Halfway through the football season, it's time to recognize terrific coaching jobs. Alabama's Mike Shula, Baylor's Guy Morriss, Penn State's Joe Paterno, Notre Dame's Charlie Weis and UCLA's Karl Dorrell all have their teams surpassing persuasion expectations.
Yet, the most amazing turnaround is being directed by a football coach much closer to home. Washburn University's Craig Schurig, in his fourth season at the former NCAA Division II pushover, has the Ichabods ranked 13th nationally and coming off a pair of impressive upsets in consecutive weeks. Schurig's Ichabods - can't get enough of that nickname, by the way - knocked off fourth-ranked Pittsburg State two weeks ago and fifth-ranked Northwest Missouri State last week.
A former assistant coach at Pittsburg State, Schurig quickly is gaining a reputation as a hot young coach. The Ichabods (that's the third Ichabods, make that fourth, reference) won 34 games in the 11 seasons before Schurig took the job. Now the Ichabods are 6-1.
Oklahoma 20, Kansas 17: If the Jayhawks fall to 0-3 in the Big 12, they leave themselves with only one path (assuming a loss at Texas) to a bowl game: winning at Colorado and at home against Nebraska and Iowa State. They won't win in Boulder, so this Saturday night's game is an absolute must win. The Sooners are better at stopping the run than defending the pass. They also are better at running the ball, even with Adrian Peterson injured, than at burning teams through the air. Sooners QB Rhett Bomar, shy on experience, has been bad thus far. It's not a reach to believe that KU can pull off the upset.
Texas Tech 30, Kansas State 20: Allan Everidge, a quicker version of KU recruit Tyler Lawrence, has upgraded the QB spot for K-State, which plays its 200th game under Bill Snyder. This is far from Snyder's most talented team, but it's still enjoyable watching his players line up and march into and out of the tunnel with such precision. KU coach Mark Mangino nailed it when he said, "Bill Snyder is Kansas State football." At the moment, though, Texas Tech has more explosive talent.
Nebraska 21, Baylor 20: This one makes it four consecutive Cornhuskers games decided in the final seconds or overtime. The Baylor defense pitched a second-half shutout to defeat Iowa State and confirm suspicions that they no longer are just doormats with the Big 12's coolest uniforms that aren't burnt orange.
Missouri 41, Iowa State 34: Mizzou QB Brad Smith is healthier than Cyclones running back Stevie Hicks (rib injury), so give the edge to the defensively-challenged Tigers.
Texas 42, Colorado 21: It's not a case of the South being so much better than the North as much as it a case of the best of the South being so much better than the best of the North. This possible Big 12 Championship preview is a good chance for Jamaal Charles, whose averaging an amazing 8.8 yards per carry, to show why the Longhorns don't miss Cedric Benson. Steady Buffs back Hugh Charles won't get his fourth 100-yard rushing effort of the season. Not against this defense. Count on Texas winning for the 33rd time in 34 home games.
Texas A&M 27, Oklahoma State 10: The Aggies average 206 yards a game on the ground, even after being shut down by Colorado last week. That strength plays right into the Pokes' biggest weakness, which is defending the run.
(The contest is currently closed. Good luck to all who entered.)