On to the 'bag:
Trotter: James, of course, is referring to the report Wednesday that Oklahoma had delayed its stadium renovation plans, which president David Boren later vehemently denied. I have spoken to a couple of people about this and here's what I can say: The school has in fact endured fundraising issues, due in small part to the mediocre football season and due in large part to falling oil prices. (Oklahoma's economy, and thus donor base, is significantly tied to energy.) I have also heard rumblings that the school might ultimately scale back some of the original proposal, which at $370 million was ambitious to begin with. But as far as I know, the school has no plans to delay construction. In fact, I don't believe Boren has the authority to call off or delay construction without approval of the regents first. The regents did not discuss the stadium proposal in their meeting Wednesday, but you can bet they will be discussing it informally in the coming weeks before formally hashing out the next step at its scheduled March meeting in Tulsa.
@Jake_Trotter what is the story with the OU stadium expansion, on, scaled back, off, on again?— James Aydelott (@jamesaydelott) January 29, 2015
Trotter: My money is on William Crest. I know Skylar Howard had some moments filling in for Clint Trickett last season. But there was a reason why Crest as a true freshman beat out Howard as the No. 2 quarterback coming out of August before suffering a shoulder injury. Howard's mobility added another dimension to the West Virginia offense. But he really struggled with his accuracy at times. Based on what I've heard about Crest and his potential, I think he's West Virginia's long-term answer behind center.
@Jake_Trotter who do you think will be wvu qb next year ?— martywvu24 (@martyakers24) January 29, 2015
Trotter: I think so. Of course, we thought there would be a huge gap between Baylor/Oklahoma and rest of the conference this season. Then the Sooners finished 8-5. A lot can happen. Baylor could encounter issues replacing Bryce Petty at quarterback. TCU could struggle with new faces defensively. There could also be a surprise team come out of nowhere, just like TCU this past season. But with what the two teams have coming back, there's a lot more to like about TCU and Baylor right now than anyone else in the conference.
@Jake_Trotter will there be a huge gap between baylor/tcu and the rest of the conference?— Isaac (@haas_isaac) January 29, 2015
Trotter: Jordan Stevenson seems most likely, followed by Chris Carson, then Chris Warren III. But my educated guess is that none of three you mentioned will end up in Stillwater. That doesn't mean Oklahoma State won't land a high-profile running back. I just get the sense the Pokes are targeting a late flip from somewhere else, maybe. As for Devin Davis, I don't know that he's ever going to get over that devastating knee injury. That would be too bad, too, because people were talking about him as a potential first-round talent as a left tackle.
@Jake_Trotter Chris Warren, Chris Carson, Jordan Stevenson, other. Rank them on the likelihood each winds up in Stillwater. And Devin Davis?— christian (@cbake44) January 29, 2015
Trotter: Texas is putting together the most impressive recruiting class, though the Longhorns are taking quite a gamble. If they don't flip Kyler Murray from Texas A&M, they could whiff on signing a quarterback, which was the probably the biggest need in this class. Just about every class is going to have some impact in 2015, although Texas has some major pieces graduating. Considering the caliber of players the Longhorns are bringing in - and could bring in - the answer could be them also.
@Jake_Trotter Who do you think is bringing in the strongest recruiting class ? and whose class will make an impact this year ?— E (@Vandeezal) January 29, 2015
Trotter: I have no idea who Mack's front-runner is anymore. He canceled an unofficial visit to TCU this weekend, which isn't a great sign for the Horned Frogs. Of course, it doesn't rule them out, either. But there seems to be some Texas momentum with Mack. Murray, again, is huge for the Longhorns. It's the difference between them possibly having their quarterback of the future and the status quo, which wasn't great for them last year.
