IRVING, Texas — Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson bears no burden under the label of best in the Big 12, even if his predecessors were Heisman Trophy winners, high NFL draft picks or both.
He's not even afraid to call himself the best quarterback in the nation going into the 2010 season. He figures if he does end up being that good, he will accomplish the only thing he cares about — winning.
"My biggest goal is just to leave a winning legacy," Johnson said Monday at the Big 12 media days. "As far as being a guy that lives in Texas and my dad playing for A&M, just leave a lasting impression at Texas A&M. And I think the best way to do that is to win games."
The Big 12 total offense leader last year, Johnson put a late-season scare in the Texas Longhorns on their way to the BCS championship game. But the Aggies finished with a losing record for the second year in a row after getting blown out by Georgia in the Independence Bowl.
Johnson passed for 3,579 yards and was second among Big 12 quarterbacks with 506 rushing yards — numbers solid enough to make him the preseason offensive player of the year pick by Big 12 media. He's in a spotlight filled last year by Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Texas' Colt McCoy. He thinks stats didn't set his former opponents apart. Winning did.
"I think that I shouldn't deserve the award if I'm not winning games," said Johnson, whose father, Larry Johnson, played receiver and defensive back for the Aggies in the 1970s. "Wins are 70 to 30 more important than play. If you can get a win by throwing two passes per game, I think that's a huge deal."
Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman did set one specific number for his quarterback: a 70 percent completion rate. Johnson finished just shy of 60 percent last year, but news of that number didn't phase him.
"My goal is to complete enough passes to win a game," Johnson said. "I won't worry about the 70 percent, but I think it's along the lines of you play well and if you look back and you've completed 70 percent, then our goals should be accomplished."
EYES ON TEXAS: Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said he "wasn't real happy" about the phrase "Beat Texas" being used in a school-produced video promoting the Oct. 16 home game against the Longhorns as the annual "red out" game.
Tensions will be high that Saturday in Lincoln, Neb., because the Cornhuskers lost to the Longhorns on a game-ending field goal in the Big 12 championship game when officials added 1 second after the clock expired.
The Texas reference has since been removed, and Pelini and the players who joined him for media day spent most of their time reminding everyone that Nebraska plays five games before Texas comes to town.
"We have a lot of things to do before we even consider Texas or worry about that football game," said Pelini, who said he was unaware of the video when first asked about it because he was on vacation.
The players said the dramatic finish against Texas made it easy to come up with an offseason theme: Finish.
"We're not pinpointing Texas, but just to come up one second short means that we didn't finish the game ourselves," defensive end Pierre Allen said. "Everything we did this summer, whether it was running or lifting, everything we did was finishing."
GRIFFIN WATCH: Baylor coach Art Briles opted not to bring star quarterback Robert Griffin III to Big 12 media days. That didn't stop anyone from asking about the sophomore who is coming off a major right knee injury that sidelined him most of last season.
Griffin's injury helped push Baylor back to the bottom of the Big 12 when the Bears were thinking they might be headed to their first bowl game since 1994.
Briles said Griffin was healthy and "in great shape," but he reserved judgment for the first time Griffin tests his knee in a game.
"When you get something taken away from you, you respond two different ways," Briles said. "You pout, complain, sulk, cry, and fall into a shell, or you fight, you grind, you have vision, you have hope, and you work harder than you've ever worked in your life. That's what Robert has done, and that's what we knew he would do."
Offensive lineman Danny Watkins, a Canadian who has been playing football just four years, said Griffin looks ready.
"To look at him now, he's just a beast," said Watkins, who declined a chance to turn pro after he was drafted by the Canadian Football League during the offseason.
ON A ROLL AFTER BOWL: Don't tell Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads the bowl season is filled with meaningless games. He says the Cyclones' win over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl did more than give Iowa State its first winning season since 2005.
"I contend that being 6-6 and improved like we were and people being excited, had we lost that bowl game to Minnesota, it just — we just sort of would have poofed into January," Rhoads said. "Winning the bowl game, capping the season, I think we launched ourself into January. I think that was evident in how the kids worked the entire offseason."
Rhoads said quarterback Austen Arnaud was the team's most improved player after spring practice, and he called running back Alexander Robinson the most underrated player in the Big 12. Robinson had 1,195 yards last year and was second in the league at 99.6 yards per game.
"I wouldn't trade him for another back in this league," Rhoads said. "He runs it. He catches it. He blocks. He's intelligent. He's a leader."
TEXAS ENERGY: The University of Texas unveiled a renewable energy partnership Monday that is designed to help fund athletics through a retail electricity provider.
Texas Longhorns Energy will be a 100 percent renewable electricity provider set up exclusively for Texas alums. Anytime a customer signs up with the company, some of the money will go into the UT athletic budget.
The plan backed by Houston-based provider Champion Energy Services will be available in deregulated Texas markets.