Big 12: Oklahoma State Cowboys

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The updated ESPN 300 player rankings are now live, and one of the primary Big 12 targets is the newly crowned top-ranked running back.

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

Here are five things to know involving Big 12 recruiting:

Big 12 morning links

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
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Oh, really?
  • Outside of leading his team to a upset win over Baylor, last Saturday was a tough day for West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett, reports Bob Cohn of the Pittsburgh Tribune. Trickett's father, Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett, missed FSU's game against Notre Dame due to health issues and Clint was dealing with flu-like symptoms. Trickett played his best game in October with 322 passing yards and three touchdowns so it seems the senior quarterback could be well-equipped to handle anything that comes up during the second half of the season.
  • TCU's explosive offense is having a impact on how Gary Patterson calls the Horned Frogs' defense, reports Carlos Mendez of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Patterson said knowing the offense can put up 30 or 40 points results in less urgency to make things happen on the defensive side of the ball. All the positives of the offensive change makes you wonder, why didn't TCU make this change earlier?
  • Jake Waters is proving to be a tough character at Kansas State, writes Ken Corbitt of the Topeka Capital Journal. Waters remained in the game after hurting his shoulder during KSU's 31-30 win over Oklahoma last Saturday. It's been interesting to see Waters evolve in the Wildcat offense since last year when he split time with Daniel Sams. He seems like a type of player who excels when the pressure is on and people are counting on him so it shouldn't be a surprise to see him handle being "the man" for KSU's offense.
  • The NCAA and Oklahoma State jointly announced allegations of wrongdoing by the football program were "fundamentally unfounded" on Tuesday. The NCAA's ruling means the SI saga is in the past and didn't hurt Oklahoma State football, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. The Cowboys must feel relieved and validated after Tuesday's announcement as the program can now move forward without a cloud over its head.
  • While linebacker Pete Robertson gets the numbers (eight sacks), defensive lineman Branden Jackson has been an impact player for Texas Tech's defense reports Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche Journal. Interim defensive coordinator Mike Smith praises Jackson's work in the defensive interior. Robertson has always been a active player for Tech but he's been even more productive this season. Sounds like Jackson could be one reason why.
It's amazing how things can change in a matter of 18 days. Earlier this month we took a look at the Big 12's most efficient offenses based on the points per possession of the top five teams in the conference.

Almost three weeks later, the list has transformed, much like the Big 12 standings. Here's a look at the overall efficiency of all 10 Big 12 offenses, with the help of ESPN Stats & Information, including each team's points per drive during the past three weeks.

T-1. Kansas State -- 3.11 points per possession overall

Key stat: The Wildcats' success on third down has been a key to their efficiency. They convert 50 percent of their third-down conversion attempts.

Last three games: KSU has been even better in recent weeks, averaging 3.53 points per possession in games against UTEP, Texas Tech and Oklahoma as Jake Waters has gotten comfortable in his dual-threat role.

Future outlook: The Wildcats' running game has been solid but not spectacular, but KSU’s efficient offensive numbers should continue with Waters' ability to provide a run-pass threat and Curry Sexton's emergence alongside Tyler Lockett.

T-1. Baylor -- 3.11

Key stat: Baylor has gained 58 percent of the possible yards on its drives this season, best in the Big 12. The conference average is 46.7 percent.

Last three games: As the competition has stepped up, Baylor’s offense has slowed down. The Bears averaged 2.22 points per drive in games against Texas, TCU and West Virginia.

Future outlook: In recent weeks, the Bears and Bryce Petty haven’t displayed the consistency that made them the conference’s most explosive offense. All the ingredients still remain for Baylor’s elite production to return in the second half of the season.

3. TCU -- 2.79

Key stat: The Horned Frogs are averaging 83.2 plays per game, ranking behind only Baylor and West Virginia in the Big 12. It’s a clear sign TCU has made a smooth transition into its new up-tempo attack.

Last three games: The Horned Frogs' offense has continued to be productive against Oklahoma, Baylor and Oklahoma State, averaging 2.54 points per drive in its last three games. Trevone Boykin has been at his best against increased competition.

Future outlook: There’s no reason to think TCU’s offense will slow down any time soon with Boykin and a roster full of big-play running backs and receivers.

4. Oklahoma -- 2.51

Key stat: The Sooners score touchdowns 73.3 percent of the time in the red zone, second in the Big 12.