@Jake_Trotter is TCU still the frontrunner for Daylon Mack? how important is Kyler Murray's decision?— Steve Godich (@_CaptainCowboy) January 29, 2015
Trotter: Tech is hoping to land ESPN 300 defensive tackle Darrion Daniels and/or ESPN 300 RB Chris Warren III. I don't feel great about their chances for either, though we'll see what happens. Daniels is expected to announce between Texas Tech, Iowa, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State on Friday night. Warren seems like he's leaning toward either Washington or Texas. The Red Raiders are also still in on ESPN 300 defensive tackle Joseph Wicker, who is down to Arizona State, UCLA and Texas Tech, as well as three-star New Orleans linebacker Arthur McGinnis. If they can land one of Daniels, Wicker or McGinnis - and they can prevent any more decommitments - it will be a solid finish to a very solid class.
@Jake_Trotter how do you see Texas Tech finishing up in their race for some last-minute top recruits?— Jeremy Fry (@jeremy_fry) January 29, 2015
Trotter: I like K-State running back commit Alex Barnes, who is just a three-star prospect. Bill Snyder doesn't like to play freshmen, either, but Barnes has the size to help a backfield in need of help right away. Another underrated guy I think could be a factor next season is Oklahoma three-star cornerback Antoine Stephens. The Sooners desperately need CB reinforcements. And even though Stephens went under the radar with his recruitment, he has the size and range that Mike Stoops covets in his cornerbacks.
@Jake_Trotter What under-the-radar Big 12 commits do you expect to have an immediate impact?— Forrest Grimes (@FGrimesN7) January 29, 2015
Trotter: I've never seen "Friday Night Lights" and I love Baylor fans. I'm just not sure they love me back.
@Jake_Trotter which is the generally more frustrating human: Julie Taylor of Friday Night Lights or a Baylor fan?— Luke (@lehockett) January 29, 2015
Position to improve: Quarterback
Why it was a problem: Calling the Mountaineers quarterback situation in 2014 a problem is a bit unfair, as WVU’s return to a bowl game would not have been possible without the exploits of Clint Trickett. Yet, at the same time, Trickett shoulders plenty of blame for WVU’s late-season slide. The departed senior was outstanding in WVU wins over Maryland and Baylor, but his interceptions proved too much to overcome during a three-game losing streak to TCU, Texas and Kansas State. In those games, Trickett threw one touchdown and five interceptions. In addition, Skyler Howard replaced Trickett (who was forced to retire due to lingering concussion symptoms) for WVU’s final two games and was solid with back-to-back games with three touchdown passes and zero interceptions.
How it can be fixed: It feels like the Mountaineers have the answer on campus with Howard and William Crest among the competitors to take over as the starter in 2015. Howard has experience and ball protection on his side heading into the quarterback derby, but Crest could be the future. The redshirt freshman was WVU’s backup quarterback heading into the 2014 season before an injury forced a redshirt campaign. The Mountaineers also added a pair of quarterbacks in David Sills and Chris Chugunov in their Class of 2015. WVU has some quality options behind center, and it's just a matter of who seizes the opportunity to become the main man.
Early 2015 outlook: Howard or Crest are likely to rise to the top of this quarterback battle. Howard was impressive during his short stint as the starter in 2014, showing the ability to protect the ball and lead WVU to points in a road win over Iowa State and bowl loss to Texas A&M. But all signs point to Crest being the long-term answer at the position, and the future could start as early as this fall. Either way, the starter will be tasked to run the offense efficiently and take care of the football for Dana Holgorsen's offense. One thing is certain: The quarterback position in Morgantown, West Virginia looks a lot better right now than it did 12 months ago.
Following my heart... #GigEm— Kyler Murray (@TheKylerMurray) January 30, 2015
@HamiltonESPN: With this quote by five-star and No. 1-ranked quarterback Murray, a worried Texas A&M fan base let out a collective sigh of relief. The final decision by Murray to sign with Texas A&M also provides Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin with a shot in the arm in the final days headed to national signing day.
