Big 12 viewer's guide: Week 9

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
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In Week 9 of Big 12 action, Kansas State and TCU will attempt to keep their playoff hopes alive, while Texas and Texas Tech will try to take a step on the road toward bowl eligibility. West Virginia, meanwhile, will look to keep rolling at Oklahoma State, which hopes to bounce back after getting blown out last week.

Those, among others, will be the storylines to watch Saturday in the Big 12:

Texas at No. 11 Kansas State, noon ET (ESPN): If the numbers are any indication, Texas won’t get anything easy in this game. Kansas State has allowed only 19 plays of 20 yards or more, which is the fewest given up by any Big 12 defense. The Longhorns have been better offensively the last two weeks. Still, only Kansas and Iowa State have produced fewer 20-yard-plus plays in the Big 12 than the Longhorns. Running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown have also had problems breaking loose from the line of scrimmage. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Texas is averaging 1.4 yards after contact on designed runs, the worst average among Power 5 offenses. The Longhorns will have to be better on the ground to have a chance of pulling the upset in Manhattan, Kansas.

[+] EnlargeClint Trickett
AP Photo/Chris JacksonClint Trickett has thrown 15 touchdown passes and only five interceptions this season.
No. 22 West Virginia at Oklahoma State, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN): How much better has West Virginia QB Clint Trickett been this year? He has improved his Total QBR by 29 points from last season, the third-largest increase among Power 5 QBs, according to ESPN Stats & Information. One reason for the dramatic improvement has been the long ball. Trickett has already thrown eight touchdowns on passes of 20 yards or more, tied for third among Power 5 QBs. He had just one such touchdown pass all of last season. Kevin White, the nation’s leading receiver, has been on the other end of the majority of Trickett’s long throws. White tops the country with 16 receptions of 20 yards or more. Oklahoma State, meanwhile, has been even more reliant on throwing deep. Daxx Garman has 35 completions on passes thrown 15 yards or longer, tied for the most by a Power 5 QB. One thing is certain in this game: The ball will be flying downfield often.

Texas Tech at No. 10 TCU, 3:30 p.m. ET (FOX): Trickett isn’t the only Big 12 QB who has been a completely different player this year. Trevone Boykin’s Total QBR is up 28.7 points from last season, the fifth-largest increase in college football, per ESPN Stats & Information. Thanks in big part to Boykin’s turnaround, the Horned Frogs have featured one of the best big-play offenses in the country. TCU has 13 touchdown drives of three plays or fewer, tied for the most such drives in the country, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Boykin & Co. could add to that total this weekend. Texas Tech's defensive efficiency is the worst among Power 5 teams. Opponents have scored a touchdown on 36 percent of their drives against Tech, the worst percentage of any Power 5 defense. The Red Raiders will probably need their best defensive effort of the year to have any shot at toppling the surging Horned Frogs.

Chat: CFB Saturday Live

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
7:00
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Chat live with our writers from 9 a.m. to noon ET and then again starting at 8 p.m. ET for the prime-time games. In between, keep this page open as we bring you the latest real-time reaction, analysis, pics and video from our ESPNers scattered throughout the country.

In Friday's Twitter mailbag, we talk playoff chances, Heisman odds and the Big 12 title race.

Speaking of the Big 12 title race, we’ll be at all three Big 12 games this weekend.

I’m on my way to Manhattan, Kansas, for K-State’s clash with Texas. Brandon will be at West Virginia-Oklahoma State. And Max will be manning Texas Tech-TCU.

Even with only three games, it should be a compelling weekend in the league.

Now, on to the ‘bag:

