Big 12: 2011-final-team-reviews

Season recap: Baylor

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
10:30
AM ET
BAYLOR BEARS

Record: 9-3 (6-3)

Baylor made history in 2010, qualifying for a bowl game for the first time since 1994. Quarterback Robert Griffin III said the Bears were coming back for dessert in 2011, and Baylor's pretty clearly dug into some delicious sweets all season. Instead of a four-game losing streak to end the season, Baylor strung together five games. A dramatic, fourth-quarter comeback against Kansas led to a double-overtime win to get the Bears bowl eligible and got them feeling like a team of destiny. A week later, Griffin ushered in the third field-storming of the past two seasons with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams to beat Oklahoma for the first time in school history. The first field storming came in an upset of TCU on a nationally-broadcast game on the Friday night of the season's first weekend.

Nine wins was unheard of for the Bears, whose six-win performance in Big 12 play was the highest total in school history, and chock full of memorable moments capped by a win over Texas on a rainy season finale. The result? A good shot at landing the school's first Heisman winner.

Offensive MVP: Griffin III, quarterback. This one's pretty simple. Griffin has been the best player in the country this season, though he throws to one of the nation's best receivers, Kendall Wright. Griffin set an NCAA record for passing efficiency at 192.31 and threw for 3,998 yards, 36 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He also ran for 644 yards and nine touchdowns. No player has transformed a program like Griffin has over his career, and he'll have a decision to make after the season about trying to do it again in 2012.

Defensive MVP: Elliott Coffey, linebacker. The defense struggled all season for Baylor; it's never a good sign when your top two tacklers are safeties. Coffey, though, was pretty solid up front, making 99 tackles, five tackles for loss, four pass breakups and a pair of forced fumbles.

Turning point: The dramatic win over Oklahoma. Baylor was a good team, but sort of slumming through a ho-hum season with lopsided losses to Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. The win over Kansas was nice, but everyone else had been blowing out the Jayhawks. But the win over Oklahoma made everybody sit up and notice the Bears over the pressure-packed final few games and thrust RG3 back into the Heisman picture.

What’s next: It all depends on what RG3 decides after the season. Losing Wright, who caught 101 balls for 1,572 yards and 13 touchdowns this year, is huge. Baylor accomplished all it did this year despite losing its No. 2 receiver, Josh Gordon, just before the season. Nick Florence showed flashes during a win over Texas Tech after Griffin took a shot to the head and sat the rest of the game. He's clearly developed a lot since a rough 2009 season without Griffin. It's likely Florence's team next year, and former blue-chip recruit and Oregon transfer Lache Seastrunk would be the likely starter at running back next year after Terrance Ganaway graduates.

Season recap: Iowa State

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
10:00
AM ET
IOWA STATE CYCLONES

Record: 6-6 (3-6)

The Cyclones keep proving people wrong. Nobody gave them a chance to make a bowl in any of the past three seasons. They did it and won in 2009. They came within a fake PAT against Nebraska of doing it in 2010, and pulled perhaps the upset of the year in college football to reach bowl eligibility in 2011.

Iowa State will remember its upset of then-No. 2 Oklahoma State forever. The double-overtime came as four-touchdown underdogs and was the last home game of the season for a program that had six consecutive crowds larger than 50,000 fans for the first time in school history.

It was only the latest signature win for a program that beat Iowa early in the season and began the year with three wins that all required fourth-quarter comebacks. The Cyclones navigated a midseason quarterback switch and weathered a season-ending injury early on to the team's top running back, Shontrelle Johnson. Another masterful coaching job from Paul Rhoads, perhaps the best-kept secret in college football.

