Big 12: Texas Tech Red Raiders

Big 12 Tuesday mailbag

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
4:00
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In Tuesday's mailbag we talk Charlie Strong, the futures of TCU, Oklahoma State and West Virginia and the College Football Playoff committee. Thanks for your questions this week, to submit a question for next Tuesday's mailbag, click here.

On to the mailbag:

[+] EnlargeBill Snyder
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesBill Snyder's Wildcats have a difficult remaining schedule, but it's one that would garner national attention should they negotiate it successfully.
Cain in Auckland writes: Hey guys, love the blog! Firstly, do you think Kansas State has found their answer at running back with Charles Jones? And also, with K-State's schedule (Auburn, at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, at TCU, at West Virginia, at Baylor) do you believe KSU as an 11-1 Big 12 champ makes the playoff over a 11-1 SEC West runner up or 11-1 Big 10 Champ?

Brandon Chatmon: I really like what Charles Jones is bringing to the table for the Wildcats. He’s not John Hubert, but he has the chance to be a very productive back and has proven his ability to find the end zone with eight touchdowns in four games. To answer your second question, I think an 11-1 K-State should get in over most one-loss Big Ten champions or most one-loss SEC West runners-up. Obviously a lot of that has to do with who those losses came against, but the Wildcats would have a strong case with road wins at Baylor and Oklahoma. Now, will they get in? That’s another question entirely and we don’t have a history to look back upon to know how the College Football Playoff committee will handle these situations.

Christian in Missoula, Montana, writes: Do you have week 8 circled on your calendars for a little more clarity in the Big 12 title race? The top six teams are on the field against one another. Also, even as an Oklahoma State grad I'm left wondering why so much love for WVU and so little for TCU? I personally would put TCU's wins over WVU losses, but who cares, right? We'll know what TCU has by next Saturday.

Chatmon: I think every week is a big week. We sometimes overlook the week ahead of us in anticipation of later matchups then something unexpected happens. Week 8 will be a big week but we could have some clarity before then. TCU hasn’t really been tested but can take care of business against the Sooners and plenty of love will be headed their way.

Matt in Fort Worth writes: The Playoff Committee had already publicly stated that they will not be looking at margin of victory. Now Barry Alvarez says he has been looking at just that (normalized for schedule strength). And, he made the statement just in time for some teams viewed as having little shot to make the playoffs to whip up on their final weak out-of-conference foe. This doesn't seem right. What do you think?

Chatmon: That’s why they have a playoff committee. Everyone has their own bias, expectations, etc., but I’m confident the committee will do a solid job. And I doubt any team would be running up the score based on what one committee member says. I can’t imagine winning by 44 instead of 24 over a weak opponent is going to be a deciding factor.

Louie in Pace, Florida, writes: What do you think WVU's chances are of going 9-3 this year? They played two of the top four teams in the country and pretty much competed with both of them. The toughest game left on their schedule are at home with the exception of Tech and Texas being on the road. If not 9-3 where do you think they will finish?

Chatmon: I’m not ready to lock them in at 9-3 but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Mountaineers finish with 9 or 10 wins with a bowl game. I’d add Oklahoma State to your list of tough road games making WVU’s tough stretch of Baylor, at OSU, TCU, at Texas the main reason I’m looking at 7 or 8 wins for WVU as of right now.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong
AP Photo/Michael ThomasTexas coach Charlie Strong is still trying to gain a foothold in his first season.
John McKay in Louisville writes: Why in the world is Charlie Strong getting any criticism at all? He has coached four games, not four seasons! He did not turn around Louisville in four games, it took his third season to have a really good one, and beat a perceived powerhouse program. Everyone needs to calm down and give him at least 3-4 complete seasons to see what his effect is on the program. A third of a season does not a career make.

Chatmon: I agree John, but we live in a "win now" world. Strong should get a pass this season as he tries to lay a quality foundation but if we don’t see clear signs of progress early next year, that’s when I would understand the heat starting to turn up under his seat.

Nicholas in Houston writes: OSU has a brutal stretch in the back half of the season. Apart from OU and Baylor, which of our remaining opponents should scare us the most? As of this moment, my vote is WVU.

Chatmon: I’d also keep on eye on the Pokes visit to TCU on Oct. 18. The Horned Frogs will play good defense and will be the best defense Daxx Garman has faced since he took over as OSU starting signal-caller. How will he respond?

Taylor Cook in Houston writes: After watching OK State vs. Texas Tech play with alternate uniforms on Thursday I wonder what happens first with a Bill Snyder-coached team: A CFB Playoff appearance or a game with alternate KSU uniforms? Even some "iconic" teams have gone with slight tweaks to the uniform or helmet, but K-State has been the same for a long time.

Chatmon: That’s easy Taylor, a College Football Playoff berth.

Mike in Goldsby, Oklahoma, writes: You said, "If the polls affect the College Football Playoff committee then we have bigger problems". Do you think there's any chance of the opposite happening? The CFP committee rankings affecting the polls?

Chatmon: I would hope so. I expect the College Football Playoff committee to invest more time in their rankings than the average voter.