Position to improve: Linebacker
Why it was a problem: The Red Raiders didn’t have a dominating force in the middle of their defense. Sam Eguavoen (73) and Micah Awe (69) finished second and third in tackles for Tech yet neither guy was a unquestioned playmaker for a defense that allowed 259.5 rushing yards per game and 5.19 yards per carry. Arkansas dominating win in Lubbock in mid-September featured 438 rushing yards and was a early sign that the Red Raiders defense just wasn’t well-equipped to handle a strong running game and a lack of playmaking linebackers was a main culprit.
How it can be fixed: Awe is the Red Raiders' leading returning tackler at the position but Tech needs to add talent and depth at the position, which is losing several departed seniors including Eguavoen. Three-star linebacker D'Vonta Hinton is the lone linebacker on Tech’s commitment list so the answer will largely have to come from the players on campus. Thus, all eyes will be on Ohio State transfer Mike Mitchell, who has the pedigree and talent to slide into the Red Raiders defense and start transforming the linebacker spot after spending the past season on Tech's scout team defense. A member of the ESPN300 in the Class of 2013, Mitchell can make plays from sideline-to-sideline and could develop into the dominant force Kliff Kingsbury's defense has been searching for during his first two seasons in charge.
Early 2015 outlook: Mitchell brings plenty of hope to the position as he provides an immediate talent upgrade. Tech is losing a lot at linebacker, which means they could be even worse in 2015 but Mitchell brings a combination of talent, upside and excitement to the position. He could become the face of the linebacker corps in Lubbock but he will need help from Awe and the rest of the Red Raiders' linebackers to make the overall unit a more productive group.
The Oklahoma offensive coordinator is tasked with sparking the Sooners attack by returning OU’s passing game to the standard that helped carry Bob Stoops' team to its last BCS title game appearance in 2008.
Yet, the rebirth of OU’s explosive passing offense won’t happen without better quarterback play.
When Riley goes into detail about what he’s looking for in a quarterback, he removes any doubt that a quarterback’s success in his offense is more likely to be a result of intangibles than physical traits.
Intangibles like quick, sound decision-making and leadership will rise to the forefront at quarterback in Riley’s offense. If the quarterback can consistently make the right decision and execute with precision, the defense is left searching for answers.
“We have to have a guy who can make decisions,” Riley said. "We have to have a guy that’s very accurate with the football. We want a guy who is a winner. We want a guy who, when he’s out there in the huddle and out there playing, the other 10 guys out there with him play better. If they can do those few things, then we’ll build it around the other characteristics that he may have or may not have.”
Great decisions and efficient execution were foreign to OU’s passing offense for the bulk of 2014 as the passing game took a nosedive when leading receiver Sterling Shepard went down with injury. A Sooners squad that threw as many interceptions as touchdowns in 2014 (17) never looked like the explosive offenses that had become commonplace in Norman during the program's run of Big 12 titles.
Inconsistency has become a signature of Trevor Knight, who can look like one of the nation’s top signal-callers on one Saturday then make costly mistakes the next. The sophomore’s 2014 campaign was marred by three game-changing interceptions in OU’s first three losses to TCU, Kansas State and Baylor but also supplemented by a six-touchdown outburst against Iowa State and a efficient performance in a home win against Tennessee.
Cody Thomas, who replaced Knight as the starter during OU’s final three regular season games after Knight was injured, had plenty of struggles of his own during his first extended collegiate action. He passed for 342 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions in three starts.
It’s not hard to see why that duo has sparked a search for hope. And hope’s name is Baker Mayfield.
But don’t pencil the Texas Tech transfer in as the Sooners’ starter, despite his extensive experience in the offense and impressive work on the scout team while sitting out the season due to transfer rules.
“He’s a very good player," Riley said of Mayfield. “We’re gonna be very blessed in that quarterback room. I’ve heard people on the outside say that’s a question mark. To me, we have three guys in that room who have started major college football games. There’s plenty to work with in that group.”
