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Royals skipper can’t get out of his own way

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When Detroit catcher Alex Avila took Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie’s 0-1 delivery and lifted it just over the left-centerfield wall for a two-run, opposite-field homerun to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead early in the bottom of the second inning, Guthrie did what he has done time after time this season.

The lanky right hander hunkered down, scattering 11 Detroit hits, and finding a way to keep his pitch count low, as he battled inning-for-inning against Cy Young favorite Max Scherzer to give his Royals a chance to pull out a win and keep their October hopes alive.

Five-and-a-half innings later, when light-hitting shortstop Alcides Escobar doubled to left and stole third base before scoring the game-tying run on a wild pitch by Detroit reliever Drew Smyly, Guthrie had done his job.

He’d gotten out of multiple jams, most notably in the fifth when after a lead-off single by Miguel Cabrera and a double down the right-field line by Prince Fielder left Guthrie and the Royals facing runners on second and third with no outs.  The right-hander calmly coaxed weak ground ball outs to the right side off of the bats of lefties Victor Martinez and Andy Dirks.  Then routine grounder to Escobar killed the Tiger threat to end the inning.

Fast-forward back to that bottom of the eighth inning after Escobar nabbed the game-tying run and the scene is set for the type of thing that has been maddening, confusing, and undoubtedly making countless Royals fans pull their own hair out for the better part of the 2013 season.  A season that happens to be the first time that many of those fans have been a part of a real October hunt in their lifetimes.

The Royals, who have ridden run-saving defense, good starting pitching and the best bullpen in baseball — a bullpen that has remained one of the freshest in baseball all season — to within 3.5 games of the Wildcard, were right where they needed to be as the game headed into crunch time.

Only Ned Yost either didn’t see it, or even worse, he blatantly ignored it.

Rather than look to any one of his bullpen arms that have been so solid, Yost trotted Guthrie and his 12 hits allowed out to the hill one more time.

This move on its own, though questionable, isn’t the facepalm worthy call deemed just the latest “Yosting” that the Royals’ skipper has pulled off this season.  The Tigers led off the home half of the eighth with Omar Infante, a right handed hitter, who was 0-for3 up to that point and followed suit by striking out looking at Guthrie fastball.

If Royals fans weren’t ready for the bullpen to begin the inning, they were surely screaming at their televisions as the lefty Avila walked out to the plate for another opportunity to put the Tigers ahead.

Yost did nothing.

Three pitches later Guthrie left a slider out over the plate that Avila launched into the right-center field seats to give Detroit a 3-2 lead that they would hold for the win.  Guthrie recovered to retire the next two Tiger batters, but the damage was done.  Avila, who had already homered off of Guthrie earlier, had done it again and there really was no good reason for it to have happened.  You can’t blame him either.  He never should have been put in that position in the first place.

The man on whom the blame falls for that Avila homer — the one that dropped the Royals to 4-games back in the Wildcard race — is the man, Ned Yost, who was seen staring blankly ahead as Avila circled the bases after ripping the hearts out of countless Royals fans on a Sunday afternoon in the fall.

At a point in the season where every game, every inning, every at bat is magnified these “Yostings,” like this afternoon or Yost’s discombobulated management of the batting order in the top of the ninth inning in the Royals’ 3-4 loss at Cleveland last Monday, a team in a playoff hunt just cannot afford for these type of occurrences to happen.

Unfortunately for long-suffering fans in Kansas City, their best team in a generation is getting snake-bitten right out of the playoff picture by a manager who cannot get out of his own way.

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K-State’s Rodriguez steps up when the lights shine brightest.

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Angel Rodriguez steps up for a crunch-time layup against Oklahoma.
Photo by Bo Rader

Big-time players step up and make big-time plays.

It’s been an adage ever since then Miami Hurricane football player Santana Moss said something similar after doing just that years ago.  Saturday afternoon in Bramlage Coliseum Angel Rodriguez, the Miami native and Kansas State point guard who plays with a confidence that sometimes may seem larger than his ability, added his own chapter to the legacy of the oft-used phrase.

His No. 16 Wildcats had seen visiting Oklahoma whittle their once 14-point lead down to just seven with 6:24 left to play on a layup by OU forward Romero Osby. Osby blocked a Rodriguez attempt on a desperation drive on K-State’s next possession.  Rodriguez, up to that point, had shot just 1 of 11 from the field. He was 0 for 3 from three-point range.

