Big 12: Oklahoma State Cowboys

Big 12 Tuesday mailbag

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
4:00
PM ET
In Tuesday's mailbag we'll talk Bryce Petty's Heisman hopes, West Virginia's future and Texas' offense. As always, thank you for all of your questions. You can submit questions for next Tuesday here.

On to the mailbag:

Greg writes: OK, I know this is a crazy question but it crossed my mind. Say at the end of the regular season you have a one-loss West Virginia team (I know, I know, just humor me). Do you believe they would have a shot at the playoff?

Brandon Chatmon: Why not? That would mean wins over Oklahoma and Baylor, a pair of Top 10 teams currently, along with a sole loss to Alabama. The key would be a strong season from the Crimson Tide to reaffirm the Mountaineers’ effort in the season opener. If the Crimson Tide somehow tumble down the SEC standings, that would hurt a one-loss WVU’s chances, no doubt about it. A solid season from Maryland would help the cause as well. After all, it’s not like all of the other Power 5 conferences have been dominating the competition, so any one-loss Big 12 champion could have a strong case.

Singletary in Austin writes: I recognize it's faced subpar competition, but how would you rate Baylor's defense and defensive depth against the last couple years? To my eyes they look bigger, faster and deeper.

Chatmon: I’d agree. Even though the Bears haven’t been tested, the talent upgrade is obvious. I really like what I’ve seen from Shawn Oakman, Jamal Palmer and Xavien Howard thus far, but those three are just a few of the athletes on Baylor’s defense that I would consider an upgrade over previous years. It’s becoming really clear how well Art Briles and company have done on the recruiting trail lately.

NoZe in Austin writes: What chance do you give Bryce Petty of winning the Heisman? Do they have to run the table (which would include a first-ever win in Norman)?

Chatmon: Petty just needs to play extremely well in big games. It wasn’t numbers that kept him away from New York a year ago (4,200 passing yards and 46 total touchdowns is enough). He looked like a superhero at times but looked human against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas last season. It really doesn’t matter what he does right now, he just needs to excel against the Big 12’s best and have his Heisman moment with everyone watching. If that happens, even if BU is not undefeated he could cement his spot in the Heisman race.

Ben in Waco, Texas, writes: Why isn't Oklahoma State's defense, and particularly our D-line, getting any love? Going into the Florida State game, everyone knew our D-line was the strength of our team, yet when FSU had trouble with them, national media made no mention of OSU having anything to do with FSU's struggles. They've chalked it up to a bad game, despite OSU's defense continuing to look the part of a solid D. We heard about how good Oklahoma's defense was against Tulsa, and how good Baylor's D looked against SMU, but OSU's performance against FSU no big deal???

Chatmon: I was candid about my concerns about OSU’s defense, although not necessarily the defensive line, before the season opener and they accepted the challenge against FSU. I apologized on Twitter to the Pokes defense for questioning it, so I can’t really speak to what others are doing. If OSU’s defensive line wants more love, it can earn it with dominant performances in Big 12 play because it looks like, for the second straight season, OSU’s destiny will be decided by its defense, not its more ballyhooed offense in 2014.

Josh in Morgantown, Kentucky, writes: How do you think WVU's offense will fare against the Oklahoma defense? Do you see the WVU defense getting enough stops for a win?

Chatmon: I think it will be a great back-and-forth battle to watch between WVU’s offense and OU’s defense. The Sooners will force other playmakers to emerge, and I think WVU has some guys, like Wendell Smallwood and Daikiel Shorts, who are ready to do that. I expect both sides to win their share of battles. Ultimately I think WVU’s defensive line, which impressed me against Maryland, will decide the game. If that group plays well, WVU can upset the Sooners. If not, OU’s running game and deep passing will prove too much for the Mountaineers.

Kurt in Lubbock writes: Hey guys, love the blog. I'm going to support and back my team no matter what, but do you think Texas Tech has any chance of making a bowl game this year? And do you think our defense can ever get better? Or are we doomed to a three- to four-win season this year?

Chatmon: I’m not ready to say Tech has no chance at a bowl game, but a lot has to change if the Red Raiders even hope to go bowling. I think we will learn everything we need to know about Texas Tech when it visits Oklahoma State Sept. 25. How much pride do the Red Raiders have? Do they have the depth to make the needed changes on defense? We will find out at Boone Pickens Stadium. If those answers are negative, that’s when I’d start thinking just three or four wins is a distinct possibility.

Don in Muscatine writes: Can Iowa State win four Big 12 games (as well as Toledo) and push for a bowl game?

Chatmon: I love the fight the Cyclones have shown early, but I just don’t see where those wins would come from. The Big 12 is even deeper than I expected with West Virginia and Oklahoma State looking like they will be better than I thought. Toledo should be a win, but it’s hard for me to see them reaching four conference wins unless Sam Richardson really takes his game to another level during the rest of the season.

Aaron in Temple, Texas, writes: How scary would the Longhorns be if they had a better offense?