Last three games: OU averaged 1.95 points per drive against TCU, Texas and Kansas State as a lack of big plays has resulted in Sooners stumbles.

Future outlook: More playmakers must emerge to join Sterling Shepard or the Sooners could tumble down this list.

5. West Virginia -- 2.43

Key stat: Only 22 percent of WVU’s drives have ended without a first down or touchdown. Only Baylor has a better percentage (21.3), and the conference average is 29.3.

Last three games: The Mountaineers averaged 2.26 points per possession in games against Kansas, Texas Tech and Baylor.

Future outlook: As long as Clint Trickett and Kevin White continue playing like the Big 12’s best quarterback-receiver duo, the sky is the limit for WVU’s offense.

6. Texas Tech -- 2.3

Key stat: The Red Raiders have committed a turnover on 17 percent of their drives, worst in the Big 12.

Last three games: Tech averaged 1.98 points per drive in games against Kansas, Kansas State and West Virginia.

Future outlook: Kliff Kingsbury’s offense would be just fine if it could cut down the turnovers and limit the penalties. Quarterback Davis Webb and a reborn running game make this offense one to keep an eye on.

7. Oklahoma State -- 2.12

Key stat: The Cowboys have settled for field goals on 17 percent of their drives, worst in the Big 12.

Last three games: OSU averaged 1.4 points per drive in games against Kansas, Iowa State and TCU.

Future outlook: As the Cowboys look toward the second half of their season, the offensive line needs to steadily improve if the Pokes hope to rise up this list.

8. Iowa State -- 2.07

Key stat: The Cyclones are averaging 4.96 yards per play, with only Kansas (4.6) averaging less yards per play.

Last three games: ISU is getting better as the season progresses, averaging 2.5 points per drive in its last three games against Texas, Toledo and Oklahoma State.

Future outlook: The Cyclones are starting to find a rhythm under new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino and could rise up this list in the second half of the season.

9. Texas -- 1.58

Key stat: The Longhorns' average drive distance is 25.8 yards per drive, ranking ninth in the Big 12. The Big 12 average is 32.6, with West Virginia leading the conference at 39.5.

Last three games: UT averaged 1.72 points per drive in games against Baylor, Oklahoma and Iowa State.

Future outlook: Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes is coming along behind center after a poor start. If he continues to play like he did against Iowa State last Saturday, UT’s offense could make some noise in the second half of the season.

10. Kansas -- 1.08

Key stat: The Jayhawks have managed a touchdown on just 12.9 percent of their drives, worst in the Big 12. The conference average is 28.7 percent.

Last three games: KU has averaged 1.09 points per drive in games against West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.

Future outlook: The offense is on a upswing with Michael Cummings at quarterback under Clint Bowen. After struggles in Bowen’s first game at WVU, KU averaged 1.33 points per drive against OSU and 1.5 points per drive against Tech in the past two weeks.
In our weekly Big 12 roundtable, we examine what the strongest position has been in the league so far, who has a better chance of going bowling between Texas and Texas Tech, and whether Oklahoma State should consider pulling the redshirt off quarterback Mason Rudolph:

What has been the strongest position in the league so far?

[+] EnlargeKevin White
AP Photo/Chris JacksonThrough seven games this season, Mountaineers senior receiver Kevin White has 69 receptions for 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns.
Brandon Chatmon: As we saw last week with our midseason All-Big 12 team, it's got to be the linebacker spot. The Big 12 is overflowing with all-conference worthy linebackers. Oklahoma's Eric Striker, Kansas' Ben Heeney, Baylor's Bryce Hager and Kansas State's Jonathan Truman entered the season among the Big 12's best at the position and haven't disappointed while other linebackers such as West Virginia's Nick Kwiatkoski, Texas' Jordan Hicks, Texas Tech's Pete Robertson, TCU's Paul Dawson and Iowa State's Jevohn Miller have emerged to join the fray. There are more teams with an all-conference worthy linebacker than without one.

Max Olson: I agree it's linebacker right now, but I think we'll be talking about this group of wide receivers as being special by the end of the season. West Virginia's Kevin White is playing at Biletnikoff Award level. Sterling Shepard is a potential All-American. You can make a case that KD Cannon, Tyler Lockett, Josh Doctson, Antwan Goodley, Jakeem Grant and John Harris are playing at an all-conference level or should be soon. Throw in underrated guys such as Mario Alford, Curry Sexton, Kolby Listenbee and Bradley Marquez and this position group looks deep and impressive in 2014.