And, as the quarterbacks coach, it all falls on Riley. He has confidence that trio of quarterbacks can get it done, so any struggles OU has at the quarterback position this fall will be accompanied with disappointment. Not just disappointment in their growth and development, but queries into the decision to be content with them instead of looking to add another option behind center.
We’ve seen Air Raid-style offenses transform other quarterbacks into stars, with TCU’s Trevone Boykin as the most recent example. Lack of talent hasn’t been the reason for Knight's inconsistency. Mayfield’s credentials are the best of the bunch, but his career touchdown to interception ratio (12:9) looks awfully similar to Knight’s (23:17). Add Thomas and redshirt freshman Justice Hansen, and OU has four quarterbacks with resumes that would lead you to believe someone can get the job done.
There is not a talent vacuum at the position, but there isn't a go-to guy either.
“We have what we need in that room to be successful,” Riley said. “We have to get it implemented and get those guys coached.”
- Kansas is working to prevent any more decommitments in its class, writes Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World. The Jayhawks have seen three recruits decide they won't sign with Kansas on signing day during the past few weeks, including receiver Kevin Thomas, who flipped to SMU, and defensive back Arico Evans, who flipped to TCU. It's not unusual to see a recruiting class take hits after a coaching change. New head coach David Beaty is doing a solid job with the Jayhawks class, which features 23 current commitments. It's important to note that all decommitments aren't necessarily a bad thing when a coaching change occurs. There's no guarantee the incoming coach wants the recruit as much as the previous regime did and there is also no guarantee the recruit would be a good fit in the new system.
- How important is Kyler Murray's decision? Matt Hinton, our colleague at Grantland, addresses the question as the elite quarterback prospect is set to decide between Texas and Texas A&M. The No. 13 player in the ESPN 300, Murray has plenty of options with college football's elite in hot pursuit and professional baseball looming as a legitimate option as well. I can't recall so much significance riding on the decision of one recruit. The Longhorns and Aggies will each have top-notch classes no matter what but it sure seems like Murray has replaced the Thanksgiving in-state rivalry game; he's become the face of bragging rights for both sides with his final destination unclear.
- Former Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett goes into detail about how he attacks defenders with ClevelandBrowns.com. Lockett is undersized yet not a speedster, which means it's pretty much a guarantee some teams will overlook him, much like several college football programs did when Lockett was in high school. The rest is history for KSU's all-time leading receiver. He had a solid showing at the Senior Bowl so I wouldn't be surprised if Lockett becomes one of the most productive rookie receivers in the NFL in 2015.
- Oklahoma's program is a growing presence on social media, writes Eric Bailey of the Tulsa World. Bob Stoops' Twitter feed lets everyone know when the Sooners land a commitment and the bulk of the staff has been increasing its social media presence in recent years. It's no surprise Oklahoma has seen clear improvements on the recruit trail as the Sooners began to catch up with the times and start to get more active and creative on social media. It's also not a surprise that a few of OU's top recruiters, particularly defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery, are the most active Sooners coaches on social media.
- How did West Virginia get longtime Georgia commit Shaquery Wilson to flip to the Mountaineers? By planning to put the ball in his hands, writes Allen Taylor of WV MetroNews. The Bulldogs projected him to play cornerback while Dana Holgorsen wants to put Wilson at receiver. The four-star prospect could have the chance to make an immediate impact in Morgantown with Mario Alford and Kevin White moving on. Landing Wilson is a huge credit to the WVU coaching staff, who kept pursuing him and finally landed his commitment in the home stretch of the recruiting cycle.
It's not a huge visit weekend in the Big 12 with most programs having the bulk of their class locked in and most recruits already committed to the school of their choice.
Yet Kansas State, Oklahoma and Texas are among the Big 12 schools that will be hosting prospects that could end up filling a need or stand as one of the top signees in their Class of 2015.