Chatmon: I wouldn’t call them scary, but I’d consider them Big 12 title contenders. But that’s not the scenario for Charlie Strong’s bunch. They rank eighth or lower in several major offensive categories, including points (20.7), third-down conversions (27.3 percent) and yards per play (4.6). There have been some positive signs from Tyrone Swoopes, and he’s starting to make me rethink my belief that Jerrod Heard is the future under center. Nonetheless, UT’s offense is not explosive, dynamic, powerful or efficient. Until that changes, nobody can consider the Longhorns a real threat in the Big 12.
The words of Mike Gundy left no doubt where he stands when the subject of Oklahoma State's running game is broached.

"We are a very average football team, I think everybody is aware of that," the Cowboys head coach said. "We have to establish a running game on offense."

[+] EnlargeDesmond Roland
Brody Schmidt/AP PhotoThrough three games, Cowboys RB Desmond Roland has carried the ball 33 times for 123 yards.
When it hosts Texas Tech on Sept. 25, OSU will enter Big 12 conference play averaging 4.2 yards per carry, which ranks seventh in the conference. It's unusual territory for the Cowboys, who averaged 4.9 yards per carry --ranking second in the Big 12 behind Baylor (5.1) -- and 181.3 rushing yards per game during the previous five seasons.

Gundy was particularly unhappy with the Cowboys' running game after OSU's win against Texas-San Antonio last weekend as he knows his team will have to establish a more balanced offensive attack if they hope to insert themselves in the Big 12 title race again this season. The Pokes had 49 carries for 162 yards (a 3.3 yards per carry average) against UTSA.

"Our offense relies on the run and throw," Gundy said after OSU's 43-13 win against UTSA. "We're very balanced, and if we're not effective in one area, we have to manufacture a way to be effective in the other."

The Pokes' offensive line was solid in the season-opening loss to Florida State but hasn't built upon that performance, taking a step backward in wins against Missouri State and UTSA to finish their non-conference campaign.

"We just didn't block anybody," Gundy said. "We didn't move anybody out there. I'm sure there is a contributing factor, which is the youth. We're going to have to move people out of there if we're going to play in this league because we aren't going to be able to protect and throw the ball down the field every game. We have to get better up front."

The ups and downs along the offensive front aren't unexpected for OSU. The Cowboys have 47 career starts among its five starting offensive linemen including 11 combined starts among sophomore center Paul Lewis, sophomore right guard Zac Veatch and redshirt freshman right tackle Zachary Crabtree. The inexperience is one reason OSU ranks ninth in the Big 12 and No. 77 among FBS schools with 23.8 percent of its rushes resulting in zero or negative yardage.

The weekly progress of the offensive line will be a glimpse at the impact of new offensive line coach Bob Connelly, who took over for long-time offensive line coach Joe Wickline after Wickline left for Texas after last season.

Yet, it's not all doom and gloom for OSU's running game which still finds itself among the Big 12's leaders in multiple categories. The Cowboys rank third in rushing yards (529), second in rushes of 10 yards or more (21) and are one of four Big 12 teams with at least 300 rushing yards before contact this season.

"We just have to get better each week," Gundy said. "They've got three games under their belts and there's some youth there so we just have to bring them along. We have to improve them."

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
10:00
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video
The upcoming week for the Big 12 will be quiet, as only three games featuring conference teams will take place -- one of those occurring on Thursday. Fortunately, the conference is coming off a dynamic week of football that featured big-time commitments for Oklahoma.

Big 12 morning links

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
8:00
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Happy Tuesday to all you NFL fantasy owners of Big 12 legend Darren Sproles.
  • You knew this talk was coming: Kliff Kingsbury has a lot of work to do to earn his rich contract, writes Nicholas Talbot of the Lubbock Avalance-Journal. Talbot calls this a potential four- or five-win Tech team and goes so far as to suggest there are parallels between the start of the Charlie Weis era at Notre Dame and the much-hyped Kingsbury era at Tech. He also fears the contract extension Kingsbury got after his first year was too premature. I would probably urge a little caution before making those claims, but then again, Texas Tech's next three games are all quite losable.
  • Kudos to Jacob Gannon for not only returning to the Iowa State football team, but also for opening up to Tommy Birch of The Des Moines Register about his anxiety disorder diagnosis and his decision to continue playing. Many were quick to call Gannon a quitter when he exited the program 12 days ago, but the truth is, he believed football was the source of his panic attacks. He's now on medication and sounds motivated to get back on the field. ISU coach Paul Rhoads deserves a lot of credit for welcoming Gannon back.
  • Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine will step into the spotlight this week with Keith Ford ruled out against West Virginia. The true freshman sure doesn't play or act like one and, as Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman reports, his maturity has never been an issue (though birth certificates have been demanded). I covered Perine as a high schooler and knew he'd be the kind of thumper who'd catch people's attention early on (plus, look at those arms). A torn ACL and MCL in 2011 caused a lot of schools to overlook him, but now that he's full-speed again, Perine is going to be fun to watch.
  • Really nice use of Vine videos here by Kyle Fredrickson of The Oklahoman to give a thorough breakdown of Daxx Garman's first career start for Oklahoma State. Against a UTSA defense that really impressed me in the first two weeks, Garman averaged 19 yards per completion and hit seven completions of more than 20 yards. With J.W. Walsh sidelined, he's bringing a downfield component that seems to be bringing out the best in OSU's receiving corps.
  • OK, this is just flat-out cool. In an effort to determine whether Texas Tech fans are the Big 12's worst, Nicole C. Brambila of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal did an extensive study of game-day arrests and ejections in 2013. Of the eight schools analyzed (TCU and Baylor, as private schools, refused to provide data), West Virginia had one arrest/ejection for every 3,000 fans. Lots of great anecdotes and info in here, give it a read. And, in the comments below, let us know who you think the worst Big 12 fans are and why.

