Big 12 is tops for a dozen reasons

The "Big 12" reasons why the Big 12 is the best conference (so far) this season:

1. Quarterbacks from the conference could finish 1-2-3 in this year's Heisman Trophy balloting, which is absurd, although an offspring of the current league has hogged votes in the past.

The last time one conference had the top three finishers was 1972, when the Big Eight produced the winner, Johnny Rodgers of Nebraska, runner-up Greg Pruitt of Oklahoma and Rich Glover of Nebraska.

2. Missouri's prolific offense has not had a "three-and-out" all season. Think about that. Not one first down, second down, third down, punt. The Tigers, with Chase Daniel at quarterback, scored on 15 consecutive possessions in one stretch (13 touchdowns, two field goals).

Again, that's absurd.

"We have a degree of consistency we're playing at," Coach Gary Pinkel said.

No kidding.

3. The Big 12's overall record this year is 44-16. The Southeastern Conference's is 44-20. The Pacific 10's is 25-27.

4. The Big 12, unlike the Big Ten, has abandoned its run-oriented, cold-weather principles and evolved football to its highest, spread-offense level.

Texas, once coached by Darrell Royal, won national championships running the Wishbone.

"The most proud Coach Royal was when he could win a game without throwing a pass," Texas Coach Mack Brown said this week. "It was a different time, a different place."

Take 1960, for example. Nebraska completed 24 of 72 passes for 321 yards . . . for the season. This year, Nebraska completed 20 of 36 passes for 345 yards . . . in its opener.

5. Top-ranked Oklahoma has not lost a fumble. Think about that and then think about USC's Joe McKnight.

6. Oklahoma State has scored a school-record 50 or more points in four straight games. There have been 43 major-college games this year where 52 or more points have been scored. The Big 12 has been involved in 17 of them.

7. Missouri has punted 10 times this year, none in the last two games.

8. Texas has scored 236 points in five games, the most since scoring 281 in 1915, yet quarterback Colt McCoy wonders what his numbers could be if the coaches took the wraps off.

Texas Tech's Graham Harrell has launched 237 attempts, Daniel of Missouri has 156, Oklahoma's Sam Bradford has chucked it 146 times.

"You look across the board," McCoy said, "you look at Chase, you look at Graham, and you look at Sam, those guys are throwing the ball a ton. They're lighting it up, they're all accurate, they're all leaders on their teams. It must be pretty nice to sling it around so many times and put up ridiculous numbers. That's like a dream for a QB."

McCoy didn't even mention Kansas' Todd Reesing, who has 205 passes.

Poor McCoy, he's stuck in the Stone Age, having only completed 103 of 130 passes (79%) for 1,280 yards and 16 touchdowns.

"How fun is it every week to be up against a team that has another great quarterback?" McCoy asked.

9. The Big 12 has four teams ranked in the top seven of this week's USA Today coaches' poll, including the top two: Oklahoma and Missouri.

No. 5 Texas plays No. 1 Oklahoma on Saturday in Dallas. A week later, Texas plays No. 2 Missouri. Has anyone ever played No. 1 and No. 2 in consecutive weeks?

A week later, Texas plays current No. 17 Oklahoma State, and a week after that Texas plays No. 7 Texas Tech.

"As soon as the Oklahoma game is over, our guys have to start looking at another best team in the country before they get on the bus," Brown said.

10. The Big 12 boasts eight of the top 18 quarterbacks in this week's NCAA pass efficiency ratings. Those eight have combined to throw 112 touchdown passes and only 23 interceptions.

Colorado Coach Dan Hawkins, whose team lost last week to Texas, 38-14, remarked, "You have to have thick skin to line up and get ready to play because there's another great QB or great team coming each week."

Hawkins' skin is about to get thicker. This week, Colorado is at No. 16 Kansas.

11. The Big 12 has six of the nation's top nine scoring offenses. Tulsa of Conference USA leads the nation with its 56.4 average. The next five are all Big 12 schools: Missouri (53.4), Oklahoma State (52.6), Oklahoma (49.6), Texas Tech (48.2) and Texas (47.2). Kansas State (43.2) ranks ninth.

12. Texas Tech, one of the prolific passing offenses of this century under Coach Mike Leach, has also rushed for more than 100 yards in all five games.

Blitz package

* What's the hurry? Cincinnati (Big East) and New Mexico State (Western Athletic) are the only two major schools who have yet to play a conference game. Cincinnati (4-1) gets started this week by playing host to Rutgers, while New Mexico State opens WAC play at Nevada.

* Too bad winless Washington or North Texas didn't offer to play host to a presidential debate. One day after the first John McCain-Barack Obama encounter, at University of Mississippi, the football team scored a shocking upset at Florida. Tuesday's debate was at Belmont University in Nashville, in the same city where, three days before, Vanderbilt upset Auburn to improve to 5-0. Vanderbilt plays at Mississippi State this week looking to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1982.

* Spit for tat. The coaches have closed ranks on the controversy over whether a Nebraska player spit on Missouri quarterback Daniel before last Saturday's game in Lincoln, as Daniel claimed. Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini said, "I addressed it with the team and it's over." Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel called it a "dead issue."

* If Washington fires Tyrone Willingham, look for Pinkel to be on the short list of possible successors. Pinkel was a Washington assistant under Don James for 12 years, but the question would be: Why would he leave Missouri for that Pacific Northwest mess?

* Sometimes it just works out this way: Who would have thought Notre Dame at North Carolina on Oct. 11 would be a more interesting game than Arizona State at USC? But it is.

* Texas' McCoy on the possibility of the Texas-Oklahoma game being moved from the Texas State Fair: "I don't think this game should ever be moved from the Cotton Bowl. I think this is one of the most awesome games that there is in college football."


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