Jake Trotter: Linebacker is a deep position in the Big 12. But I'm going with wide receiver. White has begun to generate Heisman buzz. Shepard has had an All-American season. And Lockett and Goodley are All-American-caliber players. It doesn't stop there. Doctson had 225 yards receiving over the weekend. Grant could break 100 receptions. Harris could pass 1,000 yards. And true freshmen Allen Lazard (Iowa State) and Cannon are budding stars. There's no better league for the position in the country.

At 3-4, both Texas Tech and Texas are holding out hope of qualifying for a bowl game. Of the two, who has the better shot?

Chatmon: Texas Fight! Or least that's what Charlie Strong's team looks like it will do for the remainder of the 2014 season. The Longhorns' defense is superb and Tyrone Swoopes is looking better and better with each game, surpassing my expectations for the sophomore quarterback. Even with three of its final five games away from Austin, I think Texas will find a way to go bowling in Strong's debut season.

Olson: That Texas Tech schedule just scares me too much. The Red Raiders go to TCU, host Texas, then a bye, home against Oklahoma, on the road at Iowa State and a meeting Baylor at AT&T Stadium to finish that run off. Are there two obvious wins on that slate? That's just a brutal ask. Texas doesn't have it much easier -- they'll probably have to beat Tech, West Virginia and Oklahoma State to win six -- but already having OU and Baylor out of the way at least gives them the upper hand here.

Trotter: Given their remaining schedules, it's possible -- if not probable -- that neither qualifies for a bowl. But even though the Longhorns have to go to Lubbock, I give them the better chance. Texas has been playing better than Tech as of late. The Longhorns have the decidedly superior defense. And Swoopes seems to be gaining confidence with every start. The Red Raiders will have to beat either No. 10 TCU, No. 17 Oklahoma or No. 12 Baylor, just to have a chance at a bowl. And they'll be heavy underdogs in all three.

[+] EnlargeDaxx Garman
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiDaxx Garman has led OSU's offense since starter J.W. Walsh went out in Week 2 with an injury.
In light of the recent struggles offensively, should Oklahoma State give redshirting freshman Mason Rudolph a crack at QB?

Chatmon: No. That just changes who will spend the game running for their life. Some Cowboys fans might point the finger at Daxx Garman, but the Cowboys' struggles are rooted in the problems up front with a inexperienced offensive line. OSU is averaging 3.69 yards per carry (96th among FBS teams) and has a 7.5 sack percentage (99th among FBS teams). It doesn't matter who is playing quarterback.

Olson: I'm with Brandon on this. No point in crossing that bridge unless Rudolph begins to consistently and seriously outplay Garman in practice. Mike Gundy says he's getting maximum reps during the week. That's a good start. But you can't throw the rookie in there, behind that offensive line, out of sheer curiosity of whether he's a little better than Garman. I get the whole build-for-the-future viewpoint, but isn't J.W. Walsh still the imminent future? The potential downsides still seem like they outweigh the marginal benefits, at least for now.

Trotter: Rudolph intrigues me. The ESPN recruiting scouts loved his skill set Insider, and he was a winner in high school. But with only five games remaining, I don't see the point in pulling his redshirt. This Oklahoma State team is not contending for a Big 12 championship, regardless, due to other issues, namely along the offensive line. The staff clearly feels he's not ready, or else they would have given him a shot early in the season after Walsh's injury in Week 2. Rudolph might very well be the Cowboys' QB of the future. But it's way too late to squander his redshirt for the last five games of a rebuilding season.
Baylor’s undefeated season went out the window and Oklahoma suffered its second conference loss during a crazy weekend in the Big 12, as the standings were shuffled and preseason predictions fell by the wayside.

No team took a bigger blow than Oklahoma State.

[+] EnlargeDaxx Garman
Tony Gutierrez/Associated PressDaxx Garman has struggled at times for Oklahoma State, but his offensive line isn't helping him much.
Not only did TCU snap the Cowboys’ five-game losing streak, they overwhelmed Mike Gundy’s team in the process. The numbers are pretty staggering.

  • OSU ran 18 plays for 51 yards, an average of 2.83 yards per play, in the second half.
  • OSU quarterback Daxx Garman was 0 of 6 with one interception in the second half.
  • OSU was 3 of 15 on third down.
  • OSU ran 15 third-down plays for 36 yards, averaging 2.4 yards per play.
  • TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin’s 451 yards of total offense was 193 more yards than the Cowboys' team total (258).