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
1:00
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Not many new commitments to break down this time around in our weekly check-in on Big 12 recruiting, but that doesn't mean these coaching staffs haven't been busy. Here's the latest on who's taking visits and who's impressing so far in their senior seasons:

BAYLOR
Total commits:
12
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Blake Lynch is making the Bears look awfully smart for accepting his early commitment in 2013. The Gilmer, Texas, four-star athlete wowed this weekend against Tatum with 93 rushing yards, 115 receiving yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning score. He played quarterback as a junior but has transitioned into a true offensive weapon since transferring to Gilmer.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: No commitments came in this weekend, but it'll be interesting to see how Iowa State's last-second win over Iowa impacts their in-state recruiting battles going forward. For example, could that win and some positive momentum help ISU's chances with 2016 linemen John Raridon and Jake Heinrich? No doubt Paul Rhoads and his coaches will be talking about that game for the next year while recruiting.

KANSAS
Total commits:
13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: KU has not landed a new commitment in almost a month and a half, and a blowout loss to Duke isn't going to help its efforts on the trail much either. One commit whose season is off to a nice start: three-star RB Taylor Martin has racked up 323 rushing yards and seven TDs this year at Fort Worth (Texas) Dunbar.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: A Thursday night game, no matter how gigantic the opponent, isn't necessarily ideal for bringing in a bunch of official visitors. K-State is reportedly expecting to have three-star RB Alex Barnes and junior college DT Deonte Reynolds in the house when Auburn comes to the The Little Apple. Both are taking midweek official visits, and they're critical targets for the Wildcats on what should be a pressure-packed week.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits:
13
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Sooners hosted their biggest official visit weekend of the season and secured two pledges Saturday, from ESPN 300 safety Will Sunderland Jr. and junior college lineman Jamal Danley. The long-awaited pregame commitment from Sunderland was huge, but so was getting ESPN 300 studs Keisean Lucier-South, Kendall Sheffield, Ricky DeBerry and Neville Gallimore and four-stars Kahlil Haughton and Anthony McKee on campus.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 12
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Pokes added to a promising offensive line class last week with 6-foot-7 offensive tackle Deya Mhiesen, a junior college lineman who can enroll in January. Mhiesen took an official visit to Baylor's season opener, then attended OSU's 40-23 win over Missouri State and decided to pull the trigger. He'll have three years of eligibility at OSU.

TCU
Total commits:
16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Horned Frogs had several commits in the stands Saturday for their 30-7 beatdown of Minnesota, including WR Jarrison Stewart and DT Joseph Broadnax, along with Baylor commit CB Ke'Shawn Somerville, DE Andrew Fitzgerald and several more intriguing recruits in the 2016 class.

TEXAS
Total commits: 15
ESPN 300 commits: 7
The latest: Texas hosted some big-time recruits at AT&T Stadium for its 20-17 loss to UCLA, including top ESPN 300 targets Malik Jefferson and Ryan Newsome, ESPN Junior 300 WR Reggie Hemphill and commits DeShon Elliott, Charles Omenihu and Connor Williams. Two attendees who could end up in this class: three-star center Tyler Moore and Purdue three-star cornerback commit Isaac Warren.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Red Raiders were not able to get Tyron Johnson, the nation's No. 2 receiver prospect, in town this weekend for his official visit due to a scheduling conflict, but he's expected to make it out to Lubbock on Oct. 11 when Tech hosts West Virginia. Tech did have ESPN 300 QB signee Jarrett Stidham, four-star commit OG Conner Dyer and three-star DE Jalen Bates in attendance.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: With Oklahoma coming to town this weekend, expect a lot of talent on the West Virginia sideline before Saturday's big game. Among those reportedly expected to attend on official visits are ESPN 300 CB Jordan Whitehead and four-star ATH Tim Irvin.

Big 12 nonconference rewind

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
11:00
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The majority of the Big 12 enters a bye week with conference play right around the corner.

We're only three weeks into the season but plenty of things have changed. Preseason expectations are out the window and some dreams of breakout seasons have been shattered while other preconceived notions have been re-affirmed.

Here's a review of nonconference play in the Big 12:

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
J.P. Wilson/Icon SportswireQuarterback Trevor Knight and a stubborn defense have teamed to make Oklahoma the Big 12's best.
Best team: Oklahoma. The Sooners have done nothing to lose their status as the Big 12 preseason favorite. Bob Stoops' squad has been dominant while reeling off three wins over Louisiana Tech (2-1), Tulsa (1-2) and Tennessee (2-1). Quarterback Trevor Knight has taken a clear step forward from his freshman production and the defense could end up among the best of the Stoops era. Baylor has been just as impressive but against lesser competition with its three opponents holding one FBS win (1-5) combined this season.