Offensive MVP: Darius Reynolds, wide receiver. This was a really tough call. There was Jared Barnett, who came on for Steele Jantz at midseason. Jantz was the biggest reason for the 3-0 start, but Barnett led the Cyclones to a big 3-0 stretch in the middle of the season in his first three starts, capped by the Oklahoma State win. James White filled in for Johnson well and had a handful of huge runs. Receiver Josh Lenz emerged as Barnett's top target. I went with the most physically gifted ISU receiver, though. He led the team with 655 yards on 41 catches and seven touchdowns, including three games with multiple scores.

Defensive MVP: Jake Knott, linebacker. Knott is one of the Big 12's best, toughest and most instinctive defenders. He finished with 107 tackles, third-most in the Big 12, and had four tackles for loss. He also picked off two passes and forced three fumbles.

Turning point: The 41-7 win over Texas Tech. This was the first big indicator that this team might be something special. It shifted the whole outlook on the season and made a bowl berth suddenly look like a possibility. A week earlier, Barnett took over for Jantz, who struggled early, and Barnett looked like something special. Iowa State reeled off three consecutive wins to qualify for a bowl and nearly finished the season with an upset of Kansas State.

What’s next: Come back and try to improve on 6-6. Iowa State will face Rutgers in Yankee Stadium in the Pinstripe Bowl first, but Barnett looks like the quarterback of the future, even though he started preseason camp at No. 4 on the depth chart. The team's top four rushers return, as well as three of the top four receivers, minus Reynolds. Barnett will be an improving sophomore and the team brings back its top four tacklers. There's no reason that, if they did it this year, Iowa State can't make a bowl or win even more next year.

Season recap: Kansas

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
9:30
AM ET
KANSAS JAYHAWKS

Record: 2-10 (0-9)

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Kansas could have gone 2-10 or even 3-9 and Turner Gill still would have had a good chance to keep his job. The problem: Those losses couldn't be anywhere near as lopsided as they were. Kansas fielded one of the worst defenses in college football history, giving up over 516 yards and almost 44 points a game. Both numbers were last in the FBS.

With an offense that was average at best, Kansas didn't have much of a chance. Frustrating losses piled up early in the season. Georgia Tech and OSU beat the Jayhawks by 42, and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State beat them by 30 and 48, respectively. Kansas nearly rebounded to beat Iowa State and Baylor after a 43-0 loss to Texas, but a week later, it followed up with a 61-7 loss to Texas A&M. That's just not good enough. Kansas was more talented and had much better skill position players this year, but the defense was simply too bad. Gill's firing after two seasons wasn't ideal, but it was a necessary move.

Offensive MVP: James Sims, running back. Sims wasn't amazing this year, but he was a reliable runner. His only two 100-yard rushing games of the year were in the wins over McNeese State and Northern Illinois, but he finished with 727 yards and nine touchdowns.

Defensive MVP: Steven Johnson, linebacker. Johnson was outstanding all year. He brought effort every week even as the losses piled up, and quietly put together one of the best years of any linebacker in the Big 12. He led the Big 12 with 119 tackles and had six tackles for loss with two forced fumbles.

Turning point: The loss to Georgia Tech. This was the first sign that the defense may have serious, serious problems. Dramatic losses to Baylor and Iowa State were brief bright spots, but the Yellow Jackets were one of four teams to score 59 points against KU. They ran for an absurd 604 yards and scored 42 points in 25 minutes in the second half.

What’s next: The new coach will inherit some good pieces of talent and an experienced quarterback in Jordan Webb, though Kansas is lacking a bit in receiver talent. They're loaded at running back with Darrian Miller, Brandon Bourbon and Tony Pierson, so expect a grounded approach for whoever replaces Gill. Kansas is still a long way from being a Big 12 contender, but they could conceivably be in contention for a bowl if the right coach comes in next year.

Season recap: Kansas State

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
9:00
AM ET
KANSAS STATE WILDCATS

Record: 10-2 (7-2)

This wasn't supposed to be a special season in Manhattan. But it turned out to be and it was almost the best campaign during Bill Snyder's tenure at Kansas State. The season began with a fourth-quarter comeback and a three-point win over Eastern Kentucky. The media picked the Wildcats to finish eighth in the league, but K-State rolled to a 7-0 start before losing to a pair of top-10 teams, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. It closed with three wins and if Oklahoma had beaten Oklahoma State, the Wildcats would have won a share of the Big 12 title for the first time since 2003.

