Big 12: Baylor Bears
- 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?
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
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.
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.
On to the 'bag:
@Jake_Trotter say oklahoma beats baylor(if) and both of them + tcu win the rest of their games (if) what happens? Who do you take?— Isaac (@haas_isaac) October 16, 2014
@Jake_Trotter: So, you're saying all three finish 11-1? The edge in a three-way tie always goes to the team that lost first, and in this case, that would be the Sooners.
@Jake_Trotter If the Big 12 gets left out of the playoff, could that spark the league officials to expand to 12 teams?— Kyle Jacobson (@_KyleJacobson) October 16, 2014
Trotter: It would probably take the Big 12 getting left out three-four years in a row for the league to reconsider expansion. One year won't change anything.
@Jake_Trotter If OU and TCU both win out, do you think style points could somehow vault the Sooners ahead TCU in the committees eyes?— Shane Oltean (@_shane_o_) October 16, 2014
Trotter: I have no idea how the committee would weigh those teams. But if it were me on the selection committee, head-to-head would count for something. And TCU holds the head-to-head advantage. Meaning those Oklahoma style points would have to be considerable.
@Jake_Trotter what is a realistic expectation for OSU's closing schedule? 1-5 or 5-1 or anything in between honestly wouldn't surprise me— Jimmy Shaw (@MCC_Jimmy) October 16, 2014
Trotter: The Cowboys are a hard team to figure out. They haven't looked good these past few games, but is that a case of them not being that good, or is it a case of them playing down to the competition? After all, they did play up to Florida State. Oklahoma State is probably somewhere in between. Based on what I've seen from them, and based on the remaining schedule, which is brutal, 7-5 feels about right. But we will learn a lot more about these Cowboys this weekend. They might be better than that. And they might be worse.
@Jake_Trotter Do my Cowboys have a chance in Cowtown? Will the offense finally look better even tho they're playing best D since FSU?— Nigel Aaron D'Souza (@SQUALLA_WISDOM) October 16, 2014
Trotter: They have a chance, sure. But I don't like this Oklahoma State line against that TCU front, which has been solid, save for the fourth-quarter collapse at Baylor. I think the Cowboys will have a hard time running the ball. I think they will have a hard time protecting Daxx Garman. And when you can't run the ball, and can't protect your quarterback, you usually don't win.
@Jake_Trotter Do you think TCU's defense is down this year, or is Baylor's offense just that destructive?— Conner Morris (@ConnerSaurusRex) October 16, 2014
Trotter: The Baylor offense is just really destructive when it's on. And it was on in the fourth quarter last weekend. This is still a good TCU defense. Chucky Hunter, Paul Dawson and Sam Carter are All-Big 12-caliber players. And Davion Pierson, Marcus Mallet, Kevin White and Chris Hackett are really good, too. When hot, Baylor has the firepower to light up anybody in the country. The Bears just got hot at the wrong time for TCU.
Trotter: I'd have to take the field, because it includes Alabama's Amari Cooper. The national awards are somewhat about name recognition. Coming into the season, Cooper had it. Kevin White did not. And even though White is having a tremendous season and is on track to be a Biletnikoff finalist, Cooper plays for one of the preeminent programs in college football. No matter how many passes White catches, that will be hard to overcome.
Trotter: Since 2009, Kansas football has just three Big 12 wins. But Kansas basketball has been to only one Final Four since 2008. Based on those past performances, I guess I'd have to go with the football team winning a game. But it's close.
@Jake_Trotter is tech going bowling this year?— p@ (@wheresmyoatmeal) October 16, 2014
Trotter: I wouldn't bet on it. The Red Raiders already have four losses and have yet to face TCU, Oklahoma and Baylor. They would have to win one of those games just to have a chance. I don't see it.
@Jake_Trotter Which Big 12 player would you name as your champion in a GoT-style trial by combat?— Chris Perry (@Chris_Perry) October 16, 2014
Trotter: Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown is like "The Mountain" of the Big 12. Let's go with him..
The 133 points. The 1,237 passing yards. The 1,507 total yards. The 70-63 West Virginia win that, for all of its fantasy numbers, was very real and very crazy.
Should we expect a similar outcome this time around? Probably not. But we will be entertained, that's for sure. Max Olson and Jake Trotter break down the matchup of the undefeated Bears and the 4-2 Mountaineers.
