Big 12: Kansas Jayhawks
- Gary Patterson didn't think his offense would evolve this quickly. How could he? TCU's head coach has concerns about where this offense was heading after spring ball was up, which makes these impeccable six-game results even more surprising and gratifying. The rise of Trevone Boykin under Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie stands out, of course, but Patterson deserves just as much credit for finding not only the right two guys to install and instill what he wanted, but to also do so while working together seemingly seamlessly.
- Best of luck to Baylor offensive lineman Troy Baker, whose college playing days are over after an MRI revealed the senior suffered a torn ACL against West Virginia. He started in seven games at right tackle and had already gone through this process before after a torn ACL in the spring in 2013. Pat Colbert filled in on Saturday and gets the first shot at keeping that job, but this means Baylor is working with its backup plan at right guard and tackle for the rest of the season.
- You're not going to sucker Bill Snyder into devoting any attention to the College Football Playoff race. Now that his Wildcats are in the national discussion following their upset of Oklahoma, their head coach couldn't care less. Texas is the only thing on his mind, and anything else is a waste of his time. That's the only approach he can take, and to his credit Snyder is going to say that with complete honesty. If K-State does make a run here, though, no doubt he'll have to do some campaigning if they Big 12 ends up with co-champs or tiebreaker drama.
- West Virginia didn't let Baylor turn their Saturday meeting into a track meet. That was essential. How'd they do it? The Mountaineers are dispelling the myth that they prefer finesse over physical, writes Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail. Be sure to read what WVU's coaches said about last year's Baylor game. You can tell how seriously they and their players took being the more aggressive team and how much pride played a role in that upset. WVU showed in its blocking and hitting a lot of things to be encouraged about going forward.
- No word yet on the severity, but Kansas receiver Tony Pierson is being evaluated for an injury in his neck area during KU's bye week. Let's hope it's not serious. Pierson is too fun to watch when he's at his best. If he has to miss time, at least the Jayhawks have the promising connection of Michael Cummings to Nigel King. He's a wideout Cummings definitely seems to trust, even if the numbers last week didn't make that obvious.
Total commits: 12
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: There aren't many spots left in Baylor's class, but one of them is presumably being saved for Waco Midway four-star safety Kahlil Haughton. He took an official visit to Arkansas last weekend and could take his official trip to a Baylor game on Nov. 1. Haughton has already taken officials to Oklahoma and Nebraska, and his final two trips are expected to go to BU and Texas Tech.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones' latest pledge came from Itawamba (Mississippi) C.C. -- defensive lineman Xavier Pegues. He committed one day after juco teammate Larry Jefferson picked ISU. Both big men attended Iowa State's win over Toledo this month. Pegues, a 6-foot-3, 270-pound lineman, will likely play defensive tackle next year.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Despite the coaching change, Kansas' recruiting class has stayed intact to this point. The Jayhawks aren't making many new offers under interim coach Clint Bowen, and its committed prospects seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach on how this season and subsequent coaching search play out.
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: One recruit expected to be in Manhattan on Saturday for the Wildcats' game against Texas is Kylan Johnson. The three-star safety from Dallas Skyline is planning to take an official visit and is reportedly also considering Texas Tech and Arkansas.
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Sooners had a surprising star on campus for an official visit this weekend: Texas A&M commit Kyler Murray, the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the nation. The five-star from Allen, Texas, also attended OU's Red River Showdown win last week before taking in A&M's loss to Ole Miss.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 4
The latest: Playing at TCU gave OSU coaches a chance to check in on their DFW-area commitments on Friday night. The Pokes staff got a chance to watch their coveted ESPN 300 running back pledge, Ronald Jones II, rush for 130 yards and two scores (including a 73-yard TD) to help McKinney North beat rival McKinney.
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Horned Frogs had a nice collection of 2016 recruits in the house Saturday for their beatdown of OSU, including No. 1 overall recruit Greg Little and ESPN Junior 300 defensive backs Jared Mayden and Jaylon Jones. Three more important visitors: 2015 three-star corner DeShawn Raymond, LSU commit Hanner Shipley and 2017 athlete Anthony Hines III, who holds more than 50 offers.
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 8
The latest: The Longhorns got a critical opportunity on Saturday to convince receiver John Burt to stick with his commitment. The ESPN 300 receiver from Florida is contemplating flipping his commitment to Auburn after taking an official visit there this season. He returned to Austin this weekend for an unofficial visit to watch Texas' 48-45 win over Iowa State. Burt has been committed to UT since July.
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Red Raiders landed a commitment last Sunday from three-star defensive tackle Courtney Wallace of Monroe (Louisiana) Neville. He turned down a dozen offers to become the fourth defender in Tech's class. This Sunday, TTU extended an offer to ESPN Junior 300 linebacker Dontavious Jackson, the Houston Elsik standout who now holds six offers.