The defensive holes that plagued K-State last season were plugged, and the loss of Daniel Thomas didn't hurt the Wildcats nearly as much as most thought. Even without Bryce Brown, a hyped transfer and former blue-chip recruit, the Wildcats were one of the Big 12's best rushing teams. Brown left the team early in the season, but John Hubert and Collin Klein filled the void, giving way to a season full of "team wins." Almost every week was a heart-stopper, and the Wildcats found a way to win all but one of their nail-biters. An amazing eight of the Wildcats' 10 wins were decided by seven points or fewer.

The 10-win season was the first since 2003, when the Snyder-coached K-Staters won 11 games for the sixth time in seven years and won the Big 12 title.

Offensive MVP: Klein. Other than Robert Griffin III, Klein might be the player most integral to his team's success. He was a workhorse, carrying the ball 293 times, 64 more times than any other Big 12 player. He finished with 1,099 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns. He also threw for 1,745 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Defensive MVP: Arthur Brown, linebacker. Brown added much-needed speed to a defense that was among the slowest in the Big 12 last season. He proved to be a sure tackler and is my pick of the co-Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, along with his teammate, Nigel Malone. Brown finished with a team-high 95 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.

Turning point: The win over Baylor. This was when I started to believe in this team, and it proved that it would continue to find ways to win games late. K-State was favored to win just four games all season, but after picking the Wildcats to lose to Baylor by two touchdowns, I picked them to "upset" Texas Tech and Mizzou. They did. Those surprising wins continued late in the season with dramatic wins over Texas A&M, Texas and Iowa State.

What’s next: Another big year in 2012. The Wildcats won't be losing much. Three of the top four tacklers are gone, but the Wildcats have solid young talent at DB and LB with Tre Walker and Ty Zimmerman. Brown returns, too. On offense Klein, Hubert and all five of the top receivers return. We'll see if they can duplicate the drama next season and still come out on top, but the Big 12 title could be within reach.

Season recap: Missouri

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
8:30
AM ET
MISSOURI TIGERS

Record: 7-5 (5-4)

The Big 12 is a quarterbacks league and The Big Question for Mizzou was simple: Did it have one? It had two until Tyler Gabbert transferred, but James Franklin proved in 2011 that the answer was yes. He progressed as a passer throughout the season and never lost sight of his ability to run, either, rescuing Missouri from a 3-4 start to win four of the team's final five games and reach a bowl game.

The Tigers won seven games, the fewest since the 2005 season, but that's telling of the program's progress. All five losses were quality, and the Tigers might be the best five-loss team in America. Take that for what it's worth, but No. 3 Oklahoma State was the only team to beat Mizzou at home. It's other losses came to Oklahoma, Arizona State, Baylor and Kansas State, all on the road. Not bad at all. The defense was a bit underwhelming, but the Tigers were playing their best football late in the season, and won a dramatic game against Texas Tech in the home finale without coach Gary Pinkel, who was suspended for the game after a drunk driving arrest. The Tigers handled that crisis as well as possible, being up front about the mistakes made and handing Pinkel a stiff punishment that included financial penalties exceeding $300,000. It didn't prove to be a huge distraction for the team, and though the Tigers would have liked to leave for the SEC with more impact, the bar is not high in the Big 12 for teams with first-year starters at quarterback.

Offensive MVP: Henry Josey, running back. Josey suffered a serious knee injury, tearing his left MCL, ACL and patellar tendon, but he was still the Big 12's leading rusher for almost three full weeks after his season was over and the Big 12 continued on. He averaged an outlandish 8.06 yards per carry and finished with 1,168 yards, despite having just the 12th-most carries in the Big 12. Not bad for a guy who started the season as the team's No. 3 back.