Biggest disappointment: Texas Tech. Wait, where are the Longhorns? Did you really expect more from Texas? More players have been kicked off the team (eight) than offensive touchdowns scored by Charlie Strong's team (seven). The Red Raiders are another story, however. Tech has never really looked outstanding at any point this season as penalties, turnovers and defensive struggles turning the Red Raiders' Big 12 title dreams into an early nightmare. Saturday's loss to Arkansas -- which included 438 rushing yards by the Razorbacks -- has Kliff Kingsbury looking for answers. Before the season Tech looked like a team that could catapult itself into the top 3 in the Big 12. Now it looks like a squad facing a fight to go bowling.

Big (offensive) man on campus: West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett. Raise your hand if you had Trickett as the first Big 12 quarterback to eclipse 1,000 yards in 2014. He's been outstanding for the Mountaineers while leading the Big 12 in passing yards (1,224) and completion percentage (75.4). He's in the top 3 among FBS quarterbacks in both categories. He's the main reason WVU is emerging as the Big 12's surprise team after three games.

[+] EnlargeMalcom Brown
John Albright/Icon SMIYou can't pin Texas' struggles on defensive tackle Malcom Brown, the Big 12's co-leader in sacks.
Big (defensive) man on campus: Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown. The junior defensive tackle is one of the few blameless Longhorns on the roster. He's been dominant as the Big 12's leader in sacks (3.5, tied with Iowa State's Cory Morrissey) and tackles for loss (seven). He has added 16 tackles and has forced a fumble for Strong's defense. In a league overflowing with defensive talent -- like OU's Eric Striker and Baylor's Shawn Oakman -- Brown is second to none.

Fab freshman: Baylor receiver KD Cannon. The ESPN 300 receiver has no idea what it feels like to go into the halftime locker room without a touchdown catch. Cannon has made an amazing impact with an FBS-high 471 receiving yards in his first three games as a college receiver. The true freshman has 14 receptions, an average of 33.6 yards per catch, and five touchdowns. All-Big 12 receiver Antwan Goodley's biggest competition for the conference's most explosive receiver could be sitting alongside him in the receivers' room.

Newcomer to know: Oklahoma State athlete Tyreek Hill. The junior college transfer burst upon the scene with 278 all-purpose yards against Florida State as he buzzed around the turf in Arlington, Texas, while giving Seminoles defenders fits throughout the loss. His production has dropped significantly in OSU's last two games (24 touches for 154 yards) but it's clear the Cowboys are trying to save their top playmaker for their toughest games.

Best performance: It was the only Big 12 Conference game in the first three weeks but Kansas State doesn't escape Iowa State's upset bid without quarterback Jake Waters. Trailing 28-26 with 3:01 left, the senior led the Wildcats on a seven-play, 80-yard march to win the game. Waters accounted for 74 of KSU's 80 yards on the drive including an 8-yard touchdown run. KSU won 32-28.

Worst performance: Kansas laid an egg in its 41-3 loss to Duke last weekend. The Jayhawks opened the season with plenty of hope for a new and improved offense but, after gaining 457 yards in their season opener, KU took a clear step backward with 297 yards including 97 through the air against Duke. To make matters worse, the Jayhawks allowed Blue Devil freshman running back Shaun Wilson to rush for 245 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries. Back to the drawing board.

Dream dashed: It was disappointing to see Iowa State receiver Quenton Bundrage lost for the season with an ACL injury just minutes into the Cyclones' first game. The junior spent the offseason working on becoming more consistent and had the talent to be one of the Big 12's top receivers in 2014. Now he has to wait until next season with an eye on becoming the Big 12 comeback player of the year when he returns to the field in 2015.

Best stat: TCU has held opponents without a first down or touchdown on 60 percent of its drives. In two games, the Horned Frogs have defended 30 total drives and 18 of those drives have ended without a first down including seven of Minnesota's 15 drives last weekend. Gary Patterson's defense is one reason the Horned Frogs cannot be overlooked when Big 12 play reaches high gear next month.

Best quote: "I haven't talked to [kicker] Josh Lambert since he got on campus, and we are going to keep it that way. I know his name and who he is but other than that I'm doing the hands-off approach." -- West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen after Lambert's game-winning kick to beat Maryland 40-37 last weekend.

Big 12 bowl projections: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
8:00
PM ET
Overall, it was a good weekend for the Big 12.

Texas showed some fight, Oklahoma and Baylor cruised, and West Virginia continued to impress. Thursday night's matchup with Auburn looms large for Kansas State while a bye week comes at the perfect time for Texas Tech.

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

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
2:00
PM ET

Big 12 viewer's guide: Week 3

September, 13, 2014
Sep 13
8:00
AM ET
In Week 3 of Big 12 action, Oklahoma and Texas Tech will take on the SEC; West Virginia, TCU and Iowa State will challenge the Big Ten; Kansas will go on the road in the ACC; and Texas will attempt to bounce back against the Pac-12.

How the league fares in those seven games against Power 5 conference opponents will be the major storyline today in the Big 12:

West Virginia at Maryland, noon ET (Big Ten Network): The Terrapins slaughtered West Virginia 37-0 last season. The Mountaineers, however, didn’t have quarterback Clint Trickett in that game. Trickett ranks fourth nationally with a 75.3 completion percentage, and his favorite target, Kevin White, is tied for fourth in the country with 19 receptions.

