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Texas-UCLA game set. The Big 12-Pac 10 Hardwood Series continues this winter with game two between the Longhorns and Bruins. Conference officials released the lineup for this year's slate of games and the Longhorns and Bruins will tip in Austin on December 4th at the Frank Erwin Center. Texas defeated UCLA 63-61 on the road last year.

While Texas will be trying to find a new DJ Augustin-less identity, UCLA loses both Kevin Love and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to early entry in the NBA Draft. Gutty Little Bruins has reports on both Love and Mbah a Moute's departures.

Mmmm... stat porn.  My appreciation for numbers and analysis-based approaches to sports fandom is a product of my long love affair with Baseball Prospectus; hence the great appreciation I have for football sites like SMQ, MGoBlog, and Football Outsiders.

Though I've pointed to the outstanding work being done at Rock M Nation to fellow bloggers on many occasions, this is a great time to publicly shout out the greatness of the research being presented by SB Nation's Missouri bloggers, as well.

Most recently, Rock M Nation's Bill Connelly released his latest research on gridiron success based on down, distance, and field position. For the stat lovers in the crowd, I'd recommend starting with RMN's stat glossary here before proceeding to the research released this week. For a good overview summary of Bill's latest work, SMQ has your primer.

You have to admire his testicular fortitude. Appropriate that a blogger who goes by the handle 'cocknfire' is the first to come out and announce that, yes, he's considering Notre Dame for his preseason Top 25 list. From SBN's excellent Garnett And Black Attack:

NOTRE DAME :: There, I said it. Yes, Notre Dame. This team was pathetic last year. The 3-9 record does not do justice to a team that averaged 75 yards on the ground and 167 through the air. But... Even accounting for their diminished state, the Fighting Irish have nine winnable games on their schedule. (Gotta love being an independent.) In case you're skeptical, they are: San Diego State, at Michigan State, Purdue, Stanford, at North Carolina, at Washington, Pittsburgh, Navy (in Baltimore) and Syracuse. And last year might serve as what our fathers used to call "a character-building experience." If only... The Irish hadn't been so incredibly awful in 2007.

The man has a point with the schedule, though I'll be more interested in the Irish' performance within those games, more so than whether they win. See my note on Kansas from this Top 25 draft ballot in 2007; it was their domination of the weak that had me willing to rank them higher than I might otherwise.

Related: Rakes of Mallow has a look at ND's September slate of games.

Actually... yeah. Though Crimson and Cream Machine admirably tries to defend the current crop of Big 12 quarterbacks, the article he's responding to - "Big 12 Passers not High on NFL Wish Lists" - makes a valid point. A lot of the offensive strength in the Big 12 is systemic.

Even so, a big part of the conference's recent offensive success is a product of the quarterbacks manning those systems. I'll save my full thoughts on this for a full post, but to make a long story short: since the Texas UIL started allowing 7-on-7 during the summer, the landscape of Texas high school football has changed dramatically. From pioneers like South Lake Carroll to the general improvement of Texas quarterback prospects generally, it's had an enormous affect on offensive potency throughout the state and region:

* Chase Daniel and Todd Reesing are both Texas QB products. Ditto Elite 11 member (and possible LSU starter) Jarrett Lee. The number of highly-regarded Texas QB prospects has increased dramatically since UIL changed its rules.

* A lot of this started when teams like Southlake Carroll began dominating the state with better systems executed by inferior athletes. Texas high school football has evolved at a mind-boggling pace, and UT fans should pay attention. Lake Travis five-star and Longhorn commit Garrett Gilbert ran the pass spread attack (now more the statewide norm) to perfection.

And so on. I'll save the rest for a full post, but it's worth noting now that there's been an offensive sea change in the Big 12 that's a reflection of both the change in Texas UIL rules and the arrival of Mike Leach in the conference.