Total commits: 21
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The latest member of the Mountaineers' class is Longwood, Florida, defensive end Adam Shuler. He committed on Saturday after taking an official visit to WVU earlier this month for the Kansas game. The 6-foot-5 end turned down offers from Cincinnati, Purdue and Indiana.
Team of the week: West Virginia and Kansas State split the honor this week after toppling Big 12 preseason co-favorites Baylor and Oklahoma. The Mountaineers dominated the fourth quarter on their way to a 41-27 victory over the Bears. Quarterback Clint Trickett, whose father was hospitalized over the weekend, led West Virginia with 322 passing yards and three touchdowns, while the Mountaineer defense put the clamps on Baylor’s high-powered attack. Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters was just as impressive, totaling three touchdowns in the Wildcats’ 31-30 victory over the Sooners. With their big wins, West Virginia and K-State emphatically inserted themselves into the Big 12 title race.
Disappointment of the week: With a surging QB, a veteran offensive line and nine returning defensive starters, the Sooners went into the season with expectations of qualifying for the inaugural playoff. Those dreams have been all but dashed after Oklahoma’s second loss in the last three weeks. The Sooners outgained K-State. But they couldn’t overcome numerous miscues, which included Trevor Knight’s pick-six pass, Durron Neal’s interception toss off a reverse and Michael Hunnicutt’s two missed field goals and blocked extra point. Oklahoma is now tied with Texas for sixth in the Big 12 standings.
Big (offensive) man on campus: There were several spectacular offensive performances this weekend, notably by TCU receiver Josh Doctson, Waters, West Virginia receiver Kevin White, Oklahoma receiver Sterling Shepard and Texas Tech running back DeAndre Washington. But the honor here goes to quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, who led the Longhorns on consecutive scoring drives late in the fourth quarter to lift Texas to a dramatic 48-45 win over Iowa State. The first drive, he rushed for 28 yards, then hit Jaxon Shipley on a 22-yard screen to convert a third-and-long, which led to Malcolm Brown’s touchdown plunge on the next play. Swoopes, however, wasn’t done. After Iowa State tied the game with 28 seconds to play, Swoopes came right back with back-to-back bombs to Shipley and Josh Harris to set up Nick Rose’s 21-yard game-winning field goal. All told, Swoopes threw for 322 yards and ran for another 95.
Big (defensive) man on campus: Sunflower State linebackers Ben Heeney and Jonathan Truman were phenomenal this weekend, combining for 38 tackles. Truman was instrumental in K-State’s late goal-line stand in Norman. Heeney added a 37-yard interception return in the Jayhawks’ 34-21 loss at Texas Tech. But the edge here goes to West Virginia defensive end Shaquille Riddick, who sacked Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty three times in a swarming breakout performance. Riddick, who transferred in from FCS school Gardner-Webb in the offseason, added another tackle for loss, as the Mountaineers held Baylor 26 points below its season average.
Special-teams player of the week: The Sooners fell a single point short against the Wildcats, and K-State defensive tackle Travis Britz was the reason why. He busted through the line of scrimmage, and got a hand up to bat away Michael Hunnicutt’s extra-point attempt with 10 minutes to go in the game. Who knows how much the block affected the psyche of Hunnicutt, who later also missed a potential game-winning field goal from 19 yards out. Either way, it was a monumental play by Britz, who led the country in special teams blocks last season.
Play of the week: Even in defeat, Baylor had the hit of the day in college football, as Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman decleated West Virginia cornerback Terrell Chestnut to clear a path for teammate Antwan Goodley’s 63-yard touchdown. Officials initially ejected Coleman for targeting, but reversed the call after viewing replay. Chestnut did not return to the game after taking this violent, but clean hit.
Stat of the week: Baylor broke a Big 12 record with 215 penalty yards at West Virginia, also shattering the previous Baylor record of 157 yards set in 1976. The Bears were flagged 18 times in Morgantown, including seven times for pass interference. As a result, Baylor has overtaken Texas Tech for the national lead in both penalties and penalty yardage.
Quote of the week: "You better get some help." -- West Virginia WR Kevin White, who told Baylor CB Xavien Howard that after burning him for a touchdown in the first quarter. White finished with eight catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Bears.
WR Josh Doctson, TCU: The game-changer in TCU's 42-9 beatdown of Oklahoma State. His 77- and 84-yard touchdown catches broke the game open, and Doctson's 225 receiving yards came 1 short of tying the Horned Frogs' single-game school record. He led all of FBS in receiving this week and only needed seven receptions to do so.
DT Travis Britz, Kansas State: Sometimes it only takes one play to earn your Helmet Sticker. Britz gets a bravo for an unexpected game-changer: He blocked Michael Hunnicutt's extra-point attempt in the fourth quarter to ensure K-State kept its 31-30 lead over Oklahoma. Thanks to another Hunnicutt miss, this time a field goal, that proved to be the final score in Norman.