Planning for success: Texas Tech

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
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In its 20-14 loss to Auburn two weeks ago, Kansas State missed three field goals, squandered a red zone opportunity with an interception and fumbled deep in its own territory.

But even in that mistake-filled game, the Wildcats didn’t commit a single penalty, a trademark of Bill Snyder-coached teams.

This weekend, Texas Tech will travel to Manhattan as the most-penalized team in the country so far this season. The Red Raiders have averaged 105.5 penalty yards a game, which is a major reason why they’re off to a sluggish 2-2 start in Kliff Kingsbury's second season.

[+] EnlargeKliff Kingsbury
Michael C. Johnson/USA TODAY SportsKliff Kingsbury's Red Raiders will be at a major disadvantage if they don't clean up their penalty issues against the disciplined Wildcats.
K-State, meanwhile, once again is the least penalized team in the Big 12. So for Tech to have any chance of knocking off the Wildcats and putting its season back on track, it has to shed the penalty bug before arriving in Manhattan.

“We'll just keep addressing them and keep trying to get better,” Kingsbury said Monday. “A lot of it is technique, fundamentals. I think they're playing hard but not always smart. So we've got to keep coaching and that's on us as a staff to get that straightened out.”

Kingsbury has been saying the same for weeks, to no avail.

In a 45-35 loss at Oklahoma State last Thursday, the Red Raiders were flagged 16 times for 158 yards. Twice, that directly took points off the board. Jakeem Grant had a kickoff return for a touchdown nullified by a holding call. The Red Raiders also lost an opportunity for a field goal try after a delay of game penalty bumped them from field goal range. Those 10 points wound up being the margin in the loss.

“We've got to be tougher coaching-wise, then when they're out there, they've got to execute it or we've got to find guys that can,” Kingsbury said. “But to do that against anybody, you're not going to win the game, to have 16 penalties.

“That's something we'll have to improve on dramatically this week against a team that's known for not making mistakes.”

K-State traditionally has feasted on opponents that beat themselves. That included the Red Raiders in Lubbock last season.

Tech had 11 more first downs than the Wildcats. The Red Raiders produced 92 more yards of offense. And they converted more than 50 percent of their third-down attempts.

But Tech was never really in the game and got demolished 49-26, thanks to 10 penalties and three turnovers.

“Penalties are going to happen in the game of football, but the way we've been having them around here in bunches and 15yarders is unacceptable,” said receiver Bradley Marquez. “We've put emphasis on this from the offseason. We've tried everything. We've done a lot of different things for it.”

The Red Raiders would get a major boost if quarterback Davis Webb is able to play this weekend after suffering an injury to his non-throwing shoulder against Oklahoma State. Webb, who is coming off his best game of the season, threw for 374 yards and four touchdowns. Yet even with Webb's sparkling performance, penalties doomed the Red Raiders in Stillwater. And even if Webb is able to play, penalties will doom Tech in Manhattan, too, if not corrected.

“Kansas State is a team that's not going to hurt themselves and they've done that over the years,” Marquez said. “They've had great discipline. They execute, and they have great technique, and they don't have those penalties.

“So we'll definitely have to go out there and play as mistake-free as possible to give ourselves a chance. I don't know what can be done about it. It just comes down to the individual and being able to go out there and not commit these mistakes. We're still trying to figure it out, but it definitely needs to change.”

Big 12 morning links

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
8:00
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In case you went to bed early: Tom Brady got benched, the Raiders need a coach and Michigan needs some better PR.
  • We've reached the end of Baker Mayfield's fight to become eligible for Oklahoma this season, and as you can imagine, the Mayfield family is not too thrilled. In an interview with The Oklahoman, Mayfield's father called Kliff Kingsbury a "scoundrel" who is "hellbent on punishing Baker." Strong words, eh? James Mayfield did more finger-pointing in this interview with the Tulsa World, too. To his credit, Kingsbury has publicly taken the high road throughout this ordeal. The Mayfields are entitled to their disappointment, but it's the NCAA that rejected their waiver and it's the NCAA that empowers coaches to dictate transfer stipulations.
  • Is TCU ready to win the big one? That's the argument that Mac Engel of the Fort Worth-Star Telegram makes in this column, which offers reasons why the Horned Frogs have a chance to at least go 1-1 in their back-to-back games with Oklahoma and Baylor. TCU has never led against OU the past two years but has lost by a combined 10 points. Gary Patterson knew it'd take three to five years to build up TCU's roster into Big 12-caliber. This is year three, and he's got the big fellas up front now to compete.
  • What's Texas Tech going to do at quarterback this week? Davis Webb remains a game-time decision with his left shoulder injury, and don't expect Kingsbury to tip his hand until the end of the week or game day against Kansas State. Bill Snyder says he'll prepare for the possibility of facing Webb and freshman Patrick Mahomes. If the rookie has to make his first start, Tech will be able to add more QB run wrinkles to its offense. Just getting Mahomes some confidence and a lot of reps this week should be beneficial no matter who starts.
  • What should Dana Holgorsen and West Virginia expect from a Kansas team with a new coach this weekend? Good question. Hogorsen says he'll prepare assuming that KU is trying to maintain status quo, which is probably wise. The coordinators are still intact, and trying to overhaul much this week would probably be fruitless after what these coaches and players have already been through. Still, for what it's worth, I think you'll see a different energy from KU on Saturday and a team with renewed motivation.
  • Paul Rhoads' biggest concern about his Iowa State team through four games: The Cyclones haven't been able to run the ball as they'd expected. ISU ranks 110th nationally in rushing at 102.2 yards per game and its backs combined for 28 yards against Baylor. The blame is being placed on the blocking, but that's on everyone. Sam B. Richardson has been effective as a run threat, but Iowa State can't hang with most teams in this league if it can't pound the rock.

