big 12

For the love of college football, stick together, Big 12

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For two summers, it’s been the same story: the Big 12 was dead before it wasn’t.

For two summers, in the eleventh hour, action was taken to keep Texas and Oklahoma from going west to the Pacific. And, for two summers, the rest of the college football world held its breath while it all transpired.

Thank goodness we were able to exhale when we did. I think I was starting to lose consciousness.

Although it’s nowhere safe to go back into the water yet — this round of conference realignment is far from over — it feels good that we can return to some sanity for a few hours. I don’t know if that was going through the minds of Pac-12 university presidents and chancellors when they unanimously decided to keep the conference as is, but I am sure it’s a pleasant calm in otherwise stormy seas.

Enjoy it while it lasts. Bask in the warmth that, for once, it wasn’t all about the money or the media footprint. If it truly was, Pac- 12 commissioner Larry Scott would have forced the Longhorn Network down the throats of his residents like Robitussin just as he would have welcomed suddenly temperamental Oklahoma.

Sometimes, we learn the most about how to improve ourselves by not getting what we want. We still don’t know for a fact that Oklahoma wanted to go to the Pac-12, although we can connect the dots, but the Sooners might be better off for getting a prompt rejection.

Maybe Texas was served right to be told their network baggage was too much to handle.

Pretty girls need to be knocked down a peg or two, ya know.

The Pac-12 showed it wasn’t all about ego. Texas and Oklahoma may have received the memo.

A Big 12 source has told the Associated Press that officials from Texas and Oklahoma plan to meet in the next few days to outline a plan that would keep the two in the Big 12 for the next five years. Considering the Longhorns and the Sooners hold the key to the Big 12’s future, such an agreement would be refreshing in a time where more has been communicated over the phone than face-to-face, eye-to-eye.

If UT and OU can agree to stay in the Big 12, the next step is for the Big 12 employ equal revenue sharing. Adjust the bylaws; gather the lawyers; do whatever it takes to make sure everyone from Texas to Iowa State gets an equal cut of the pie.

I’ve never been a huge supporter of equal revenue sharing because I don’t think schools and athletic programs are created equal. If Oklahoma goes to a BCS bowl four out of every five years, it makes zero sense to me to give Kansas an equal cut of conference payout.

But, these are difficult times that call for sobering adjustments. It’s no coincidence that the three most powerful and stable conferences in the country — the SEC, the Pac-12 and the Big Ten — share revenue equally.

It also helps they have three of the largest TV contracts.

Third, the Big 12 needs to go in a new direction once Dan Beebe’s new contract extension ends, not solely because of Oklahoma’s demands, but because everyone in the conference needs a change. Last month, I said Beebe did a good job holding the Big 12 together last summer. I may have *mumblemumblemumble* little misguided *mumblemumblemumble* sorry *mumblemumblemumble*. 

It’s tough to change old habits, and Beebe catered to Texas last summer, plain and simple. We’ve seen very clearly that’s no way to keep the Big 12 together.

But to keep college football from spiraling further into nonsense, the Big 12 needs to stick together. It may not keep some conference shifting from happening — the Big 12 might even be the one who expands — but the whole four 16-team superconference hellraiser has in no way been good for college football.

Unless, of course, someone can explain how breaking rivalries and using media markets as a benchmark for admittance are the bees knees. In that case, I’m all ears.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be like that. The likes of Oklahoma and Texas have recently used their brands and successes for their own benefit; they have the chance to use it for the good of the game.

Now there’s power anyone should want.

Greg Ward Jr., to Heisman voters: ‘Psssttt, I’m still here, don’t forget’

Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (1) runs past Connecticut defensive lineman Folorunso Fatukasi, left, en route to a 30-yard touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
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Deservedly so, most of the Heisman focus these first four-plus weeks of the 2016 season has been squarely on Lamar Jackson and the stunningly phenomenal season the Louisville quarterback is putting together. There are others, though, who merit mention.

Case in point? Greg Ward Jr.

In No. 6 Houston’s Thursday night 42-14 romp over UConn, the quarterback completed just over 84 percent of his passes for 389 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for 65 yards and two scores for good measure. The win was the Cougars’ eighth in a row, with the last loss coming Nov. 21 of last year to… these very same Huskies.

On at least one occasion in avenging the loss, though, Ward Jr.’s sterling completion percentage got a little help from one of his receiving friends.

The latest virtuoso performance, which included his third 300-yard passing game of the season, pushed Ward Jr. to 1,503 yards of offense (1,325 passing, 178 rushing) and 13 total touchdowns (eight passing, five rushing) in four games while also battling a lingering shoulder issue. For comparison’s sake, and you know we’re not alone in doing so, Jackson will enter Week 5 with a statistical ledger that’s straight from a teenager’s video game: 1,856 yards of total offense and a ridiculous 25 total touchdowns in his four games.

