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Big 12 mailbag: Rhoads vs. Chizik in Independence Bowl?

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

If it’s a Tuesday, the mailbag must be bulging with letters from across the conference. Here are some of the better offerings for this week.

Michael Lawrence from Dubuque, Iowa, writes: Now that Iowa State can almost taste going to bowl game, I would love nothing more than seeing ISU face off against Auburn with ex-ISU Coach Gene Chizik in the Independence Bowl. As both teams are 5-3 and both have a very realistic chance of notching another victory to go to a bowl game, what be chance of them playing each other? I truly believe if that were to happen Iowa State would look almost like an entirely different team as they would be playing on raw emotions to prove Coach Chizik wrong as many ISU players felt betrayed when he left. My last question is this: Who do you think has done the better coaching job up to this point, and why?

Tim Griffin: Michael, that would be a delicious matchup between Paul Rhoads and Gene Chizik, wouldn’t it? And I think it would be something that Iowa State’s fans would gravitate to, as well. Even more interesting is that both the Big 12 and SEC are forsaking the Independence Bowl as both have left for new bowl deals. The Independence Bowl will match an ACC team against a Mountain West team beginning next season. So I think the Independence Bowl would pick the best game it could find. It couldn’t get much better than Auburn and Iowa State, could it?

And I would go with Rhoads as doing the better coaching job so far this season because his team seems to be getting better as the season plays out and their opposition gets tougher. It’s been just the opposite for Chizik, whose team has dropped consecutive games to Arkansas, Kentucky and LSU after starting the season 5-0.


Mike from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Tim, absolutely love the blog. It’s the main reason why I go to ESPN. After the first few crazy weeks of Big 12 play, who is your pick to win the Big 12 North and why?

Tim Griffin: Mike, that’s a tough one. You could make a point for any of the six teams getting hot and winning it. But I’m going to give a slight edge to Nebraska (still), even with the Cornhuskers’ struggling offense. I still like their defense as the best in the division. The key games for them will be Nov. 14 at Kansas and a Nov. 21 home date at Kansas State. I think if the Cornhuskers win those games, they still have a shot to win the North.

Here’s how I would rank the North teams and their chances of winning the title right now: 1) Nebraska; 2) Kansas; 3) Kansas State; 4) Iowa State; 5) Missouri; 6) Colorado. It wouldn’t surprise me, honestly, to see any of them win the title. It’s that close.


Knostrathomas from Dallas writes: Maybe, I don't understand the concept behind power rankings. How in the world do you put Nebraska ahead of Texas Tech and Texas A&M after they lose two games in a row? What did Nebraska show you in a loss to Tech and a loss to ISU that makes them better than Tech?

Tim Griffin: Maybe it wasn’t as much what Nebraska did or didn’t do, but what Tech showed the following week in allowing 52 points at home against Texas A&M. I use what happened earlier in the season to some degree, but my ratings are most reflective of the recent game. Maybe it was seeing Tech gashed for 321 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns by a Texas A&M team that produced minus-13 yards rushing the previous week that made me drop them behind the Cornhuskers, who lost by two points in a game where they made four turnovers inside the Iowa State 6.


Nick Brunkhorst of Lawrence, Kan., writes: I can't help but notice that the Heisman chatter surrounding Ndamukong Suh has died down drastically after Nebraska's two-game skid. The problem I see with this is the fact that Suh is still playing at a Heisman-finalist level. Why can't voters realize this?

Tim Griffin: I agree that he is playing at that level, especially considering his game last week against Iowa State when he blocked both a field goal and a PAT to go along with a typically strong defensive game. But for those players who are trying to qualify at non-traditional positions, they typically have to be good every week. And their teams have to win.

Nebraska’s two-game losing streak is the biggest reason that Suh has dropped on the Heisman lists. And it’s interesting because there still isn’t a definitive leader. Tim Tebow struggled through his worst game of the season last week against Mississippi State. Colt McCoy had struggled recently but bounced back with a strong performance against Missouri. And Alabama’s Mark Ingram had a mediocre game against Tennessee. The award is there for the taking. It will be interesting to see who claims it over the next few weeks.


Kenneth Vincent of Beaumont, Texas writes: Hey Tim, does a 6-6 or 7-5 Texas A&M team get a bowl berth with only one Big 12 team getting a BCS berth? I don't see A&M getting there, how about you? Also, can you please share your bowl projections for the conference at this point of the season?

Tim Griffin: I think the Aggies have a great shot at a bowl if they get to six victories. If they can hold service by winning two of their remaining home games, they’ve got a great shot to get there. The Big 12 might have trouble filling all of their bowl berths if Kansas State goes 6-6 or below. The Wildcats must effectively get to seven victories because they have victories over Massachusetts and Tennessee Tech that can effectively count for only one victory. So it still might be a challenge for the Wildcats to get to bowl eligibility unless they finish strongly.

If I was picking today, and assuming Texas and Nebraska win the two divisions, here would be my picks:

BCS: Texas

Cotton: Oklahoma State

Holiday: Oklahoma

Alamo: Nebraska

Sun: Texas Tech

Insight: Missouri

Texas: Texas A&M

Independence: Iowa State

By the way, I see Kansas State finishing 6-6 and just missing out on a bowl trip.

Thanks again for all of your good questions. I appreciate them all. We’ll check back again on Friday.