Arkansas at Texas Tech, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC): After starting fast last year, the Red Raiders are off to a sluggish beginning in Kliff Kingsbury’s second season. Only Oregon State has committed more penalties than the Red Raiders, who have 25 through two games. These two old Southwest Conference foes have met 35 times, but haven’t played since 1991.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Collins (55), Brandon Scheriff (68) and Dominic Alvis
Reese Strickland/USA Today SportsIowa State has a chance to get its season on track and win back the Cy-Hawk Trophy on Saturday.
Iowa State at Iowa, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN): Iowa All-American left tackle Brandon Scherff is out for the Cy-Hawk series with an undisclosed knee injury. The Hawkeyes had struggled to move the ball with Scherff in narrow wins over Northern Iowa and Ball State.

Kansas at Duke, 3:30 p.m. ET (ACC Regional Sports Network): Kansas hasn’t won a road game since beating UTEP in El Paso the second week of the 2009 season. The Jayhawks’ 34 points last week, however, tied the highest scoring total of the Charlie Weis era, and their 6.3 yards per play against Southeast Missouri State was the program’s best game average in three years.

Minnesota at TCU, 4 p.m. ET (FS1): The Gophers are one of the only Big Ten teams off to a positive start, but injuries have piled up. Minnesota is hopeful quarterback Mitch Leidner will be able to go after injuring his knee against Middle Tennessee last weekend.

UTSA at Oklahoma State, 7 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Regional): Quarterback Daxx Garman is expected to make his first career start after taking his first competitive snap in five years during last week’s win over Missouri State. The Roadrunners are still looking for the program’s first win over a Power 5 conference opponent.

Texas vs. No. 12 UCLA (Arlington, Texas), 8 p.m. ET (FOX): The Longhorns were woeful on both sides of the ball in a 41-7 loss to BYU last weekend, and this doesn’t have the look of a favorable matchup. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Texas has allowed the fourth-most rushing yards (777) in the FBS to opposing QBs since the start of last season. Excluding sacks, UCLA’s Brett Hundley has run for the sixth-most yards by a quarterback (1,057) during the same span.

Tennessee at No. 4 Oklahoma, 8 p.m. ET (ABC): This is the first regular-season matchup between these teams, which are in the top 10 in the FBS in all-time wins. Recent history, however, favors the Sooners. Bob Stoops is 88-5 at home with Oklahoma, while Tennessee hasn’t won three games to begin a season since 2004.

Mailbag: Big weekend for the Big 12

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
5:30
PM ET
In today’s Twitter mailbag, we mostly discuss the monster upcoming weekend for the Big 12, which takes on seven opponents from Power 5 conferences. To the 'bag:

@Jake_Trotter: You're referencing an NFL.com report this week that suggested Bob Stoops would be a hot commodity for NFL coaching jobs after the season. Anything is possible. But my thinking is that if Stoops wanted to leave, he would have been gone already. Over the years, he has resisted overtures from the Cleveland Browns, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Florida (twice) and the Denver Broncos. If he's turning those kind of jobs down, what job out there would he take? The Dallas Cowboys? Maybe. But my money would be on Stoops retiring as the coach at Oklahoma.

Trotter: I would place the Big 12 behind the SEC and Pac-12. But a strong case could be made for the league as the third-best conference, especially with a successful weekend that includes games against seven Power 5 conference opponents.

Trotter: I have them ranked exactly the same. There has been a lot of hype with Samaje Perine, and rightfully so. But I think Keith Ford is the best all-around back.

Trotter: I'm not sure he's going to be able to do anything this season to completely calm the fan base. After all the injuries, suspensions and dismissals, this roster has been completely ravaged. I think Texas is staring down the barrel of a 2-4 start, which, before the season, would have seemed like a worst-case scenario. I will be interested to see, though, if Texas can make improvement over the second half of the season. That would bode well for 2015, which is when the pressure will begin to mount on Strong and his staff.

Trotter: At blue-chip programs like Texas, the switch can flip quickly. Oklahoma was in worse shape in 1998 than Texas is now. And the Sooners won a national title two years later. The Longhorns could be a top-10 team as soon as next season. But first, they're going to have to find an answer at quarterback, which has plagued this program since Colt McCoy was behind center.

Trotter: Probably not. It's not like Minnesota is Michigan State. And there are too many other teams ahead in the polls. But a win would definitely snag the Frogs more votes.

Trotter: When did Minnesota become the bastion of college football? This would be a very solid win for TCU. But the Gophers were picked in the preseason to finish fifth in the Big Ten West.

Trotter: Write a letter to your affiliated Big 12 athletic director and president. Because right now, none of them have given any indication they are interested in expansion.

Trotter: Oh, maybe a little. But you have to remember, this was a league that teetered on the edge of extinction for a couple of years. The Big 12 is enjoying this newfound stability as well as the money it's raking in with these new TV contracts. What is the motivation for them to expand?

Trotter: Assuming that J.W. Walsh is out for the year -- and I've been told that he is -- I think they have to. The Cowboys don't want to be in a situation where Daxx Garman gets injured, and they have to bring in Mason Rudolph in a critical moment with him having zero college experience. Plus, playing Rudolph will give them a chance to determine whether he might be the quarterback of the future. They could always come back and redshirt him next season when Walsh returns to the fray.

