Big 12: Big 12

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 a 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 of 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.
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
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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 morning links

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
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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
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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.
FORT WORTH, Texas -- A high-five, a glove, a photo, a hug, whatever. If TCU’s youngest fans want something from Horned Frogs receiver Josh Doctson, he can’t say no.

He knows what those moments mean. Ten years ago, Doctson was one of them.

He and his brother Jeremiah were proud members of the Bleacher Creatures club back then, just two of the hundreds of kids who ran onto the Amon G. Carter Stadium field each week before kickoff. For three or four years, the Doctson brothers made that dash and watched from the stands and dreamed.

"I can recall it vividly," Doctson said. "Getting on the field. The horn blowing. Sprinting as fast as we can to the other goal line. We looked forward to every Saturday. We were here every Saturday. I’m at a loss for words now when I see those kids running on the field or hanging over the railing after the game. I was in their shoes."

[+] EnlargeJosh Doctson
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsHorned Frogs receiver Josh Doctson had 225 receiving yards, including TD receptions of 77 and 84 yards, against Oklahoma State.
You better believe all those dashes crossed his mind last Saturday. He ran wild like 11-year-old Josh against Oklahoma State, sprinting untouched for 77- and 84-yard touchdowns on the first two receptions of a career-best day in No. 10 TCU’s 42-9 blowout of the Cowboys.

Doctson surpassed 100 yards for the first time in his TCU career. Then he went over 200. He finished with 225 -- just 1 yard shy of the best pass-catching performance in school history. After coming home in 2012, Doctson is doing things today his younger self never could have imagined.

"I texted my brother after the game and was just like, 'Wow, I don’t even know where that came from today,'" Doctson said. "My mother was in shock. It’s really unreal. I sit back and I don’t even know where all this came from."

This all started with Tracy Syler-Jones, an unemployed single mother of two who moved with her boys from Birmingham, Alabama, to Texas in 1999 despite no promise of a job. TCU took a chance on her -- as an assistant communications director -- when her family sorely needed a chance.

Doctson didn’t know just how much his mother had sacrificed and survived when he and Jeremiah were young. But he knew nobody worked harder. Tracy taught her sons to never be satisfied. Today she’s TCU’s vice chancellor of marketing and communications, and her sons’ constant inspiration.

"She’s the only reason I am where I’m at," Doctson said.

But Doctson didn’t start at TCU. He played his freshman season at Wyoming. His first TD? A 7-yard reception against, yep, TCU. He even beat former Horned Frogs cornerback Jason Verrett to make that play, one of his 35 catches as a true freshman. Dream come true, he thought at the time.

But by the end of his first semester, Doctson needed to get back home. His grandfather, who has since died, had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Living 750 miles away, knowing he couldn’t help, was too unbearable for Doctson.

"We were going through a lot as a family, myself especially," Doctson said. "I was really hard on myself and just a little bit distracted. That’s really what brought me back to Texas. Family was the No. 1 thing in my life. I couldn’t see myself spending four years apart from my brother and mom."

TCU took a chance on him, too. The 6-foot-4, 190-pounder has rewarded head coach Gary Patterson’s faith ever since.

"Josh is one of those guys that is very mature for his age," Patterson said. "Ever since he got here he’s run great routes, he’s blocked, he’s tenacious. Team is very important to him. He’s not going to be a guy who’s a true burner, but he has enough speed, he’s deceptive and he can go up and get the ball."

Oh yes he can. Against Minnesota this season, Doctson leaped so high for a one-handed touchdown catch, his right knee nearly brushed the poor defensive back's facemask. Thanks to this new high-flying offense, the Horned Frogs’ leading receiver already has more yards in six games than he put up in 11 games a year ago. The highlight reel got a bit longer Saturday.

Nobody told Doctson he was a yard short of the record until the final seconds of the win. He would be lying if he said he didn’t want one more catch. But days later, he still can’t believe what he did.

Knowing where he started, he says, makes all this -- the big plays, TCU's top-10 ranking, the opportunity this team has -- seem a little too unthinkable. The kid from the Bleacher Creatures still can’t believe he gets to play with the big boys now.