Kansas State needed a spark.

When the Wildcats got the ball back, the score remained the same, and Rodriguez didn’t waste any time extending the K-State lead.  He took the ball on an outlet from Thomas Gipson, made his way down the right side of the court and with a hesitation move a step inside the free-throw line, blew past Osby and OU forward Cameron Clark for the score off of the glass.  54-45.

Then, after Oklahoma’s Steven Pledger and the Wildcats’ Will Spradling traded a three for a long two, and two free throws by Amath M’Baye cut the K-State lead six, Rodriguez went to the paint again. This time within the framework of K-State head coach Bruce Weber’s motion offense.

Receiving a pass at the top of the key Rodriguez turned down a screen from Gipson to the left side, crossed-over Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield and drove past a host of Sooner defenders for his second lay-in in a row. 58-50.

Osby answered with a jumper to cut the lead back to six, but on the ensuing possession Rodriguez sank his first three-pointer of the game, an off-the-dribble 23-footer with seven seconds left on the Wildcat shot clock. 61-52.

Three huge buckets in 3 minutes 43 seconds of game time that were vital to holding off head coach and K-State alum Lon Kruger’s Sooners.

That isn’t so say that Rodriguez wasn’t heavenly in other aspects of the game before his shots started falling.  He was tough on defense, picking up three steals and frustrating the Sooners by constantly hedging on screens and getting in the grills of OU ball-handlers without a hint of the foul trouble that has plagued him in recent weeks.

He was conscious with the basketball, committing just one turnover and dishing nine assists in 32 minutes of play recognizing the hot hands of teammates Rodney McGruder, Shane Southwell and Spradling, who carried K-State’s scoring load for much of the game. None of which were bigger than a highlight-reel drive, stop, between the legs dribble and dish to a cutting McGruder whose reverse lay-in gave the Wildcats a 64-54 lead with 1:29 to play.

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Rodriguez celebrates late in K-State’s 69-60 win over Oklahoma on Jan. 19, 2013.
Photo by Bo Rader

“Big-time players make big-time plays in big games,” was the quote from fellow Miamian Moss, and it was apt to describe Rodriguez’ effort that helped K-State to it’s 69-60 win over Oklahoma on Saturday, securing K-State’s fourth Big 12 win this season, and an undefeated conference record.

Rodriguez displayed every ounce of that Miami toughness, that moxie on Saturday. It’s why Louisville head coach Rick Pitino once coveted him on the recruiting trail, why some K-State fans worried that former K-State head coach Frank Martin might take Rodriguez along with him to South Carolina last spring, and why Weber has so openly said that the Wildcats need Angel to play well and for a high amount of minutes to find success.

With a mammoth Tuesday-night showdown with No. 4 Kansas in Manhattan that will grant one Sunflower State team sole possession of first place in the Big 12 looming, Rodriguez should have ample opportunity to, once again, step up to the challenge soon enough.

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Sunshine Swap?

James for Howard, straight-up?

 

The 2011 NBA offseason is upon us, and barring a lock-out the most pressing matters as far as NBA fans and GMs are concerned is the free-agent market and player transactions.

Of course, the Miami Heat certainly won’t be involved in any major capacity this time around.  They did their damage last year signing the two biggest free-agents out there in Lebron James and Chris Bosh.  Those guys, along with the Sheriff of Dade County: Dwyane Wade, took the Heat to the brink of an NBA title.  Plus, it isn’t like Miami has gobs of money floating around under the salary cap to make room for new additions.  No, the Heat should and will stand pat.

Or should they?

The main questions heading into the 2010-11 season for the Heat were how long would it take for the Big 3 to gel, and how would they cope with not having a significant post presence? Well, we got our answers.  When the Heat were able to cause havoc on the defensive end, causing turnovers which led to break away opportunities and dunks Wade and James thrived.  They delegated scorer and facilitator duties based on feel and on a nightly basis.  Often times they overwhelmed teams with their talent that questions regarding lack of a post-presence seemed moot.