LB Ben Heeney, Kansas: We hear you, Ben. You know you belong on our midseason All-Big 12 team. We should've known, too. Heeney racked up a career-high 21 tackles (his previous best was 15) and added a 37-yard interception return in KU's 34-21 loss to Texas Tech. To suggest he's not playing at an All-Big 12 level ... that's just ignorant.
QB Trevone Boykin, TCU: The nation's leading passer in Week 8, Boykin only played three quarters and finished with a career-best 410 passing yards and three scores plus 41 rushing yards. He's playing at an unreal level right now and ranks top-five nationally in total offense at nearly 370 yards per game.
QB Jake Waters, Kansas State: Got a little dinged up but just keep going. Waters threw for 225 yards on 15-of-23 passing, the best of the bunch a 62-yard TD to Glenn Gronkowski on a delayed pop pass, and he added 51 rushing yards and a key 4-yard score to retake the lead late in the third quarter. In production, versatility and leadership, Waters is right there with the Big 12's best QBs.
WR Kevin White, West Virginia: All-American all the way. White racked up 132 receiving yards and two touchdowns on eight catches in the 41-27 upset win over Baylor. He needed just seven games to surpass 1,000 receiving yards and is up to seven touchdown catches. Everyone knows the ball is going to him, and still nobody has stopped him.
QB Tyrone Swoopes, Texas: This kid is getting good. Swoopes threw for 321 yards and a touchdown and rushed for a career-best 95 yards and another score. But that's not what was impressive. His 39-yard pass to Jaxon Shipley and 29-yard pass to John Harris on back-to-back plays, both with under 30 seconds left, set Texas up for the game-winning field goal and 48-45 victory over Iowa State.
DE Shaquille Riddick, West Virginia: The Gardner-Webb transfer came to WVU to play in big games and played big Saturday: Five tackles, four tackles for loss, and three sacks. He got consistent pressure on Bryce Petty and is quite a weapon in WVU's scheme.
RB DeAndre Washington, Texas Tech: The Red Raiders' run game is enjoying a revival thanks to the steady Washington, whose 164 rushing yards in the win over Kansas were the most by a Tech running back in a game since Taurean Henderson in 2004.
WR Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma: Had to give him a shout-out for a career day in an excellent career. Shepard tied the OU school record with 15 receptions against Kansas State and took them for 197 yards, including a 47-yard score.
On to the 'bag:
@Jake_Trotter say oklahoma beats baylor(if) and both of them + tcu win the rest of their games (if) what happens? Who do you take?— Isaac (@haas_isaac) October 16, 2014
@Jake_Trotter: So, you're saying all three finish 11-1? The edge in a three-way tie always goes to the team that lost first, and in this case, that would be the Sooners.
@Jake_Trotter If the Big 12 gets left out of the playoff, could that spark the league officials to expand to 12 teams?— Kyle Jacobson (@_KyleJacobson) October 16, 2014
Trotter: It would probably take the Big 12 getting left out three-four years in a row for the league to reconsider expansion. One year won't change anything.
@Jake_Trotter If OU and TCU both win out, do you think style points could somehow vault the Sooners ahead TCU in the committees eyes?— Shane Oltean (@_shane_o_) October 16, 2014
Trotter: I have no idea how the committee would weigh those teams. But if it were me on the selection committee, head-to-head would count for something. And TCU holds the head-to-head advantage. Meaning those Oklahoma style points would have to be considerable.
@Jake_Trotter what is a realistic expectation for OSU's closing schedule? 1-5 or 5-1 or anything in between honestly wouldn't surprise me— Jimmy Shaw (@MCC_Jimmy) October 16, 2014
Trotter: The Cowboys are a hard team to figure out. They haven't looked good these past few games, but is that a case of them not being that good, or is it a case of them playing down to the competition? After all, they did play up to Florida State. Oklahoma State is probably somewhere in between. Based on what I've seen from them, and based on the remaining schedule, which is brutal, 7-5 feels about right. But we will learn a lot more about these Cowboys this weekend. They might be better than that. And they might be worse.
@Jake_Trotter Do my Cowboys have a chance in Cowtown? Will the offense finally look better even tho they're playing best D since FSU?— Nigel Aaron D'Souza (@SQUALLA_WISDOM) October 16, 2014
Trotter: They have a chance, sure. But I don't like this Oklahoma State line against that TCU front, which has been solid, save for the fourth-quarter collapse at Baylor. I think the Cowboys will have a hard time running the ball. I think they will have a hard time protecting Daxx Garman. And when you can't run the ball, and can't protect your quarterback, you usually don't win.
@Jake_Trotter Do you think TCU's defense is down this year, or is Baylor's offense just that destructive?— Conner Morris (@ConnerSaurusRex) October 16, 2014
Trotter: The Baylor offense is just really destructive when it's on. And it was on in the fourth quarter last weekend. This is still a good TCU defense. Chucky Hunter, Paul Dawson and Sam Carter are All-Big 12-caliber players. And Davion Pierson, Marcus Mallet, Kevin White and Chris Hackett are really good, too. When hot, Baylor has the firepower to light up anybody in the country. The Bears just got hot at the wrong time for TCU.