Big 12 recruiting scoreboard

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
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Below is our weekly update on the Big 12 recruiting trail:

BAYLOR

Total commits: 12
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Bears didn't land a recruit this past week, but plenty of Lone Star State prospects will be paying attention to Baylor’s trip to Austin. The Bears have been winning recruiting battles for the state top’s talent, and they have a chance to make another statement on the field.

IOWA STATE

Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones landed a commitment for the first time in more than a month in Kissimmee, Florida, cornerback Stephon Brown, who had offers from NC State, Hawaii, Marshall, South Florida and Southern Miss.

KANSAS

Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The first order of business for interim coach Clint Bowen was calling all of Kansas’ commitments Sunday and telling them they are still wanted in Lawrence. Despite his troubles on the field, Charlie Weis had put together another decent recruiting class that Bowen needs to hold together.

KANSAS STATE

Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats have been quiet on the trail lately, after landing seven commitments from June to August. More will be on the way once Bill Snyder figures out which junior-college players he wants to target in this class.

OKLAHOMA

Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Sooners landed their third commitment in the month of September in McAlester, Oklahoma, tight end Dalton Wood, who jones Midwest City safety Will Sunderland and Jenks defensive tackle Marquise Overton as Oklahoma's three in-state commitments.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 4
The latest: The Pokes pulled off one of the better recruiting steals of the year last week in convincing ESPN 300 safety Kevin Henry to flip from LSU to OSU. Henry had been committed to the Tigers, where he projected as a safety/linebacker since January but started reconsidering his other options in July. Henry joins WR Jalen McCleskey as the second Louisiana recruit in OSU's class.

TCU

Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: No new pledges for the Horned Frogs this week, but they get a chance to impress visitors this Saturday when Oklahoma comes to Fort Worth. One TCU commit worth keeping an eye on is WR J.F. Thomas, the Frogs' highest-rated pledge. He received an offer from Texas recently, and two of his Dallas South Oak Cliff teammates -- Jamile Johnson and Jordan Stevenson -- are already committed to UT.

TEXAS

Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 8
The latest: Texas picked up a pledge from Austin Westlake LB Breckyn Hager, a three-star recruit who was committed to Baylor. The previous staff passed on Baylor's Bryce Hager in 2010, even though he's the son of Texas all-time leading tackler Britt Hager. Stevenson, who committed nearly a year ago, took an official visit to Wisconsin this weekend but remains solid with Texas.

TEXAS TECH

Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Red Raiders' staff made an intriguing find in East Texas last week. Longview's Broderick Washington committed soon after he received his Texas Tech offer. He's playing offensive tackle right now for Longview, but Tech loves his toughness and mean style of play and plans to develop him as a nose guard at the next level.

WEST VIRGINIA

Total commits: 19
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: West Virginia locked up a huge commitment last Monday when ESPN 300 CB Tyrek Cole flipped from Florida State. You don't see that too often. WVU defensive line coach Damon Cogdell coached Cole at Miramar High School in Florida last year. The Mountaineers also received a commitment from three-star ILB David Long on Sunday. This 2015 class is in terrific shape so far.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 5

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
10:00
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Taking stock of Week 5 in the Big 12:

Team of the week: Baylor. Any time you go to Iowa State and come up with a win, it’s a big deal -- even if three teams have already done it now this season. Ames traditionally has not been an easy place to play, and Baylor made it look easy with a four-touchdown halftime lead on the way to a 49-28 win. The Bears dominated with 32 first downs and 601 yards of offense.

Disappointment of the week: Kansas. The Jayhawks played Texas tough its last trip to Lawrence, and had every opportunity to give the offensively challenged Longhorns another tough fight. Instead, Montell Cozart threw four interceptions, and Kansas squandered away every scoring opportunity in a 23-0 defeat. The lackluster performance was the final straw in the Charlie Weis era.

Big (offensive) man on campus: Corey Coleman. Baylor insiders had been touting the sophomore as the next great Baylor wide receiver during the offseason. But when Coleman suffered a preseason hamstring injury, true freshman K.D. Cannon stole that hype. Coleman got it back in Ames with a monster debut to the season. He had 12 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown, leading the Baylor scoring barrage.

Big (defensive) man on campus: James McFarland. Sure, SMU might be inept offensively. Really inept, in fact. Still, the TCU defensive end had a huge afternoon in the Horned Frogs’ 56-0 stomping of the Mustangs. McFarland finished with three of TCU’s nine sacks. It was a career-high for McFarland, and the most sacks for the Horned Frogs in a game since 2002. McFarland also forced two fumbles, and produced a pass-breakup on a fourth down at the TCU 1-yard line to preserve the shutout.