But against teams with a significant post presence of their own, the Heat’s liability was clearly visible.  Miami went 58- 24 overall, but that record dipped to just 7-5 against the top 3 centers in the league (Dwight Howard – ORL, Amare Stoudamire – NYK, Al Horford – ATL).  They also split games with Chris Kaman’s lowly LA Clippers, and weren’t able to beat Boston early in the season when Shaq was still on the floor with fresh legs.

With regards to who “the man” would be in Miami, we saw just how tricky that could be in the NBA finals.  Well, maybe it wasn’t tricky, but it was definitely apparent that Lebron James wasn’t going to grab the reigns and bring home a championship against Dallas.  I won’t get too carried away by that though, James was outstanding in the earlier rounds of the playoffs, using uncharacteristically great 3-point shooting to take over series against Boston and Chicago.  Still, his lapses in crunch time this season and throughout his career have become readily apparent.

So, what do you do if you are Heat GM Pat Riley?

If I’m in Riley’s shoes I think long and hard at a trade proposal with the Orlando Magic for All – NBA center Dwight Howard.  Sure, there will be a certain level of “egg on face,” cutting bait with James after just one year of service, especially with all the hoopla surrounding “the Decision,” and the fact that the Big 3 did lead the Heat to the NBA finals.  That said, those finals left an indelible mark on the Heat as well as James specifically.  The questions about the Heat’s post deficiencies still remain and picking up Howard would be a huge coup in that regard.

Orlando doesn’t want to get stuck in a situation similar to Cleveland in the wake of James departure last summer.  They would most likely jump at the chance to get something for Howard, who will be gone after next season anyway and the addition of James to a roster that already includes Jason Richardson (pending the re-sign him), and Jameer Nelson and would be a pretty salty team itself.  This is about as good a trade that Orlando could hope for with regard to Howard, though I still don’t think James for Howard straight-up makes the Magic any better.  Howard is so much better than any other center out there that even James can’t really offset his value.

Back to Miami’s coup of Howard.  It is no secret that the Lakers are another team in hot pursuit of the All – NBA center.  They aren’t the only ones who are licking their chops for the 2012 offseason and a shot at picking up “Superman.”  The Heat could squelch all that talk in one fell swoop by swapping straight-up for James.  If they did so they would immediately get better, as least in my opinion, and become the overwhelming favorite to win the title in 2011-12.

Wade would be free to command the scoring responsibilities, and any decent spot up shooter would be lights out with the attention paid to Wade, and defenses forced to sag and help out on Howard and Bosh inside.  Speaking of Bosh, the addition of Howard would relieve Bosh from the banging duties that he isn’t suited for and free him up to be the offensive weapon that he is capable of being.

Howard’s addition speaks for itself, his defense is unmatched, and he could be a near 20 ppg scorer on garbage baskets alone.

Dwight Howard – Center, Chris Bosh – PF, Mike Miller (or insert player name here) – SF, Dwyane Wade – SG, Mario Chalmers – PG

That is a line-up that has multiple NBA titles written all over it.

It probably won’t happen, no one likes to admit a mistake, and no one likes to cut bait so soon, but a “Sunshine State Swap” might just be the best thing for both the Heat and the Magic.

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What about the champions?

Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry celebrate NBA Championship. Photo courtesy of D. Phillip/ APof

Since the final horn sounded in Game 7 of last year’s NBA finals there have been a myriad of noteworthy storylines with regard to the current NBA season.  Could Phil Jackson and Kobe lead the Lakers to another 3-peat?  Would the new look Chicago Bulls dethrone the Celtics in the east?  And finally, where on earth would Lebron James land?

James, in a media-event, like none of us had ever seen before, shocked everyone when he announced that he would be, “taking my talents to South Beach” to team up with Dwayne Wade, fellow free-agent signing Chris Bosh, and the Miami Heat.  The “Big 3,” then followed that with a self-aggrandizing welcome party in Miami and immediately become one of the most polarizing squads in professional sports history.

Oh, by the way, Tim Duncan and the Spurs were still really good.  Superman was still manning the middle in Orlando.  Oklahoma City had a dog in this fight too with their young and talented team led by Kevin Durant.  Carmelo Anthony teamed up with Amare Stoudamire in New York as well.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, was talking about the Dallas Mavericks.

Dallas quietly went 57-25, good enough to tie the Lakers for 3rd in the Western Conference.  They headed into the playoffs as an afterthought.  We’d seen this Mavs team before, win a good chunk of games in the regular season, then fold in the playoffs.  Dallas has been nearly universally thought of as soft by NBA media types for years.