"I look at those plays now and it’s just like, 'Wow, I don’t even know who that is. That wasn’t me,'" Doctson said. "I’m just so happy to be out here and see where this team is heading and be a part of this. There’s an amazing vibe in the locker room, on campus, everywhere. I’m living in this moment right now."

Big 12 Week 9 predictions

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
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Why Kansas State will win: In case you haven't noticed, the Wildcats have been playing good football all season. It took three missed field goals and a pair of untimely turnovers for Auburn to escape Manhattan last month. Behind QB Tyrone Swoopes, the Longhorns have been getting better. And they should be able to hang tough, as they did against Baylor and Oklahoma. But they ultimately won't be able to run the ball well enough or contain dual-threat QB Jake Waters enough to also escape with a win. Kansas State 29, Texas 21 -- Jake Trotter

Why West Virginia will win: The Mountaineers are playing great, physical defense that complements the fireworks of QB Clint Trickett, receiver Kevin White and all of their skill-position talent. Oklahoma State will get its chances -- WVU has a minus-six turnover margin during its three-game win streak -- but its offensive line is in brutal shape and the Pokes showed no resilience in the second half last week at TCU. This just isn't a good time to play the Mountaineers. West Virginia 38, Oklahoma State 17 -- Max Olson

Why TCU will win: The Horned Frogs will simply overwhelm the Red Raiders with an active defense and relentless offense. Tech will have its share of big plays but TCU and quarterback Trevone Boykin should have plenty of big plays of their own against a Red Raiders defense that ranks No. 114 among FBS teams with 36.9 points per game allowed. TCU 49, Texas Tech 31 — Brandon Chatmon

Season records:
  • Trotter: 45-4
  • Chatmon: 43-6
  • Olson: 43-6

Big 12 morning links

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
8:00
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In case you missed it, the Royals took Game 2.
  • Oklahoma State has sued Texas co-offensive coordinator Joe Wickline for breach of contract, alleging he misled his former employer about his new position at Texas, and the school is seeking more than $593,000 in damages. According to the suit filed in an Oklahoma district court on Oct. 17, Oklahoma State’s board of regents asserts that Wickline violated his contractual agreement to pay a buyout fee of $593,487 if he left OSU for an FBS offensive coordinator job that did not include play-calling duties. Wickline filed a countersuit this week and claims that he is indeed calling plays for Texas’ offense, according to an Austin American-Statesman report. This is a bizarre and unfortunate situation. Wickline was such a big part of the success Oklahoma State had in the Mike Gundy era. Now, the two sides are involved in litigation. Texas, by the way, travels to Stillwater on Nov. 15.
  • Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth and Texas running back Ricky Williams are just a few of the Big 12 names that were nominated for the College Football Hall of Fame. I don't know how anyone couldn't vote for those three, and anyone that leaves Snyder off his or her ballot should have it stripped away for life.
  • West Virginia's revamped 3-3-5 scheme is earning praise, writes Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. And deservedly so. The Mountaineers held Baylor’s offense, which was averaging 57.2 points and 623 total yards per game, to just 318 yards in West Virginia’s 41-27 upset victory. Much has rightfully been made of what TCU co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie have done at TCU. But West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson and assistant Tom Bradley have done a phenomenal job turning the Mountaineers into arguably the most improved defense in the Big 12. If West Virginia contends for the Big 12 title, it won't just be because of Clint Trickett and Kevin White. It will be because of that defensive unit, too.
  • Speaking of TCU, the Dallas Morning News' Ryan Gerbosi wonders whether TCU QB Trevone Boykin is a legitimate candidate for the Heisman Trophy. It's a little strange that Boykin hasn't generated more Heisman buzz so far. He's been the pivotal piece in TCU going from having the nation's 106th best offense last year to the seventh-best one this season. With West Virginia and Kansas State coming up back-to-back to start the month of November, Boykin might begin to appear on Heisman straw polls if he can lead the Horned Frogs to a sweep of those two games.
  • While TCU is flying high, Texas Tech is going the opposite way, writes Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Exactly one year ago, Tech was 7-0 and ranked No. 10 in the polls. That feels like a long time ago. The Red Raiders have exactly one Big 12 win since then -- over Kansas last weekend. It hasn't been a fluke, either. Of the 33 team categories tracked by Big 12 statisticians, Tech is last in the league in nine of them, according to Burch. That is a bad sign. Of course, the Red Raiders can always turn it around. Just look at what TCU has done.