Special-teams player of the week: Tyler Lockett. Another game, another big day for K-State’s do-it-all playmaker. In a 58-28 win against UTEP, Lockett finished with 143 yards on punt returns, the second-most in school history and 29 short of tying the school record of 172 set by David Allen in 1998. Lockett also caught four passes for 84 yards. He now leads the country in punt return yards per game.

Play of the week: It’s not easy to fumble and throw an interception on the same play. But that is what happened to backup Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes in relief of injured starter Davis Webb. Early in the fourth quarter, Mahomes had the ball stripped away. He then scooped it up and tossed it to his right wildly as he was falling down. The ball deflected off running back Quinton White and into the arms of Seth Jacobs for an interception. The Cowboys scored four plays later to go up 45-28 and put the game away.

Stat of the week: Texas Tech was flagged 16 times for 158 yards in the 45-35 loss to Oklahoma State. As a result, the Red Raiders now lead the nation with 105.5 penalty yards per game.

Quote of the week: "We have not made the on-the-field progress we believe we should." -- Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger, on why he fired coach Charlie Weis.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
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What we learned in the Big 12: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
1:27
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Here’s what we learned about the Big 12 in Week 5:

[+] EnlargeAntwan Goodley
David Purdy/Getty ImagesAntwan Goodley made a triumphant return for Baylor after missing the previous two games due to injury.
1. Petty's toys are back in business: No video-game-crazy numbers for Baylor's offense in a 49-28 victory at Iowa State, just the usual display that makes it tough for Big 12 defensive coordinators to sleep at night. Bryce Petty sure had some catching up to do with his favorite injured wideouts, and Corey Coleman (12 catches, 154 yards, 1 TD) and Antwan Goodley (6 catches, 114 yards) both made it count. The Bears weren't up to their optimal speed -- there were five three-and-outs, a Petty interception and a failed fourth-down conversion -- but Shock Linwood (three TDs) makes them so difficult to stop when they hit the red zone, and the starters got to sit out the final quarter. Business as usual for Baylor.

2. Pokes can beat you deep: Oklahoma State won the Big 12's first primetime fight because it wasn't afraid to take big shots. Daxx Garman connected on eight passes of 20-plus yards, and even better, they were hauled in by six different receivers over the course of the 45-35 victory on Thursday. It's time to stop underestimating Marcell Ateman and James Washington after the underclassmen combined for 217 yards and two TDs, and OSU put something plenty scary on tape when Tyreek Hill beat his defender by a good 7 yards for a 50-yard scoring bomb. It wasn't easy, and it sure wasn't pretty -- 287 combined penalty yards on 26 flags -- but OSU found out Garman can handle the bright lights just fine.

3. K-State defense rallies in big way: Kansas State was missing two starters on defense but had no trouble taking out its Auburn-inspired anger on UTEP, a team that proved against Texas Tech it's no pushover. In the 58-28 win, KSU held the nation's No. 2 rusher, Aaron Jones, to nine yards in the first half and 47 on the day. The Miners couldn't get anything going for the three quarters KSU's starters played -- it was 52-7 when Bill Snyder sent in the backups -- and UTEP ended the first half down 31 points with just 23 total yards and one first down. KSU got right back on track and still looks like a legit contender for the Big 12 crown.

4. TCU's Air Raid keeps making it look ... too easy? The Horned Frogs are 3-0 with wins over Samford, Minnesota and now SMU, a team that’s been outscored 202-12 through four games. If there's an FBS team playing worse football than the Mustangs, I would not like to see it. So it’s tough to confidently make conclusions about TCU after this 56-0 victory. But Trevone Boykin (six total TDs) still looks incalculably more polished than a year ago. He has a diverse array of receivers and backs at his disposal, and the Frogs' 614 total yards were their most since 2011. To TCU's credit, Minnesota was solid in a 30-14 win against the dumpster fire in Ann Arbor. The Horned Frogs' offense couldn't have asked for a better start to 2014. It's time to find out what they're made of against the Sooners.

5. Texas still has issues: If Texas plays against Baylor next Saturday the way it did in Lawrence, Kansas, it probably doesn't stand much of a chance. Charlie Strong won't get too mad about a 23-0 victory that snaps a two-game slide, but he won't spend much time celebrating it, either. Texas never had to sweat too much, thanks to Montell Cozart's four interceptions, but its patchwork offensive line remains a work in progress (Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray combined for 73 rushing yards), and scoring points is still a struggle. Still, Texas did at least do what it needed to and gave Strong his first Big 12 win. KU showed some nice things in the run game and has a better defense than you think, but its offensive execution in many trips into Texas territory was fruitless.
In today's Twitter mailbag, we discuss Thursday night's game between Oklahoma State and Texas Tech and preview the games this weekend.

