Big 12: Baylor Bears

Big 12 bowl projections: Week 1

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
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Week 1 brought some surprises and some disappointments in the Big 12.

Oklahoma State and West Virginia were impressive in losses while Texas Tech was disappointing in a victory. Keep in mind, our Big 12 bowl projections will remain fluid throughout the season as teams start to distinguish themselves as bowl contenders or pretenders.

Allstate Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma
Cotton Bowl: Baylor
Valero Alamo Bowl: Kansas State
Russell Athletic Bowl: Oklahoma State
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: West Virginia
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Texas
Cactus Bowl: TCU

Big 12 mailbag

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
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In Tuesday's mailbag we talk Texas Tech problems, a potential West Virginia letdown along with the quarterback situations at Oklahoma State and Texas. Thanks for your questions this week, you can submit questions for next week's mailbag here.

On to the mailbag:

Schloss in Falling Waters, West Virginia, writes: As a WVU alumnus, I am happy to see we have made good progress since last season. There is little doubt that we have definitely improved. But should 'Eer fans be worried about an Alabama hangover? Does WVU continue to build on its strong showing versus the Tide or does it take a step back in Week 2?

Brandon Chatmon: Mountaineer fans should be worried because we see teams that are overwhelming favorites struggle each week during nonconference play. But I think the Mountaineers are hungry and will look at the Alabama result as proof of their potential to be better than last season and strive to make a statement that they plan to rise up the Big 12 standings this season. As impressive as their showing was, it was still a loss. So I think WVU will come out hungry for the satisfaction of a victory.




John in Hillsboro, Ohio writes: So ... in this new playoff era, how can a Big 12 team, even undefeated, hope to get to the playoffs with no conference championship and traditionally weak nonconference scheduling?

Chatmon: I don’t see a scenario where an undefeated Big 12 champion is on the outside looking in when playoff berths are handed out.




Michael in Lubbock, Texas writes: It’s one thing to come out flat against an FCS team, but what's most troubling about Texas Tech's "embarrassing" performance was the same problems that you know they worked on all offseason keep biting them -- turnovers, penalties, bad special teams play and the defense getting blown off the line and unable to get off the field. How do they fix it?

Chatmon: The problems with penalties and turnovers is what bothered me the most as well, Michael. The Red Raiders didn’t play with urgency or take the field to dominate Central Arkansas. They clearly just wanted to show up and get their win. Kliff Kingsbury has been stressing penalties and turnovers, yet they’re still an issue which makes me think it won’t change until the players take more pride and ownership over being masters of the details. Everything is fixable, but Kingsbury's squad needs to understand the value of every game, every play and every opportunity.




Andy in Austin, Texas writes: Given his history of concussions, does Texas quarterback David Ash finally retire? And who does Strong give the reins to, Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard?

Chatmon: I hope so. We’ve reached the point where it’s not about David Ash the football player anymore. As far as where UT goes from here, here is what I would do if I was Charlie Strong. I would start preparing to hand the offense over to Heard. I'd tell Swoopes he gets the start this weekend but I think Heard is the future and that we’re going to get Heard ready to take over, starting with multiple series against BYU, then see how Swoopes responds. Best-case scenario is Swoopes steps his game up and either Heard earns the job and beats him out or Swoopes refuses to let this opportunity to start get away from him. That would be a win-win for the Longhorns.




John Wheeler writes: When comparing the defensive efforts of Texas and Baylor, which seems to point to more long-term success and which was more a result of opponent?

Chatmon: I think both defensive performances point to long-term success. Both defenses have terrific athletes and were dominant over the weekend so I expect both to be among the Big 12’s best. The thing I liked most about the performances was the relentless nature of the Longhorns and Bears defenses. That’s what you’re supposed to do against inferior opponents.




Matt Truelove writes: Even though J.W. Walsh almost led the Cowboys to victory vs. FSU, do you think he'll end the year as the starter for the Cowboys?

Chatmon: That’s an interesting question. I think ultimately the Cowboys quarterback will be decided by the defense they are facing as a season progresses. Walsh will be the guy until defenses load up to stop the run-heavy approach that highlights the junior’s strengths. When that happens Daxx Garman or Mason Rudolph will be counted on to make defenses respect the passing game. If all bets are off and it was only up to Mike Gundy and company, I think Walsh would get the bulk of the snaps because of his unquestioned leadership ability. But I fully expect the Pokes to adapt when defenses force their hand as the season goes on. So, to answer your question, I don’t think OSU will have an clear No. 1 signal-caller this fall, with Walsh sitting atop the queue and Garman/Rudolph ready to go when needed.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 1

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
10:00
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The opening week of college football is in the books, and recruits definitely were paying attention to how teams in the Big 12 played. While Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma, TCU and Kansas State all dominated, Oklahoma State nearly pulled off an upset against reigning national champion Florida State, and West Virginia gave Alabama all it could handle before taking a loss.