Heading into the playoffs more pressing matters than the Mavericks were at hand.

This years playoffs were supposed to be all about the Lakers, and whoever would emerge as the beast from the east.  MVP Derrick Rose* had led Chicago to the best record in the League and became the sexy new pick to advance out of the East.  The new “Big 3,” in Miami and the older version in Boston were geared up for a finals run as well.

*Dirk was a distant 6th in the 2011 MVP voting despite leading Dallas to a 55-18 record in games that he played.  The Mavericks were just 2-7 in games he missed due to injury.

Miami, Boston, and Chicago dominated first round opponents.  Los Angeles had little trouble with New Orleans.  Oh yeah, the Mavs advanced too, heading into a second round series against Kobe, Phil and the Lakers.

Then the Lakers tanked and were eliminated in 4 straight.  Nevermind Dallas, the team who laid the beat down to the defending-champs.  This was all about the collapse of LA.  This was about the Lakers losing.  At least that is how the media portrayed it.

On other side of the bracket Lebron James looked like the greatest player in the world as Miami dominated series’ against both Boston and Miami.  All of a sudden the NBA playoffs became some sort of Miami Heat invitational.  All the hoopla, all the fireworks from the off-season were paying off.  Miami looked primed to kickoff their Dynasty in high-fashion.  It was “Miami is going to win the NBA finals, and I’m not even sure who they are playing.”

Has there ever been a team (Dallas) who put on such a great playoff run and remained so under-the-radar?

After crushing the Mavericks in game 1, Miami took an 88-73 lead in game 2 with just 7:14 left to play.  It came on a 3-pointer by Wade, right in front of the Dallas bench.  As Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle called a timeout, Wade and James celebrated.  Wade held up his shooting hand for a good 5 seconds after the shot hit, stared at the Dallas bench as James came over also scowling, and mock-punched Wade in the chest.

Bad move.

Dallas closed the game on a 22-5 run, spurred on by aging veterans Jason Terry and Jason Kid they closed the gap to just 4 points with just over 3 minutes to play.  Dirk took it from there, scoring the Mavericks’ final 9 points of the game, and Dallas escaped with a 95-93 game 2 victory.

Still, after the game it wasn’t about the comeback.  It was all about Miami and how they choked it away.  Many in the media dismissed it as an event where Dallas just had nothing to lose, Miami took their foot off the gas.  No way the Mavericks could stand toe-to-toe with Wade, Bosh and King James when the pressure was on.

Miami then took a hard-fought game 3, the first in Dallas, and claimed a 2-1 in the series.  The question at that point wasn’t who is going to win the series, it was only a question of who (Wade or James) would emerge as the Finals MVP and best player on the Heat.  Wade was looking like he did in the 2006 Finals in which he torched Dallas for over 30 points a game en route to the Championship and MVP trophies.  James seemed to shrink in the 4th quarter.  No mention of Dallas who came back time after time in the game on numerous spectacular plays by Dirk and was only a shot away from sending it into overtime in the closing seconds.

When Dallas took game 4 86-83 to even the series at 2-2 it wasn’t the Mavericks who were the story. Nor was it Nowitzki, who battled a 102 degree fever, en route to 21 crucial points including a driving lay in to put Dallas up by three with 15 seconds left to play.  It was James, who scored just 8 points in the game, that gained the attention of the media.

Wade and James’ stole media attention again with their mocking of Nowitzki’s fever.  Heading though the tunnel prior to game 5, both players covered their mouths with their shirts and began coughing and laughing.  Nowitzki dismissed their act as, “childish.”

Still, not many really believed that Dallas could take the series.  Lebron was sure to bounce back with a phenomenal game 5, right?  Wrong.

Dallas took game 5, behind incredible, team-wide 3-point shooting. The Mavericks went 13-19 from deep for the game.  Everyone chipped in.  JJ Barrea, the waterbug-quick guard drove the lane as well as hit from deep, Dirk hit an incredible high-arching 3, Jason Kidd hit timely jumpers.  Jason Terry, who had himself been non-existent in the fourth quarter of finals games but still found the confidence to call out James in between games 4 and 5 hit two nail in the coffin type threes to put the game out of reach.  James notched maybe the least impressive triple-double in NBA history, fading once again in crunch time and while Wade was in the locker room getting treatment for injury.