On to the 'bag:

@jake_trotter: Definitely. Look at last night alone. Forget the three turnovers, the Red Raiders left 10 points off the board directly because of penalties. Jakeem Grant's kickoff return touchdown. And the delay of game that pushed Tech out of field-goal range. Add those 10 points, and the game would have been tied. Tech is explosive enough offensively for this to be a bowl team. But when you shoot all the toes off your feet, it's hard to beat anyone. And Tech is going to have a hard time beating anyone as long as they lead the nation in penalties and lose the turnover battle.

@jake_trotter: I hear Garman Airlines will be taking plenty of flights this fall.

@jake_trotter: I would be deflated too if my team led the country in penalties. That said, everyone needs to show a little patience with Kingsbury, just like they need to show a little with Charlie Strong. Kingsbury has recruited well. He needs time for more of those prospects to make an impact. It hasn't been pretty so far this season, but it's way to early to judge Kingsbury.

@jake_trotter: Iowa State still has a chance to be a good, solid team in my opinion. But we're also talking about a squad that got run out of its own stadium by North Dakota State in the opener. So no, a win in Ames won't exactly quiet the doubters. But if the Bears win the following three games at Texas, TCU and at West Virginia, you won't hear a peep from the Baylor doubters.

@jake_trotter: If anyone deserves a break, it's West Virginia. In facing Alabama, Maryland and Oklahoma, the Mountaineers have played the toughest schedule in the country so far. So the open week comes at the perfect time. West Virginia can reset, heal and gear up for the final two-thirds of the season. If the Mountaineers play like they did the first third, they will win a bunch of games the rest of this season.

@jake_trotter: The player who has really impressed me so far this is Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown. He has been the most impressive defensive linemen in my opinion, despite the Longhorns' troubles elsewhere. Other guys who have caught my eye so far: Kansas State's Ryan Mueller and Travis Britz, Baylor's Shawn Oakman, Oklahoma State's Emmanuel Ogbah, Iowa State's Cory Morrissey, Oklahoma's Jordan Phillips and Charles Tapper, Kansas' Keon Stowers and TCU's Davion Pierson.

@jake_trotter: Well, yeah. If the Horned Frogs defeat Oklahoma, they have to be considered a legitimate Big 12 contender. That is going to be a huge game for the Frogs. Perhaps, in fact, the biggest of the TCU Big 12 era.

@jake_trotter: Anything is possible, but I have a hard time seeing K-State winning in Norman and Waco. That said, before the season, one of my bold predictions was that K-State would win one of those road games. I see no reason to back off that prediction just yet, either.

@jake_trotter: I asked my wife about this and she vetoed it. However, she said if Iowa State knocks off Baylor and Oklahoma in Ames, then I can do it. So we're on, provided you find me a barber familiar with the Cy logo..

Big 12's top recruiting visits 

September, 26, 2014
Sep 26
12:55
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With four weekend games on tap this weekend, the Big 12 will have an opportunity to add some quality players. It’s already been an interesting week, as ESPN 300 defensive back Kevin Henry (Oklahoma State), athlete Tony Nicholson (Baylor), lineman Broderick Washington (Texas Tech) and linebacker Breckyn Hager (Texas, flipped from Baylor) already have declared their college futures.

Of the four games, only one involves a Big 12 team on the road. TCU travels toward the eastern Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to face rival SMU. Here are two home games pitting Big 12 foes to keep an eye on, as it could be a big weekend for recruiting.

Texas at Kansas
Thursday night, Oklahoma State defeated Texas Tech 45-35 in the Big 12 opener for both teams.

Here were my thoughts on the game:

The long ball figures to be Oklahoma State’s bread-and-butter going forward with Garman: This is not the sharpest offense Oklahoma State has featured under Mike Gundy. But with Daxx Garman at quarterback and some big-play receivers at his disposal, this offense has the ability to throw the ball downfield as well as any offense Gundy has had. Garman completed six passes of 30 yards or more against Tech, and had chances to connect on several others. Marcell Ateman, true freshman James Washington, Tyreek Hill and tight ends Blake Jarwin and Jeremy Seaton were all part of the barrage. Brandon Sheperd, Jhajuan Seales and David Glidden all have the ability to go deep, too. At varying times since 2011, the Cowboys have been seeking a consistent offensive identity. They now appear to have one. It’s a little bit feast or famine, underscored by a drive chart Thursday that included six three-and-outs. But with all six of their touchdown drives against Tech coming in five plays or fewer, the Cowboys showed they are also capable of putting up points at any moment.

Tech won’t break out of its slump until it eradicates the penalties: The Red Raiders played much better in Stillwater than they did in the 49-28 home thumping Arkansas gave them two weeks ago. Quarterback Davis Webb came out on fire, and the Red Raiders basically controlled the game through the entire first half. Yet, Tech still trailed at halftime 21-14. The reason? Penalties and turnovers. Tech was penalized 16 times for 158 yards, and currently leads the nation with almost 106 penalty yards per game. Jakeem Grant had a kickoff return for a touchdown negated by a holding call. The Red Raiders also lost an opportunity at a field-goal try because of a delay of game. That’s 10 points Tech left on the field in a game it lost by, that’s right, 10 points. "I have to figure out something to tone that down, because we are not going to win any more games the rest of the year if we keep doing stuff like that," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. Kingsbury is right. No matter what else Tech does, it is going to be a long season until the Red Raiders correct their penalty problem, and fast.