Trotter: This would be a huge win for the Mountaineers. But I don't think it would be enough to push them into the Top 25. A win against Oklahoma the following week would do it.

Trotter: I like Matt Wallerstedt's ploy of using more players. If you are lacking in standouts, at least keep the players you do have fresh for the fourth quarter when stops are at a premium. Personnel wise, the Red Raiders need their JUCO additions to start making bigger impacts. That would give the defense a boost.

Trotter: It's possible. Oklahoma losing to Tennessee would really be the only stunner. Maryland, Minnesota, UCLA, Arkansas, UTSA, Duke, Iowa are all more than capable of defeating their Big 12 counterparts..

Although we're just two weeks into the 2014 season, go-to targets are starting to emerge across the Big 12. West Virginia's Kevin White looks like he could fill a playmaking void and Texas Tech's Bradley Marquez has stepped his play up in his final season.

Here's a closer look at the Big 12's leading receivers in several key stats, with the help of ESPN Stats and Information.

[+] EnlargeKevin White, Bradley Sylve
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsWest Virginia's Kevin White has been targeted more than any other Big 12 receiver.
Total targets

  1. Kevin White, West Virginia, 26
  2. Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech, 21
  3. John Harris, Texas, 20
  4. Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma, 19
  5. (Bradley Marquez, Texas Tech, 18

It’s clear White has developed a high level of trust with quarterback Clint Trickett and the Mountaineers are trying to get the ball in the hands of the 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior. … Texas’ John Harris is the surprise name on the list as he has emerged as a go-to target in a struggling Longhorns attack. … As Iowa State searches for someone to replace Quenton Bundrage, no Cyclone has double-digit targets through two games.

Yards per target

  1. Kolby Listenbee, TCU, 32.6
  2. Jhajuan Seales, Oklahoma State, 20.8
  3. Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma, 16.7
  4. KD Cannon, Baylor, 15.4
  5. Nick Harwell, Kansas, 14.9

TCU has only played one game, but it would be a surprise if Listenbee is not a major part of the offense. He proved to be a legitimate deep threat in the Horned Frogs' season opener two weeks ago, and that skill will make quarterback Trevone Boykin and his dynamic running ability even more lethal. … Shepard’s appearance on this list shows the Sooners plan to use him to keep defenses honest while they attempt to establish a physical running game.

Yards after catch

  1. Kevin White, West Virginia, 147
  2. Bradley Marquez, Texas Tech, 103
  3. Brandon Sheperd, Oklahoma State, 98
  4. Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma, 92
  5. Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech, 87

White is starting to fulfill the hype that accompanied him when he arrived as a junior college transfer before the 2013 season. He combines terrific size with run-after-catch ability. He’ll be in the mix for All-Big 12 honors if he remains consistent. … Seeing Marquez, not Grant, lead the Red Raiders in yards after the catch is a surprise, but it shows his versatility and overall importance to Tech’s passing game.

Third-down receptions

  1. Davion Hall, Baylor, 6
  2. Kevin White, West Virginia, 4
  3. John Harris, Texas, 4
  4. Bradley Marquez, Texas Tech, 4
  5. Five receivers tied with 3

Hall has a high third-down reception rate but only three of his six receptions have resulted in first down conversions. The Bears have made a point to get him the ball in space, with 7 of his 11 receptions coming within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. … It’s early, but Harris, White and Marquez appear to have separated themselves as go-to receivers in their offenses.

Percentage of receptions for a first down or touchdown

  1. Nick Harwell, Kansas, 100 percent
  2. Kolby Listenbee, TCU, 100 percent
  3. Ja'Juan Story, TCU, 100 percent
  4. KD Cannon, Baylor, 87.5 percent
  5. Tyler Lockett, Kansas State, 85.7 percent

Harwell was solid in his first game as a Jayhawk with four receptions for 46 yards and two touchdowns. He’ll be a major part of KU’s offense. … Listenbee and Story have five receptions combined so it remains to be seen if their ability to make key plays continues throughout the season. … Lockett should be a staple on this list with his ability to change games each time he touches the ball.

Big 12 Week 3 predictions

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
9:00
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Why Oklahoma will win: The Sooners have a decisive advantage in the trenches, highlighted by a powerful running game and a swarming defensive front seven. Bob Stoops is also 88-5 at home and will be looking to send another message to his friends in the SEC. Oklahoma 44, Tennessee 16 – Jake Trotter

Why Tennessee will keep it close: The Vols appear to be on the upswing under Butch Jones' better recruiting. UT has several receivers with size (four receivers 6-foot-3 or taller) and could try to test the coverage ability of OU's secondary. If the Vols are able to force mental mistakes from Trevor Knight, all bets are off. Oklahoma 35, Tennessee 21
Brandon Chatmon

 

Why UCLA will win: Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes actually played alright in his first career start last week -- and Texas still couldn't score. With the offensive line and receiving corps completely decimated, the Longhorns have what amounts to a popgun offense. UCLA counters with quarterback Brett Hundley, who entered the season on the short list of Heisman contenders. UCLA 28, Texas 9 – Trotter