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It's been a while since Texas A&M and the University of Texas have been locked in a handful of major recruiting battles. A rivalry that was once played on the field is now playing out in high schools and living rooms with six days left until national signing day. While Longhorns fans are in a state of frenzy due to rumors and chatter, the Aggies remain the "cool school" in the Lone Star State and hold the momentum headed into the first two of five announcements that could flip that perception within the state lines.
What exactly is on the line for both programs beginning with Friday's announcements by ESPN 300 cornerbacks Holton Hill and Kris Boyd? The Longhorns' shot at starting a wave of momentum of their own, and the Aggies showinging their ability to make a late push on two prospects Texas has recruited as priorities.
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Position to improve: Offensive line
Why it was a problem: Going into the 2013 season, Texas had the most experienced offensive line in the country. Just a few games into the 2014 season, Texas had perhaps the least experienced line in the country. Losing senior center Dominic Espinosa to a season-ending injury after one game was a devastating blow. The projected starting tackles, Desmond Harrison and Kennedy Estelle, were kicked off the team. What remained was a group that redefined the label "patchwork line."
Left tackle Marcus Hutchins had never started a game and was a reserve defensive tackle a year earlier. Five different players earned at least one start at right tackle. Taylor Doyle made his first-ever start at center in the Oklahoma game. Only one player -- left guard Sedrick Flowers -- held down the same job for the full season. In all, Texas tried six different offensive line combinations over 13 games and had the No. 94 rushing attack in FBS despite featuring two five-star running backs.
How it can be fixed: Addition and competition. Joe Wickline, hailed as one of the nation’s top offensive line coaches when he was hired away from Oklahoma State, must have been as frustrated as anyone by what he witnessed in 2014. He’s assembled a nice recruiting class which features several linemen who can help immediately. Juco transfer tackles Brandon Hodges and Tristan Nickelson are on campus and will be given every opportunity to become starters. Two more freshmen have already enrolled, and ESPN 300 guard Patrick Vahe might be the best of the bunch. The newcomers must push the seven linemen with starting experience who are slated to return. Texas had no depth and few options last season. Every starting job is probably fair game.
Early 2015 outlook: Flowers, Doyle and guard/tackle Kent Perkins probably stand the best chance of retaining their spots this fall so long as they stay healthy. There will be pressure on Hodges and Nickelson this spring. They need to prove they can provide at least starter-caliber play. Then it’s all about finding out who raises their game. Can guys who were in and out of the lineup like Camrhon Hughes, Darius James and Jake Raulerson take a big step forward? Can Hutchins improve off 13 starts? There are a lot of question marks to be addressed over these next seven months.
Now, in our weekly Big 12 poll, we're looking back at the most memorable individual offensive performances of the season.
Samaje Perine's record-breaking performance against Kansas has to top the list. After all, the Oklahoma true freshman set an FBS game rushing record with 427 yards.
But what about some of the other memorable performances of 2014?
Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty had some terrific showings in his final college season. But his magical comeback against TCU on Oct. 11 was something special. Petty threw for 510 yards and six touchdowns, while leading the Bears to 24 unanswered fourth-quarter points, catapulting Baylor to an improbable 61-58 win.
Petty, however, wasn't the only quarterback to deliver a notable performance.
On Oct. 25, TCU's Trevone Boykin threw for 433 yards and a school-record seven touchdown passes against Texas Tech. Behind Boykin, the Horned Frogs also scored a Big 12 conference-game-record 82 points in their 55-point annihilation of the Red Raiders.
While the showing against TCU was one they'd just as soon forget, the Red Raiders also had a memorable performance of their own in a valiant defeat. In Texas Tech's regular-season finale on Nov. 29 vs. Baylor, quarterback Patrick Mahomes set a Big 12 freshman record with 598 yards on 30 of 56 passing. He also tossed six touchdowns, including a 40-yarder to Bradley Marquez with 1:42 left that erased a 25-point second half deficit and handed Tech a chance to tie the game with a two-point conversion. The try failed, but Mahomes was still magnificent.