Even with the 3-2 series lead many felt that the series was still Miami’s to lose.  They still had both the remaining games at home. and if they could nab a win in game 6 history has been very kind to home teams in game 7s.

Jason Terry had other plans.

Dallas’ veteran guard again backed up his claims of Lebron James having trouble keeping up with him, scoring 19 first half points as the Mavericks took a 53-51 lead into halftime.  From that point on it was a team effort, Kidd, the 17 year NBA vet, made timely jumpers, dished assists, and played uncanny positional defense. Barrea pestered the Heat with his quickness.  Terry kept hitting. Even little-used big-man Mahimi got into the act with a key offensive rebound and buzzer-beating elbow jumper to close out the 3rd quarter.

But it was Nowitzki, the MVP, who stepped up in the 4th quarter after having an otherwise pedestrian game.  Dirk scored 10 points in the final quarter, to close out the championship.

And with the final seconds winding down.  With players untucking their jerseys.  Heat players looking bewildered. Heat fans emptying the aisles.  Mavericks players and fans rejoicing in the stands, on the court and via satellite in Germany and Dallas.  Nowitzki walked of the court and into the tunnel in a manner quite synonymous to his team’s entire championship season, quietly, and under-the-radar.

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NCAA Football playoffs start this Saturday (in my dreams)

This Saturday could be the first weekend of Division-I college football playoff.  This Saturday could play host to numerous epic, win or go home match-ups.  College football could be the talk of the sports nation, just like basketball is every March. We could all be readying ourselves for match-ups between Arkansas and Michigan State, or Oklahoma and LSU, in which the winner would survive only long enough for a road-trip to Auburn, Ala. or Eugene, Ore.  Teams like Stanford and Wisconsin could be licking their chops at a possible second round match-up for the right to advance closer to a National Championship.

We could be in the early stages of a month-long drama that would have seen a true National Champion crowned on New Years Day.

Of course we can only dream.

Instead we are mired in the grasp of archaic bowl games and a BCS championship system that does nothing but create fan apathy toward 95% of the now 37 bowl-games. Even in the BCS — which is supposed to pit the creme-de-la creme against one another —  we wind up with match-ups like a meaningless Fiesta Bowl featuring #7 Oklahoma and a Connecticut team that, well, had to be placed somewhere.

“But what about the tradition!?”

Can this excuse get any more tired?  Tradition?  This year the BCS is sending #4 Stanford, the Pac 10 runner-up (Oregon will be in the BCS title game), to Miami to play in the Orange Bowl,  while Texas Christian heads to Pasadena to smell the roses.  Bowl tradition has been all-but-gone for some time. It’s time to put the old dog down.

It’s time for a playoff, and if people still want to put on bowl games for the teams that don’t make it, great.  With a 16 team playoff there would still be enough teams (58) left for 29 bowls.  Which could still take place right alongside the playoff tournament with little or no interference.

Anyway, enough with the ranting, let’s get back to that dream scenario.

College system needs a playoff, and not a plus-one game,  and not even an 8 team tournament.  Division I football needs a 16 team, four round, elimination tournament to crown it’s champion.  It is the best for the fans, the television ratings, and for the schools involved.

Of the 16 teams selected 11 would be “automatic” qualifiers, and would earn that distinction by winning their conference championship.  The remaining 5 teams would be chosen “at-large” either by a committee or by a predetermined system similar to the BCS or some other computer ranking.

Under this system every school in the country would have a tangible chance to win the national championship at the beginning of the regular season, and the best teams that fail to win their conference title would still have a shot to make the playoffs.  This would differ from the current situation where a team like TCU squad literally no shot to win it all, even if they go undefeated.

Once the 16 teams are chosen then the committee or the predetermined system would seed them 1 to 16.  Higher seeded teams would then have “home-field advantage,” up until the championship game, which would be held at a predetermined neutral site.

The whole tournament would have a total of 15 games and last four weeks.  It would start the week after the conference championship games.

So how would it look?

If held this year the playoffs would begin this Saturday, Dec. 11., the second round on the 18th, the semi-finals — think Final Four — on Christmas Day.  The Championship game could then be played on either New Years Day or it could be pushed back a week to allow to ease travel arrangements of teams, fans, and media.