Gundy’s squad hasn’t looked anything like the offenses we’ve seen from his program since the change to an “Air Raid” style offense under Dana Holgorsen after the 2009 season. The Cowboys will try to right the ship when Holgorsen’s West Virginia team visits Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday.

As bad as things were against the Horned Frogs, Oklahoma State still sits at 5-2 and 3-1 in Big 12 play alongside Baylor, West Virginia and TCU as Big 12 teams with one conference loss. Their destiny remains largely in their hands.

"We can win all of them, that's what we’ve got to think,” linebacker Ryan Simmons said. “We can't think, ‘We may have a chance,’ because that's already putting doubt in our mind. We have to be confident in one another and what we can do with one another. We just have to approach every game like it's the Big 12 Championship game."

If the Cowboys hope to rebound from their first conference loss with another win streak, they will have to start with a win over West Virginia, another team with one loss in conference play. As OSU looks to plan for success against the Mountaineers, the Cowboys offense will need to transform into a unit we’ve rarely seen in 2014. OSU’s struggles have been caused by subpar offensive line play, but the entire group of 11 needs to play better if the Pokes hope to prove last Saturday was an anomaly.

Gundy has been banging the drum about the need for his team to run the ball better, but he was encouraged by what he saw from the Cowboys running game.

"I know everybody is tired of hearing this, but we have to run the ball,” Gundy said. "We actually blocked better in the run game [against TCU].”

OSU ran for 126 rushing yards, averaging 3.23 yards per carry against TCU, its best yards per carry average since its 3.76 average in a 45-35 win over Texas Tech on Sept. 25.

Garman has shouldered his share of the blame after the Cowboys couldn’t manage double-digit points for the first time since before Holgorsen arrived, but Gundy sees no reason to consider a change under center, even with Garman’s bad outing against TCU. Garman’s early success made it easy to forget he is seeing his first extensive action since 2009 and has a grand total of six collegiate games (five starts) under his belt.

“We need to protect Garman better,” Gundy said. “I'm not trying to defend anybody, but if we don't run the ball better than we did Saturday and protect, then it is hard for him to operate. With the learning and information that he's getting in the game and the adjustments he's making, he's doing fine.”

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

October, 20, 2014
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Here’s the latest around the Big 12 on the recruiting trail after another big weekend of official and unofficial visits:

BAYLOR
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.

IOWA STATE
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.

KANSAS
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.

KANSAS STATE
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.

OKLAHOMA
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.

OKLAHOMA STATE
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.

TCU
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.

TEXAS
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.

TEXAS TECH
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.

WEST VIRGINIA
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.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 8

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
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Taking stock of Week 8 in the Big 12:

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 Goodleys 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.

video 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.

Big 12 morning links

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
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Things got a little crazy in Morgantown, and I don't mean on the football field...
  • Texas Tech receiver Jakeem Grant was part of a scary situation early Sunday morning. According to Nicholas Talbot and Sarah Rafique of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Grant was injured during an off-campus altercation in which more than 20 rounds were fired from multiple weapons. Grant suffered a laceration and was taken to the hospital, treated and released. It's unclear if Grant will be able to play against TCU this weekend. But the important part is that he's all right. And fortunately, no one else was seriously injured, either.
  • The Sooners are a two-loss team for many reasons. Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman detailed one of those problems common in both losses, and that was Oklahoma's poor time management. Against K-State, the Sooners squandered their last timeout with 9:45 left to play, which ultimately allowed the Wildcats to drain four minutes off the clock late to clinch the 31-30 victory. The Sooners also blew their timeouts in the loss at TCU. They took the field with a chance for a game-winning drive with 51 seconds remaining. But without any timeouts, the clock ran out on them. That comes down to communication and coaching, not only on game day, but in the week leading up. And it has cost the Sooners dearly.
  • The Waco Tribune-Herald's Brice Cherry thinks that Baylor should shed the self-given "America's Top Offense" label for now after struggling in a 41-27 loss at West Virginia. I don't know if that's completely fair. The Bears, no doubt, had an off game in Morgantown. But they still lead the country in scoring. And just a week ago, they put up 61 on a TCU defense many have pegged as one of the best in the league. Baylor's offense is still one to be feared. And it's the biggest reason why I'm nowhere near ready to write off the Bears in the Big 12 title chase.
  • The Oklahoman's Josh Helsley suggested that while Oklahoma State is a win away from becoming bowl eligible, the Cowboys might not actually get there. I can't disagree. Oklahoma State looked awful in a 42-9 loss at TCU, and frankly, the Cowboys didn't look impressive beating up on the bottom of the Big 12 to the start the conference season. Now comes the difficult part, as Oklahoma State's final five games are: No. 22 West Virginia, at No. 11 Kansas State, Texas, at No. 12 Baylor and at No. 17 Oklahoma. If the Cowboys don't play a lot better than they did in Fort Worth, they could finish out on a six-game losing streak.
  • After beating Iowa State 48-45, the Longhorns were back to talking about winning the Big 12. That's no typo. “When you have two losses in the Big 12, you’re never out of the race,” receiver John Harris told the Austin American-Statesman's Brian Davis. “I think we’re in a great position to win out.” Hey, I'm all for optimism. Speaking of which, I think I'm in great position to win the Pulitzer Prize. Anything is possible, right?