West Virginia wideout Kevin White was magnificent all year, as he opened the season with seven straight 100-yard receiving games. But the highlight of that impressive run came when he torched Baylor for 132 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Mountaineers' 41-27 upset victory over the then-fourth-ranked Bears.
Like White, Kansas State's Tyler Lockett put up monster receiving numbers. Like White, it wasn't easy to single out one game. But Lockett's second half in the Valero Alamo Bowl against UCLA was downright dominant. In the second half alone, Lockett had 10 receptions for 116 yards and two touchdowns, as K-State almost came all the way back from a 31-6 halftime deficit before losing 40-35. It was a memorable performance for a memorable career.
Now we put the question to you: Of these five, who had the most memorable performance of 2014? Let us know by voting in this week's Big 12 poll.
Actor/comedian Kevin Hart met with the Longhorns. Then he worked out with them. I wonder how many times that will be mentioned to the several blue-chip recruits still out there the Longhorns are attempting to close on.
Here's the photographic evidence of Hart's visit:
Jokes about “Big Ten speed,” or lack thereof, are hereby declared dead. They have ceased because of Urban Meyer and his staff’s recruiting.
Miller, the Buckeyes' quarterback from 2011-13, will be one of the country’s top playmakers regardless of where he plays. Most people in college football believe returning is his best option, even if it means a new, varied role.
Miller’s size (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) compares well to NFL running backs such as Matt Forte, Darren McFadden and Arian Foster, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Miller, though, needs to prove to NFL teams that he can play the position without injury. Miller’s ability in space is uncanny, but I was surprised to learn that he rushed for 701 yards between the tackles in 2013 (508 outside). One more Stats & Info nugget: His 7.3 yards per carry since 2011 puts him behind only Melvin Gordon (minimum 320 carries).So, yeah, it would be highly intriguing to add Miller’s skill to the elite-level playmaking talent that’s already present.
As a redshirt freshman, Marshall was the team’s breakout playmaker in 2014. He scored eight touchdowns (six receiving, one rushing, one punt return). If something happened to Cardale Jones in the postseason, Marshall likely would have played QB, too.
Samuel, a freshman this past season, and Wilson, a sophomore, are similarly versatile. They’re the team’s primary kick returners, averaging 22.8 yards per return last season. They’re nowhere near their ceilings, either. You think new co-OC and QBs coach Tim Beck entered into a good situation?
Here are playmaker standouts from the non-Ohio State crop
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Position to improve: Secondary
Why it could be a problem: The TCU secondary was the best in the Big 12 last season, with safeties Chris Hackett and Sam Carter and cornerback Kevin White all earning all-conference honors. The problem is, Carter and White have both graduated, while Hackett declared early for the NFL draft. The Horned Frogs have talented secondary players coming back, but Carter has been a linchpin on the TCU defense, while Hackett and White were difference-makers this past season. The Horned Frogs will have to rely on some semi-new faces in the defensive backfield.
How it can be fixed: The good news is that many of the expected new faces aren't exactly new. Kenny Iloka likely will step in for Carter or Hackett in the starting lineup after playing a key reserve role last season. In TCU's three-safety defense, they'll be alongside Derrick Kindred, who's been a quality starter the last season-and-a-half. Ranthony Texada is coming off a banner 2014 as a starting redshirt freshman cornerback opposite White. Texada got better as the season wore on and seems primed to take over as TCU's primary corner. Someone will have to step in at the other corner, but the Horned Frogs have plenty of possibilities in Nick Orr, Torrance Mosley and Corry O'Meally -- who were all newcomers last season -- and Cameron Echols-Luper, who will be converting over from receiver.
Early 2015 outlook: On paper, the Horned Frogs have the potential to be solid in the defensive backfield, if not better than that. But they are replacing a ton of playmaking from a secondary that helped the Horned Frogs lead the nation in interceptions. Kindred is the only returning Horned Frog that had more than one pick this past season. With 10 starters back, the offense is going to remain a juggernaut, so the Horned Frogs don't have to be great in the back end. But to contend for a Big 12 title and a playoff spot, they need at least to be pretty good. That will hinge on how the likes of Texada and Iloka respond to their expanded roles.