The week wasn't one featuring multiple athletes taking official visits, but from a recruiting spin, it did have its moments. Here is a quick recap of what happened.

Big 12 Weekend Rewind: Week 1

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
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Taking stock of Week 1 in the Big 12:

Teams of the week: Yes, West Virginia and Oklahoma State might have ultimately lost. But as heavy underdogs, they also took the top two ranked teams in the country to the wire on neutral sites. Both squads should gain a ton of confidence from their performances. And assuming they both play the way they did in their openers, their 2014 outlooks will look much different than they did in the preseason.

Disappointment of the week: Iowa State lost its season opener to an FCS opponent for the second straight year. The Cyclones jumped to a 14-0 lead, then got dominated by North Dakota State the rest of the way. Iowa State could be without leading receiver Quenton Bundrage for awhile. And the schedule doesn’t get any easier, with the next four opponents all coming off bowl appearances.

Big (offensive) man on campus: West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett was terrific in the loss, throwing for 365 yards -- the second-most a Nick Saban Alabama team had ever allowed behind Johnny Manziel in 2013. Trickett also completed 29 of 45 passes, and would have had more completions had it not been for several drops.

Big (defensive) man on campus: Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman was unblockable against SMU Sunday night. He had two of Baylor’s eight sacks, as the Bears held SMU to just 64 yards of a total offense in a 45-0 shutout -- the first time the Mustangs had been shutout since 2004.

Special teams player of the week: Tyreek Hill set an Oklahoma State record for all-purpose yards in a debut with 278. And he did it against the No. 1 ranked team in the country. Florida State has one of the nation’s fastest teams around, and yet they couldn’t catch Hill, whether it was on offense, on punt returns or kickoff returns. The Cowboys have one dynamic playmaker in their backfield, and on special teams.

Play of the week: Oklahoma State had the ball at midfield with five minutes left and a chance to take the lead over the Seminoles. But as quarterback J.W. Walsh dove for a first down, he was upended and lost control of the ball. The Seminoles recovered and scored two plays later to extend its lead to 37-24. Oklahoma State came right back and scored a touchdown, but couldn’t come up with the onside kick. The fumble was the difference maker.

Stat of the week: Baylor finished with more sacks (eight) than SMU did first downs (seven).

Quote of the week: “We can function. It’s not like it’s the end of the world.” – Texas coach Charlie Strong, after revealing Monday morning that quarterback David Ash would miss Saturday’s game with BYU due to concussion-like symptoms suffered in the opener.

Big 12 FPI rankings

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
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ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) is a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of a team's performance going forward for the rest of the season. Every week, ESPN will be updating its FPI to compile a ranking based on 10,000 simulations of the rest of the season using FPI, results to date and the remaining schedule.

Here is how the Big 12 stacks up after Week 1 of the season:

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Over the weekend, colleeague Max Olson released his helmet stickers for the top performers of the weekend. But I also wanted to highlight some other players who really impressed me in Week 1:

Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State: Running back Tyreek Hill drew the “oohs” and “aahs” with his speed, but Ogbah had just as big an impact for the Cowboys defensively. Facing off against an offensive line starting five seniors, Ogbah was dominant in his first career start, finishing with six tackles, two sacks and two pass breakups. The Big 12 is loaded at defensive end with Cedric Reed, Ryan Mueller, Charles Tapper and Shawn Oakman. Ogbah, just a sophomore, showed Saturday night that he might be in that class, too.

[+] EnlargeKevin White, Bradley Sylve
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsKevin White's 100-yard game against Alabama could mean he's the go-to receiver West Virginia needs.
Jay Lee, WR, Baylor: With Baylor ailing at wide receiver, Lee displayed that he’s also capable of taking on a primary role. With Corey Coleman and Antwan Goodley dealing with nagging injuries and Clay Fuller out with a broken collarbone, Lee hauled in eight passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. The Bears are overflowing with talent at receiver, especially with the additions of freshmen K.D. Cannon and Davion Hall. But Lee is another reason why.