Big 12 bowl projections: Week 8

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
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It's moving day!

Chaos reigns as West Virginia's and Kansas State's wins join TCU's domination to result in the Horned Frogs sitting atop the queue. West Virginia could be the sleeper pick to win the conference, while K-State still faces a difficult road to its second Big 12 title in three years with road trips to TCU, West Virginia and Baylor left on the schedule.

The conference landscape is full of teams that could stake their claim in the Big 12 title race.

Allstate Sugar Bowl: TCU
Cotton Bowl: Kansas State
Valero Alamo Bowl: West Virginia
Russell Athletic Bowl: Baylor
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Oklahoma
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Oklahoma State
Cactus Bowl: Texas
Here's what we learned about the Big 12 in a wild Week 8:

1. The league race is wide open: By taking down preseason favorites Oklahoma and Baylor, Kansas State and West Virginia completely transformed the Big 12 title race Saturday. With only one loss, the defending champion Bears could still win the Big 12. But they now have plenty of company. TCU (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) bounced back from its heartbreaking loss to Baylor last week to obliterate Oklahoma State 42-9. The Wildcats (5-1, 3-0) have also hopped firmly into the conference championship conversation after an impressive 31-30 victory in Norman. But West Virginia shouldn't be discounted, either, following its 41-27 win over Baylor. The Mountaineers have Oklahoma and Baylor behind them on the schedule, and they get TCU (Nov. 1) and Kansas State (Nov. 20) in Morgantown. The only certainty at this point is the Big 12 race down the backstretch is going to be a fun one to watch.

[+] EnlargeKevin White
AP Photo/Chris JacksonKevin White, who has eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving with five games left, and West Virginia are still very much in the Big 12 title race.
2. Oklahoma is not elite -- again: The most recent time the Sooners seriously contended for a national title past October was 2008, when Oklahoma won a loaded Big 12 and played Florida in the national championship game. After returning the bulk of a team that downed Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, the Sooners believed they had a squad that could break the dry spell and break into the inaugural College Football Playoff. They played up to that hype through the first month of the season. But yet again, Oklahoma was proven to not be elite. The past three weeks, the Sooners lost at TCU, barely escaped Texas, then fell at home to the Wildcats to get all but eliminated from the playoff picture. Quarterback Trevor Knight has been too up and down, while the defense has failed to dominate. Even the kicking game crumbled Saturday when the Sooners needed it most. Oklahoma still has a good team. But for this program, having a good team isn't good enough, especially when this was supposed to be Oklahoma's year to return to national prominence. Bob Stoops and his coaching staff have soul-searching to do. Once again, the team they fielded won't be a contender past October.

3. Oklahoma State is rebuilding after all: After graduating more starters than any other Power 5 program, the Cowboys faced the prospect of having to rebuild this year. But after they took defending national champ Florida State to the wire in the opener, then won five straight games, expectations were raised. Turns out, they shouldn't have been. Oklahoma State's 3-0 Big 12 start turned out to be fool's gold, as the Cowboys were exposed in a game they were never in against TCU. Quarterback Daxx Garman failed to complete a single pass in the second half, while Oklahoma State's beleaguered offensive line was manhandled in the trenches. Defensively, the inexperienced Cowboys surrendered 676 yards of offense, the most TCU had racked up in a game since 2007. Oklahoma State has some good young players, but facing a back-loaded schedule, the Cowboys figure to endure more growing pains -- and losses -- the second half of the season.