How Baylor can control the game: Points and stops, early and often. That's how the Bears took it to WVU in Waco a year ago. By the time BU's defense finally gave up a score, it was already 42-7 and the Bears were well on their way to a 56-point first half. The Mountaineers won't fold so quickly this time, but it's imperative that this Baylor team, considering its past road issues, throw punches early and put all the pressure on the home team. -- Olson
How West Virginia can pull off the upset: In whatever form they come, the Mountaineers have to get stops. Punts, turnovers, even field goals. This game has shootout written all over it. But it’s not one the Mountaineers can win with their offense alone. West Virginia’s young secondary has to come up with some big plays. And the Mountaineers’ undersized defensive front can’t allow Shock Linwood and the Baylor running game to maul them like Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine did last month. – Trotter
Baylor's X factor: The pressure is on for Baylor cornerbacks Ryan Reid and Xavien Howard. Baylor has the best receiving corps in the country, so the Bears' cornerbacks have plenty of practice against elite pass-catchers. That doesn't mean they're going to be able to shut out both Kevin White and Mario Alford, but keeping the ball out of their hands is critical. These days, White calls a 100-yard game a quiet day. Can Reid and Howard show him an actual quiet day? -- Olson
West Virginia’s X factor: White has gotten all the midseason accolades, and for good reason. After all, he leads the country in receiving. But Alford is the Mountaineer that can change the game in more ways than one. He’s ninth in the Big 12 in receiving to go along with his two kickoff return touchdowns. The Mountaineers will need a bevy of big plays to keep up with Baylor. – Trotter
What a win would mean for Baylor: Every road wins helps when it comes to the résumé that Baylor is assembling for its run to the College Football Playoff. This could be a prime opportunity, too, to send a message to those who are doubting this Bears defense after the 61-58 drama last Saturday. Art Briles is dead serious about Bryce Petty winning the Heisman, too, so here's a good platform to put up some big numbers. -- Olson
What a win would mean for West Virginia: The Mountaineers are off to a phenomenal 4-2 start for a program that was picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 in the preseason. Yet despite playing Alabama and Oklahoma tough, West Virginia has yet to pull off that program-changing win. An upset of Baylor would constitute just that, giving the Mountaineers a ton of momentum going into the second half of the season and a chance at the Big 12 title. – Trotter
1. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma (previous rank: 1): Though he’s been held to fewer than 100 yards the last two weeks, Perine has still had an All-Big 12 season with a conference-leading nine rushing touchdowns. He’s also second in the league with 568 rushing yards.
2. KD Cannon, WR, Baylor (2): Cannon showed against TCU that he’s still a major factor in the Baylor passing game even with Antwan Goodley, Corey Coleman and Levi Norwood back from injuries. Cannon had six catches for 124 yards and a 67-yard touchdown.
3. Dravon Henry, FS, West Virginia (3): Henry has been consistently solid all season at the back end of the West Virginia secondary, but he will have his biggest challenge yet facing off against Cannon and Baylor’s loaded receiving corps.
4. Jason Hall, S, Texas (7): Hall could drop in these rankings if his patellar tendon injury lingers. But he has been tremendous so far for a surging Texas defense, with eight tackles most recently in the Oklahoma game.
5. Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State (5): Lazard had his best game yet, with 8 receptions, 96 receiving yards and a touchdown last week in Iowa State’s 37-30 win over Toledo. Lazard is now 15th in the Big 12 receiving, second only to Cannon among true freshmen.
6. Corey Avery, RB, Kansas (9): Avery scored a 23-yard fourth-quarter touchdown that nearly spurred the Jayhawks to an upset of Oklahoma State. Avery is now 10th in the Big 12 with 348 rushing yards.
7. Nigel Bethel II, CB, Texas Tech (NR): After serving out his three-game suspension, Bethel got the start against West Virginia and the assignment of covering the nation’s leading receiver, Kevin White. Though White had 123 receiving yards, Bethel held up OK and finished with nine tackles.
8. Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech (NR): After doing virtually nothing for three games, Stockton exploded with a 69-yard touchdown run that put Tech up 34-20 in the fourth quarter against West Virginia. With Kenny Williams moving back to running back from linebacker, it will be interesting to see how involved Stockton remains in the offense.
9. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State (6): Washington hasn’t done much since hauling in two touchdowns on Sept. 25 against Texas Tech. Washington has just four catches for 20 yards over the Cowboys’ last two games.
10. Ramon Richards, CB, Oklahoma State (NR): Richards has been starting since Ashton Lampkin injured his ankle. It’s unclear if Lampkin will be able to return Saturday against TCU. Either way, Richards figures to be a core part of the Oklahoma State secondary moving forward.
On the radar: Elijah Lee, LB, Kansas State; Steven Parker II, S, Oklahoma; Dimitri Flowers, FB, Oklahoma; Davion Hall, WR, Baylor; Matthew Boateng, CB, Kansas; Colin Downing, P, Iowa State; Cameron Batson, PR/WR, Texas Tech; Martinez Syria, RB, Iowa State.
Those, among others, will be the storylines to watch in the league on Saturday:
No. 14 Kansas State at No. 11 Oklahoma, noon ET (ESPN): Oklahoma wideout Sterling Shepard is having an All-American-caliber season, ranking sixth nationally in receiving. But to get the offense back on track, the Sooners need to get other receiving weapons involved. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Shepard has accounted for 47 percent of Oklahoma's receiving yards, the highest percentage for any receiver in the country. While the Oklahoma passing game has sputtered, the K-State air attack has thrived of late. Jake Waters is completing 50 percent of his passes of 15 or more yards, the best rate of any Big 12 quarterback. To hold off the Wildcats, the Sooners will have to be better than they've been at defending passes downfield. Oklahoma has allowed the league's most receptions (20) and touchdowns (7) on throws of 15 yards or more.
Kansas at Texas Tech, 3:30 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Regional): The Jayhawks led Texas Tech 10-0 early in Lawrence last year before giving up 54 unanswered points. Tech leads the all-time series 14-1, with Kansas' only victory coming in Lubbock in 2001. The Jayhawks have not won a Big 12 road game since defeating Iowa State in 2008. At 2-4, Tech is off to its worst start since 1994.
No. 15 Oklahoma State at No. 12 TCU, 4 p.m. ET (FS1): Cowboys QB Daxx Garman has flashed a big-play arm so far. He's averaging 14.4 passing yards per attempt, according to ESPN Stats & Information, the best of any Power 5 QB. In fact since Garman became the starter in Week 3, 72 percent of Oklahoma State's passing yards have come on passes of 15 yards or longer -- the highest percentage of any Power 5 offense. Though he's been inconsistent at times, Garman could have success against the Horned Frogs, who couldn't keep Baylor from throwing over their heads last weekend. But Oklahoma State's defense will have its hands full, too. TCU has 10 touchdown drives of three plays or fewer, tied for third-most in the country.
Iowa State at Texas, 8 p.m. ET (Longhorn Network): The Longhorns lead the all-time series against Iowa State 10-1, including a 31-30 win on a disputed no-fumble call in Ames last year. Both Iowa State QB Sam B. Richardson and Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes are coming off career outings. Swoopes passed for 334 yards, rushed for 50 and accounted for three touchdowns in Texas' narrow loss to Oklahoma. Richardson threw for a career-high 351 yards and three second-half touchdowns to rally Iowa State to a win over Toledo.
Look for some major targets in the following three games to not only be in attendance but also take mental notes of what they see over the weekend. There’s no guarantee, but one or two may even give their verbal commitments.
Kansas State at Oklahoma
Fresh off its Red River Showdown victory against Texas, Oklahoma returns home in hopes to put on a show that will attract a couple of top visitors. ESPN 300 outside linebacker Cameron Townsend and four-star defensive tackle Darrion Daniels will be in Norman on official visits. The additions of both players would be huge for the Sooners. Additionally, quarterback commit Dalton Wood said he will be in Norman for an unofficial visit, as will players like ESPN Junior 300 running back Z'Quan Hogan and 2016 dual-threat quarterback Terry Wilson.
Baylor CB Xavien Howard: He's quietly racked up nine pass breakups this season and faces probably his best one-on-one threat of the season in Kevin White. Ryan Reid got lots of attention last week -- good and bad -- but I have a feeling Howard will rise to the occasion in Morgantown.
