Big 12 mailbag: My Big 12 only Heisman finalists

Here are some questions I received over the last several days from readers.

Enjoy them, and enjoy the games this weekend. It should be a good weekend of football action across the Big 12.

K.C. from Norman, Okla., writes:

Hey Tim, if there was such a thing as a Big 12 Heisman race -- and not national -- what players would you put on your list of five finalists?

Tim Griffin:

That's an interesting question. If I was basing things not only on statistics but under the Heisman’s mantra as “the conference’s best player” I would choose these players. And it’s a tough choice, believe me.

•Texas quarterback Colt McCoy

•Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh

•Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy

•Texas wide receiver/kick returner Jordan Shipley

•Missouri wide receiver Danario Alexander

The players who nearly made my list also were strong choices. But heading into the games this week, these would be the players who be invited to come to my Big 12 banquet.

Dan from Kansas City writes:

Pardon my French, but Oklahoma State has no way of getting into a BCS bowl game over Iowa. They lost by about 30 to Texas and they also lost to Houston. The Big 12 is an embarrassment this year. You’ll see it in the bowls.

Tim Griffin:

What I was saying is that the Cowboys have got as good an opportunity for an at-large berth in the BCS as any other team if they can finish strongly. That means they’ll have to win at Oklahoma, which will be easier talked about than done.

But if quarterback Zac Robinson is back and healthy against the Sooners, I think they’ve got a good opportunity. They can have a big finish to their season. The OSU fans have one of the best reputations about traveling to a bowl game as any team in the conference. It would be their first BCS trip, which I think would make it even more special. I’m hearing they’ve got as good a shot as any other team.

And the Cowboys' grittiness I saw at the end of their victory over Colorado Thursday night reminded me a lot of how Iowa plays. I think it would be a good pairing between those two schools.

The Big 12 has struggled some this season. Injuries and suspensions have played a major part. But the bowl season will provide the conference with a chance to redeem itself as always. I’m anxious to see how it plays out.

Charles Mitchell of Las Vegas, N.M., writes:

Tim, are the stories linking Texas Tech coach Mike Leach to Louisville pure gossip?? Or do you think Leach is ready to go to another program if a good opportunity presents itself?

Tim Griffin:

I don’t know if that specific job has caught Leach’s attention or not, but with all of the smoke about it, I would guess it has. Louisville has a very aggressive athletic director in Tom Jurich who is willing to spend big money to hire coaches. Look at what he did with Rick Pitino and basketball. And Leach has to be one of the nation’s hottest coaches, both for what he has accomplished at Texas Tech and also how fan-friendly his offensive philosophy would be.

I’ve always thought most coaches have a specific shelf life at a specific school. I’m not sure if Leach has reached his in Lubbock yet. He was able to parlay last season’s tri-divisional championship into a record deal at his school. Is he happy with that, I don’t know?

But I would think this thought would play a part in his considerations: The Big 12 South is always going to be one of the most competitive divisions in college football. It will be tough for Texas Tech to keep up with superpowers like Oklahoma and Texas at the top. Texas A&M is a slumbering giant, awaiting the right coach to turn things around. Oklahoma State and Baylor have both increased spending exponentially to stay up with the rest of the division. It’s hard to see Texas Tech really catching those big schools on a consistent basis.

But at Louisville, Leach would have the budget and facilities to match almost any of the other schools. I would think only West Virginia has the traditional support to have a markedly better program than Louisville. I think the Cardinals' program is right up there with any of them. They were a BCS-level power a couple of years ago.

Leach is also familiar with the lifestyle after working at Kentucky under Hal Mumme. He’s always told me he liked living up there. Would he be willing to return for the right amount of money? I don’t know.

Brett from Jacksonville, Fla., writes:

Hey Tim, I just wanted to comment on your list of Big 12 Coach of the Year candidates. Paul Rhoads should be the Big 12 Coach of the Year. Why? Because five years down the road we'll all remember his amazing turnaround at ISU. Will we remember how Bill Snyder took KSU back to a north title just to get destroyed by Texas? Probably not. And about Mike Gundy? Not a chance. Paul Rhoads and Iowa State need to be recognized for what they've done. Would you have been surprised by a 3-9 record? No, neither would I. But 6-6 and a bowl game, or 7-5? Shocked would be a better description. I think that Rhoads has given the ISU program a little bit of a swagger back.

Tim Griffin:

Brett, I’m not discounting what Rhoads has done. And he might have his program in line for more in the future. But I think if Bill Snyder takes his team to the Big 12 title game with a team picked to finish fifth in the division before the start of the season, it would be one of the most improbable divisional championships in Big 12 history. And if Gundy was able to take the Cowboys to a BCS at-large berth after undergoing the injuries and suspensions he’s had this year, I also think he would be a worthy candidate. Rhoads has done an outstanding job this season with the Cyclones. I just think winning a division or going to a first BCS bowl game would be a greater accomplishment and would merit some recognition.

Roy Bray of Omaha, Neb., writes:

Tim, you sure managed to discount the first and only Nebraska/Stanford clash ever. You omitted a highly salient fact and got another completely wrong. First, the game was played in 1941, NOT 1940, on 1-1-41. Second, it was the Rose Bowl, of all things, AND, it was the first bowl game Nebraska EVER played in! The Union Pacific Railroad ran special trains from Nebraska to that game! We Husker fans would love a crack at avenging our loss in our first-ever bowl game.

Tim Griffin:

The website I consulted just had the specific seasons that were played and not the specific dates for the games. I’ve gotten several e-mails about the Cornhuskers’ first bowl game. I should have checked their media guide before I wrote anything, just for accuracy sake.

But the first Nebraska-Stanford game was played at the end of the 1940 season. For example, the Texas national championship team is considered to be in 2005, despite playing their national title game against USC in January of 2006. For record-keeping purposes, those January bowl games are considered to be a part of the previous season. So I can see why the website had that game included with the 1940 season.

A second game between Nebraska and Stanford would be a great bowl game, not only for the history, but also for several delicious potential matchups. I’d love to see Bo Pelini and Jim Harbaugh in a great matchup of young coaches. I think it would be interesting to see how Toby Gerhart, Andrew Luck and all of those Stanford offensive players would fare against the Blackshirts. And I think the Holiday Bowl would have some interest in attracting both schools, but particularly Nebraska. The bowl will be moving down the pecking order in the Big 12’s new bowl contract and doesn’t figure to get many chances at the Cornhuskers in the future.

So for all those reasons, I’d be intrigued to see those two teams play in San Diego. In late December. At the end of the 2009 season.

Thanks again for all of the good questions. Check my blog throughout the week for some video responses to some of your questions and again next Tuesday for my next mailbag.