4. The Big 12 has some monster WRs: Good luck finding four receivers in college football better than West Virginia's Kevin White, Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard, Kansas State's Tyler Lockett or Baylor's Antwan Goodley. That Big 12 foursome combined for 547 receiving yards Saturday. They were -- as they have been all year -- basically unstoppable. After breaking the 1,000-receiving-yard barrier with five regular-season games to go, White could begin to warrant Heisman consideration. Shepard, who tied a school record with 15 catches against K-State, should be a Biletnikoff finalist. Goodley and Lockett are All-American-caliber players, too. The Big 12 might be as deep as it's been since 2008, and the depth of its blue-chip wide receivers is a big reason for that.

5. Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes is turning the corner: Swoopes followed his breakout performance against Oklahoma last week by engineering a drive in the final seconds to set up a game-winning field goal and give Texas a dramatic 48-45 win over Iowa State. Swoopes got the ball back with 28 seconds to go on the Texas 28 and the game seemingly headed for overtime. Instead, Swoopes floated a bomb into the arms of Jaxon Shipley for 39 yards down the sideline. On the next play, Swoopes hit John Harris along the same sideline for a 29-yard gain to the Iowa State 4. Nick Rose nailed the field goal on the next play with 3 seconds left. All told, Swoopes threw for 322 yards and ran for another 95, and he gave more reason to believe he could be Texas' long-sought answer at quarterback.
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FORT WORTH, Texas -- Trevone Boykin says he shut his phone off. He says he had no clue. Somehow, he missed the memo.

So the unexpected reward arrived once he hit TCU’s locker room on Saturday night, after a 42-9 beatdown of No. 15 Oklahoma State. That’s when he pulled his phone out and got the pleasant surprise:

West Virginia 41, No. 4 Baylor 27

No. 14 Kansas State 31, No. 11 Oklahoma 30

Coach Gary Patterson knew before his team kicked off. Receiver Josh Doctson overheard the scores during the fourth quarter. Guess they forgot to tell their quarterback.

[+] EnlargeJosh Doctson
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsJosh Doctson's 225-yard receiving performance helped propel TCU back into the playoff discussion.
He was surprised, sure, but couldn’t hide his initial reaction: “I’m pretty excited.”

The chaos that’s overtaken this Big 12 race is just fine by the No. 12-ranked Frogs. They just played No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 5 Baylor and No. 15 Oklahoma State in consecutive weeks, and they’re still standing.

Now that the perceived favorites were one loss poorer after a wild Saturday afternoon, it’s only reasonable to ask: Does TCU have the best team in the Big 12 right now?

“Oh, I don’t know,” Patterson said. “Right now, all I know is we beat Oklahoma State.”

We do know the Frogs made it look easy. Three plays after B.J. Catalon danced in for a 34-yard score, Doctson ran a slant and just kept running, scoring from 77 yards out to go up 14-0. Doctson’s 84-yard score on his next catch made it 21-3.

TCU, up 28-9 at the half, certainly could’ve coasted from there. Daxx Garman missed on all six of his second-half passes (TCU’s Derrick Kindred did pick one off), and OSU picked up two first downs and 51 yards. No threat there. But TCU kept punching, with Boykin leading 14- and 12-play touchdown drives in the third quarter. After the fourth quarter against Baylor, TCU won’t be taking anything for granted.

The highest high of that home upset of the Sooners, then the lowest low of Baylor’s 24-point rally, now the biggest blowout of a Big 12 team since TCU joined the conference. These guys have been through some stuff, and October isn't over.

“You can either look around and blame people or we can just roll up the sleeves and do it,” Patterson said. “That’s what we’ve done. That’s what we’ve always done here at TCU. You can’t last 17 years -- 14 as a head coach -- and not outlast some hard times, some close games, some heartbreaks.”

Going 4-8 last year only makes days like these sweeter for the Frogs. They’d never scored more points against OU, Baylor and OSU than they did this year. Boykin, whose career-best 410 passing yards came in three quarters of play, continues to impress.

And the road ahead isn’t so scary now. TCU goes to West Virginia on Nov. 1. It hosts K-State the following week. Those are the biggest roadblocks left -- not that Patterson will say so.

“If you’re not watching the scores, as close as every team is, my advice to anybody would be: Just try to win the game you’re playing and don’t worry about anything else,” Patterson said.