Trotter: I'd have to take the field, because it includes Alabama's Amari Cooper. The national awards are somewhat about name recognition. Coming into the season, Cooper had it. Kevin White did not. And even though White is having a tremendous season and is on track to be a Biletnikoff finalist, Cooper plays for one of the preeminent programs in college football. No matter how many passes White catches, that will be hard to overcome.
Trotter: Since 2009, Kansas football has just three Big 12 wins. But Kansas basketball has been to only one Final Four since 2008. Based on those past performances, I guess I'd have to go with the football team winning a game. But it's close.
@Jake_Trotter is tech going bowling this year?— p@ (@wheresmyoatmeal) October 16, 2014
Trotter: I wouldn't bet on it. The Red Raiders already have four losses and have yet to face TCU, Oklahoma and Baylor. They would have to win one of those games just to have a chance. I don't see it.
@Jake_Trotter Which Big 12 player would you name as your champion in a GoT-style trial by combat?— Chris Perry (@Chris_Perry) October 16, 2014
Trotter: Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown is like "The Mountain" of the Big 12. Let's go with him..
1. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma (previous rank: 1): Though he’s been held to fewer than 100 yards the last two weeks, Perine has still had an All-Big 12 season with a conference-leading nine rushing touchdowns. He’s also second in the league with 568 rushing yards.
2. KD Cannon, WR, Baylor (2): Cannon showed against TCU that he’s still a major factor in the Baylor passing game even with Antwan Goodley, Corey Coleman and Levi Norwood back from injuries. Cannon had six catches for 124 yards and a 67-yard touchdown.
3. Dravon Henry, FS, West Virginia (3): Henry has been consistently solid all season at the back end of the West Virginia secondary, but he will have his biggest challenge yet facing off against Cannon and Baylor’s loaded receiving corps.
4. Jason Hall, S, Texas (7): Hall could drop in these rankings if his patellar tendon injury lingers. But he has been tremendous so far for a surging Texas defense, with eight tackles most recently in the Oklahoma game.
5. Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State (5): Lazard had his best game yet, with 8 receptions, 96 receiving yards and a touchdown last week in Iowa State’s 37-30 win over Toledo. Lazard is now 15th in the Big 12 receiving, second only to Cannon among true freshmen.
6. Corey Avery, RB, Kansas (9): Avery scored a 23-yard fourth-quarter touchdown that nearly spurred the Jayhawks to an upset of Oklahoma State. Avery is now 10th in the Big 12 with 348 rushing yards.
7. Nigel Bethel II, CB, Texas Tech (NR): After serving out his three-game suspension, Bethel got the start against West Virginia and the assignment of covering the nation’s leading receiver, Kevin White. Though White had 123 receiving yards, Bethel held up OK and finished with nine tackles.
8. Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech (NR): After doing virtually nothing for three games, Stockton exploded with a 69-yard touchdown run that put Tech up 34-20 in the fourth quarter against West Virginia. With Kenny Williams moving back to running back from linebacker, it will be interesting to see how involved Stockton remains in the offense.
9. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State (6): Washington hasn’t done much since hauling in two touchdowns on Sept. 25 against Texas Tech. Washington has just four catches for 20 yards over the Cowboys’ last two games.
10. Ramon Richards, CB, Oklahoma State (NR): Richards has been starting since Ashton Lampkin injured his ankle. It’s unclear if Lampkin will be able to return Saturday against TCU. Either way, Richards figures to be a core part of the Oklahoma State secondary moving forward.
On the radar: Elijah Lee, LB, Kansas State; Steven Parker II, S, Oklahoma; Dimitri Flowers, FB, Oklahoma; Davion Hall, WR, Baylor; Matthew Boateng, CB, Kansas; Colin Downing, P, Iowa State; Cameron Batson, PR/WR, Texas Tech; Martinez Syria, RB, Iowa State.
Those, among others, will be the storylines to watch in the league on Saturday:
No. 14 Kansas State at No. 11 Oklahoma, noon ET (ESPN): Oklahoma wideout Sterling Shepard is having an All-American-caliber season, ranking sixth nationally in receiving. But to get the offense back on track, the Sooners need to get other receiving weapons involved. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Shepard has accounted for 47 percent of Oklahoma's receiving yards, the highest percentage for any receiver in the country. While the Oklahoma passing game has sputtered, the K-State air attack has thrived of late. Jake Waters is completing 50 percent of his passes of 15 or more yards, the best rate of any Big 12 quarterback. To hold off the Wildcats, the Sooners will have to be better than they've been at defending passes downfield. Oklahoma has allowed the league's most receptions (20) and touchdowns (7) on throws of 15 yards or more.
Kansas at Texas Tech, 3:30 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Regional): The Jayhawks led Texas Tech 10-0 early in Lawrence last year before giving up 54 unanswered points. Tech leads the all-time series 14-1, with Kansas' only victory coming in Lubbock in 2001. The Jayhawks have not won a Big 12 road game since defeating Iowa State in 2008. At 2-4, Tech is off to its worst start since 1994.