Iowa State DE Cory Morrissey: With no Desmond Harrison (suspension) back for Texas, it's likely Morrissey has one of Iowa State's most advantageous matchups this week when he takes on left tackle Marcus Hutchins, who hasn't been great. This Texas offensive line, while improving, is still vulnerable and Morrissey has a chance to remind us he's one of the league's more underrated defenders.
Kansas LB Ben Heeney: Inspired by the fact we made the mistake of snubbing him for our midseason All-Big 12 team, Heeney will rack up 30 tackles against Texas Tech and makes us look like a bunch of fools. I really wouldn't be shocked. He is playing at an All-Big 12 level, no doubt; we simply ran out of linebacker spots.
Kansas State QB Jake Waters: He got a huge stage against Auburn and made some uncharacteristic mistakes. Here's another big one against Oklahoma, and with the advantage of a bye week, surely this staff has cooked up some good stuff the Sooners won't see coming. Waters is one of the Big 12's best QBs but rarely receives that praise. He'll earn it this week.
Oklahoma RB Alex Ross: Despite his game-changing kick return for a TD, Ross recorded just five touches on offense against Texas. Let's see what he can do with a little more of a workload, and especially some more opportunities in space, as the lightning to Samaje Perine's thunder.
Oklahoma State WR David Glidden: He has a 20-plus yard reception in five of the Pokes' six games this season and is a sneaky dangerous member of what's becoming a fairly diverse receiving corps. There's no one significant go-to guy among those wideouts, at least not statistically, but Glidden can be on Saturday.
TCU DE Mike Tuaua: We didn't hear a whole lot from Tuaua last week -- to his credit, his lone tackle was a sack -- but the Frogs' rising defensive end will need to be impactful this week. Daxx Garman is capable of challenging TCU deep repeatedly, but not if he doesn't have time in the pocket to make the right decisions.
Texas DE Naashon Hughes: The redshirt freshman, a converted linebacker with a great frame, earned his first career start against Oklahoma and is proving to be an ideal fit for Texas' Fox end spot. He was sound in tackling and coverage last week and should get some nice chances to blitz and cause trouble in the backfield against ISU.
Texas Tech CB Nigel Bethel II: After serving his suspension for Tech's nonconference slate, Bethel is back and stepped up in defending Kevin White last week, notching nine tackles. That should be one heck of a confidence-booster for the always-confident true freshman. The big plays are coming soon for him.
West Virginia RB Wendell Smallwood: You can't ask for more from a change-of-pace back than what Smallwood gave last week, rushing for 123 yards on just 15 carries against Texas Tech. WVU needs to be able to keep Baylor's defense honest by attacking with Rushel Shell and Smallwood. Keep an eye on him this week.
That conversation started and ended with Baylor's Bryce Petty.
Midway through the 2014 season, the argument can be made that Petty hasn't been the best quarterback in the league. Several other quarterbacks have challenged Petty for the title of Big 12's best so now is the perfect time to ask: Who has been the Big 12's best quarterback thus far?
West Virginia's Clint Trickett has been the surprise of the group, looking like a different quarterback in his second season playing for Dana Holgorsen. His 2,203 passing yards and 68.5 completion percentage lead the Big 12 but his six turnovers (four interceptions, two fumbles) are a major drawback.
TCU's Trevone Boykin is a nightmare for defenses in the Horned Frogs' new system. He's developing as a passer and pairing that skill with running back-like explosiveness when he escapes the pocket. He's a big reason TCU has risen to No. 12 nationally and his Big 12-low two interceptions is just what Gary Patterson wants from his signal caller. But, much like Petty, his 57.7 completion percentage leaves plenty of room to improve.
Jake Waters has done it all for Kansas State, leading Big 12 quarterbacks with 320 rushing yards while connecting on 65 percent of his passes. His ability to keep defenses honest with his arm or his legs is a big reason why the Wildcats are 4-1.
Other quarterbacks like Texas Tech's Davis Webb, Oklahoma's Trevor Knight and Oklahoma State's Daxx Garman have had their moments as well.
Should Petty be dethroned? Is Boykin the guy? Do Trickett's numbers overcome all? Vote now and weigh in with your comments below.