Q&A: Kansas LB Ben Heeney

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
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We're not perfect here on the Big 12 blog. And Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney showed that we may have erred omitting him from our midseason All-Big 12 team. Days after our team came out, Heeney delivered a dominating performance with 21 tackles and a 37-yard interception return in Kansas' 34-21 loss at Texas Tech last weekend.

Heeney now leads the Big 12 with 58 solo tackles.

Though we snubbed him, Heeney was a good sport, and agreed to talk with us about getting left off the midseason team, what it was like when Charlie Weis got fired and how to properly groom a beard:

[+] EnlargeBen Heeney
Charlie Riedel/AP PhotoLinebacker Ben Heeney says the Jayhawks have a goal in mind for coach Clint Bowen: "We have to win for him, because we all really like him and we want him to stay around as our head coach."
We think we might have made a mistake in leaving you off our midseason All-Big 12 team. Do you think we made a mistake?

Heeney: Whatever you guys think. I think the guys you put ahead of me (Oklahoma's Eric Striker, Texas' Jordan Hicks and TCU's Paul Dawson) are great players also. But I did have to prove last week that you guys made a mistake.

So did it give you a little extra motivation against Tech?

Heeney: Yeah, I guess a little bit. But more than anything, I was playing to win that game against Texas Tech.

You have tackled a bunch of guys over the past four years. Who has been the toughest to tackle?

Heeney: I think Lache Seastrunk at Baylor was really hard. Tavon Austin at West Virginia my sophomore year was hard to tackle. And (former Kansas State QB) Collin Klein was hard to tackle. Those three guys stick out.

Why did you decide to go to Kansas?

Heeney: It had always been my dream school. Both of my parents went to school here. My brother gradated from here in 2013. It's basically been a family school. I was born and raised in Kansas. It was my dream school since I was a little kid.

What's it been like having three head coaches?

Heeney: It's tough. Especially with wondering where you stand. After Coach (Turner) Gill got fired after my freshman year, it was a whole new staff. You have to prove your worth again to a whole brand new staff. It was different when Coach Weis got fired. He was the only one let go. So it's been different every time. But it is pretty weird having three coaches in four years.

Did Weis getting fired in the middle of the season blindside you?

Heeney: Yeah it did. It was really weird. After the Texas game, that next morning, that Sunday morning, I woke up to like 50 text messages from friends and random people asking if I had heard the news. I hadn't heard anything. Waking up to all that chaos was really crazy. It was something that I never thought would happen.

How did it make you guys feel Weis getting fired, and what's been different since Clint Bowen took over?

Heeney: Coach Weis was always a good guy to me, a good coach. But we've moved on, and I don't think our team has skipped a beat. It almost has brought us closer as a team. Coach Bowen had been my position coach last two years. Me and him have a really good relationship. He's a player's coach. We love playing for him. We all want him to be our head coach. We want to win for Coach Bowen.

So you guys want to win games to give Bowen a chance at becoming the permanent head coach?

Heeney: Yeah definitely. That's been kinda our goal. We have to win for him, because we all really like him and we want him to stay around as our head coach. That has been our goal, to win for him. It hasn't happened yet. But we definitely think it's going to. We're trying to get wins not only for ourselves, but for Coach Bowen.

What's the story with the beard?

Heeney: I started growing it last year. Everyone really liked it. I shaved it off after football season, and I got crap for it. So this offseason I've brought it back to life. I've been growing it five-six months deep. It's become an image for me I guess now.

West Virginia punter Nick O'Toole has tips for grooming his mustache. Do you have tips for grooming a beard?

Heeney: Yeah, I do. His mustache is awesome by the way. You have to shampoo it daily. You need it get a beard comb or beard brush, either of the two work fine. And then just take care of it, love it, nourish it. If you can grow a beard, you should, because not everyone can grow one. It's pretty special.

You a Royals fan?

Heeney: Yes, big Royals fan. I've been watching the games. I had tickets to the game last Monday night, but it got rained out. We had practice Tuesday, so wasn't able to go. But I've been following them, definitely. I think we're going to win.

What's favorite local place to eat in Lawrence?