Kolby Listenbee, WR, TCU: The Horned Frogs have desperately been in need of playmaking at the wide receiver spot. They might have uncovered the answer in Listenbee. The burner hauled in 38- and 36-yard bombs from Trevone Boykin, and added a touchdown grab on a fade late in the game from Matt Joeckel. Listenbee was beating his man all game. The Horned Frogs might finally have a weapon at receiver who can cause concern for the opponent.

Demarco Cobbs, LB, Texas: Cobbs missed the entire 2013 season and was such a non-factor before that anyway that some speculated his college career might be over. But Cobbs appears to have something left in the tank and displayed that with a pick-six in the opener. If the Longhorns suffer any injuries at linebacker, Cobbs could prove to be a key backup.

Kevin White, WR, West Virginia: Other than quarterback Clint Trickett, there wasn’t a more impressive performer against Alabama than White. The senior wideout had nine grabs for 143 yards and a touchdown. The Mountaineers had a solid wide receiving corps last year, but they never had a go-to target emerge. White clearly established himself as the target for Trickett and could be in for a monster season.

Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech: In an otherwise dismal performance, Texas Tech’s running back trio of DeAndre Washington, Quinton White and Stockton looked solid against Central Arkansas. And with Stockton, a true freshman, contributing, the Red Raiders should be fine at the position even with Kenny Williams at linebacker. Stockton had a couple of nice runs while finishing with 38 yards rushing and a nifty 6-yard touchdown.

Tyler Evans, OG, Oklahoma: Evans is in his sixth year with the Sooners, but he hadn’t played since the 2011 season Insight Bowl due to knee injuries. Saturday, Evans got the start at right guard in place of an injured Nila Kasitati, and the offensive line didn’t miss a beat as the Sooners racked up 436 yards of offense. Evans at one point quit football because of the injuries. Instead, he’ll be a valuable cog for the Sooners up front.

Big 12 morning links

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
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We will be a little lighter than usual today because of the holiday. Everyone have a happy Labor Day.
  • A lot of great reads came out of Baylor's Sunday night christening of McLane Stadium. The Dallas Morning News' Kevin Sherrington wrote that the Bears left their inhibitions -- and their tarp -- on other side of I-35. Baylor fans marveled at the new stadium, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald's Regina Davis. And the paper's John Werner added that it's time for Baylor to believe again. Brandon was in Waco and and has more on the unveiling on the blog this morning. But from the view of my TV set, the stadium looked awesome. It should be a game-changer for the Bears, especially in recruiting. Who wouldn't want to play in that venue? Underscoring that theme, Robert Griffin III, took this spectacular selfie in front of the Baylor student section. A great night all around for Baylor.
  • Back to Saturday's games, Oklahoma State did not fear the spear, The Oklahoman's John Helsley wrote. And according to the paper's Berry Tramel, the Cowboys should be dejected about the night, and euphoric about the future. As I wrote last week, Oklahoma State's sustainability was going to be tested this season. And despite the loss, the Cowboys passed that test with flying colors against the top-ranked team in the country. Despite having to lean on several young players, the Pokes gave Florida State everything it wanted, and might have been a J.W. Walsh fumble away from flat pulling off the upset. Oklahoma State's 2014 outlook looks completely different now than I had it pegged in the preseason. This is a team to be reckoned with. And no matter the circumstance, a program to be reckoned with, too.
  • Speaking of giving an opponent everything it wanted, West Virginia took second-ranked Alabama to the wire in an inspired performance from Dana Holgorsen's bunch. The game showed how far the Mountaineers have come, wrote the Charleston Daily Mail's Chuck McGill. The biggest difference for West Virginia was the play of quarterback Clint Trickett, who was terrific against the Crimson Tide. With Rushel Shell also pounding out yards between the tackles and Kevin White hauling in passes downfield, this could be a dynamite offense. If the Mountaineers play the entire season the way they did Saturday, there is no doubt they will get back to bowl eligibility. The schedule might still be brutal. But do you think Oklahoma and Baylor and Kansas State are looking forward to their trips to Morgantown now?
  • We addressed the good. Now, to the ugly. The Des Moines Register's Randy Peterson believes Iowa State's 34-14 defeat to North Dakota State was the worst loss of the Paul Rhoads era. I can't disagree. After jumping on the Bison 14-0, the Cyclones simply were dominated the rest of the way. Most disheartening was how Iowa State was obliterated in the trenches. If an FCS team can do that to the Cyclones this weekend, what are Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State going to do? Adding injury to insult, Iowa State suffered injuries to a pair of its key players in center Tom Farniok and wideout Quenton Bundrage. Farniok might be back this weekend, but it doesn't look promising for Bundrage, who was Iowa State's leading receiver last season. This now has the look of a very rough year for the Cyclones, whose next four opponents went a combined 37-14 last season.
  • Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury was not happy with his team's performance over the weekend, either, as the Red Raiders narrowly escaped Central Arkansas 42-35. Kingsbury called the showing "embarrassing," according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's Don Williams. The Red Raiders have high hopes for the season and for the future of the program, illustrated by the extension the school agreed to with Kingsbury the day before. But all hope is not lost. Plenty of teams have looked lackluster in their openers, then gone on to great seasons. But quarterback Davis Webb will have to be sharper, and the defense will have to be better for the Red Raiders to have the season they envision.
It was a brand new feeling for Art Briles.