Trotter: I'm starting to wonder if the Big 12 is going to cannibalize itself out of the playoff. In terms of depth, this is the best this league has been in awhile. But in turn, I'm not sure anyone is going to be able to get through it without two losses. In part because of schedule, TCU is probably the league's best chance. Even then the Horned Frogs would still have to go win in West Virginia next weekend. That won't be easy. Trotter: He probably already would be appearing on straw polls had TCU held on to beat Baylor. All the Big 12 Heisman love went to Bryce Petty after that game. Now, it's going to West Virginia wideout Kevin White. But if the Horned Frogs beat Tech on Saturday, West Virginia next weekend then K-State on Nov. 8, I think you'll see Boykin surge into the Heisman conversation. He has had an amazing season. Trotter: I rank it second, behind the SEC (really, behind the SEC West, because the SEC East stinks outside Georgia). I've caught flak from West Coasters for writing earlier in the week that the Big 12 was second. But other than Oregon, does anyone in the Pac-12 finish in the top four of the Big 12? Trotter: While it would take a minor miracle, Oklahoma is not completely eliminated from the playoff mix yet. If you went back in time with the playoff, there would be teams that would have been selected with two losses. But the Sooners would need an awful lot of help. And quite frankly, Oklahoma will have to play better than it has the last three weeks to run the table anyway. Trotter: This is an impossible question to answer, because it fluctuates based on how each team is doing. And the word "fanbase" could mean many different things. I will say the best game I've been to this year in terms of crowd was the K-State-Auburn game last month. The K-State crowd was awesome for that game, especially the student section. Trotter: FPI gives West Virginia about a 10-percent chance of winning the league. I'd actually peg it a little higher. If the Mountaineers can escape Stillwater this weekend, they have a favorable schedule the rest of the way, with both TCU and K-State having to travel to Morgantown. The Mountaineers would also have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Baylor. So no doubt, at the moment West Virginia has to be considered a contender. Trotter: I'm a huge Curry Sexton fan. Honestly, if he and I walked into a room together, you might have a hard time determining which of us was a college football player -- and that's no compliment to me. But Sexton is a ballplayer. He has incredible hands, deceiving speed and a knack for coming up with big plays in key moments. Sexton is also one of the sharpest guys I've interviewed in the Big 12. And he has filled a major need on the Wildcats as the primary wingman for Tyler Lockett. Sexton is having a tremendous season. Trotter: It's a troubling stat. Eventually it's going to cost the Mountaineers, if they don't clean it up offensively. It was stunning how it didn't doom them early in that game against Baylor. But West Virginia also needs to be more opportunistic on defense. Only Michigan has forced fewer turnovers than the Mountaineers, who have only four takeaways. Turnovers are a big part in determining the outcome of a game. It's hard to see West Virginia overcoming that trend the rest of the season. Trotter: Both have been second-team All-Big 12-caliber players. As I wrote earlier today, Washington is quietly having a terrific year, but Shock Linwood and Samaje Perine will be tough to topple for first-team all-conference honors. Robertson is having the best season on Tech's defense, but Tech's defense is arguably the worst in the league. Plus, linebacker is a loaded position this year. Still, both players have been bright spots in what has been a tough season so far for the Red Raiders. Trotter: The reason is the schedule is so brutal. K-State still has to go win at TCU, West Virginia and Baylor. As well as the Wildcats have played, the chances of them sweeping those three games aren't good. Then again, if the Wildcats did run the table, they would obviously be the Big 12's best - and only -- chance of putting a team in the playoff. Though the Auburn loss would be tricky -- what if the final playoff spot came down to K-State and Auburn? -- the Wildcats at 11-1, with four monster road wins, would be a formidable playoff contender.

Texas Tech at TCU primer

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
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A week after knocking off a top-15 Oklahoma State team at home, TCU welcomes another dangerous foe to Fort Worth.

The No. 10-ranked Horned Frogs look to improve 6-1 and boost their rising College Football Playoff hopes with a win over Texas Tech on Saturday afternoon. Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson break down the matchup.

How Texas Tech can earn the upset: Davis Webb needs to outplay Trevone Boykin, and the Red Raider defense needs to force some turnovers if Kliff Kingsbury’s squad hopes to knock off the nation’s 10th-ranked team. Webb has done a better job of taking care of the football in recent weeks (six touchdowns, two interceptions), but it will be critical for him and the Red Raiders to limit their mistakes while putting together some big plays of their own. -- Chatmon

How TCU can control the game: This might be a survive-and-advance kind of game for TCU. You know the Red Raiders are going to take lots of shots in the pass game. They want a shootout, and they really have nothing to lose. TCU's 42-9 rout of Oklahoma State was a perfect blueprint for controlling a game from start to finish, so we know the Frogs are more than capable of that. Another strong first-half start -- stops, takeaways, red-zone TDs -- would go a long way this week against this inconsistent TTU defense. -- Olson

Texas Tech’s X factor: Running back Justin Stockton has been a big play waiting to happen with five touchdowns in seven games thus far in his career. The true freshman has scored a touchdown in all three Red Raider wins this season and has the ability to make game-changing plays as the second running option in Tech’s attack. He’s averaging 9.6 yards per carry and could be just what the Red Raiders need to pull the upset. -- Chatmon