The Cowboys have to get Hill more involved: Hill is an immense talent. But since the opener against Florida State, the Cowboys have struggled to find ways to get the speedy back involved. Before the season, Gundy said he wanted to get Hill 20-25 touches per game. But in each of Oklahoma State’s past three games, Hill has gotten exactly nine offensive touches. The Cowboys actually did a better job of involving Hill in the second half Thursday. In the third quarter, they lined him up in the slot, and he beat the defense down the middle for a 50-yard touchdown. Later in the quarter, Hill popped through on a well-designed, 17-yard draw on third-and-18, which led to a first-down conversion on fourth-and-1. That draw was the key play on a drive that ended with a field goal that put the Cowboys up by two scores for good. Hill is too explosive, though, to only be getting nine offensive touches per game. But the second half could be a sign offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich is finally getting a feel for how to utilize Hill more often.

What Oklahoma State can take from this game: Before the season, this was the key game on the Cowboys’ schedule. With it now out of the way, Oklahoma State has a great chance to move to 5-1 before heading to Fort Worth for an Oct. 18 clash at TCU. The Cowboys still have plenty to correct before then. The offensive line yet again didn’t impose its will in the running game, despite facing a defensive front that gave up 438 yards on the ground to Arkansas. The Oklahoma State defense also had issues early on covering up Tech’s nickel-and-dime passing attack, and was dreadful at times with its tackling. That said, there is a lot to like about this team in what was supposedly going to be a rebuilding year. The offense with Garman has big-play ability. And the defense is loaded with young players who seem to be getting better with every appearance. Oklahoma State doesn’t have the look yet of a Big 12 contender. But the Cowboys could still do a lot of damage in the league.

What Texas Tech can take from this game: This was actually the best game Tech has played so far this season. Webb was on point early, and Grant, Reginald Davis and Bradley Marquez made big plays in the passing game. The run defense also made huge improvement in Mike Smith’s first game as coordinator, limiting the Cowboys to just 3.8 yards per carry. But while plugging the run, the Red Raiders were left vulnerable downfield, and the Tech defensive backs repeatedly failed to make plays in one-on-one situations. Even then, had it not been for the penalties and three turnovers, this was a game Tech could have won. In many ways, this is a performance the Red Raiders can build on. But it won’t amount to much unless they can also fix their penalty problem.

Big 12 morning links

September, 26, 2014
Sep 26
8:00
AM ET
Re2pect.
  • In case you went to bed early, Oklahoma State finished off Texas Tech 45-35 in Stillwater in the Big 12 opener for both teams. It was quite the uniform game, with the Red Raiders debuting their "White Ombré" ensemble; the Cowboys countered with their new orange chrome helmets. But it was Daxx Garman's big arm that was the difference for the Cowboys, and the long ball figures to be at the heart of Oklahoma State's offensive attack the rest of the year, wrote the The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel. That was pretty evident Thursday. Texas Tech kept daring the Cowboys to throw deep. And Garman obliged with 370 yards on just 17 completions. The Cowboys also have the wideouts to complement Garman's skill set. James Washington, Marcell Ateman, Brandon Sheperd and Jhajuan Seales can all go up and get the ball downfield, which the Red Raiders found out the hard way. As a result, Garman is currently tied for the national lead in completions of at least 30 yards, even though he didn't play in the Cowboys' first game.
  • It was a disappointing result for the Red Raiders, though they did perform better than they did two weeks ago against Arkansas. Tech moved the ball well and the defensive front held up, but penalties and turnovers doomed the Red Raiders yet again, according to Nicholas Talbot of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Tech also lost QB Davis Webb to an injury to his non-throwing shoulder in the second half, forcing true freshman Patrick Mahomes into the game. Coach Kliff Kingsbury had no update on Webb after the game, though Webb shouldn't be out long. He tried to come back after briefly going into the locker room, but was overruled by the Tech training staff. If Tech has any chance of bouncing back from a disappointing start to this season, it needs Webb. He was by far the best thing the Red Raiders had going in Stillwater.
  • It's been another newsy last couple of days for Texas. In case you missed it, Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman had some excellent reporting in revealing that drug-testing has doubled for the football team since Charlie Strong has taken over as head coach. Former Texas coach Mack Brown reacted to Strong's dismissals on the Paul Finebaum Show. You can read the transcript here. In my opinion, Strong is doing the right thing. It might cause some rocky waves this year. But ultimately, the program will be stronger down the road for it. Also, Notre Dame backed out of two future games it had scheduled against Texas, according to the Dallas Morning News' Chuck Carlton.
  • Speaking of Notre Dame, former Irish QB Brady Quinn told the Topeka Capital-Journal he's a believer in Kansas coach Charlie Weis. Quinn was Weis' QB when Weis was the coach at Notre Dame a few years ago. Weis can produce a lot more believers if he can beat Texas on Saturday.
  • Mountaineers quarterback Clint Trickett is feeling at home in West Virginia, wrote the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Bob Cohn. With a healthy shoulder and a clear mind, Trickett ranks second nationally with 1,600 yards passing. If the season ended today, Trickett would get my vote for Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. The Mountaineers are 2-2, but both of their losses have come against teams that could be in the playoff. Behind Trickett, West Virginia has a chance to win a lot of games this season.
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Oklahoma State earned its sixth straight win over Texas Tech with a 45-35 victory Thursday night. Here's how it happened:

How the game was won: The Cowboys didn’t dominate the Red Raiders on the ground, but OSU had enough success to set up its play-action package and overwhelm Tech with big plays in the passing game, as three different Cowboys receivers caught touchdown passes of 39 yards or more. OSU finished with 42 rushes for 158 yards.