For the first time since he arrived in Waco, the Baylor Bears' head coach stepped onto the field in a brand new stadium with a team considered a national title contender.

He couldn't have even dreamed of this.

"I don't dream big enough, don't think big enough, don't foresee big enough," Briles said. "It was unbelievable. The atmosphere was everything we hoped it could be."

[+] EnlargeMcLane Stadium
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesBaylor opened McLane Stadium with a 45-0 win against SMU on Sunday night.
The Bears opened McLane Stadium with a 45-0 win against SMU on Sunday night. Playing in an on-campus stadium for the first time since Nov. 9, 1935, Baylor looked comfortable in its new digs, cruising to a season-opening win with a dominant defensive performance. Yet many people left thinking the Bears had an off night, a sign of the rise in expectations surrounding the green-and-gold.

Those expectations could be seen and heard around the stadium as the pregame festivities led to an exceptional atmosphere for a season opener.

"The atmosphere was unbelievable," tackle Spencer Drango said. "We had the 'Walk of the Bears' and we had to stop before we were supposed to because there were so many people. It felt like it went on forever. It was an amazing environment. It was something special. I can't find the words to describe it."

Sitting alongside I-35 as the on-campus jewel of Baylor, the $266 million, 45,140-seat stadium is a physical representation of how far Briles program has come since he took over the Bears prior to the 2008 season.

Few college football cathedrals can match McLane. Fans can arrive by boat and tailgate on the Brazos river before entering one of the most innovative venues in the nation, one which also features an in-game app that can be downloaded to enhance the game-day experience.

Just outside the stadium's South entrance, a statue of Robert Griffin III sits just yards away from the Brazos river, serving as another representation of a new era in Waco.

"It's not a representation of me," said Griffin, who was in town to experience the opening of the picturesque facility first-hand. "It's more a representation of what we've done at Baylor."

After a pair of 4-8 seasons to begin his tenure, Briles' Bears have put together four straight winning seasons, including double-digit wins in 2011 and 2013. He is 44-32 during his six seasons in Waco, including 29-10 in the past three seasons as the talent he recruited started to really put its stamp on the program. The Bears won 21 total games in the six seasons prior to Briles' arrival.

It's ideal that the two men who have become the face of Baylor's rise were reunited to open BU's new home. Griffin played an integral role in the rise, leading the Bears to a 23-17 record in 40 starts including a 10-win season in 2011. And he continues to play an active role.

"He had a nice little talk with us during summertime, basically saying we have to keep this trend going," tight end Tre'Von Armstead said.

The bulk of Baylor's success was all built upon the vision Briles had for the Big 12's second-smallest school. He's no longer selling a vision.

Seven years later, reality is finally on Briles' side. The Bears do have a recent Heisman Trophy winner, the Bears do have one of the nation's nicest stadiums and, most importantly, the Bears do have one of the nation's best teams.

"The sky is the limit for this team, for this program, for this university," Griffin said. "It's only going to get bigger, it's only going to get better."

They don't have to dream anymore on BU's campus. All the pieces are in place to cement a spot among the nation's best, year in and year out. Thus, the focus has turned instead to another dream: A berth in the College Football Playoff and the first national championship in school history.

"We plan on, we are going to, go all the way," Armstead said. "We'll take it one game at a time, but we have big goals."

Big 12 viewer's guide: Week 1

August, 30, 2014
Aug 30
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In Week 1, Oklahoma State and West Virginia will try to pull off monumental upsets against the nation’s top two teams; Iowa State and Kansas State will look to avoid back-to-back disastrous openers; TCU and Texas Tech will also attempt to take care of business against the FCS; Texas will kick off the Charlie Strong era; Oklahoma will try to keep its Sugar Bowl level; and Baylor will introduce a new stadium.