Why Texas will keep it close: Defense. Until Swoopes and a patchwork offensive line get some momentum, Texas' defense will have to win the day. They'll get pressure on Hundley, but they'll need turnovers. The Longhorns played three quarters of solid defense against BYU. If they can wreak havoc for four, this game could be close late. UCLA 27, Texas 17
-Max Olson

 

Upset special: The Cyclones showed it is too early to write them off during a close loss to Kansas State. Meanwhile, Iowa hasn't looked like an elite team during its first two games. There were times the Cyclones were dominating K-State, and ISU could carry that momentum into a win over its rival. Iowa State 31, Iowa 27 Chatmon

MORE UNANIMOUS PICKS

Baylor over Buffalo 56-20: Buffalo is going to black out its stadium, but the Bears will light it up in Bryce Petty's return. — Chatmon

West Virginia over Maryland 28-26: The Terrapins hammered the Mountaineers 37-0 last season, but this is a completely different West Virginia team manned by a completely different quarterback in Clint Trickett, who is completing 75 percent of his passes. – Trotter

Texas Tech over Arkansas 38-24: Tech cleans up its penalty problems, and Davis Webb picks apart a D that gave up nearly 600 yards against Auburn. – Olson

Duke over Kansas 38-24: Kansas looked good in the first 45 minutes of its win over Southeast Missouri, but Duke quarterback Anthony Boone will prove simply too much for the Jayhawks. — Chatmon

TCU over Minnesota 17-13: A close game finally goes the Horned Frogs' way. Minnesota's uncertain QB situation is the difference-maker, and TCU's underappreciated defense steps up. – Olson

Oklahoma State over UTSA 42-24: Having a full week to tailor the offense around the arm of quarterback Daxx Garman should do wonders for the Oklahoma State offense. – Trotter

Big 12 morning links

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
8:00
AM ET
Please take the time to remember what happened on this day 13 years ago.
  • Two years ago, Tyrone Swoopes appeared to be the quarterback of the future for Texas, but now that he's the starter, writes the Associated Press' Jim Vertuno, Swoopes resembles more of a project while yet another hotshot freshman waits behind him. Though he is raw, I didn't think Swoopes played poorly in his debut start against BYU. Swoopes showed some poise and delivered the ball with authority on several occasions. But he got virtually no help from his offensive line or wide receivers. The coaching staff also appeared hesitant to open up the game plan with him behind center. For Texas to have any chance against UCLA, all of that will have to change.
  • Iowa State offensive coordinator Mark Mangino's move from the press box to the sideline sparked the Cyclones offensively, in the opinion of the Des Moines Register's Tommy Birch. The Cyclones lost to Kansas State, but responded to Mangino's sideline presence with four unanswered touchdowns during a first-half scoring splurge. If Iowa State can execute offensively the way it did against K-State, it will have a chance to win some games this season, including Saturday at Iowa.
  • Tennessee secondary coach Willie Martinez told The Oklahoman's Ryan Aber that he harbors no hard feelings about his time at Oklahoma. Martinez was essentially the very first assistant to be fired in some form during the Bob Stoops era. Stoops didn't exactly fire Martinez. But he hired his brother Mike Stoops to replace him before Martinez had gotten a job elsewhere. The move marked the start of the revival of Oklahoma's defense. It will be interesting to see Martinez back in Norman this weekend.
  • After missing three field goals in two games, Oklahoma State kicker Ben Grogan told the Tulsa World's Mark Cooper that he has pinpointed the problem. Apparently, Grogan's mechanics with his plant foot have been off. Whatever the case, Grogan has to be sharper for the Cowboys to produce the kind of season they hope to have. Grogan had a shaky freshman season last year, missing seven field goals on 18 attempts. Oklahoma State has usually held a decisive special teams edge against its opponents during the Mike Gundy era. That wasn't the case last year, and the Cowboys paid for it.
  • Baylor coach Art Briles said he prefers to avoid certain labels for players not necessarily considered first-teamers in his fast-paced, big-play offense. It's no wonder why. Many of his backups -- like freshman wide receivers K.D. Cannon and Davion Hall -- could start for several teams in the Big 12. Cannon leads the league in receiving despite technically starting out the season as a reserve. And Bryce Petty's backup, quarterback Seth Russell, leads the Big 12 in QBR. This is an offense that's going to be good for a very long time, thanks to the players who are not first-teamers at the moment.