Below is a look back on the 13 most memorable Big 12 games of 2014:
No. 1: Oct. 11 – No. 5 Baylor 61, No. 9 TCU 58
Not only was this the game of the year in the Big 12, it might have been the game of the year in college football. TCU led by 21 in the fourth quarter after Marcus Mallet 's interception return for a touchdown. But the Horned Frogs couldn't hold on as Bryce Petty took over the rest of the way. The fourth quarter in Waco proved to be the difference in TCU not making the playoff.
No. 2: Nov. 1 – No. 7 TCU 31, No. 20 West Virginia 30
Carrying a nine-point lead into the fourth quarter, the Mountaineers were on the verge of throwing their hat into the Big 12 title race. Instead, West Virginia got conservative offensively, allowing the Horned Frogs to come back and nail a 37-yard, game-winning field goal as time expired. The Mountaineers never really recovered and wound up losing four of five games to end the season.
Once again, Bedlam delivered in the drama department. Behind two touchdowns late in the game, true freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph led the Cowboys to an improbable rally, capped by Tyreek Hill's 92-yard punt return touchdown to send the game to overtime, where the Pokes prevailed. The result had an impact on the trajectory for both programs, as Oklahoma State became bowl-eligible and the Sooners went on to get blasted in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
No. 4: Jan. 1 – No. 5 Michigan State 42, No. 8 Baylor 41
After TCU's 42-3 waxing of Ole Miss the previous day, the Big 12's top two teams were on the verge of sending a powerful message to the playoff committee. Instead, even though Petty set a Cotton Bowl Classic record with 550 passing yards, the Bears squandered a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter to sap their playoff snub argument.
No. 5: Dec. 31 – No. 6 TCU 42, No. 9 Ole Miss 3
Suggesting that they might have been one of the two best teams in the country despite getting snubbed from the playoff, TCU obliterated the Rebels in a game that was over before halftime.
No. 6: Oct. 4 – No. 25 TCU 37, No. 4 Oklahoma 33
After their Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama, Oklahoma was the preseason pick to win the Big 12. That began to unravel in Fort Worth as the Sooners went in the tank offensively late. Paul Dawson's interception of Trevor Knight and touchdown return was the only score of a fourth quarter that proved to be the springboard for TCU's 12-1 season.
No. 7: Oct. 18 – West Virginia 41, No. 4 Baylor 27
The Bears were riding high after their comeback victory over TCU. But the following week, Petty & Co. couldn't sustain that offensive momentum as West Virginia knocked off a top-five team on its third try. On the same weekend his father suffered a heart attack, Clint Trickett was magnificent, with 322 yards passing and three touchdowns as he outdueled Petty.
No. 8: Nov. 15 – No. 4 TCU 34, Kansas 30
The Horned Frogs were on the inside of the playoff as they made the trip to Kansas. That ride almost came to a complete end in Lawrence. The Jayhawks gave TCU quite a scare, holding a 27-17 second-half lead before running out of steam. Still, even though they escaped with the victory, the Horned Frogs dropped out of the top four of the playoff poll the following week.
No. 9: Oct. 18 – No. 14 Kansas State 31, No. 11 Oklahoma 30
Thanks to a late goal-line stand, K-State turned the Big 12 race on its head for good with a second consecutive victory in Norman. Quarterback Jake Waters spearheaded the upset, throwing for 225 yards and rushing for 51 more in a gutty performance in which he played through a shoulder injury. K-State stuck around in the Big 12 title race until the final week of the season, while the Sooners went on to lose three more times.