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

Saturday

North Dakota State at Iowa State, 11 a.m. CT (FS1): The Cyclones will attempt to avoid opening with a loss to an FCS opponent for the second straight year. That won’t be easy. The Bison have captured three straight FCS national championships. This will also be the Iowa State debut of offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, who last week tabbed Sam B. Richardson to be the Cyclones’ starting quarterback.

West Virginia vs. No. 2 Alabama, 2:30 p.m. CT (ABC or ESPN2): The Mountaineers are the biggest underdog of any Power 5 conference team this weekend. The Crimson Tide lost their final two games of last season, but won back-to-back national championships before that. This, however, appears to be the deepest and most experienced team Dana Holgorsen has had at West Virginia since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12.

Samford at TCU, 6 p.m. CT (FSN regional): TCU coach Gary Patterson hasn’t indicated whether Trevone Boykin or Matt Joeckel will get the start at quarterback in the Horned Frogs’ new offense. Samford coach Pat Sullivan, who won the Heisman Trophy at Auburn in 1971 and coached at TCU form 1992-97, won’t be making the trip to Fort Worth with his team because of complications after offseason neck surgery.

[+] EnlargeJ.W. Walsh
AP Photo/Brody SchmidtJ.W. Walsh is back as the Oklahoma State starting quarterback, and he has a huge challenge waiting for him in the opener.
Central Arkansas at Texas Tech, 6 p.m. CT (FSN regional): This could be an interesting test for Tech’s defense, which will be relying on a host of junior-college transfers along the defensive line and a sophomore-and-under defensive backfield. The Bears return 10 starters from an offense that averaged more than 450 yards per game last year.

Louisiana Tech at No. 4 Oklahoma, 6 p.m. CT (PPV): The Bulldogs will be bringing former Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz with them to Norman. Diaz’s track record against the Sooners wasn’t good. With Diaz manning the defense, Texas allowed 63 points to Oklahoma two years ago and 55 the year before that. Elsewhere, all eyes will be on Sooners quarterback Trevor Knight, who will be making just his sixth career start, most recently shredding Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Stephen F. Austin at No. 20 Kansas State, 6 p.m. CT: The Wildcats dropped last year’s season opener to FCS opponent North Dakota State. But Stephen F. Austin, which won only three games last year, is a far cry from North Dakota State. The Wildcats are also settled at quarterback this time around with Jake Waters, who struggled as the part-time quarterback in last year’s opener, but surged during the second half of the season.

North Texas at Texas, 7 p.m. CT (Longhorn Network): Charlie Strong will finally make his debut as coach of the Longhorns. This game will also mark the return of quarterback David Ash after he missed most of last year with a concussion, and then the spring with a fractured foot. North Texas is coming off a nine-win season but is 9-67 lifetime against Big 12 programs, including 0-9 against Texas.

Oklahoma State vs. No. 1 Florida State, 7 p.m. CT (ABC): No Power 5 conference team returns fewer starters than the Cowboys, who also graduated 28 players. The Seminoles, meanwhile, bring back the reigning Heisman winner in quarterback Jameis Winston. Oklahoma State will start out with J.W. Walsh at quarterback. Walsh led the Big 12 in QBR two years ago. But last year in Big 12 play, Oklahoma State averaged 6.2 yards per play with Clint Chelf at quarterback and only 4.8 with Walsh, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Sunday

SMU at No. 10 Baylor, 6:30 p.m. CT (FS1): The Bears will christen the $260 million McLane Stadium, as Baylor will go from having the worst stadium in the Big 12 to one of the best. The celebration in Waco could begin early, too. Last year, Baylor had an average halftime lead of three touchdowns and enters this game as almost five-touchdown favorites over the Mustangs.
In Friday's Twitter mailbag, we discuss under-the-radar players, storylines this weekend, Texas Tech's chances of starting 8-0 and the best city for food in the Big 12.