No. 15 Oklahoma State at No. 12 TCU, 4 p.m. ET (FS1): Cowboys QB Daxx Garman has flashed a big-play arm so far. He's averaging 14.4 passing yards per attempt, according to ESPN Stats & Information, the best of any Power 5 QB. In fact since Garman became the starter in Week 3, 72 percent of Oklahoma State's passing yards have come on passes of 15 yards or longer -- the highest percentage of any Power 5 offense. Though he's been inconsistent at times, Garman could have success against the Horned Frogs, who couldn't keep Baylor from throwing over their heads last weekend. But Oklahoma State's defense will have its hands full, too. TCU has 10 touchdown drives of three plays or fewer, tied for third-most in the country.
Iowa State at Texas, 8 p.m. ET (Longhorn Network): The Longhorns lead the all-time series against Iowa State 10-1, including a 31-30 win on a disputed no-fumble call in Ames last year. Both Iowa State QB Sam B. Richardson and Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes are coming off career outings. Swoopes passed for 334 yards, rushed for 50 and accounted for three touchdowns in Texas' narrow loss to Oklahoma. Richardson threw for a career-high 351 yards and three second-half touchdowns to rally Iowa State to a win over Toledo.
But the win column is about the only place Bowen’s impact is going unnoticed.
The Jayhawks have the look and feel of a different team under Bowen, who replaced Charlie Weis on Sept. 28. Last Saturday’s close loss to Oklahoma State, 27-20, was the best performance of the season, as the offense finally found some success while the defense continued to play well enough to keep KU within striking distance.
“When you want to play for a guy and you dedicate yourself to a guy it makes it all easier,” tight end Jimmay Mundine said. “Everybody was always looking over their shoulder and worried about things. Now you have more of a clear picture what you’re going to get from your head coach.”
From running sprints with the team to encouraging the Jayhawks to be themselves, Bowen has started to change the culture in the program while also looking to instill discipline and toughness.
“We’ve just opened the doors and avenues to them to be who they are and let their personality show,” Bowen said. “We’re a very disciplined operation; we always work hard to do the right thing, but we have fun doing it. They understand they will be held responsible for their actions but at the same time treated fairly.”
The final score of Bowen's first game didn’t look like a sign of change, as West Virginia hammered KU, 33-14, with the Jayhawks punted 14 times in the blowout road defeat. But a moment in the loss left a lasting impression on his players. Even as KU was struggling against the Mountaineers, Bowen’s positive attitude and passion did not go unnoticed.
“Us seeing his passion when we were down and out rubbed off on us,” Mundine said. “The biggest difference [under Bowen] is his enthusiasm and passion for the game.”
The positive signs continued the following week against OSU. The Jayhawks went toe-to-toe with the then-No. 16-ranked Cowboys before a Tyreek Hill kickoff return helped OSU escape with a win. The loss was a disappointment, but Bowen was still encouraged by what he saw. With the game in doubt heading into the fourth quarter, the Jayhawks players held a hype circle, jumping around together as a team, a sign Bowen’s enthusiasm was definitely rubbing off.
“They did that on their own,” Bowen said. “That was encouraging because we’ve had to preach [that] from the beginning, we’ve had to do things to force them to come together more, to be together more, to talk to each other more, to understand this is a complete team situation. That’s the only way to be successful in football.
“To see them do that unprompted, in a player only deal, was pretty good.”
Mundine says it’s a much different atmosphere under Bowen. The togetherness he has preached has always been a goal -- it’s just become more attainable in since the change at the top of the program. Now KU heads into the second half of the season together instead of surrounded by uncertainty.
“It’s something we were always trying to do but it was difficult with the position we were in,” Mundine said. “Now it’s a little easier with a guy everyone on the team feels like respects us.”
- West Virginia receiver Jordan Thompson responded to being demoted from his punt return duties by putting up the first 100-yard receiving game of his career, writes Bob Cohn of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. If Thompson can consistently produce like he did against Texas Tech last Saturday, he'd add another explosive element to the Mountaineers' offense to pair with No. 1 receiver Kevin White and Mario Alford. His quickness in the slot could open things up on the outside for White while also creating more room for WVU's running game.
- Kansas linebacker Michael Reynolds could be a key member of the Jayhawks' defense this weekend, writes Rustin Dodd of the Wichita Eagle. After recording four sacks in the last four games, Reynolds is coming on for KU. Reynolds has been KU's top pass rusher for the past two seasons and could be critical against Texas Tech. I like Reynolds chances of adding to his sack total against the Red Raiders but KU will need much more than just a improved pass rush to win in Lubbock. Texas. Another strong performance from quarterback Michael Cummings is the key for KU.