Game ball goes to: Quarterback Daxx Garman accounted for five touchdowns (four passing, one rushing) to lead the Cowboys to the win. The junior, starting his second career game, finished 17-of-31 for 370 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.

What it means: The win gives OSU plenty of momentum after a pair of subpar wins over Missouri State and UTSA in its past two games. If the Cowboys have designs on putting themselves in the Big 12 title conversation, they had to beat Tech at home. ... The Red Raiders could be looking at a tough stretch, particularly if quarterback Davis Webb, who left the game in the fourth quarter, is out for an extended period of time.

Best play:

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It wasn't a game-changing play, but it's tough to overshadow the one-handed catch by Texas Tech receiver Dylan Cantrell in the first quarter. This play is bound to be coming to a "SportsCenter" segment near you.

What's next: Oklahoma State hosts Iowa State then travels to Kansas in its next two games. If the Cowboys play their cards right they could end up heading to TCU on Oct. 18 with a five-game winning streak ... Texas Tech faces a much tougher road with a trip to Kansas State followed by a visit from West Virginia. Freshman quarterback Patrick Mahomes came in for Webb in the fourth quarter and led Tech to a late touchdown, providing a glimmer of hope for the next two weeks if Webb cannot return.

Big 12 players in the Week 5 spotlight

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
2:30
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Our weekly effort to identify one player poised for a breakout on each Big 12 team told you Samaje Perine was going to have a big night against West Virginia. Who's going to be the star of Week 5? Here are eight players we'll be watching:

Oklahoma State QB Daxx Garman: The junior is playing on a national stage tonight, and I can't wait to see how he handles the pressure. Texas Tech DC Mike Smith has a rep for loving to blitz, and he's going to find ways to get after a quarterback making his second career start. The OSU run game can set him up to succeed against Texas Tech.

Texas Tech CB Nigel Bethel II: His three-game suspension is over. Now it's time to find out if the freshman from Miami was worth the hype and the second chance. The Red Raiders have found some promising young DBs in Bethel's absence, but let's see what he can do with a few snaps in Stillwater.

Kansas State WR Curry Sexton: Really like how Sexton showed up against Auburn, with 11 receptions for 121 yards. He's just what K-State needs in terms of a go-to No. 2 when Tyler Lockett draws double coverage and has developed a nice rapport with Jake Waters. Watch him score his first touchdown since 2012 this week.

TCU RB B.J. Catalon: Well, SMU does have one of the worst run defenses in FBS. These TCU running backs haven't shown all they can do yet -- they recorded just 13 carries against Minnesota -- but it's an intriguing stable led by Catalon, who has just 58 rushing yards through two games. He should more than double that number this week.

Texas DE Cedric Reed: The preseason All-Big 12 lineman is off to a quiet start statistically (16 tackles, one TFL, 0.5 sacks) but did a solid job of getting pressure against UCLA. With defensive tackle Desmond Jackson out for the season, Texas needs Reed to get back to getting in the backfield. He'll get some takedowns this weekend.

Kansas RB Corey Avery: The freshman running back from Dallas is going to be motivated to shine against Texas, a program that recruited him on and off throughout 2013 and did bring him in for a January official visit. KU will try to pound the middle of Texas' defense, but Avery has the burst to pick up some big gains outside or inside.

Baylor DE Javonte Magee: The breakthrough is coming soon for Magee, the nasty 6-foot-5, 275-pound lineman who rejoined the program this offseason and racked up three TFLs and a sack in nonconference play. With all the attention Shawn Oakman will get from Big 12 foes, Magee has the potential to catch people by surprise.

Iowa State RB Aaron Wimberly: The Cyclones don't stand a chance if they can't keep Baylor's offense off the field as much as possible. They don't want a shootout. Mark Mangino needs his running backs to step up and pick up the tough conversions if they hope to achieve the kind of ball-control offense required to make Baylor uncomfortable. Wimberly hasn't surpassed 40 rushing yards in a game this season, but he needs a big night.
So far, fourth-ranked Oklahoma and seventh-ranked Baylor have looked like the class of the Big 12. But is there a third team that could emerge as a threat? Earlier this week, we examined who that third team might be.

SportsNation

After the first month of the season, who has the best chance to challenge Oklahoma and Baylor for the Big 12 title?