To the 'bag:


Trotter: I think people will know the name Tyreek Hill after this weekend. The Oklahoma State running back is going to have a big year. Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman doesn't seem to be talked about much nationally, but he could be a star. Some other names flying under the radar nationally: Texas Tech wide receivers Jakeem Grant and Reginald Davis, West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley, Iowa State running back Aaron Wimberly, TCU cornerback Kevin White, Baylor receiver Corey Coleman and Kansas State's entire roster.
Trotter: Who knows? But Kansas State is being way undervalued nationally, including by some of my colleagues at ESPN. This was a top 15-caliber team at the end of last year. The offensive and defensive lines are going to be very good again, Jake Waters has his footing at quarterback and Tyler Lockett, well, I'm out of superlatives for him. The Wildcats will have to beat Auburn in September to gain some respect. But they are more than capable of doing just that.
Trotter: Probably linebacker Eric Striker. He can already do one thing at an NFL level, and that's rush the passer.
Trotter: That would require them beating Oklahoma State, Kansas State and TCU all on the road. Even if you considered all three of those to be coin-flip games, that, mathematically, would still give Tech only a 12.5 percent chance of winning all three. Possible? Sure. But the odds are very much against it.
Trotter: Even if the Cowboys get blasted this weekend -- and I think they will -- they'll have five winnable games immediately afterward. If they won all five, including that pivotal Thursday night matchup with Texas Tech in Stillwater, I could see them popping up in the Top 25 in mid-October.
Trotter: I see what you did there. I have Oklahoma winning the Big 12. The Sooners get Baylor in Norman, where the Bears have never won, and where Bob Stoops is 87-5.
Trotter: Storylines I will be following: Can Oklahoma State and West Virginia hang tough in tough openers? How will David Ash look in his fourth start since 2012? How will Trevor Knight look coming off that Sugar Bowl performance? Who will get the majority of snaps at QB for TCU? Can Iowa State avoid disaster facing a tricky opponent? And, the return of Mark Mangino and debut of Baylor's new stadium.
Trotter: The odds are we'll see an undefeated Big 12 team over the next five years. Who knows, we could see it this year. Oklahoma will be favored in every game. And if Baylor can topple the Sooners in Norman, the rest of its schedule is fairly manageable.
Trotter: How many Big 12 titles has Texas Tech won? I think Tech is going to have a good and exciting team this year. But until the Red Raiders actually win a championship, I don't see how you can complain about them getting overlooked in the title conversation. Especially when the top five teams in the league last year beat Tech by an average margin of three touchdowns.
Trotter: Richardson is not going to share snaps. They want -- and need -- him to be the guy. It feels like the Cyclones are still trying to replace Seneca Wallace. They're going to give Richardson plenty of opportunities to show he's the long-term answer at quarterback.
Trotter: That's impossible for me to say. All of them are cool in their own way. There's no place in the Big 12 I don't look forward to going to. @mulloy_k: You are a 4-5* recruit, but your only criteria for choosing a school is based on the unlimited snack rule ... and what LOCAL fare would be available (for free) in that city. What Big 12 school do you choose? Appreciate your work! Trotter: Thanks, Kyle. I've been to every campus in the Big 12 multiple times, and I can vouch that in all 10 venues, there are great places to eat. But nowhere in the Big 12 has more great eating options than Austin. That's no slight on the other Big 12 locales. New York City is the only place I've been to that has better food than Austin.
The College Football Playoff isn’t the only thing new for the Big 12 this year. The league will welcome new bowl tie-ins, as well as old bowl tie-ins with new names. The playoff is obviously new. The Russell Athletic Bowl and AutoZone Liberty Bowl are new to the league, as well. The Cactus Bowl is the old Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (which before that was the Insight Bowl). Next year, the Champions Bowl, which will pit top teams from the Big 12 and SEC, will jump into the rotation as well.

But, without further ado, here are our preseason bowl projections for the Big 12, which, like the bowl tie-ins themselves, are sure to change before long:

Allstate Sugar Bowl, New Orleans (Jan. 1): Oklahoma vs. College Football Playoff semifinal
Cotton Bowl, Arlington, Texas (Jan. 1): Baylor vs. at-large
Valero Alamo Bowl, San Antonio (Jan. 2): Kansas State vs. Pac-12 No. 2
Russell Athletic Bowl, Orlando, Fla. (Dec. 29): Texas vs. ACC No. 2
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl, Houston (Dec. 29): Texas Tech vs. SEC
AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tenn. (Dec. 29): TCU vs. SEC
Cactus Bowl, Tempe, Ariz. (Jan. 2): Oklahoma State vs. Pac-12 No. 7

Big 12 players in Week 1 spotlight

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
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Are you guys ready? We're less than 48 hours away from the first kickoff of the Big 12 season. (There are some good games tonight, too, if you can't wait that long.) Once we finally get rolling, the guys worth watching closely won't just be the All-Americans like Bryce Petty and Tyler Lockett. We know what they can do, and they'll probably be even better.