TCU's X factor: Its diversity of skill talent production. Nine different players recorded rushes or receptions of 10-plus yards against Oklahoma State last week, including Josh Doctson. Anybody else could do it this week. The Horned Frogs' ability to move the ball without relying heavily on any one player can be an asset at this phase of the season and in the playoff chase. -- Olson

What a win would mean for Texas Tech: A win would be huge for Kingsbury’s squad, which has suffered some ups-and-downs during his second season in charge. It would be an unexpected step towards a second straight bowl game and a sign the Red Raiders have shaken off their four-game losing streak with back-to-back wins heading into a showdown with Texas. -- Chatmon

What a win would mean for TCU: Another step toward proving the Horned Frogs are the team to beat in the conference. They had one heck of an October schedule and finishing that stretch with a 3-1 record would be an impressive feat that keeps them right in the middle of the Big 12 title hunt. TCU needs to maintain its momentum, too, because the next two games are a doozy: a trip to West Virginia and a home game against Kansas State. -- Olson
Texas Tech is known for throwing the ball.

But lately, the Red Raiders' most effective offensive weapon has been a running back.

Tech heads to No. 10 TCU this weekend hoping to turn its season around against the Big 12’s highest-ranked team. The Red Raiders (3-4, 1-3 Big 12) desperately need an upset victory to keep their bowl hopes alive.

The player that could give them a chance is emerging running back DeAndre Washington. The past two weeks, Washington has rushed for 296 yards. Perhaps even more impressive, Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury has given him 52 carries in those games. Washington ranks second in the Big 12 at 5.6 yards per carry, and third with an average of almost 89 yards a game. He is on track to become Tech's first 1,000-yard rusher since 1998, when Ricky Williams (the Red Raider, not the Longhorn) ran for 1,168 on his way to earning second-team All-America honors.

[+] EnlargeDeAndre Washington
John Weast/Getty ImagesDeAndre Washington ranks second in the Big 12 at 5.6 yards per carry.
"He’s done a good job the last couple of weeks," Kingsbury said. "He's been running it well and protecting (the ball). So we like to get him going."

Washington has endured plenty of obstacles to reach this point. After a promising true freshman season, he suffered a torn ACL the following year. When he came back, he was behind Kenny Williams on the depth chart. Though he had his good moments, Washington had a couple bad ones, too. Against TCU last season, he caught a swing pass and dashed 49 yards seemingly for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. But Washington celebrated prematurely. He dropped the ball at the half-yard line, resulting in an unsportsmanlike penalty that negated the touchdown (the Red Raiders scored two plays later; and they still won the game).

Washington learned his lesson. Practically the only Red Raider not to get bitten by the mistake bug this season, Washington has yet to fumble. He has proven to be durable. And he has given much-needed balance to the offense.

"I’m feeling pretty good," Washington said. "In the offseason, I tried to take care of my body and get myself mentally prepared, physically prepared for the season. ... That's been the main reason why I've been able to go into games and sustain ... handling a lot of the load with the carries I've had."

To help Washington and add more leadership to the offense, Kingsbury has moved Kenny Williams back to running back after a short-lived experiment at outside linebacker. Together with freshman Justin Stockton, the Red Raiders will feature three capable backs during the second half of the season.

"I'm happy to have him back," Washington said of Williams. “Kenny, he's our war hawk. He'll do a lot of short-yardage. We'll use him in the pass game as well."

This time, though, Williams will be flanking Washington. Although Williams will take away carries, Washington has established himself as the Red Raiders’ primary back. That should give him the shot to become the first 1,000-yard rusher in Tech’s "Air Raid" era.

Still, that is not what Washington has on his mind going into this weekend. Instead, it's on getting a victory to keep bowl hopes alive.

"My freshman year when I came in, we didn't make a bowl game, and that was probably the longest offseason that I’ve ever been a part of in all my years of football," Washington said. "So I definitely don't want to have to endure that feeling again. We're trying to do everything we can to make sure that doesn't happen again. We kind of put ourselves in a hole early on in the season. But that's definitely what we want."

TCU, WVU coordinator hires have clicked

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
11:45
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This week in his Inside Access column, ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg took a closer look at the instant success that TCU and West Virginia have enjoyed this season thanks to their new coordinator hires.