- For all the hand wringing about Oklahoma's offense, the Sooners haven't been that bad, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. Tramel's right, the Sooners offense hasn't been horrible but it hasn't been good enough to believe it can carry the Sooners back into Big 12 title contention. And that's the goal for OU. Unless the offense begins playing better, OU could continue to find itself looking up at other teams in the Big 12 standings.
- Kansas State cornerback Danzel McDaniel brings unusual physicality to a position generally known for coverage, writes Ken Corbitt of the Topeka Capital-Journal. McDaniel was outstanding against Auburn and seems to be getting better and better with each week but expect him to be tested in multiple ways against OU this weekend. He could be a key to the game as the Sooners will try to run the ball and set up their passing game with play action. It will be important for McDaniel to be sound in K-State's defense in what should be a close game.
- It's time for Big 12 midseason grades from Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register. He gives the Cyclones offense and defense Ds while handing out As to Baylor, Bryce Petty, E.J. Bibbs and Cole Netten. The most interesting grade is a C for Oklahoma, based on the Sooners' loss to TCU. Meanwhile Texas gets a C as well. Seems like a odd grade for an OU squad that sits at 5-1 yet finds itself with the same grade as the 2-4 Longhorns.
Baylor CB Xavien Howard: He's quietly racked up nine pass breakups this season and faces probably his best one-on-one threat of the season in Kevin White. Ryan Reid got lots of attention last week -- good and bad -- but I have a feeling Howard will rise to the occasion in Morgantown.
Iowa State DE Cory Morrissey: With no Desmond Harrison (suspension) back for Texas, it's likely Morrissey has one of Iowa State's most advantageous matchups this week when he takes on left tackle Marcus Hutchins, who hasn't been great. This Texas offensive line, while improving, is still vulnerable and Morrissey has a chance to remind us he's one of the league's more underrated defenders.
Kansas LB Ben Heeney: Inspired by the fact we made the mistake of snubbing him for our midseason All-Big 12 team, Heeney will rack up 30 tackles against Texas Tech and makes us look like a bunch of fools. I really wouldn't be shocked. He is playing at an All-Big 12 level, no doubt; we simply ran out of linebacker spots.
Kansas State QB Jake Waters: He got a huge stage against Auburn and made some uncharacteristic mistakes. Here's another big one against Oklahoma, and with the advantage of a bye week, surely this staff has cooked up some good stuff the Sooners won't see coming. Waters is one of the Big 12's best QBs but rarely receives that praise. He'll earn it this week.
Oklahoma RB Alex Ross: Despite his game-changing kick return for a TD, Ross recorded just five touches on offense against Texas. Let's see what he can do with a little more of a workload, and especially some more opportunities in space, as the lightning to Samaje Perine's thunder.
Oklahoma State WR David Glidden: He has a 20-plus yard reception in five of the Pokes' six games this season and is a sneaky dangerous member of what's becoming a fairly diverse receiving corps. There's no one significant go-to guy among those wideouts, at least not statistically, but Glidden can be on Saturday.
TCU DE Mike Tuaua: We didn't hear a whole lot from Tuaua last week -- to his credit, his lone tackle was a sack -- but the Frogs' rising defensive end will need to be impactful this week. Daxx Garman is capable of challenging TCU deep repeatedly, but not if he doesn't have time in the pocket to make the right decisions.
Texas DE Naashon Hughes: The redshirt freshman, a converted linebacker with a great frame, earned his first career start against Oklahoma and is proving to be an ideal fit for Texas' Fox end spot. He was sound in tackling and coverage last week and should get some nice chances to blitz and cause trouble in the backfield against ISU.
Texas Tech CB Nigel Bethel II: After serving his suspension for Tech's nonconference slate, Bethel is back and stepped up in defending Kevin White last week, notching nine tackles. That should be one heck of a confidence-booster for the always-confident true freshman. The big plays are coming soon for him.
West Virginia RB Wendell Smallwood: You can't ask for more from a change-of-pace back than what Smallwood gave last week, rushing for 123 yards on just 15 carries against Texas Tech. WVU needs to be able to keep Baylor's defense honest by attacking with Rushel Shell and Smallwood. Keep an eye on him this week.