But this is our first real chance, after months of speculation and projection, to see how newcomers and players in new roles fare. Here are 11 players we'll be keeping an eye on Saturday and Sunday.

Matt Joeckel and Trevone Boykin
Getty ImagesGary Patterson won't reveal who his starting quarterback is -- Matt Joeckel or Trevone Boykin -- until the Horned Frogs take the field Saturday.
Matt Joeckel, QB, TCU: Will he be the starter? Did Trevone Boykin do enough to regain the job? Gary Patterson won't reveal a thing until his Horned Frog offense takes the field Saturday against Samford. The guy who sets foot on the field won't matter as much as which one thrives, because it seems likely both will get a fair shot. TCU just needs a capable distributor.

Devin Chafin, RB, and Johnny Jefferson, RB, Baylor: Both backs dealt with injuries in fall camp but should be good to go. And if you ask Baylor players, they'll tell you Chafin and Jefferson are about to be stars on the rise. This should be a true stable of backs led by Shock Linwood, but you're going to see Chafin and Jefferson a lot -- especially if Baylor's second team gets a lot of playing time in a blowout.

DeAndre Washington, RB, Texas Tech: We could still see Kenny Williams in short-yardage opportunities, but otherwise, Tech is ready to roll with the 5-foot-8, 201-pound junior leading its run game. Freshmen Justin Stockton and Demarcus Felton are intriguing, but Washington has a chance to establish himself as the feature back and a sneaky good one.

Deandre Burton, WR, Kansas State: The local kid from Manhattan was named a starter this week and is about to get his first meaningful action on offense. The redshirt sophomore has good size and will be one of a few wideouts getting reps with Lockett and Curry Sexton. The competition for his spot will be ongoing, so a big play or two against Stephen F. Austin could go a long way.

Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State: Cyclones fans can't wait to see what Lazard, listed as the backup to Quenton Bundrage at X receiver, can do in his first career day. After all the boasting Paul Rhoads did on signing day (and rightfully so), expectations are awfully high. Let's see Sam B. Richardson lob a few up to him and see if the 6-foot-5 stud can make a splash.

Tyreek Hill, WR/RB, Oklahoma State: What more can we say? We've hyped him up as much as anybody in the Big 12 this offseason. OSU will get the ball in his hands as much as possible. Florida State will do whatever it can to stop him. Can Hill be the game-changer the Pokes need to keep up with the defending champs?

Julian Wilson, CB, Oklahoma: Wilson's transition from nickel to cornerback, where he'll replace a big-time player in Aaron Colvin, has received good reviews. Louisiana Tech will no doubt test him and new starting safety Ahmad Thomas early on to see if they can handle the pressure.

Dravon Henry, FS, West Virginia: Mountaineer coaches have been excited about Henry all year long, and the true freshman seemingly had no trouble earning a starting job. He'll get lots of help from veteran safety Karl Joseph, but you just know Lane Kiffin will take some shots deep to see if the young dude has instincts. He would be wise to keep an eye on Amari Cooper, one of the nation's best wideouts.

Jason Hall, SS, and Dylan Haines, SS, Texas: Hall, a true freshman and former three-star recruit, was named the starter on Texas' depth chart released Thursday. But Haines, a walk-on, will play and so should Adrian Colbert. With safety Mykkele Thompson likely being used as Texas' top nickel, the Longhorns will have a lot of inexperience on the back end on passing downs. They need to play up to the considerable praise they received in camp.

Who are you excited to scout this weekend? Let us know any players we missed in the comments below.

Big 12 Week 1 predictions

August, 28, 2014
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Why Alabama will win: The Crimson Tide don't have a quarterback with a career start, but that seems to be the only question with this team. The losses to Auburn and Oklahoma are fresh on everyone's mind, but before those two games, Alabama had allowed an FBS-low 9.3 points per game last season. Coach Nick Saban's defense will be formidable again. Though the Mountaineers feature several intriguing skill players, it's unlikely they will be able to move the ball the way the Tigers and Sooners did. -- Jake Trotter

Why Florida State will win: Last week, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy called Florida State the best team he had ever faced as a player or a coach. The Seminoles are loaded, headlined by the return of Heisman winner Jameis Winston. The Cowboys, meanwhile, will be fielding almost a completely new squad after losing 28 seniors and returning the fewest starters among any program in a Power 5 conference. Those factors do not equal a recipe for an upset. -- Jake Trotter

More consensus picks: Iowa State over North Dakota State; TCU over Samford; Texas Tech over Central Arkansas; Oklahoma over Louisiana Tech; Kansas State over Stephen F. Austin; Texas over North Texas; Baylor over SMU.