Doctson, whose 225 receiving yards against OSU came one short of TCU’s single-game record, proudly says this team is playing “as good as we look on TV.” But the news of Baylor and OU losing didn’t sway him much.

“This conference is tough, man,” he said. “We control what we can control. Do what we do.”

What the Horned Frogs are about to do is climb back into the top 10 and the College Football Playoff discussion. Six games into their roller-coaster season, there might not be a team better equipped to survive the madness.

Boykin, still coming to terms with the Big 12 shakeup he'd completely ignored, isn't ready to call his Frogs the new favorite. Not yet. But the tumultuous race ahead isn't lost on his running back.

“Well," Catalon said with a sigh and a smile, "I know it’s just starting."
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FORT WORTH, Texas -- There was chaos all over the Big 12 on Saturday, but none of it was found in Fort Worth, Texas. The No. 12 Horned Frogs cruised to a 42-9 victory over No. 15 Oklahoma State. Here's what happened:

How the game was won: Offensive firepower and a little stout defense in the red zone. TCU took control right away, with a 21-point first quarter led by Josh Doctson's TD receptions of 77 and 84 yards, and then the Frogs forced the Pokes to settle for field goals on all three of their red zone trips in the first half. TCU led 28-9 at the half and was never challenged from there.

Game ball goes to: Doctson. Oklahoma State could not defend this guy. He ran a slant route and went untouched all the way on his 77-yarder that made it 14-0, then out-leapt OSU safety Jordan Sterns on the next ball thrown his way and went all the way for an 84-yard score. Those were his first two receptions of the day. Doctson's 225 receiving yards on seven catches were 2 yards shy of a single-game school record.

What it means: After Oklahoma and Baylor were defeated earlier Saturday, TCU took care of business at home. We now have four one-loss teams behind Kansas State in the Big 12 standings: Baylor, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and TCU. The Frogs, at 2-1, are technically behind, but regardless, it's going to be a wild race from here, isn't it?

Playoff implication: We'll see how things shake out Sunday, but you'd have to think TCU will move back into the top 10 this week and become the league's highest ranked team. The Horned Frogs still have to run the table and win the Big 12 to crack the final four, but there aren't many tough games left on their schedule.

Best play: The 84-yard score was impressive, but we'll highlight this one-play, 77-yard drive to give TCU the double-digit lead it never relinquished. With Doctson's help, TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin finished with a career-best 451 total yards of offense.


What's next: Oklahoma State wasn't particularly good in any phase or facet Saturday, but the Cowboys are still in the hunt, just like everyone else. They'll host West Virginia next Saturday in Stillwater. TCU stays home next weekend to face a Texas Tech team that snapped its eight-game conference losing streak with a 34-21 win over Kansas on Saturday.
In today's Twitter mailbag, we discuss playoff scenarios, the three big games this weekend, and whether there is any hope for Texas Tech or Kansas.

On to the 'bag:

@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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Trotter: Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown is like "The Mountain" of the Big 12. Let's go with him..

Big 12 true freshman power rankings

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17
1:00
PM ET
Going into the eighth weekend of the season, we've updated our Big 12 true freshman power rankings again:

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.

Big 12 viewer's guide: Week 8

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17
10:00
AM ET
In Week 8 of Big 12 action, the Kansas State-Oklahoma, Baylor-West Virginia and Oklahoma State-TCU showdowns carry conference title implications; Texas Tech will try to get back on track against Kansas after losing four in a row; and Iowa State will attempt to avenge last year's controversial loss to Texas.

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.

[+] EnlargeSterling Shepard
AP Images/Sue OgrockiSterling Shepard has 34 catches for 714 yards, but the Sooners need to get production from elsewhere as well.
No. 4 Baylor at West Virginia, noon ET (FS1): If any game can outdo last weekend's TCU-Baylor shootout, it's this one. Baylor leads the country with 90.2 plays per game. West Virginia is second with 87.8 plays per game. Like last year, Baylor QB Bryce Petty has been lethal going over the top of opposing defenses. He leads the FBS with 11 touchdown passes of 20 yards or more, including six against TCU -- the most in a game by any Power 5 quarterback in the last four seasons. While Baylor has relied on the long ball, West Virginia has been efficient with quick passes and broken tackles. The Mountaineers top the Big 12 and rank second among Power 5 offenses with 212.5 yards after the catch per game.

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.

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