Heeney: Jefferson's on Mass. Ave. It's a wing place. They have really good fried food.

Final question: Can you forgive us for leaving you off the midseason All-Big 12 team?

Heeney: Yeah man, I'll forgive you guys this time. Just don't let it happen again, all right?

Big 12 stat check: Week 9

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
2:30
PM ET
A closer look at one statistic worth keeping an eye on for each Big 12 team entering Week 9:

Baylor: The problem with penalties is no one-week fluke. Yes, Baylor's 215 penalty yards against West Virginia were the most by any FBS team in the past decade. But the reality is, since 2010, Baylor leads the nation in penalties (8.05 per game), penalty yards (74.6) and offensive penalties (4.12).

Iowa State: E.J. Bibbs is establishing himself as one of the nation's top tight ends this season. After catching two more touchdowns against Texas on Saturday, he now ranks first nationally in TDs (six) and second in receptions (32) among tight ends. He's not putting up Jace Amaro-level numbers, but this year there simply aren't many like Bibbs in the Big 12 or elsewhere.

Kansas: The Jayhawks are showing signs they're going to win a Big 12 game this year. One factor that's helping their cause: stingy goal-line defense. Opponents are scoring touchdowns on just 54.5 percent of their goal-to-go situations. That rate ranks second-best in the Big 12 behind TCU. Kansas has allowed six TDs, forced teams to settle for 12 field goals and recorded one takeaway. For comparison's sake, that's a dozen fewer TDs than Iowa State has given up in those situations.

Kansas State: This one paid off big last week and has continued during Bill Snyder's return to K-State: Since 2009, the Wildcats are No. 1 in the Big 12 at blocking field goals (seven) and extra points (eight). Travis Britz got No. 8 last week on the point-after attempt that would've tied the game against Oklahoma.

Oklahoma: Michael Hunnicutt had a rough day Saturday, but he's still one of the most consistent kickers in Big 12 history. Hunnicutt's 84.5 percent career success rate on field goals ranks No. 3 among kickers in the past decade with more than 70 attempts.

Oklahoma State: Against TCU, the Cowboys had undeniably one of their worst offensive performances of the Mike Gundy era. For only the third time in his tenure, OSU produced zero touchdowns in any phase of the game. The minus-33 scoring margin was OSU's worst since a 56-20 loss to Texas Tech in 2008 and fourth-worst in Gundy's 10 seasons, and the Pokes' 4.03 yards per play ranked fifth-worst.

TCU: The Horned Frogs are now 91-3 under Gary Patterson when they hold a team to 17 points or fewer. After last Saturday's 42-9 win over Oklahoma State, the Frogs have now won their last 10 games against Big 12 teams when achieving that 17-or-under feat defensively.

Texas: Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson's efforts to script the first 15 to 25 plays of a game are paying dividends for quarterback Tyrone Swoopes. He's completing 77 percent of his passes in the first quarter this season, connecting on 40 of 52 attempts for 426 yards and 10.6 yards per completion. That's certainly helping him get into an early rhythm.

Texas Tech: DeAndre Washington is quietly putting together one of the best seasons by a Tech running back in years. He's averaging 5.55 yards per carry (No. 2 in Big 12), 88.8 yards per game (No. 3) and is on pace to become Tech's first 1,000-yard rusher since 1998. Texas Tech is still passing on nearly 63 percent of its snaps, but Washington is making this run game go when he gets his touches.

West Virginia: There are a ton of numbers we can throw around for Kevin White, the nation's leading receiver, but here's an impressive one: If he surpasses 100 receiving yards against Oklahoma State, he'll become just the second FBS receiver in the last decade to start a season with eight straight 100-yard games. The other guy? Another Dana Holgorsen prodigy, Justin Blackmon. He put up 100-plus in every game of his 2010 season.

Texas at Kansas State primer

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
1:00
PM ET
Both Texas and Kansas State are coming off dramatic wins that came down to the final possession. Will this game go down to the wire, too?

The Wildcats have won five out of the last six in the series. But Texas has begun to surge after a rocky start.

