November 16, 2009

THREE THINGS to take away from the Baylor game

1. D.J. Monroe being suspended indefinitely after being charged with DWI early Sunday will probably end up bringing this team closer together. But that is one serious playmaker who will be missing.

Monroe is second nationally averaging 35.8 yards per return with two touchdowns. Also a game-changing threat because of his speed (4.3 in the 40), Monroe has averaged 5.5 yards per carry (20 for 110) this season as a running back.

Monroe will be replaced on kick returns by Jordan Shipley. It would not shock me if Monroe was suspended for the Kansas and Texas A&M games but made a return for the Big 12 title game or BCS national title game (if that game is on the schedule).

Henry Melton and Sergio Kindle both served three-game suspensions for DWI charges to start the 2007 season because they were part of the Summer of Discontent in Austin (think Robert Joseph, James Henry and Andre Jones). But Lamarr Houston served only a one-game suspension last season for his DWI charge.

That's because Houston, the son of two preachers, immediately went to coaches and told them what happened and apologized profusely to his teammates.

I could see Mack Brown suspending Monroe for two games - somewhat of a compromise between the two - because he violated the players' pledge to be "all in" for each other this season and brought negative attention to the team.If Brown thinks Monroe could be a distraction off the field, this suspension could be for the rest of the season.

The whole thing is very disappointing, considering how thoughtful Monroe had been in talking earlier this season about what he had learned from his travails at Texas to get to this point.

If I'm Monroe and I want to play, I'm doing everything possible to prove to Mack Brown I made a horrendous mistake at a time when the team has EVERYTHING on the line.

Monroe has been a bit of a project for Mack Brown off the field (remember Monroe was removed from spring ball this year so he could focus on his academics).

It's possible Monroe has already worn out his welcome with Mack Brown. Time will tell.

2. It's hard to get too excited about what the running game did against Baylor because the Bears were clearly more concerned about giving up big plays in the passing game and only played seven in the box against Texas.

Texas had its second-best rushing performance of the season with 35 carries for 224 yards on the ground (behind UT's 304 yards rushing on 42 carries against UTEP).

But those numbers came against a defense that has little foot speed and opted to give up some chunks on the ground in exchange for getting blasted by big plays in the passing game.

With all that said, Cody Johnson did exactly what the coaches wanted in extending runs by moving the pile and catching the football (three times for 19 yards).

Tre' Newton also continues to be impressive. Seven carries for 80 yards (11.4 ypc) and that jaw-dropping 45-yard TD run in which he made a cut that left a safety face down on the ground. That's big time.

We didn't see Newton at all against Oklahoma (because of his concussion suffered early against Colorado). And he only had seven carries for 21 yards in the three games after OU.

Texas has two games left to determine what its running game is going to look like. And there should be room to run against both Kansas, which has the 42nd-ranked rush defense, and Texas A&M, which has the 85th-ranked rush defense.

The Jayhawks have given up at least 200 yards rushing to a team three times this season:

*Iowa State (219 yards, 5.1 ypc)
*Kansas State (266 yards, 6.2 ypc)
*Nebraska (214 yards, 5.1 ypc).

The K-State and Nebraska games were the last two contests played by KU, so the Jayhawks have given up 480 yards rushing (and 5.7 ypc) in their last two games.

Texas A&M has also given up at least 200 yards rushing in three games this season:

*UAB (229 yards, 6.5 ypc)
*Kansas State (232 yards, 4.5 ypc)
*Oklahoma (248 yards, 5.5 ypc).

In only two games this season has A&M held opponents to under 160 yards rushing (New Mexico ran for only 21 yards on 24 carries in the season opener, and Texas Tech ran for only 64 yards on 22 carries in Mike Sherman's signature win up to this point).

So the Longhorns should continue to have some success on the ground the next two games.

3. Colt McCoy tied Georgia's David Greene for most wins all-time by a quarterback (42) in NCAA history. But did McCoy make up any ground in the Heisman Trophy race?

I know. I know. No one cares about individual awards on a team that is 10-0 and has a direct line to the national title game if it takes care of business. But let's just look at the Heisman Trophy race for a second.

The truth is Alabama's Mark Ingram has a place right now on just about everyone's ballot. He only cemented that in a 31-3 road rout of Mississippi State with 19 carries for 149 yards, including a made-for-SportsCenter 70-yard TD run.

You get to enter three names on your Heisman ballot: a first-place vote, a second-place vote and a third-place vote. Right now, Ingram is probably on just about everyone's ballot.

The other two names on the ballot are looking more and more like Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow. This is good and bad.

It's good that McCoy is in the mix after doing nothing attention-grabbing in the first five (maybe even six games, depending on some voters' opinions of the OU game).

In fact, the decision not to let McCoy run the first five games of the season could be the reason McCoy isn't the leader in the race heading into the home stretch. That lead belongs to Ingram.

Texas coaches made a conscious decision to use John Chiles in the Wild Horn so Chiles would take the hits on the quarterback instead of McCoy through the early part of the season. (Even though McCoy was the team's leading rusher last season.)