Here's a portion of what Adam had to say about the rise of TCU's offense under co-coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie:

In mid-July, TCU coach Gary Patterson sat in an ESPN conference room discussing the College Football Playoff and how hard it will be for selection committee members to hide their biases. He listed several comparable examples.

"I haven't been around an assistant coach yet whose wife didn't think he was the reason why we won," Patterson said with a chuckle.

Three months later, no one would argue with Kendall Meacham and Tamra Cumbie. Their husbands, TCU co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie, have transformed one of the Big 12's weakest offenses into one of the nation's strongest in their first seasons on Patterson's staff.

TCU is averaging 192.9 more yards and 20.1 more points than it did in 2013, the biggest one-year jumps for any FBS team this season. The Frogs are fifth nationally in scoring (45.2 ppg) and seventh in yards (537.7 ypg), and quarterback Trevone Boykin leads the Big 12 and ranks fourth nationally in total offense (369.8 ypg).

The philosophical change from a traditional offense to the fast-paced spread has TCU in the top 10 and in contention for a coveted playoff spot. There hasn't been a more significant coaching change in the Big 12.

Adam also chatted with West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson about what has made his version of the 3-3-5 with a single-high safety so effective thus far. For the rest of this story, be sure to click here.

Big 12's top recruiting visits 

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
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It’s a relatively slow week in the Big 12, but “slow” doesn’t mean “nonexistent” when it comes to big conference matchups. TCU, Kansas State and Oklahoma State all host major games, and all three games will have potential commits in attendance. Check out some of the names and where they will be where this weekend:

Texas Tech at TCU

The Horned Frogs may be the hottest team in the Big 12, and they have a chance to impress a couple of top-ranked recruits who will be on campus this weekend. ESPN 300 receiver Carlos Strickland is a primary target for the Horned Frogs, and he is expected to take his official visit. Strickland, at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, can be a major get for an offense gaining more and more national respect each week. ESPN Junior 300 cornerback Jared Mayden also will be in Fort Worth this weekend. Mayden is one of the top-ranked cornerbacks in the 2016 class, and he would fit in well in TCU’s always-respected defense.

Big 12 morning links

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
8:00
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Happy Friday, everybody. Be safe this weekend, and may your team's odds be ever in your favor. Or, you know, something like that.
  • Oklahoma State's determination this week that last year's Sports Illustrated report was "fundamentally unfounded" is good news for Joe DeForest. John Helsley of The Oklahoman caught up with the former OSU assistant now at West Virginia, whose reputation and job were no doubt put on the line by SI's allegations against him. He described that yearlong process as a "dark cloud" hanging over his life that's now gone. Good job by Helsley to give DeForest an opportunity to share his side now that he gets to move on.
  • Is it time to begin talking (or at least wondering) about Bill Snyder's eventual exit strategy? So says Topeka Capital-Journal columnist Kevin Haskin, who lays out a few reasons why the timing could be right in the not-too-distant future. Now that Snyder is a College Football Hall of Fame nominee and the program is fully back on track, maybe it's time.The experience of Snyder's first retirement, and just how unfulfilled he'd felt, will factor heavily into that final decision. Don't think KSU is frustrated that the wizard won't leave; far from it. But, rather, it is interesting to start talking about those other factors and their potential timing.
  • Guys like Dylan Haines are a big reason why Texas' defense has flourished this season under Charlie Strong. Haines, a former walk-on, was one of the many players who got a fresh start under Strong's staff and has impressed ever since. Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News writes about Haines' push to enter the lineup and his impressive pick-six against E.J. Bibbs and Iowa State a week ago. He's a great story, and he's earning every snap he's getting right now.
  • I must admit I had not been following this story closely, but its resolution on Thursday is worth mentioning. Oklahoma has replaced its band director, Justin Stolarik, after he resigned amid heavy criticism. The Pride of Oklahoma has new leadership now after band members put a full-page ad in three Oklahoma newspapers to roast Stolarik and the OU administration. Why it needed to get that far, I can't begin to understand, but Berry Tramel provides good analysis of what that shakeup means at OU.
  • Score one -- a big one -- for Clint Bowen on the recruiting trail. Kansas' interim head coach secured a commitment on Thursday from 6-foot-5 tight end Josh Moore, a three-star prospect from Olathe (Kansas) North. Why does that one matter? Because Moore backed out of a commitment to Ohio State right before he made his pledge to KU. That's a heck of a coup considering Bowen and his coaches can't promise stability or even who's going to be the head coach next year. Getting a few more skins on the recruiting front should at least help Bowen's cause when he gets his shot to interview, right?