Max Olson and Jake Trotter break down this key Big 12 matchup between the Wildcats, who hope to keep their playoff dreams alive, and the Longhorns, who need a big win to improve their chances of becoming bowl eligible:

How Kansas State can control the game: The Bill Snyder formula to winning is pretty simple. Stop the run. Avoid mistakes. And wait for the opposition to shoot itself in the foot. That formula worked wonders in the win over Oklahoma, and it should work here, too. The Longhorns can play defense, but a shifty Jake Waters ought to be able to exploit them the way dual-threat Iowa State QB Sam B. Richardson did last week. Defensively, K-State should be able to control the Texas running attack, which will put pressure on QB Tyrone Swoopes to make plays. Swoopes was able to do that against the Cyclones. But doing the same in Manhattan against these Wildcats will be a far different task. -- Trotter

How Texas can pull off the upset: After confidence-boosting games against Oklahoma and Iowa State, Swoopes needs to bring his A-game on Saturday. Texas will need consistently good line play and play calling on offense. Based on how Texas showed up against UCLA, Baylor and OU, you'd think Charlie Strong and Vance Bedford will have a comprehensive plan for slowing down Waters, Tyler Lockett and the things they do well. But that won't matter if players don't execute. Like Jake said, KSU isn't going to make many mistakes. Texas had some bad ones against Iowa State -- a Swoopes red zone INT, a fumbled sweep returned for a TD -- and can't afford those flubs this week. -- Olson

Kansas State’s X factor: Defensive end Ryan Mueller has had a very quiet season so far with only 1.5 sacks. This could be the game the 2013 All-Big 12 performer could break out. The Texas offensive line has improved over the last month, but it’s hardly a formidable unit. And K-State’s run defense has been stout all year, meaning Texas will probably have to throw to move the chains. That could give Mueller plenty of opportunities to get to Swoopes while facing off against Texas’ susceptible tackles. -- Trotter

Texas’ X factor: Two guys up front: Steve Edmond and Cedric Reed. Edmond played some of the best football of his life against Baylor and OU, but did not start last week for reasons that are unclear. He did eventually enter the ISU game, and Texas is going to need the senior linebacker this week for his blitzing and play in the box as well as reliable run D. We haven't heard much from Reed so far (four TFLs, 1.5 sacks), but he can capitalize off the double-teams Malcom Brown draws. Now is as good a time as any for Reed's breakout. -- Olson

What a win would mean for Kansas State: The Wildcats are coming off an emotional win in Norman, so it will be interesting to see how they respond. They obviously have to keep winning to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot and to keep pace in the Big 12 title race. But with the toughest remaining schedule of the Big 12 contenders, K-State also needs to keep the momentum rolling. A convincing win over Texas would do just that. -- Trotter

What a win would mean for Texas: That would be the Longhorns' second-ever win in Manhattan. They haven't pulled this off since 2002. After coming so close against UCLA and Oklahoma, beating a top-15 K-State team would provide the first signature win of the Strong era and help propel this team onto the path to six wins and bowl eligibility. -- Olson
video
The updated ESPN 300 player rankings are now live, and one of the primary Big 12 targets is the newly crowned top-ranked running back.

Soso Jamabo said in September that he was gunning for the No. 1 spot at running back, and after several huge games, Jamabo has earned that spot, bypassing Kentucky running back Damien Harris. The hunter, however, is now the hunted, as Jamabo looks to maintain that spot. He'll have to fight off Harris, Oklahoma State commit Ronald Jones II, fast-rising Chris Warren III -- who jumped from 183 to 102 in the new rankings -- and several others.

Here are five things to know involving Big 12 recruiting:

Before the season, we wondered if West Virginia would ever be able to cut it in the Big 12. We also pondered whether TCU was just simply out of its league.

And who could blame us?

The two programs had each gone 6-12 in the conference their first two years. They failed to go to bowl games last year. And after getting picked to finish outside the top five in the league in the preseason, there didn’t seem to be much hope for 2014, either.

Consider us wrong.

TCU and West Virginia have arrived in Year 3 in the Big 12.

[+] EnlargeTrevone Boykin
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesBehind QB Trevone Boykin, the Horned Frogs rank seventh nationally in offense.
Proving they belong.

Showing they’re contenders.

“I’m really excited for West Virginia,” said TCU coach Gary Patterson. “Because both of us had kind of been told up to this point that maybe there were questions whether we could play in this league.”