A set-up like this would instantly transform December from one of the slower times in the sports world into a NCAA football bonanza.

But of Course this is only a dream.

Edit:  Independent teams would qualify the same as At-Large teams.

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Big 12 Power Rankings: 11/16/2010

Red Hot Texas A&M won a tough won at Baylor.  Colorado bounced back from an embarrassing loss and the firing of their head coach, blowing out Iowa State at home. Missouri pulled away from a turnover riddled Kansas State in a match-up of then BCS top 25 teams. The rest of the Big 12 favorites held serve.   While week 11 saw little change at the top Texas A&M continues to rise and Texas continues in the opposite direction.

1. Nebraska ≡ – Quarterback Taylor Martinez returned and with their young star still a bit gimpy the Cornhuskers rode their talented defense to a 20-3 home-win over Kansas.  The Blackshirt defense was stifling, holding KU to just 87 total yards of offense.  The BCS No. 8 Cornhuskers, now 9-1 (5-1), head to College Station for what now looks to be an extremely competitive game against BCS No. 19 Texas A&M.

2. Oklahoma State ≡ – The Cowboys went to work early against Texas, cruising to a 26-3 halftime lead against the free-falling Longhorns.  OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden threw for 409 yards and the Cowboys racked up 532 yards of total offense in their 33-16 win over UT in Austin.  The BCS No. 10 Cowboys, now 9-1 (5-1) head to Kansas before finishing up with the Bedlam Series match-up with BCS No. 14 Oklahoma.  The OSU vs. OU contest could very well decide the South champion.

3. Oklahoma – The Sooners were back to looking like a well oiled machine in their 45-7 home-win over Texas Tech.  OU quarterback Landry Jones threw for five TDs against the Red Raiders, three of them going to wide out Ryan Broyles.  The Sooners have now won 36 straight in Norman, the longest active home winning streak in the country.  The BCS No. 14 Sooners, now 8-2 (4-2), head to Waco, Texas for a tricky road game against Baylor in week 12.  A giant trip to Stillwater looms in the season finale and the Sooners don’t want to get caught looking ahead.

4. Missouri ≡ – The Tigers were able to beat then BCS No. 24 Kansas State in week 11 largely because the Wildcats made a habit of turning the ball over.  Midway through the third quarter, with KSU driving, MU’s Aldon Smith sacked KSU QB Carson Coffman, knocking the ball loose, Mizzou’s Jacquies Smith picked it up and ran 53 yards for a touchdown on the play to make the score 27-14.  The Tigers forced four total turnovers in the 38-28 home-win.  The BCS No. 15 Tigers, now 8-2 (4-2) head to Ames, Iowa for a tilt with Iowa State and then finish off the regular season against Kansas in Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium.

5. Texas A&M – The Aggies enjoyed continued success after Mike Sherman decided on a mid-season change at quarterback.  A&M is now 3-0 when quarterback Ryan Tannehill is the starter after an impressive 42-30 win at Baylor.  The Aggie defense stiffened in the second half, as A&M outscored the Bears 21-0 in the second half.  The BCS No. 19 Aggies, now 7-3 (4-2), host BCS No. 8 Nebraska in week 12 before finishing the regular season in Austin against the hated Longhorns.

6. Kansas State ≡ – The Wildcats had their chances against Missouri but ill-timed turnovers cost them any opportunity they might have had at upsetting the BCS No. 15 Tigers in Columbia.  Quarter back Carson Coffman had 2 fumbles, including one at the Mizzou goal-line, and threw an interception.  Back-up running back John Hubert fumbled the ball on an attempted “statue of liberty” play in the Wildcats 38-28 defeat.  Emerging quarterback Colin Klein rushed for 141 yards and threw for another 65 and a TD in the loss.  The Wildcats, now 6-4 (3-4) travel to Colorado before closing out the regular season at non-conference foe North Texas.

7. Baylor ≡ – For the second straight week the Bears failed in an opportunity to climb higher in a season that has already been a relative success for their program.  Baylor was outscored 21-0 in the second half of their week 11 home game against Texas A&M.  If the Bears, now 7-4 (4-3) hope to keep pace in their Big 12 finale with BCS No. 14 Oklahoma, their defense will have to improve.  The Bears are giving up 34 points a game in conference play.