Big 12 morning links

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
8:00
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I'd have to agree. No. 10 is the problem.
  • Pump the brakes on calling Daxx Garman the answer at quarterback for Oklahoma State, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. It's clear Garman has the ability to help the Cowboys offense. Head coach Mike Gundy and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich have praised Garman's arm since the spring and the fact they didn't just hand the job to J.W. Walsh makes it obvious they believe Garman brings something unique to the table. Yet, all that said, I agree with Tramel. It's too early to call Garman the answer behind center in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
  • An interesting nugget in this West Virginia notebook from Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail. Running back Dreamius Smith has tumbled down the depth chart in Morgantown, West Virginia, largely due to his lack of finishing runs. It's a surprise but not a shock to see Smith struggle to find the field for WVU. Dana Holgorsen has a roster full of talented running backs and it appears Smith, the Mountaineers leading returning rusher, hasn't responded to the competition.
  • Saturday's road game at Duke will be a homecoming of sorts for Kansas safety Isaiah Johnson, who played high school football in North Carolina. The Kansas City Star's Rustin Dodd details the specifics of Johnson's journey to Lawrence, Kansas. The story also compares the Jayhawks secondary to its 2007 version which included three future NFL players (Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, Darrell Stuckey). Initially it sounds crazy but KU has the Big 12's most underrated secondary. Cornerbacks Dexter McDonald and JaCorey Shepherd are a strong duo and Johnson pairs with Cassius Sendish as a solid safety duo. They aren't on the level of 2007 now but could be by November.
  • Kansas State has a bye on Saturday, yet Bill Snyder is approaching this week like a game week, reports Kellis Robinett of the Kansas City Star. Auburn is the next team on K-State's schedule and the extra time could be critical as the Wildcats prepare for the BCS runnerup to visit Manhattan, Kansas, on Sept. 18. Seems like a savvy move by the veteran coach. The early season bye means there's no major concern for the Wildcats being too beat up and requiring rest and the game week approach will underscore the importance of the Thursday night battle with Auburn.
  • Gary Patterson continues to list quarterback Matt Joeckel as a co-starter alongside Trevone Boykin for TCU, reports Carlos Mendez of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Patterson believes Joeckel has earned a spot alongside Boykin on the depth chart and is preparing him to play. Sounds like as well as Boykin played to start the season, the quarterback derby in Fort Worth is not over.
Four hands, not two, hold the destiny of Oklahoma State's future.

[+] EnlargeJ.W. Walsh
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY SportsJ.W. Walsh is the Cowboys' starting quarterback, but he's hampered with a foot injury.
All signs point to quarterbacks J.W. Walsh and Daxx Garman taking snaps for the Cowboys as the 2014 season progresses.

Walsh, OSU's starter, injured his foot during OSU's 40-23 win against Missouri State and the extent of the injury remains unclear with coach Mike Gundy saying Walsh would be re-evaluated on Tuesday. Garman stepped in for Walsh against Missouri State, going 16 of 26 for 244 yards and two touchdowns in his first action as a Cowboy. He would start if Walsh's injury keeps him on the sideline against Texas San-Antonio on Saturday.

Counting on multiple quarterbacks is not unusual in Stillwater, Oklahoma. In fact, it has become commonplace.

Since Brandon Weeden left the program after leading OSU to its lone Big 12 championship in 2011, the Cowboys haven't gone a full season with a clear No. 1 signal-caller. In 2012, Wes Lunt, Clint Chelf and Walsh each started games under center. Last season, Walsh and Chelf each took turns as a man running OSU's offense.

It should be no surprise the Cowboys will use multiple quarterbacks again, particularly considering Gundy has been saying as much since preseason camp began.

Walsh brings a strong running element to the Cowboys' offense. With the junior under center, OSU is more apt to harken back to the days of Zac Robinson, when quarterback run-game schemes were a staple. During his career, Walsh has averaged 19.5 pass attempts and 156.5 passing yards per game along with 6.2 carries and 33.9 rushing yards per game. Only TCU's Trevone Boykin (759) has rushed for more career yards than Walsh (677) among active Big 12 quarterbacks.

Garman brings more deep passing to the table, making the offense look like it did with Weeden behind center with OSU counting on the pass to create matchup nightmares for defenses. Last weekend was his first football game since 2009 -- Garman missed his senior year in high school and sat out a redshirt season at Arizona before transferring and sitting out a year at OSU -- but the junior's passing ability was on full display and has been praised by Gundy and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich since the spring.

[+] EnlargeDaxx Garman
Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY SportsQB Daxx Garman provides solid skill and ability to throw the ball down field in the Cowboys' offense.
"We, as an offense, want to maintain balance regardless of who's at quarterback," Yurcich said. "We want to complement ourselves and J.W., a lot like Daxx, can make a lot of throws down the field. When you talk about arm strength, J.W. Walsh has a very strong arm and Daxx has a very strong arm. They both have their strengths. Obviously, Walsh is a little bit better of a runner."

This season, 12 of Walsh's 36 passes have traveled 10 "air yards" or more, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In other words, his passes have traveled 10 yards or more in the air on 33.3 percent of his total attempts. Walsh was 4 of 12 for 97 yards, one touchdown and one interception on those attempts.

Meanwhile 14 of Garman's 26 passes last Saturday traveled 10 yards or more in the air, 53.8 percent of his throws. Garman was 7 of 14 for 208 yards and two touchdowns on those attempts.

To be fair, Walsh's numbers came against defending national champion Florida State while Garman's numbers came against FCS foe Missouri State. Nonetheless, it's pretty clear Garman provides a better deep passing threat than Walsh as the numbers support the differences we see in OSU's offense when Walsh or Garman is under center.

And that's why OSU was talking about using both quarterbacks before the season even began with Gundy saying on multiple occasions that Garman was ready to help the Cowboys' offense in 2014.

If Walsh is out for an extended amount of time, the deeper passing game will emerge as a bigger part of the offense as the Cowboys strive to transform the offense to fit Garman's strengths.

But the coaching staff insists the foundational aspects of the offense will remain.

"The ability to play-action, throw your quick game, throw your drop-backs, and then being able to change your pace with tempo and be able to complement yourself is the key," Yurcich said. "Regardless of what quarterback is in."

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