Those doubters have been silenced.

The Horned Frogs have emerged as perhaps the league’s best chance of advancing into the inaugural College Football Playoff. TCU (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) toppled Big 12 preseason favorite Oklahoma earlier this month. After a fourth-quarter collapse at Baylor, the Horned Frogs bounced back and flashed their staying power last weekend by hammering Oklahoma State, 42-9.

Meanwhile, West Virginia (5-2, 3-1) has surged into the conference title conversation, fresh off a convincing 41-27 win over the Big 12 defending champion Bears.

“I think we’re seeing the results of them being more comfortable being in the Big 12,” said Baylor coach Art Briles.

“And they’re here to stay, no question.”

Three years ago, the Mountaineers and Horned Frogs joined the Big 12 on the heels of the second round of conference realignment after Texas A&M and Missouri had bolted for the SEC.

At the time, it seemed like an acceptable tradeoff.

TCU had been among the most dominant “mid-major” programs in the country, compiling a 47-5 record in four years, which included a win over Wisconsin in the 2011 Rose Bowl.

West Virginia too entered the Big 12 on a roll. The Mountaineers won the conference title their final season in the Big East, then demolished Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

But while Texas A&M and Missouri initially shined in the SEC, TCU and West Virginia faltered in the Big 12.

West Virginia collapsed down the stretch in 2012, then went 4-8 last season, missing out on a bowl for the first time since 2001.

TCU had problems, too.

With an ineffective offense that ranked 106th nationally, the Horned Frogs sputtered to a 4-8 record last season, the worst under Patterson.

“I always said it was going to take 3-5 years to be able to do it,” Patterson said. “It just takes time to recruit, it takes time to change your philosophy. You’ve got to tweak some things. We had to change.”

Patterson gambled with a big change, bringing in Doug Meacham from Houston and Sonny Cumbie from Texas Tech to transform the TCU offense into an up-tempo, spread attack, to match the rest of the Big 12.

“In the spring, things didn’t look as good,” Patterson said.

But in the fall, the Horned Frogs have adapted better than anyone, including Patterson, could have predicted.

In a dramatic turnaround, TCU currently ranks seventh nationally in offense behind Trevone Boykin, who has emerged into one of the most lethal quarterbacks in college football.

“How far they’ve come offensively is incredible,” said Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury. “Coach Meacham, Coach Cumbie have done a great job. (Boykin) is as dominant as any player in the country. They’re running the system like they’ve been there for years.

“They have it rolling.”

[+] EnlargeTony Gibson
Mark Goldman/Icon SportswireTony Gibson has turned around a unit that ranked 108th in total defense in 2013.
West Virginia is rolling, too, thanks also to a coaching change. After defensive coordinator Keith Patterson left for Arizona State, Dana Holgorsen promoted safeties coach Tony Gibson to coordinator. He also brought in longtime Penn State assistant Tom Bradley. Together, Gibson and Bradley have whipped the Mountaineers into the league's most improved defense. Spurred by a more aggressive style, West Virginia sacked Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty four times while holding the Bears 26 points below their season average.

“Both of them are just adjusting to the Big 12, that’s what you’re seeing,” Briles said. “It’s a fast league, an explosive league. TCU certainly has matched the offense in the league, and West Virginia has done the same defensively."

Like TCU, West Virginia has also gotten superb quarterbacking. Clint Trickett tops the Big 12 in QBR and in completion percentage.

“They have mature quarterbacks that are somewhat experienced and playing with confidence, that’s the key,” said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy. “The quarterback play is as instrumental as anything that’s happened.”

TCU and West Virginia also have the playmakers. And now, they have the depth, too.

In Josh Doctson, Kolby Listenbee and Deante' Gray, the Horned Frogs have three of the top 18 receivers in the conference, after not having one last year.

The Mountaineers lost starting cornerbacks Daryl Worley and Terrell Chestnut to injuries in the first half against Baylor, but had the backups to still handcuff the Bears.

“There have been a lot of times in previous games where we weren't equipped to be able to deal with that,” Holgorsen said. “But our recruiting has been better because of the Big 12 brand, so you're able to add younger guys to the mix that have talent.”

As a result, West Virginia and TCU have proved they belong in Year 3.

And that they’re here to stay.

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