"Our quarterback will continue to run the ball some," Davis said after the Baylor game. "That's what we do, but we do want to be smart with it.

"There's a cumulative effect with most quarterbacks when they are carrying it 15 or 20 times. That means they're getting hit 15 to 20 times, plus whatever happens in the pocket. So we just wanted to make sure as we got to this point, he was still healthy and ready to go."

So the good news is McCoy is still healthy and ready to go with three or four of the most important games of his life still ahead of him. But without big rushing numbers or rushing highlights, McCoy has had to rest on his passing numbers and his victory totals.

Those numbers may be enough to put McCoy over the top and get him the Heisman. McCoy can become the all-time victory leader at QB in college football history with a win against Kansas this week and is leading the nation in completion rate (72.4 percent). But his numbers are not as good as last year, when he finished as the Heisman runner-up to Sam Bradford.

McCoy's TD (19) and INT (9) numbers - the numbers that typically dictate the Heisman race for QBs unless there are substantial rushing numbers - are not nearly as good as guys like Case Keenum (31 TDs, 6 INTs), Jimmy Clausen (21 TDs, 4 INTs) or Boise State's Kellen Moore (32 TDs, 3 INTs).

I'm a Heisman voter, and I'm not even looking at Keenum, Clausen or Moore. My top three right now would probably be McCoy, Ingram and Tebow.

But there's a very good chance the Heisman race will be decided in the SEC title game at 3 p.m. on Dec. 5 in the Georgia Dome. The voters who feel like that game is the "real" national title game may want to reward Ingram or Tebow with the trophy.

In fact, those who want to see McCoy win the award probably should start cheering for Florida. If Florida wins that SEC title game, there will be enough Tebow fatigue that it could come down to a two-man race between McCoy and Ingram.

Here's where timing could mean everything. The SEC title game is at 3 p.m. CT, followed by the Big 12 title game at 7 p.m. So if Ingram struggles in a loss to Florida, and Tebow continues to be up and down, the door would open for McCoy, especially if McCoy has a big day against a defense like Nebraska's.

In that situation, McCoy could end up with the stiff-armed trophy he almost certainly should have won last year.

BONUS THING:. Nebraska and Kansas State are playing this week in Lincoln (6:45 p.m. CT on ESPN) in a game that will decide the Big 12 North champion.

This game will be played at the same time as the Texas-Kansas game, but it might worth recording this one to get a good look at what Texas will be up against in Jerryworld on Dec. 5.

Nebraska has one of the best defenses in the country, led by monster DT (and lousy driver) Ndamukong Suh, who sideswiped three cars (totaling one) after allegedly trying to avoid a cat or dog in the road. He had alcohol on his breath, although below the legal limit.

(Considering Sergio Kindle's detour into an apartment this summer, it's fair to say two of the best defenders in the Big 12 are better driving toward QBs than on city streets after midnight.)

DT Jared Crick, who actually has more tackles for loss (12) than Suh (11), is also a force in the middle of the Blackshirts.

Nebraska's defense has won two huge games for the Huskers this season: a come-from-behind, 27-12 win at Missouri (Suh dominated up front, forcing a Blaine Gabbert fumble in the first quarter that was recovered by Crick and intercepting a pass in the fourth quarter, which led to NU's winning TD).

The Huskers' defense intercepted OU's Landry Jones five times, including three picks by Matt O'Hanlon.

The Cornhuskers' offense is wildly inconsistent. They can't seem to settle on a QB between junior Zac Lee, who has 11 TD passes and six interceptions, and freshman QB Cody Green, who started against Baylor and OU but was benched in a 10-3 win over the Sooners after five possessions produced zero first downs and 19 yards.

Everything for the Huskers centers around running back Roy Helu Jr., who has rushed for at least 100 yards four times this season, including the last two games - against Oklahoma (138 yards) and Kansas (156 yards).

Kansas State, which is coming off a 38-12 home loss to Missouri, has six wins against teams with a combined 29-32 record (UMass 5-5; Tennessee Tech 5-5; Iowa State 6-5; Texas A&M 5-5; Colorado 3-7; and Kansas 5-5).

The Wildcats don't have a great defense. They don't have a great quarterback. In fact, they have two QBs (Grant Gregory, 4 TDs, 3 INTs; and Carson Coffman, 2 TDs, 4 INTs), although Grant Gregory is getting most of the work lately.

What they do have is RB Daniel Thomas and tiny WR/KR Brandon Banks (5-7, 142 pounds) and the wile and guile of 70-year-old coach Bill Snyder. Thomas averages 106 yards rushing per game, and Banks has two 100-yard receiving games in the last three games (mostly because K-State was behind Oklahoma and Mizzou and had to play catch-up).

But Banks is the real deal on special teams. He has a nation-leading four kick returns for touchdowns this season and is a big-time spark for the Wildcats. My gut instinct says Nebraska wins this one, 21-7, this weekend and then pounds Colorado on its way to playing Texas at Jerryworld on Dec. 5.
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