Why Kansas State will win: Texas Tech burned me with my upset pick last week, but I'm taking another shot. Kansas State is coming off an invaluable bye week, just like it did in 2012 before its upset of the Sooners, and the teams played a terrifically close game a year ago. I think it's a toss-up, so I'm taking the team with the better quarterback. Kansas State 28, Oklahoma 24 – Max Olson
Why Baylor will win: This game comes down to whoever can get a few stops, right? WVU will have the right answers early on, just as it did against Alabama and Oklahoma, and Kevin White will get his. But Baylor pulls away late on the strength of its run game and gets those few needed stops from its D. Baylor 52, West Virginia 38 – Olson
Why West Virginia will win: Underscoring the depth and balance of the Big 12, I’m going heavy on the underdogs this week. The Mountaineers have come close to pulling the upset in their first two tries against top-five opponents. This time, Clint Trickett and Kevin White (and Josh Lambert?) get it done in another wild Big 12 shootout that goes down to the wire. West Virginia 52, Baylor 49 – Jake Trotter
Why TCU will win: Sure, the Horned Frogs are coming off a heartbreaking loss. But remember, they were up 21 at Baylor for a reason. Despite being 5-1, Oklahoma State has struggled to run the ball or protect QB Daxx Garman. TCU has a stout front seven and leads the Big 12 in sacks. Garman’s second career road start could be a painful one. TCU 34, Oklahoma State 24 – Trotter
Why Texas Tech will win: Kliff Kingsbury’s squad finally gets a much-needed win against the Jayhawks. The Red Raiders' offense will simply score too many points for KU’s offense to keep up, with Davis Webb having one of his best games of the season. Texas Tech 35, Kansas 21 – Chatmon
Why Texas will win: Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes seemed to turn a corner in the Red River Showdown, as he outplayed Trevor Knight. The Texas defense, meanwhile, has been downright dominant in Big 12 play. The Cyclones would love to avenge last year’s controversial loss to the Longhorns. But an improving Swoopes and a dominant Texas defense will be the difference. Texas 27, Iowa State 16 – Trotter
- Chatmon: 40-4
- Trotter: 40-4
- Olson: 39-5
Baylor: When it comes to the big-play passing game, Bryce Petty is as good as it gets: His 11 touchdowns on passes thrown 20 yards or longer leads the nation. He scored six of those against TCU. A total of 30 of his 48 career passing touchdowns have come on those 20-plus yard throws.
Iowa State: The Cyclone can make a case that they've played one of the toughest schedules this season. Their six opponents thus far have a combined winning percentage of 83.3 percent, highest in the nation. The first five teams they faced -- North Dakota State, Kansas State, Iowa, Baylor and Oklahoma State -- are now a combined 26-3.
Kansas: Michael Cummings' 288 passing yards against Oklahoma State were the most by a Kansas quarterback since Dayne Crist threw for 303 in a loss to TCU on Sept. 15, 2012. That means Kansas has now gone 27 games since its last 300-yard passer. Cummings could be the guy to snap that streak soon.
Kansas State: You know a Bill Snyder-coached team is going to be disciplined. This group is upholding that reputation: K-State's 20 penalties and 162 penalty yards on the season are fewest among all Power 5 conference teams. Its underrated defense has only accounted for four of those mistakes.
Oklahoma: Against Texas, the Sooners became the nation's first team in two years to win despite a -250 yardage margin. The last time a Big 12 team pulled that off was 2004, when Colorado beat Washington State despite being outgained by 277 yards. The last time we've seen anything close to that in a Big 12 game was Kansas State's 41-34 win over Texas Tech in 2011 (-241 yards).
Oklahoma State: Give Kansas a little credit. Oklahoma State finished with 275 yards of total offense on Saturday, their fewest in a game since the 2010 Cotton Bowl. In fact, OSU snapped its 57-game streak of at least 300 total yards, a run that had ranked second-longest nationally behind Oregon (59).
TCU: A few of the more impressive gains when you compare TCU's offense through five games to TCU's first five games of 2013: The Horned Frogs' total offense is up 188.6 yards per game, scoring is up 17.8 points per game and passing is up 132 yards per game. It helps that TCU has run 100 more plays through five games than at this point last season.
Texas: One of the more impressive aspects of Texas' play on defense: its effectiveness in the first half of games. Texas' defense has been responsible for allowing just 12 points in the first half this season and is holding foes to 57.8 first-half passing yards (No. 2 in FBS in that category) and 54.7 rushing yards.