Big 12 players in Week 9 spotlight

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
6:00
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Our weekly effort to predict which Big 12 players are primed for a breakout performance had a few good calls last week: Ben Heeney was a monster and Jake Waters led Kansas State to an upset of Oklahoma. But we can always do better, can't we? Here's a closer look at six players who have a chance to shine in Week 10.

TCU CB Kevin White: Next week, we get the long-awaited rematch of Kevin White vs. Kevin White. This week, the TCU one gets another chance to prove he's one of the league's best corners. He snagged an interceptions last week against Oklahoma State and will have to bring his best against a Texas Tech receiving corps that's probably underrated at this point.

Kansas State FB Glenn Gronkowski: Just when you forget about him, that's when he burns you. The youngest Gronk brother is averaging 31.8 yards per reception and is so deadly in the Wildcats' delayed pop passes. Texas will be on alert after Gronkowski's 67-yard touchdown last week, but he's still going to get chances if Texas' inexperienced safeties make mistakes.

[+] EnlargeJaxon Shipley
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesJaxon Shipley has a chance to break his touchdown drought this week.
Texas WR Jaxon Shipley: The secret is out on John Harris. Texas' senior go-to receiver is going to start drawing extra attention from opposing defenses. Shipley caught the huge 39-yarder against Iowa State last week to set up the win, but he's yet to catch a touchdown this season. He'll get a chance to snap that shutout this week.

West Virginia DE Shaquille Riddick: After putting up the most sacks by a WVU defender in three years, what does Riddick have to offer for a follow-up? He was terrific as a pass-rusher against Baylor, and now he gets to take on an Oklahoma State offensive line that's playing like one of the conference's worst.

Texas Tech QB Davis Webb: He doesn't have to outduel Trevone Boykin to pull off an upset against TCU. But Webb does have to avoid turnovers and he needs to capitalize every time the Red Raiders manage to cross midfield. It's probably going to take a lot of points to take down the top-10 ranked Frogs. Can Webb make this a back-and-forth, four-quarter fight?

Oklahoma State DT James Castleman: If you missed his interception against TCU last week, it was a beauty. Right place, right time, impossible catch. The Cowboys need a lot more of that luck this weekend. Castleman and this OSU defensive line need to get after Clint Trickett and throw off the pace and timing of West Virginia's dangerous offense.
Two teams that appear headed in different directions will face off at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma, on Saturday.

After a win over Baylor, West Virginia is setting itself up for a Big 12 title run while Oklahoma State is licking its wounds after TCU dominated Mike Gundy's squad, 41-9, in Fort Worth, Texas, last weekend. OSU will be looking to avenge last year's 31-20 loss to the Mountaineers while cementing a spot in the top half of the conference. WVU will be looking to extend its win streak to four games while putting itself in prime position to win its first Big 12 title.

Jake Trotter and Brandon Chatmon break down the matchup.

How West Virginia can control the game: The Mountaineers can wear down Oklahoma State's young defense with their methodically efficient passing attack. Clint Trickett leads the Big 12 in completion percentage, and West Virginia leads the conference in yards after the catch. If the Mountaineers can get the chains moving, the Cowboys will be hard pressed to keep up on the other side. Daxx Garman has been sacked more than any other quarterback in the league. And because of his paltry 55.4 completion percentage rate, Oklahoma State has only 67 passing first downs (West Virginia has 105). If the Mountaineers can get to Garman and Trickett can keep reeling off first-down completions, they should be in control. -- Trotter

How Oklahoma State can control the game: The Cowboys can control the game with a strong performance from a defensive line that has been one of the most active units during Mike Gundy’s tenure. Defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah sits atop the Big 12 in tackles for loss (11.5) and is second in sacks (7). If OSU’s defensive front can harass Trickett -- who has eight turnovers in seven games -- into mistakes, it will increase the Cowboys chances significantly. -- Chatmon