While it’s still quite a ways down the road, Ward’s Cougars and Jackson’s Cardinals will square off in what’s shaping up to be a monumental mid-November Thursday night game that could go a long way in determining not only the Heisman race, but helping to shape the playoff picture as well.  In between, voters, don’t forget about the kid from Houston.

Report: Wisconsin linebacker Vince Biegel undergoes surgery, out as long as a month

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 30:  Sojourn Shelton #8 of the Wisconsin Badgers, Vince Biegel #47 of the Wisconsin Badgers, T.J. Edwards #53 of the Wisconsin Badgers react to a interception during the second half of a game against the USC Trojans in the National University Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium on December 30, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Just in time for their toughest stretch of the season, No. 8 Wisconsin may be without one of the team’s most important defensive players.

Badgers linebacker Vince Biegel is set to miss the next several weeks after undergoing surgery to insert a screw in his cracked foot.

“He’s been playing on it for the last couple weeks, and it was bothering him a little bit,” Biegel’s father Rocky told ESPN. “He had X-rays last night and confirmed it was cracked. He either plays on it, and then if he breaks it, then he’s going to be out for eight weeks. Either way, he’s got to have surgery on it. So he can keep playing until it breaks or try to go through the season with it and try to fix it. At any time, he could break it all the way through. It was just a crack and they’re just putting a screw in it. It’s a very, very minor crack.”

No matter how minor it is, losing Biegel for as long as a month is a huge blow to a defense that has been among the best in the country this season. Wisconsin does have a bye week after traveling to No. 4 Michigan on Saturday but also have to play No. 2 Ohio State and division rivals Iowa and Nebraska to close out October.

Biegel has nine tackles on the year and a sack but is among the most experienced players on the team having played in 46 games at Wisconsin, including 32 starts. Redshirt freshman Zack Baun is expected to take his place.

If there is one bright spot for head coach Paul Chryst and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox however, it’s that the Badgers’ linebacking corp is one of the best in the country. Still, as good as Jack Cichy, T.J. Edwards and T.J. Watt have been this year, they’ll have to step up their games with an imposing schedule coming up.

Houston missing four starters for AAC matchup against UConn

SAN MARCOS, TX - SEPTEMBER 24: Duke Catalon #2 of the Houston Cougars runs against Brandon McDowell #6 of the Texas State Bobcats at Bobcat Stadium on September 24, 2016 in San Marcos, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
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Houston is looking to avenge their only loss of the 2015 season on Thursday night against Connecticut but the Cougars will have to do so a little short-handed.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the team is down a whopping four starters and a key backup against the Huskies: starting linebackers Tyus Bowser (head injury) and Matthew Adams (coaches’ decision), running back Duke Catalon (head injury), cornerback Brandon Wilson (lower leg) plus backup tight end Alex Leslie (ankle injury).

Catalon has already missed a game this season and is arguably the biggest loss for the team as that will force them to rely on quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (who missed last year’s game) even more against UConn. The transfer from Texas is averaging 4.7 yards a carry on the year and had a big game against Oklahoma in the opener.

Coach Tom Herman and the sixth-ranked Cougars still should be able handle their business at home against a conference foe but the mounting injuries this early in the season are starting to get a little concerning if you’re a Houston fan.

Alabama quarterback Blake Barnett officially withdraws from school

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Blake Barnett #6 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws before the Advocare Classic against the Wisconsin Badgers at AT&T Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Despite the wishes of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide depth chart officially became a little thinner on Thursday.

After nearly a day of speculation, Alabama announced that quarterback Blake Barnett is no longer a part of the Crimson Tide football team.

“We received word this afternoon that Blake Barnett has officially withdrawn from school and is no longer with our program,” Saban said in a statement. “The quarterback position is a very unique position where only one player can play. We are very disappointed any time a player leaves the program who feels he can compete for a starting position elsewhere, rather than here at Alabama. We wish Blake the very best of luck in the future.”

Barnett started the opener against USC and has thrown for 219 yards and two touchdowns on the year. However the redshirt freshman lost the starting job to true freshman Jalen Hurts and has only played sparingly in the first month of the season.

Saban recently said he wanted Barnett to remain with the program but it seems pretty obvious that playing time would be limited as the team’s backup signal-caller and a transfer would be forthcoming. Now it appears the only question is where to for the former five-star recruit, who is a Southern California native and was recruited by nearly everybody coming out of high school.