Texas Tech: It's been a rough run for the Red Raiders, but one area they don't get enough credit for: They're keeping Davis Webb clean. Webb has been sacked only two times this season and Tech's offensive line has given up five sacks, allowing them on 1.7 percent of their snaps. That rate ranks No. 3 nationally. Freshman Patrick Mahomes took the other three sacks.
West Virginia: Baylor's comeback against TCU was incredible, but West Virginia's rally in Lubbock was nearly just as improbable. According to ESPN Stats & Info's win probability data, the Mountaineers' odds of victory with 7:32 left in the fourth quarter (after giving up a Justin Stockton 69-yard touchdown run) was only 4.2 percent.
On to the mailbag:
Brian Popp in Kansas City, Missouri writes: What's the deal with Kansas State's kicker situation? Do you think that Bill Snyder will give Jack Cantele another shot?
Brandon Chatmon: Well, Matthew McCrane hasn't missed a kick, 2 of 2 field goals and 14 of 14 on PATs, so I don't see why the Wildcats would turn back to Cantele unless McCrane stumbles.
Steve writes: What is your opinion about Baylor students storming the field after the TCU game?
Chatmon: I loved it. The perfect ending to a great game. College football is supposed to be fun, as long as people aren't being dangerous about it, I have no issues with storming the field, particularly after winning a battle of top-10 teams on the game's last play.
Kenny R. in Blacksburg, Virginia writes: West Virginia seems to have Baylor in a perfect spot (in Morgantown, early kickoff, sandwiched between emotional TCU win and OU). As a diehard Mountaineer though it makes me nervous to even think that though without confirmation. What do you think?
Chatmon: I would agree. I expect a close, exciting game at Milan Puskar. A blowout on either side would surprise me.
Mike in Wheeling, West Virginia writes: Why isn't Kevin White in the Heisman race?
Chatmon: Because WVU has two losses and he is a receiver. Unfortunately it takes a special, special season for a receiver to get some love.
Myles in Morgantown, West Virginia writes: If Kevin White keeps producing like he has, is he a 1st round receiver?
Chatmon: I'm not an NFL scout, but I'd definitely consider him. It's hard to find receivers with his size and ball skills. If not first round, he should be a Day 2 selection.
Brooks in Galveston, Texas writes: Baylor/TCU last Saturday was one for the ages. However, it seems all people take away from it is "bad defenses/crazy offenses." But lost in the mix is that TCU had 17 possessions with Baylor getting stops on 9. How do we reconcile this? Also, does ANYONE want to play Baylor right now?
Chatmon: You'll have a hard time finding someone to say giving up five touchdowns was a great defensive performance, Brooks. But BU's comeback doesn't happen without its defense, either. And, while Baylor is a problem for anyone it plays, I don't think the Bears are looking at a conference full of teams scared to play them.
P.T. Dee in Lubbock writes: First, I would like to give props to the WVU kicker for making that field goal. Even though I am a Texas Tech student, I was impressed. Second, I just want to know your thoughts on what Tech's season will look like from here. Is the Texas or Oklahoma game winnable since they are both in Lubbock?
Chatmon: Both are winnable but things aren't looking good for the Red Raiders. Kliff Kingsbury's squad can't seem to find a rhythm, but Lubbock is always a hard place to play. Expect the Red Raiders to hang around in both games but doubt they will triumph in either.
Zach in Morgantown, West Virginia writes: Josh Lambert, great kicker, or the greatest kicker?
Chatmon: I'm not sure I consider him a kicker anymore, he's reached superhero status at this point, right?
Michael in Lubbock writes: I hear that as punishment, Texas Tech players who commit a penalty in a game have to show up at 5 a.m. to run. At this rate, I don't think there will be many Red Raiders on the all-conference football team, but how many do you think could earn all-conference honors in cross country?
Chatmon: At least five Red Raiders could be up for All-Big 12 cross country honors because all three units (offense, defense, special teams) have had penalty problems this season. Let's hope they at least get to check out some of Lubbock's best running trails.
Adam in Fort Worth, Texas writes: What happened to the Oklahoma State team that took FSU to the wire? I get we have inexperience and lost one of the best position coaches in the nation to the evil empire - but come on, man! Kansas was the better team Saturday. Any chance TCU's hangover lets us get one by my wife's Horned Frogs?