West Virginia’s X factor: Defensive end Shaquille Riddick broke out with three sacks and four tackles for loss in the win over Baylor. Riddick, who transferred in from Gardner-Webb, has filled a major role on the West Virginia defense, which ranked next-to-last in the Big 12 in sacks last year. The Cowboys have been woeful protecting the passer this season. If Riddick can break through Baylor’s formidable pass protecting offensive line, he can certainly do the same to Oklahoma State’s. -- Trotter

Oklahoma State’s X factor: The story hasn’t changed much in the past month. The Cowboys' offensive line will ultimately decide if this game is winnable or not. OSU has quality skill position players, particularly at receiver, so if the offensive line can improve and hold up against a West Virginia defense, led by Riddick, that had four sacks against Baylor last week, the Pokes' offensive playmakers could change the game with some big plays. -- Chatmon

What a win would mean for West Virginia: The Mountaineers entered the Big 12 title conversation last week with the victory over Baylor. A win in Stillwater would show West Virginia has staying power in that conversation, and send the Mountaineers back to Morgantown for a massive clash with No. 10 TCU on Nov. 1. -- Trotter

What a win would mean for Oklahoma State: A win would show that the Cowboys plan to remain the the Big 12 title race for the duration after being embarrassed by TCU a week ago. Was that a one-game abberation or a sign the Pokes' youth was starting to catch up with them? A win over West Virginia would go a long way toward showing that Mike Gundy’s squad will be a deciding factor in the Big 12 title race with Kansas State, Oklahoma and Baylor remaining on the schedule. — Chatmon
With Halloween on the horizon it's been a scary early conference schedule for the Big 12's pair of preseason favorites.

Baylor and Oklahoma find themselves looking up at several teams in the conference standings as multiple squads have exceeded expectations. Several Big 12 coaches have done a terrific job this season, making the battle for Big 12 Coach of the Year honors one of the most interesting conversations of the midseason.

SportsNation

Who is the Big 12 Coach of the Year thus far?

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    28%
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    2%
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Discuss (Total votes: 7,208)

It's no surprise for Bill Snyder to elevate his Kansas State team to the top of the Big 12 standings in late October. The Wildcats are the only Big 12 team without a conference loss after KSU's road win over preseason favorite Oklahoma last Saturday. Snyder's team is well-coached yet extremely creative, a combination that has been making other coaching staffs pull out their hair for years.

West Virginia could be the surprise of the conference. The Mountaineers entered the season with the Big 12's toughest schedule but that hasn't deterred Dana Holgorsen's squad. After a loss to OU in its first Big 12 game, WVU has won three straight games including its upset win over Baylor. Holgorsen has done an exceptional job getting quarterback Clint Trickett to excel in his offense while receiver Kevin White is playing like the Biletnikoff Award favorite. Holgorsen was our Big 12 Midseason Coach of the Year and prompting one of the best tweets of the week.

TCU could be an even bigger surprise than WVU, going toe-to-toe with OU and BU and more than holding its own against the preseason favorites. Gary Patterson's decision to change the Horned Frogs offense looks like the best offseason move by any coach as TCU's offense has carried its defense at times this season as opposed to a year ago when the offense's turnovers and miscues put Patterson's defense behind the eight ball time and time again.

Mike Gundy has done an admirable job with Oklahoma State, even though the Cowboys came back to earth after last weekend's 41-9 thrashing at the hands of the Horned Frogs. After losing a roster full of senior standouts from last year's squad, Gundy has his inexperienced team at 5-2 with one conference loss. The Cowboys have yet to play a game that didn't feature glimpses of their youth yet find themselves one game from bowl eligibility before Halloween. The Pokes, picked fifth in the Big 12 preseason poll, probably won't win the Big 12 but they've exceeded preseason projections thus far.

Snyder, Holgorsen, Patterson and Gundy have done admirable jobs but other coaches could stake their claim on Big 12 Coach of the Year honors as well. OU's Bob Stoops and BU's Art Briles have had their teams looking like College Football Playoff contenders at times this season while Texas' Charlie Strong has the Longhorns looking like their best is yet to come heading into the second half of the season and Paul Rhoads' Iowa State squad just keeps getting up no matter how many times it gets knocked to the canvas.

Who do you think has been the Big 12's Coach of the Year thus far? Vote and leave your comment below. Let the debate begin!

Breaking down the Power 5 races

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
12:47
PM ET
video

The College Football Playoff selection committee will emphasize conference championships as a factor in selecting its four playoff teams. Eight weeks into the season, what teams are in control of their conference races, and which ones are best positioned to take home a conference title?

