air over football pageantry any day.

11. Kansas: Mark Mangino has pumped more life into Memorial Stadium than I ever could have imagined. But it still feels a little sterile at times.

12. Iowa State: The smell of brats and hamburgers wafting from the tailgaters makes Jack Trice Stadium's press box the most appetizing place. Now if Gene Chizik could only develop a competitive, contending program.

Dale from Dallas writes: Tim- I keep hearing that TCU is 12-1 in its last 13 games against BCS opponents and 5-1 vs. the Big XII. Outside of OU in '05, just who are they feasting on...the Baylors and Arizonas of the college football world?
Tim Griffin: Dale, actually, I think that TCU coach Gary Patterson has continued and improved on the groundwork of the program that was started by Dennis Franchione back in the late 1990s. I think that you can put TCU in the same breath as BYU, Fresno State and Boise State as the most consistent non-BCS powers.

And you are correct about their record. But they can play only who will schedule them. And I know a lot of Big 12 teams that wouldn't consider a home-and-home series against the Horned Frogs.

I think Gary Patterson's team will have its work cut out Saturday night in Norman. But I was there the last time they went to Owen Field. And they delivered the kind of physical whipping to the Sooners that I've rarely seen since Bob Stoops took over the program.

Evan from Arlington, Va. writes: Hey Tim, thanks for all of your great work covering the Big 12 South! My question: which Big 12 North matchup are you most excited about.
Tim Griffin: Thanks and I'm looking forward to seeing some Big 12 North teams as the season continues. I think we'll have two outstanding games this week. I'm curious about how Bo Pelini's team fares in its first big nonconference game against Virginia Tech. And I think the Colorado-Florida State game will be a legitimate test for Dan Hawkins' team. Their chances of being able to escape the Gator Bowl with an upset will be lessened by the comeback of five suspended Florida State players this week. But I was very impressed with them last week against West Virginia.

Mike from Austin writes: When I look at the Heisman page and see that Sam Bradford is listed and Colt McCoy isn't, it makes me wonder. In my opinion McCoy is more valuable than Bradford to his team because Texas lacks (so far) some of the big play skill players that Bradford has around him. The national consensus seems to be that Daniel, Bradford and Harrell should be in the Heisman discussion but (as of yet) not McCoy. Will that change?

Tim Griffin: I think that Colt McCoy is still suffering a backlash from what he did last year. His touchdown-to-interception ratio wasn't good and he struggled late in the season. At the same time, Bradford and Daniel were leading their teams to division championships.

I agree with your point about McCoy's numbers being as good as anybody's so far this year -- particularly considering the players around him. I think he needs to get a couple of really big victories to really capture some national attention. And Texas' early schedule will give him plenty of opportunities to do that when conference play begins.

Robert from Oklahoma City writes: I know you picked Missouri to beat Oklahoma before the season started. I'll give you a chance to have a clean slate and pick the conference race based on what you've learned to this point of the season. What would your standings be and what teams do think go to bowl games?

Tim Griffin: Thank you, Robert. I feel like you've given me a giant eraser. If only my wife could be so easily convinced. But here's my best guess after four weeks.

North - 1. Missouri; 2. Kansas; 3. Nebraska; 4. Colorado; 5. Iowa State; 6. Kansas State
South - 1. Oklahoma; 2. Texas; 3. Texas Tech; 4. Oklahoma State; 5. Baylor; 6. Texas A&M

Big 12 title game - Oklahoma beats Missouri.

Bowls (projections): Oklahoma (National title game), Missouri (Fiesta), Texas (Cotton), Kansas (Holiday), Texas Tech (Alamo), Nebraska (Sun), Colorado (Insight.com), Oklahoma State (Independence).

Cedenski from Lubock writes: Why does ESPN and everybody else still consider the Big 12 to be Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas and everbody else. They even show highlights of Kansas but hardly mention the Tech scores much less show any highlights.
Tim Griffin: I can't speak for the television network, but I think Texas Tech is kind of at the mercy of their early schedule as far as national buzz goes. I saw their most notable nonconference game against Nevada and was surprised it didn't have some kind of television broadcast, considering how widespread television seems to be for almost every game these days.

I read an article earlier this morning in the Sporting News where Robert Billingsley of the Billingsley Report said he had
some doubts about Texas Tech because of their schedule, which he ranked as 119th of the 120 teams he surveys. It's the major reason he ranks Texas Tech 34th, compared to 10th in the Associated Press poll.

If the Red Raiders had played a more representative early schedule, they wouldn't be doubted as much now. All of the other Big 12 powers all have played or will be playing a team from a BCS-affiliated conference. Texas Tech won't. They can change that perception once Big 12 begins, but I think it's something that will stick with them throughout the season.

Chris from St. Louis writes: Most of the media seems to think that the top of the Big 12 teams can stack up with the top of the SEC, but it's depth is where it lacks. They use the fact that the SEC has six ranked teams in the AP poll, compared to five with the Big 12. But the Big 12 also has eight in the top 30. To get to the eighth team in the SEC, you have to go all the way down to 39. Seems to me that there is actually more depth in the Big 12.

Tim Griffin: You are right as of now, but the SEC has started beating each other up with conference games beginning. The Big 12 hasn't started that and that's kind of an artificial reason why so many conference teams are ranked so high. Once they start playing each other, you'll see some teams start skidding.

But I still think the strength of the SEC can be found at the bottom four teams compared to the Big 12. I'll take Mississippi State, Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas over Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas State and Texas A&M. That's the major difference I can see.

At the very top, the SEC and Big 12 are very comparable.

Alex from Waco writes: With its surprisingly close game on Friday against Connecticut and with what you have seen from Baylor so far; how do you see the Bears when they play Big 12 opponents?

Tim Griffin: Baylor is going to be a challenge for anybody they play because of Robert Griffin, who can improvise and make things happen with his arm and feet. His confidence will only grow once conference play begins. The Bears aren't going to be easy for anybody and I expect them to sneak an upset or two that might surprise people.

That's what makes the Connecticut loss so disheartening for Art Briles. If Baylor had been 3-1 heading into conference play, it wouldn't have shocked me if they could have won three conference games. I give them a great shot to beat Iowa State and Texas A&M. And it wouldn't surprise me if they can pick up another victory somewhere this season.

But they've got to go 4-4 in Big 12 play to go bowling. In the South Division, that's still a very, very steep challenge.