Why Kansas State will win: Texas Tech burned me with my upset pick last week, but I'm taking another shot. Kansas State is coming off an invaluable bye week, just like it did in 2012 before its upset of the Sooners, and the teams played a terrifically close game a year ago. I think it's a toss-up, so I'm taking the team with the better quarterback. Kansas State 28, Oklahoma 24 – Max Olson
Why Baylor will win: This game comes down to whoever can get a few stops, right? WVU will have the right answers early on, just as it did against Alabama and Oklahoma, and Kevin White will get his. But Baylor pulls away late on the strength of its run game and gets those few needed stops from its D. Baylor 52, West Virginia 38 – Olson
Why West Virginia will win: Underscoring the depth and balance of the Big 12, I’m going heavy on the underdogs this week. The Mountaineers have come close to pulling the upset in their first two tries against top-five opponents. This time, Clint Trickett and Kevin White (and Josh Lambert?) get it done in another wild Big 12 shootout that goes down to the wire. West Virginia 52, Baylor 49 – Jake Trotter
Why TCU will win: Sure, the Horned Frogs are coming off a heartbreaking loss. But remember, they were up 21 at Baylor for a reason. Despite being 5-1, Oklahoma State has struggled to run the ball or protect QB Daxx Garman. TCU has a stout front seven and leads the Big 12 in sacks. Garman’s second career road start could be a painful one. TCU 34, Oklahoma State 24 – Trotter
Why Texas Tech will win: Kliff Kingsbury’s squad finally gets a much-needed win against the Jayhawks. The Red Raiders' offense will simply score too many points for KU’s offense to keep up, with Davis Webb having one of his best games of the season. Texas Tech 35, Kansas 21 – Chatmon
Why Texas will win: Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes seemed to turn a corner in the Red River Showdown, as he outplayed Trevor Knight. The Texas defense, meanwhile, has been downright dominant in Big 12 play. The Cyclones would love to avenge last year’s controversial loss to the Longhorns. But an improving Swoopes and a dominant Texas defense will be the difference. Texas 27, Iowa State 16 – Trotter
- Chatmon: 40-4
- Trotter: 40-4
- Olson: 39-5
Baylor: When it comes to the big-play passing game, Bryce Petty is as good as it gets: His 11 touchdowns on passes thrown 20 yards or longer leads the nation. He scored six of those against TCU. A total of 30 of his 48 career passing touchdowns have come on those 20-plus yard throws.
Iowa State: The Cyclone can make a case that they've played one of the toughest schedules this season. Their six opponents thus far have a combined winning percentage of 83.3 percent, highest in the nation. The first five teams they faced -- North Dakota State, Kansas State, Iowa, Baylor and Oklahoma State -- are now a combined 26-3.
Kansas: Michael Cummings' 288 passing yards against Oklahoma State were the most by a Kansas quarterback since Dayne Crist threw for 303 in a loss to TCU on Sept. 15, 2012. That means Kansas has now gone 27 games since its last 300-yard passer. Cummings could be the guy to snap that streak soon.
Kansas State: You know a Bill Snyder-coached team is going to be disciplined. This group is upholding that reputation: K-State's 20 penalties and 162 penalty yards on the season are fewest among all Power 5 conference teams. Its underrated defense has only accounted for four of those mistakes.
Oklahoma: Against Texas, the Sooners became the nation's first team in two years to win despite a -250 yardage margin. The last time a Big 12 team pulled that off was 2004, when Colorado beat Washington State despite being outgained by 277 yards. The last time we've seen anything close to that in a Big 12 game was Kansas State's 41-34 win over Texas Tech in 2011 (-241 yards).
Oklahoma State: Give Kansas a little credit. Oklahoma State finished with 275 yards of total offense on Saturday, their fewest in a game since the 2010 Cotton Bowl. In fact, OSU snapped its 57-game streak of at least 300 total yards, a run that had ranked second-longest nationally behind Oregon (59).
TCU: A few of the more impressive gains when you compare TCU's offense through five games to TCU's first five games of 2013: The Horned Frogs' total offense is up 188.6 yards per game, scoring is up 17.8 points per game and passing is up 132 yards per game. It helps that TCU has run 100 more plays through five games than at this point last season.
Texas: One of the more impressive aspects of Texas' play on defense: its effectiveness in the first half of games. Texas' defense has been responsible for allowing just 12 points in the first half this season and is holding foes to 57.8 first-half passing yards (No. 2 in FBS in that category) and 54.7 rushing yards.
Texas Tech: It's been a rough run for the Red Raiders, but one area they don't get enough credit for: They're keeping Davis Webb clean. Webb has been sacked only two times this season and Tech's offensive line has given up five sacks, allowing them on 1.7 percent of their snaps. That rate ranks No. 3 nationally. Freshman Patrick Mahomes took the other three sacks.
West Virginia: Baylor's comeback against TCU was incredible, but West Virginia's rally in Lubbock was nearly just as improbable. According to ESPN Stats & Info's win probability data, the Mountaineers' odds of victory with 7:32 left in the fourth quarter (after giving up a Justin Stockton 69-yard touchdown run) was only 4.2 percent.
- TCU fans felt their hearts leap into their throats on Tuesday afternoon after a report Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin would miss 4-6 weeks following wrist surgery. Frogs' O War, a SBnation site, initially reported the news before releasing a retraction later in the afternoon. It looked like the entire Big 12 race had taken a drastic turn for a few minutes before the retraction. Regardless, a healthy Boykin is good news for TCU and the entire Big 12, I would have hated to see one of the Big 12's best players sidelined for an extended length of time.
- Speaking of the Horned Frogs, The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel writes that TCU has played a key role in changing the perception of the Big 12 Conference. TCU's performances against Oklahoma and Baylor have taken its reputation to another level, thus helping the conference as a whole. While the Horned Frogs are the headliner, I'd argue that West Virginia has played a critical role as well, with a win over Maryland and strong showing against Alabama. Along with Oklahoma State, those three teams have joined BU, OU and Kansas State to give the conference six teams that are well-regarded thanks to the first halves of their seasons.