Chatmon: Maybe they stayed in Texas? I don't know, it's been a different Cowboys squad since FSU, but an undefeated one. And that cannot be overlooked. OSU isn't playing terrific yet continues to pile up wins. If this game was in Stillwater I might like OSU's chances a little more but TCU's defense is sound, its offense has been outstanding and Gary Patterson's squad is coming off a loss. The cards are stacked against OSU so they'll have to surprise again to knock off TCU. Feels like you could be losing bragging rights in your household.
Who is the offensive snub with the biggest gripe on our midseason All-Big 12 team?
Brandon Chatmon: Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty immediately comes to mind with his stellar production and playmaking, but Texas Tech's Jakeem Grant is quietly having a superb campaign for the disappointing Red Raiders. He leads the Big 12 in all-purpose yards per game (163.8), averages 15.9 yards per touch and ranks second in the conference with 7.3 receptions per game. Grant's excellence hasn't transformed into wins, but the 5-foot-6 dynamo is one of the Big 12's top playmakers.
Max Olson: Making a case for Petty as Big 12's top quarterback at midseason obviously isn't difficult, even if he missed a game and a half with a back injury. He made up for his showing at Texas with a phenomenal finish against TCU and we probably haven't seen his best yet. Trickett has been better by most measures, with a far better completion percentage, but realistically if Petty had been able to pad his stats in non-conference play he'd be right there with him. There's still plenty of time for him to push his way back into the Heisman discussion and win Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year again.
Who is the defensive snub with the biggest gripe?
Chatmon: Oklahoma State cornerback Kevin Peterson has been a rock in the Cowboys' secondary. He could be the Big 12's top cornerback and tends to make teams think twice before testing him. The junior has eight pass breakups (second in the Big 12) and one interception while setting the standard for an inexperienced OSU defensive backfield.
Trotter: The only defensive player I had a hard time being left off was Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney. The Jayhawks have played good defense again this season. And Henney, who is third in the league in tackles and first in tackles for loss, has been at the forefront of that. But with the return of Jordan Hicks and the emergence of Paul Dawson, linebacker has turned into a deep position in the league. That edged out "Captain Heeney," who will surely be in the running for end-of-season honors.
Olson: Two guys who were in the mix: TCU linebacker Marcus Mallet and Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs. Mallet continues to play at an extremely high level and made game-changing plays against Oklahoma and Baylor. It's not inconceivable that the Frogs could have two All-Big 12 linebackers in Mallet and Dawson by the end of the season. Diggs is having a nice senior season, too, with 31 tackles, two INTs and two sacks. He too should be a strong all-conference candidate by season's end.
What will be the most important game the second half of the season?
Chatmon: Baylor's November visit to Oklahoma and Kansas State's late season trip to Waco, Texas, are games to watch, but I have a feeling Bedlam will be big again. Big 12 title implications have become commonplace when Oklahoma State takes on Oklahoma and there's no reason to expect that to change this season with those two squads entering the season's second half with a 10-2 combined record. Even if one or both teams stumble before the early December meeting, last season proved you can never assume anything when the Sooners and Cowboys face off.
Trotter: Before the season, I predicted the Nov. 8 clash between Baylor and Oklahoma would be the league's most important game. And I'm sticking with it as the most important game of the second half. The Big 12 is way more wide open at this point than anyone could have predicted. But if the Sooners beat Baylor they'll have a good chance to win the league and make the playoff. The same goes for Baylor.
Olson: Baylor's season finale stands out to me. Just like last season, I think it could come down to the final week. This time, it's a Dec. 6 matchup of BU and Kansas State in Waco. You remember how much better K-State was playing by the end of the year last season, right? Nobody wanted to play them. It's a terrific matchup from a talent and scheme standpoint, and after what the Bears did to then-No. 1 KSU in Waco in 2012, I'm sure Bill Snyder's squad would like nothing more than to spoil some playoff hopes.
After careful consideration and friendly debate, our midseason All-Big 12 team:
QB: Clint Trickett, West Virginia: Baylor's Bryce Petty had the Big 12's best game last weekend, but Trickett has had the better season so far. He leads the Big 12 in QBR and completion percentage and is third nationally in passing, fueling the Mountaineers' surprising 4-2 start.
RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor: The Big 12's top rusher has 326 rushing yards over Baylor's last two games, including 104 in the fourth quarter of the Bears' monumental comeback win against TCU.
RB: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma: This true freshman is second in the league in rushing, first in rushing touchdowns and delivered an historic performance at West Virginia with 242 yards and four scores.
WR: Kevin White, West Virginia: White has been as dominant as any player in the league. He easily leads the country with an average of 148 yards receiving per game, and has come up with a hundred yards receiving in every game.
WR: Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma: It's hard to imagine where the Oklahoma passing game would be without Shepard. He has accounted for 48 percent of Trevor Knight's passing yards.
WR: K.D. Cannon, Baylor: The true freshman might already be the most dangerous big-play receiver in the league, averaging 62.5 yards per catch on his six touchdowns.
TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State: The senior has been a big part of the Cyclones' offense with 22 receptions for 190 yards and four touchdowns, including a one-handed scoring grab at Oklahoma State.
OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor: The Bears' franchise left tackle is thriving again after a return from a season-ending back injury. He has graded out the highest on the offensive line of the nation's top scoring offense.
OL: Joey Hunt, TCU: Hunt is the best offensive lineman on the Big 12's most improved offense, which is second in the league in scoring with almost 46 points per game.
OL: B.J. Finney, Kansas State: Finney is well on his way to a third consecutive All-Big 12 season as the lynchpin of the K-State offensive line.
OL: Quinton Spain, West Virginia: He and Mark Glowinski form one of the top guard duos in the country for the league's second-best passing offense.
OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech: Arkansas coach Bret Bielema singled out Clark's prowess after facing him. Despite throwing the ball on almost every down, Tech leads the league in fewest sacks allowed with Clark protecting Davis Webb's blindside.
AP: Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State: The speedy Hill has kick return touchdowns the past two weeks, and has proven to be tough and durable as well as really fast.
DE: Shawn Oakman, Baylor: The freaky 6-foot-9 end is second in the league with five sacks and fourth with eight tackles for loss.
DT: Chucky Hunter, TCU: Hunter has been the anchor of the TCU defensive line, joining Davion Pierson to give Gary Patterson's squad one disruptive duo up front.
DT: Malcom Brown, Texas: This 320-pound monster has been unblockable, and the most disruptive defensive player in the league.
DE: Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State: Ogbah has broken out with five sacks, including two on defending Heisman winner Jameis Winston in the opener. In addition to being tied for second in the Big 12 in sacks, he's also second with 9.5 tackles for loss.
LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma: Striker has 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss, and his relentless pass-rushing ability makes him the primary focus of opposing offensive coordinators.
LB: Jordan Hicks, Texas: The Longhorns' fifth-year senior is racking up 10 tackles per game, and is bringing leadership to the Texas defense after an injury-plagued career.
LB: Paul Dawson, TCU: The Big 12's leading tackler is on pace for the most single-season tackles in the Gary Patterson era. He also had the game-winning pick-six to upset the Sooners.
CB: Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma: Sanchez has given up some big plays, but he's countered with big plays of his own. He's second nationally with five interceptions, including a pick-six against Texas.
CB: Danzel McDaniel, Kansas State: McDaniel hits more like a linebacker than a cornerback. He's been another impressive junior-college find for Bill Snyder.
S: Sam Carter, TCU: Carter doesn't have eye-popping numbers, but he's once again been the heart of the TCU defense.
S: Karl Joseph, West Virginia: The enforcer of the West Virginia secondary is second among Big 12 defensive backs with 45 tackles.
K: Josh Lambert, West Virginia: All he's done is nail two game-winning field goals as time has expired to beat Maryland (47 yards) and Texas Tech (55 yards) on the road.
P: Trevor Pardula, Kansas: He's gotten plenty of chances, but he's made the most of them, averaging 44.8 yards per punt, while putting 37.8 percent of them inside the opponents' 20.
PR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State: Lockett, who is second in the nation in punt returns, once again has been an electric all-around playmaker. He's also sixth in the league in receiving.
KR: Alex Ross, Oklahoma: Ross leads the nation in kickoff returns, taking two of his nine kick returns to the house for touchdowns.