No. 10: Nov. 8 – No. 12 Baylor 48, No. 15 Oklahoma 14
Nothing signaled the changing of the guard in the Big 12 more than Baylor's absolute white-washing of Oklahoma in Norman. Petty was serious when he said the week before that he was "ready for OU" as he threw for 387 yards, including 224 to Corey Coleman. Baylor went on to join the Sooners (2006-08) as the Big 12's only other back-to-back conference champ.
No. 11: Oct. 25 – No. 10 TCU 82, Texas Tech 27
This wasn't a great game, but it was a memorable one. After all TCU set a Big 12 conference game record with 82 points. Amazingly, the game was relatively close in the second quarter. Then TCU outscored Tech 49-7 in the second half.
No. 12: Nov. 29 – No. 7 Baylor 48, Texas Tech 46
The Red Raiders ended their season going down swinging as true freshman Pat Mahomes threw for 598 yards and six touchdowns. The 25-point second-half rally came up short, though, after Mahomes was unable to get off a pass on the potential game-tying two-point conversion.
No. 13: Oct. 18 – Texas 48, Iowa State 45
Maybe the most underrated and most exciting finishes of the Big 12 season. Twenty-four points were scored in the final five minutes, including Nick Rose's game-winning field goal from 21 yards out with three seconds to go.
The next best 10 of 2014
West Virginia 37, Texas Tech 34
Auburn 20, Kansas State 14
Florida State 37, Oklahoma State 31
West Virginia 40, Maryland 37
Oklahoma 31, Texas 26
Alabama 33, West Virginia 23
Kansas State 32, Iowa State 28
UCLA 20, Texas 17
UCLA 40, Kansas State 35
Oklahoma 45, West Virginia 33
- It was a weird Wednesday in Oklahoma. Early in the afternoon, SoonerScoop.com reported that Oklahoma had put its $370 million stadium expansion plans on hold, citing a problem in fundraising due to falling oil prices as well as the Sooners' 8-5 record in 2014. But after the OU regents meeting in Lawton, president David Boren categorically denied those claims, even pulling out a printed copy of the report from his pocket calling it "false." Boren added that the stadium expansion project will be discussed at the next regents meeting in March. That will be one interesting meeting.
- Speaking of the regents meeting, the Sooners announced terms agreed to with new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. The contract is a two-year deal that will play Riley $500,000 per year. That salary would have ranked 11th among Big 12 assistants last season. Not bad for someone only 31 years old.
- Kansas State does not have a nonconference opponent from a power league on its 2015 football schedule, and is unlikely to add one in 2016, reports Kellis Robinett of the Wichita Eagle. The Wildcats have a slot open in 2016, but it's likely they will fill it with a non-Power 5 program to get a guaranteed home game. It's difficult to hammer K-State too hard for this. After all, the Wildcats are coming off home-and-homes with Auburn and Miami in recent years. They also have a home-and-home coming up with Vanderbilt beginning in 2017. Still, when Big 12 teams schedule easy, it has a negative impact on the rest of the conference's strength of schedule, which is more important than ever in the playoff format.
- West Virginia added to its already strong recruiting class by getting four-star wide receiver Shaquery Wilson to flip from Georgia, where he had previously been committed since last summer (Wilson confirmed the flip on Twitter here). The Mountaineers helped seal the deal by recruiting Wilson as a receiver: Georgia wanted him as a defensive back. West Virginia currently has the No. 30-ranked recruiting class, though that could go up with Wilson now on board.
- Sticking with recruiting, Kansas got some rough news Tuesday night when longtime tight end commit Josh Moore reopened his recruitment. Moore, who had previously pledged to Ohio State, was the top-rated recruit in Kansas' class, and had stuck by his commitment through the coaching transition from Clint Bowen to David Beaty. This is not the way Beaty wanted to close out his first recruiting class. Moore is the third recruit to decommit from the Jayhawks in the last week, joining three-star WR Kevin Thomas, who flipped to SMU, and three-star athlete Arico Evans, who is now headed to TCU.