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    39%
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    18%
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    11%
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    26%
  •  
    6%

Discuss (Total votes: 9,167)

Brandon went with West Virginia, even though the Mountaineers already have a conference loss. Quarterback Clint Trickett and wideout Kevin White have been phenomenal, and West Virginia could be geared for a run with the scheduling easing up a bit. If the Mountaineers can knock off Baylor at home on Oct. 18, then they could definitely emerge as a contender, despite the loss to Oklahoma.

While Max and I like what we’ve seen from West Virginia, we both went with Kansas State. The Wildcats won the Big 12 title just two years ago and appear to have a team with similar strengths. The front seven appears to be formidable, after snapping Auburn’s 13-game streak of at least 200 rushing yards last week. Bill Snyder remains one of the best coaches in the country. And Tyler Lockett is as big of a playmaker as anyone player in the league. The Wildcats to do have to travel to Norman and Waco. But K-State won its last trip to Oklahoma, and will have an extra week to prepare for the Sooners. And the Wildcats played Baylor tough last year, even without Lockett.

Of course, West Virginia and Kansas State aren’t the only possible teams that could emerge as Big 12 contenders.

TCU is 2-0, and appears to have another top-flight defense. The Horned Frogs have a huge game with Oklahoma in two weeks, which could dictate whether they can finally challenge for the conference title in their third year in the Big 12.

Oklahoma State, meanwhile, looks better than its preseason prognostication. The Cowboys played No. 1 Florida State tough in the opener and have cruised in their last two games. Coordinator Glenn Spencer’s defense has been stout so far despite inexperience at several positions. The key will be whether backup quarterback Daxx Garman can get the Oklahoma State offensive attack humming to the level of previous seasons.

We’ve given you our thoughts. Now we put the question to you in our weekly Big 12 poll. Who is the biggest threat to Oklahoma and Baylor in the Big 12 race?

Is it West Virginia or Kansas State? TCU or Oklahoma State?

Or maybe even somebody else.

Let us know what you think by voting in our poll.
History is not on the side of Texas Tech.

The Red Raiders haven’t beaten Oklahoma State since 2008. And Tech hasn’t won in Stillwater, Oklahoma, since 2001.

Tech hopes to change that trend Thursday night when the Red Raiders visit Boone Pickens Stadium in the first conference game for both teams.

ESPN.com Big 12 reporters Max Olson and Brandon Chatmon break down the matchup between OSU and Texas Tech, in a game that both teams could look back upon with joy or discontent when bowl invitations are handed out in December.

How Oklahoma State can control the game: If OSU can secure some semblance of a running game. The Cowboys aren’t a good running football team and have struggled to run the ball during their first three games. OSU is averaging 42 rushes per game, revealing a clear commitment to the run, yet hasn't matched that commitment with production (4.2 yards per carry). Facing a Red Raiders defense that allowed 438 rushing yards and 6.4 yards per carry in a 49-28 loss to Arkansas, OSU has a chance to find a rhythm on the ground. If it does, the Red Raiders could have a hard time securing the upset. -- Chatmon

How Texas Tech can pull off the upset: Texas Tech's defense got exposed by Arkansas and lost one of its leaders. Its leaders have to rally around defensive coordinator Mike Smith in a big way and find ways to get off the field. Davis Webb needs to be sharp, make better decisions and get more help from his running backs. Most of all, Texas Tech just needs to keep up, even if that requires 40-plus points to win. This should shape up to be a shootout. -- Olson

Oklahoma State’s X factor: Tyreek Hill is the game-changer on OSU’s roster but Brandon Sheperd has been a big-play receiver early this season. He is averaging 25.4 yards per catch and has 98 yards after the catch this season. He has the ability to make a game-changing play against the Red Raiders, particularly if the Cowboys' offense is spreading the ball around like it has in OSU’s first three contests. -- Chatmon

Texas Tech's X factor: The Red Raiders' run defense. Smith will make adjustments, but it's on Tech's players to make the plays. After giving up 438 rushing yards and seven TDs on the ground against Arkansas, Tech can expect to see a whole lot of Desmond Roland on Thursday night. The pressure is on starting linebackers Sam Eguavoen, V.J. Fehoko, Pete Robertson and Kenny Williams to read and react correctly and minimize the damage. -- Olson

What a win would mean for Oklahoma State: A win would help get things back on track in Stillwater. OSU has been a subpar team after a stellar performance in its season-opening loss to Florida State. A home win over the Red Raiders would jump-start Big 12 play and create great momentum with Iowa State and Kansas looming as the Cowboys' next two games. The final four games of the season (at Kansas, Texas, at Baylor, at Oklahoma) could be unkind to OSU, so the importance of getting as many wins as possible right now and defending its home field cannot be understated. -- Chatmon

What a win would mean for Texas Tech: A "W" by any margin would alleviate a lot of concerns in Lubbock. That Arkansas game has a lot of folks questioning whether Texas Tech can string together a six-win season, even prompting some chatter from local media that Kliff Kingsbury's recent contract extension was premature. Ouch. Kingsbury and his staff have had two weeks to prepare a loud response to those sky-is-falling fears and beating OSU would mean real momentum heading into another tricky road test at No. 25 Kansas State. -- Olson

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