- Kliff Kingsbury and Clint Bowen are in similar spots at Texas Tech and Kansas, writes Matt Tait of KUsports.com. Both coaches are in charge of the program at their alma mater and Kingsbury brings up a good point, saying the hardest part of the situation is "your closest circle is usually tied to that university." I had never really considered the impact of that scenario but it would seem it would make it harder to get away from everything and simply relax when family and friends are emotionally invested in the success and the school you're coaching. It adds another element to the perils of coaching at the alma mater.
- Mike Gundy is getting more involved with the offense at Oklahoma State, offering advice and help to second-year offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich as the Cowboys strive to kick start their offense, reports Kyle Fredrickson of The Oklahoman. Facing TCU on Saturday presents an interesting situation with Doug Meacham running the Horned Frogs attack. Without a doubt, Meacham understands OSU's offense better than most opponents so the Cowboys will have to be diligent and creative in their approach this week.
- Oklahoma running back Alex Ross isn't just a terrific kick returner, he's a unique personality, writes Eric Bailey of the Tulsa World. Ross has two game-altering kickoff returns for touchdowns this season, against Texas and West Virginia. It has to be satisfying for Ross to make a big impact on the Sooners after watching for his first two seasons on campus. The sophomore should join Keith Ford and Samaje Perine to give OU a talented running back corps for the next few seasons.
Who is the offensive snub with the biggest gripe on our midseason All-Big 12 team?
Brandon Chatmon: Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty immediately comes to mind with his stellar production and playmaking, but Texas Tech's Jakeem Grant is quietly having a superb campaign for the disappointing Red Raiders. He leads the Big 12 in all-purpose yards per game (163.8), averages 15.9 yards per touch and ranks second in the conference with 7.3 receptions per game. Grant's excellence hasn't transformed into wins, but the 5-foot-6 dynamo is one of the Big 12's top playmakers.
Max Olson: Making a case for Petty as Big 12's top quarterback at midseason obviously isn't difficult, even if he missed a game and a half with a back injury. He made up for his showing at Texas with a phenomenal finish against TCU and we probably haven't seen his best yet. Trickett has been better by most measures, with a far better completion percentage, but realistically if Petty had been able to pad his stats in non-conference play he'd be right there with him. There's still plenty of time for him to push his way back into the Heisman discussion and win Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year again.
Who is the defensive snub with the biggest gripe?
Chatmon: Oklahoma State cornerback Kevin Peterson has been a rock in the Cowboys' secondary. He could be the Big 12's top cornerback and tends to make teams think twice before testing him. The junior has eight pass breakups (second in the Big 12) and one interception while setting the standard for an inexperienced OSU defensive backfield.
Trotter: The only defensive player I had a hard time being left off was Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney. The Jayhawks have played good defense again this season. And Henney, who is third in the league in tackles and first in tackles for loss, has been at the forefront of that. But with the return of Jordan Hicks and the emergence of Paul Dawson, linebacker has turned into a deep position in the league. That edged out "Captain Heeney," who will surely be in the running for end-of-season honors.
Olson: Two guys who were in the mix: TCU linebacker Marcus Mallet and Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs. Mallet continues to play at an extremely high level and made game-changing plays against Oklahoma and Baylor. It's not inconceivable that the Frogs could have two All-Big 12 linebackers in Mallet and Dawson by the end of the season. Diggs is having a nice senior season, too, with 31 tackles, two INTs and two sacks. He too should be a strong all-conference candidate by season's end.
What will be the most important game the second half of the season?
Chatmon: Baylor's November visit to Oklahoma and Kansas State's late season trip to Waco, Texas, are games to watch, but I have a feeling Bedlam will be big again. Big 12 title implications have become commonplace when Oklahoma State takes on Oklahoma and there's no reason to expect that to change this season with those two squads entering the season's second half with a 10-2 combined record. Even if one or both teams stumble before the early December meeting, last season proved you can never assume anything when the Sooners and Cowboys face off.
Trotter: Before the season, I predicted the Nov. 8 clash between Baylor and Oklahoma would be the league's most important game. And I'm sticking with it as the most important game of the second half. The Big 12 is way more wide open at this point than anyone could have predicted. But if the Sooners beat Baylor they'll have a good chance to win the league and make the playoff. The same goes for Baylor.
Olson: Baylor's season finale stands out to me. Just like last season, I think it could come down to the final week. This time, it's a Dec. 6 matchup of BU and Kansas State in Waco. You remember how much better K-State was playing by the end of the year last season, right? Nobody wanted to play them. It's a terrific matchup from a talent and scheme standpoint, and after what the Bears did to then-No. 1 KSU in Waco in 2012, I'm sure Bill Snyder's squad would like nothing more than to spoil some playoff hopes.