In a "man vs computer" breakdown, we will use ESPN's Football Power Index and the takes of various conference reporters to handicap the races in the five power conferences.

To see the breakdown of each conference race, click here Insider.
Bill Snyder has built his Kansas State program on the shoulders of players like Jonathan Truman.

He has quietly been among the Big 12’s most productive linebackers during the past two seasons, recording 149 tackles in 19 games.

Known for his toughness and work ethic, the former walk-on was a special-teams star before becoming a starter in 2012.

[+] EnlargeJonathan Truman
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesAt the behest of his coaches, Jonathan Truman has worked on being more of a vocal leader.
"Truman is well known as one of the toughest guys on the team,” linebacker Will Davis said. “His mindset is that he is going to compete and outwork everyone, no matter if he is a little banged up or 100 percent healthy. He is going to be on the practice field and the weight room doing everything he can."

This season, Truman has 60 tackles, averaging 10 tackles per game for a Wildcats defense that sits atop the Big 12 in rushing yards allowed per game (100.8) and 10th among FBS teams.

“From last year to this year my confidence level has grown,” Truman said. “That just comes with experience and preparation.”

As Truman ascended into a starting role for KSU’s defense two years ago, there were concerns about who would replace former All-Big 12 linebacker Arthur Brown.

Turns out, Truman, with the help of Brown, has filled in admirably. As Brown was dominating the Big 12 with his aggressive nature and playmaking, Truman was playing the role of understudy, soaking in the habits that made Brown -- now with the Baltimore Ravens -- successful.

“I’ve always been really good friends with Arthur Brown,” said Truman. “When we would have breaks we’d go back home together, train together and I learned a lot from him. His habits on and off the field, he’s a great guy to say the least. He’s always doing the right thing on and off the field and I learned a lot from him.”

The pair still talk, although just once every few weeks during the football season, but Truman considers Brown to be one reason he’s been so successful for the Wildcats. When asked the biggest thing he learned from Brown, Truman said it’s been Brown’s accountability and consistency that he has tried to mimic.

“Doing the important things right and doing things the right way and being accountable,” Truman said. “When he was here everyone counted on him to do what was expected of him and he always came though.”

Even though Truman was one of the Wildcats’ most productive players as a junior, he’s taken things to another level as a senior. The Kechi, Kansas, native is not naturally vocal as a leader but he’s become a more vocal leader during his fifth season in the program, even being voted team captain for the 2014 campaign.

“Since I’ve been here, I’ve been more of a lead by example type of guy,” Truman said. “Coming into this year, my coaches have tried to encourage me to be more of a vocal leader and I think I’ve gotten better at that. Being more vocal is important on our defense and I understood that.”

Truman rarely finds his name alongside the Big 12’s top linebackers in conversations about the conference’s top playmakers but he doesn’t seem to care. He’s more concerned about making sure the Wildcats sit atop the Big 12 standings, like they do now.

“I just try to control the things I can control,” Truman said. “I don’t try to get caught up in hype. I do what’s important to me. And what is important to me is having this football team be successful and I’ll do anything I can to make that happen.”

Best and worst losses for 1-loss teams 

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
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For all of the debate about who should be ranked No. 1 among the three undefeated, power-conference teams, the far greater challenge right now when filling out a ballot is ranking the teams with one loss.

There are 15 once-beaten teams in this week's AP Top 25, and eight or nine of them could probably make a legitimate claim to being No. 4. That number of one-loss teams is sure to dwindle in the next few weeks, but there's still a good chance that the selection committee will face the difficult decision of which two or three of those teams to put into the playoff.

Obviously, there's much more to any team's résumé than a single loss, but if the BCS era is an indicator, the nature of that loss could become a major topic of discussion when distinguishing among the once-beaten teams. Perhaps that's because in a sport where there is so little common ground on which to compare top teams, having exactly one loss is the trait they all share.

So, recognizing that this could be a factor in determining which teams get into the playoff, here are the best and worst losses by current Top 25 teams that have only one defeat. The losses are ranked by Game Score, which is a metric developed by ESPN Stats & Information that takes into account quality of the opponent, location of the game, flow of the game and final score. It's important to note that opponent quality adjusts as more games are played, so these Game Scores will also change from week-to-week. (All Game Scores can be seen by clicking team links on the FPI page.)


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October, 23, 2014
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