When thinking of Baylor and Oklahoma State, defense is rarely the first thing that comes to mind.

Yet those two teams featured the Big 12’s top defenses in 2013, a main reason they combined for 21 victories and found themselves atop the conference standings heading into the final day of the regular season a year ago.

But neither the Cowboys nor Bears found themselves among the nation’s top 15 defenses in points allowed or yards allowed, and only Oklahoma State's 21.6 points allowed per game, which ranked No. 19 nationally, was among the nation’s top 25 in either category.

[+] EnlargeShawn Oakman
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezShawn Oakman and Baylor's defense give up yards, but measure up well in the most important statistics.
“I think people are getting educated a little bit about what is good defense and what is good defense against spread offenses when having to defend 18, 19 series a game,” Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. “It’s not yardage, it’s the winning game. Saying you’re the best defense in the nation because you gave up 375 yards per game? That’s ridiculous. That has no bearing on what the best defense in the nation is; that’s the most ridiculous stat ever.”

Recognizing good defense in the Big 12 is a little different.

“How are you going to win the game? How many points per possession?” Spencer asks. “We have a lot more possessions to defend than a lot of teams in the nation.”

So with the new season on the horizon, here are other ways to define good defense in the Big 12.

Yards per play: More important than total yards allowed, yards per play is a better representation for a defense’s success. For example, Oklahoma led the Big 12 in total yards allowed at 305.2, yet the Sooners were sixth in yards per play at 5.38. Why? The Sooners offense played a major role in OU’s strong overall yardage numbers by controlling the clock with its running game. Oklahoma's defense faced 65.1 plays per game, five plays fewer than any other Big 12 team. By comparison, Baylor allowed 4.77 yards per play, which led the conference, while facing 75.8 plays per game. The Bears allowed more yards than the Sooners, but BU’s defense clearly had more success stopping opponents than OU on a play-by-play basis.

Points per possession: Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Kansas State finished 1-2-3 in points allowed in 2013, but only the Cowboys finished in the top three in points per possession. Oklahoma State led the conference with 1.22 points per possession, followed by Baylor (1.38), TCU (1.5) and Oklahoma (1.6). Those four teams combined to win 36 games, including the Horned Frogs' disappointing four-win season. It’s also a meaningful stat nationally, with Florida State leading the nation in the category (0.9) followed by Michigan State (0.99), Louisville (1.05) and Alabama (1.09). Those four teams combined to go 50-4 in 2013.

Third down conversion defense: Getting off the field on third down is critical in any conference. The conference’s three teams that had double-digit wins finished 1-2-3 in third-down conversion defense. Oklahoma State led the Big 12 at 31.4 percent, followed by Oklahoma (33.7) and Baylor (33.9). Excellence on third down is one reason the Sooners still had one of the Big 12’s top defenses a year ago, even though they faced fewer plays. Oklahoma's offense controlling games wasn’t the only reason the Sooners faced fewer plays, as their defense consistently got off the field on key third downs.

“[In the Big 12] you have to defend the whole full of playmakers and you are going to give up some yardage,” Spencer said. “But you have to get off the field.”

Turnovers: Much like third-down excellence, turnovers are critical in any conference. Oklahoma State (33) and Baylor (28) finished 1-2 in turnovers forced, and it’s not a coincidence. Both defensive coaching staffs make creating turnovers a top priority, even more than stopping the opponent. For the Cowboys and Bears, taking the ball away from the opposing offense is the primary goal.

Percentage of possible yards allowed per drive: This is another terrific stat to monitor the overall success of a Big 12 defense against opponents. BU led the conference at 32.4 percent followed by Oklahoma State (34.7), TCU (35.1) and Oklahoma (37.1). Those four teams could easily be considered the Big 12’s top four defenses in 2013.

Three-and-out percentage: The Bears led the Big 12 by forcing a three-and-out on 28.2 percent of opponent’s drives. Oklahoma State (26.8), TCU (26.7) and Texas (25.8) rounded out the top four. One of the reasons Bryce Petty and the Bears’ offense set scoring records was the ability of Baylor's defense to immediately put the ball back in the hands of the offense.

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