8. Texas Tech – The Red Raiders finished their 2010 Big 12 campaign with an embarrassing 45-7 loss at Oklahoma.  Coach Tommy Tuberville’s squad scored on their opening drive, but the once feared Tech offense fizzled the rest of the way.  The Red Raiders, now 5-5 (3-5), hope to earn bowl eligibility with non-conference home-games against Weber St. and Houston remaining.

9. Iowa State – The Cyclones were throttled in week 11 by a formerly reeling Colorado team that was previously winless in the Big 12.  Senior quarterback Austin Arnaud was sacked five times and is out for the season after leaving the game in the fourth quarter due to injury.  Iowa State, now 5-6 (3-4) , hosts BCS No. 15 Missouri in the season finale.  The game is a must-win if the Cyclones have any shot of going bowling this season.

10. Texas ≡ – The Longhorns continued their plummet with a 33-16 loss to Oklahoma State in Austin.   The Cowboys raced out to a 26-3 halftime lead against Mack Browns club before shutting down the gas.  The Longhorns, now must both defeat Florida Atlantic and win their finale against red-hot BCS No. 19 Texas A&M if they hope to avoid their first losing season since 1997.

11. Colorado ≡ – The Buffaloes rallied around 28 year assistant coach Brian Cabral for a surprising 34-14 win over Iowa State in Boulder.  Cabral is now the interim head coach after Dan Hawkins was fired midweek.  Hawkins was in the stadium, to watch his son Cody throw for 266 yards and three touchdowns in the win.  The Buffaloes, now 4-6 (1-5) host Kansas State before finishing the season at BCS No. 8 Nebraska.

12. Kansas ≡ – The Jayhawks defense played relatively well holding Nebraska to just 20 points and under 400 yards of total offense in week 11.  Unfortunately for head coach Turner Gill, his homecoming was soured by an anemic offensive performance that saw the Jayhawks amass just 87 yards of total offense in the 20-3 loss.  Kansas, now 3-7 (1-5), finishes up the season hosting BCS No. 10 Oklahoma State before heading to Kansas City to face the hated BCS No. 15 Missouri Tigers.

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Big 12 Power Rankings: 11/11/2010

Week 10 saw former number ones — Oklahoma and Missouri — both suffer their second Big 12 loss of the season.  Baylor failed in its attempt to solidify itself as a Big 12 power-player, losing big to Oklahoma State.  Texas looks to have gone completely into the tank, after getting drubbed by Kansas State. But it might have been Kansas who provided the most excitement of anyone during week ten, in a dramatic comeback win over Colorado.  When the dust settled, Nebraska took its place atop the Big 12 mountain.

1. Nebraska – The Cornhuskers were the only Big 12 team able to pull off a road win during week 10 and they did so with QBs Taylor Martinez and Zac Lee watching from the sidelines.  Though the Husker offense was limited to just over 300 yards of total offense but the defense held Iowa St. in check long enough for a dramatic 31-30 overtime win.  NU faithful must really be shaking their heads at the Huskers loss to Texas earlier in the season.  That loss, to a Longhorn team that is now just 4-5 (2-4), is all that is separating Bo Pelini’s squad from a possible BCS title berth.

2. Oklahoma State – The Cowboys took a previously red-hot Baylor team behind the woodshed during week 10.  OSU amassed 725 yards of total offense in the 55-28 rout of the then BCS No. 21 Bears.  Head Coach Mike Gundy has had success at OSU but he has yet to beat either Oklahoma or Texas, and the Cowboys have yet to appear in the Big 12 title game.  It looks like the stars are aligning for that all to go down if the Cowboys can take care of business.

4a. Oklahoma – The Sooners fell to a resurgent Texas A&M team 33-18 in College station during week ten.  OU was held scoreless by the Aggies during the first half before coming back to cut the defecit to 19-17 late in the 3rd quarter.  they never managed to get over the hump though as A&M fulled away in the fourth quarter.  The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the BCS No. 16 Sooners.  Texas Tech team fresh off of an upset win over Missouri heads to Norman in week 11, before OU head to both Baylor and BCS No. 10 Oklahoma State for what is sure to be a raucous crowd in Stillwater to finish the regular season.

4b. Missouri – It seemed as though the Tigers had finally gotten over the hump.  Gary Pinkel’s team was fresh off of a win over then BCS No. 1 Oklahoma, and it looked like this might be the year for Mizzou to make it to the BCS, there was even talks of a title appearance.  MU couldn’t sustain the momentum though and the Tigers have now lost two in a row following a surprising 24-17 loss to Texas Tech in Lubbock.  The Tigers seemed to have the game in control, leading 17-10 at halftime but they were shut-out by the Red Raiders in the second half.  QB Blaine Gabbert completed just 12 of 30 passes in the loss.

5. Texas A&M – It has been better late than never for the Aggies as they have now reeled off three straight victories following an impressive 33-18 win over then BCS No. 8 Oklahoma.  Mike Sherman and Co. were much maligned after three straight earlier losses against tough opponents Oklahoma State, Arkansas, and Missouri, but the negativity looks to have been unwarranted two of those games were very close and the Aggies have bounced back nicely.  The Aggies finish the season with another tough three game stretch heading to Baylor, then back home against Nebraska, and the season finale in Austin against the hated Longhorns.

6. ≡ Kansas State – Maybe Kansas State really does “own Texas?”  Or maybe the Longhorns just aren’t a very good football team.  It is probably a bit of both.  Still the Wildcats ran out to a 31-0 lead against UT before the Wildcats even completed a pass.  They extended that lead to 39-0 before Texas scored two   late in the game.  Bill Snyder’s squad is now looking 8-4 (4-4) squarely in the face.  If they can upset a reeling Mizzou team this week in Columbia KSU could have its first 9 win season in 7 years.

7. Baylor – The Bears were blown out by a quality opponent for the second time in week 10.  The 55-28 defeat at the hands of Oklahoma State showed that while vastly improved the Bears still haven’t quite reached that next level, especially on defense.  The Bears gave up 435 yards passing, and 290 yards rushing against the BCS No. 10 Cowboys.  The schedule doesn’t get any easier as Baylor hosts the resurgent, BCS No. 25 Texas A&M Aggies, before ending the season with a road-trip to BCS No. 16 Oklahoma.

8. Iowa State – The Cyclones lost a heart-breaker to BCS No. 8 Nebraska in week 10, but Paul Rhoads’ squad played with their characteristic heart and toughness in the 31-30 overtime defeat.  The Cyclones went for the win on a fake extra point, but the pass from holder Daniel Kuehl was intercepted by the Huskers to secure the NU win.  The Cyclones hope to earn bowl eligibility this week at Colorado, before hosting Missouri in the regular season finale.

9. Texas Tech – The Red Raiders pulled of an impressive come-from-behind upset over Missouri in week ten, shutting out the then BCS No. 12 Tigers in the second half of the 24-17 win.  First year head Coach Tommy Tuberville looks to have the Red Raiders 5-5 (3-4) going bowling with remaining games against Furman and Houston, but a win at BCS No. 16 Oklahoma will be required to avoid a losing Big 12 record.

10. ≡ Texas – The Longhorns have mailed it in.  Mack Brown would probably tell you otherwise but how else can you explain the absolute collapse of the UT football team this year.  We all know the Longhorns now 4-5 (2-4) are loaded with talent, and they did beat BCS No. 8 Nebraska in Lincoln earlier this year, home-losses to the likes of UCLA and Iowa State along with a 39-14 drubbing at the hands of Kansas State has the Longhorns on the outside looking in at bowl eligibility.  UT rounds out the season with BCS No. 10 Oklahoma State, Florida Atlantic and the finale against BCS No. 25 Texas A&M.

11. Kansas – Who would have thought Kansas would move out of the Big 12 cellar, especially when the Jayhawks trailed Colorado 45-17 early in the fourth quarter Saturday in Lawrence.  It looked like another blowout loss to the few fans remaining in Memorial Stadium, but Turner Gill’s team came back for an improbable 52-45 win.  The loss broke an 11 game Big 12 winless streak for the Jayhawks and led to the firing of former CU head coach Dan Hawkins.

12. Colorado – CU head coach was fired this week after the Buffaloes 52-45 loss at Kansas.  It doesn’t get any easier for the Buffaloes 3-6 (0-5) who host a tough Iowa State team, and BCS No. 25 Kansas State before ending a long-standing rivalry with BCS No. 8 Nebraska in Lincoln.

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