Defensive MVP: E.J. Gaines, cornerback. No clear winner here. Missouri could point to a handful of places, but I went with the team's truly most outstanding season. Gaines intercepted three passes, but he broke up 16 more. The next most on Missouri's team: four. In a passer's league like the Big 12, that's pretty amazing. So, with apologies to Andrew Wilson, Zaviar Gooden, Luke Lambert, Brad Madison and Jacquies Smith, I'm going with Gaines.

Turning point: The overtime win over Texas A&M. You could see in the Tigers' emotion after the win how much it meant. Dropping to 3-5 would have been a huge hit and put a lot of pressure on the team down the stretch. Franklin highlighted the day with a certified "Beast Mode" run, bouncing off tacklers for a 20-yard touchdown run early on, but the win featured a 14-point second-half comeback and keyed off a 4-1 finish for the Tigers. The only loss came on the road to Baylor by three points.

What’s next: For now, it's a brief jaunt into SEC country -- Shreveport for the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl -- before a permanent stay next season. The Tigers will bring back a ton of experience on offense, though three of the top six tacklers on defense will be gone. The program's already altered its recruiting strategy, assigning two coaches to recruit Florida and another in Atlanta. Maintaining recruiting ties to Texas as much as possible is important for the program's future, and a cross-divisional rivalry with Texas A&M -- Missouri will visit the Aggies every other year, vs. once every six years for the other SEC West teams--should help a bit. The Tigers should contend for the SEC East title next year, but their recruiting will determine longterm success in their new home.

Season recap: Oklahoma

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
8:00
AM ET
OKLAHOMA SOONERS

Record: 9-3 (6-3)

Oklahoma embraced the preseason expectations and didn't shy away from any talk of a national title. Before the season, coach Bob Stoops even told an audience of boosters it was "about time" the Sooners nabbed their eighth national title, first since 2000 and second under Stoops. Oklahoma didn't really even come close to making it happen. Texas Tech embarrassed the Sooners on their home field, ending a 39-game win streak at Owen Field, the nation's longest and one that dated back to 2005. That offered the first evidence that the Sooners weren't the juggernaut they looked in the preseason. Tech finished 5-7 and the Sooners got a road win against a then-top 5 Florida State team, but the Seminoles fell to 8-4 and 5-3 in the weak ACC.

Oklahoma was hurt by late-season injuries to Ryan Broyles and Dominique Whaley, as well as a knee injury to Ronnell Lewis, but the Sooners lost two of their three final games and finished basically fourth in the Big 12, since Baylor holds the tiebreak over OU. The late-season swoon made the Sooners rival Texas A&M as one of the Big 12's biggest disappointments.

Offensive MVP: Landry Jones, quarterback. Jones' career, which may be over if he enters the NFL draft, is a bit unfortunate. He's always been undervalued by Oklahoma fans and really, most everyone. That's what happens when you follow Sam Bradford, a Heisman winner and No. 1 draft pick and make a few mistakes in big spots. Jones struggled at times as a freshman (he's the only guy to ever do that, right?), but he's been outstanding the past two years. His numbers regressed this year, but he still threw for 4,302 yards, 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Defensive MVP: Frank Alexander, defensive end. Easy pick here. Alexander's been the Big 12's best defender, and a huge disruptive force for every offense in the Big 12. He led the league with 8.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. He had 51 tackles and also grabbed an interception.

Turning point: Broyles' injury. The FBS leader in career receptions went down with a torn ACL against Texas A&M, and from that moment on, three games and a quarter-plus against Texas A&M, Jones didn't throw another touchdown pass and the Sooners lost two of three games. Broyles was missed in a big way, and though the Sooners improved in the short yardage by bringing in quarterback Blake Bell in the "BellDozer" formation, Oklahoma didn't rebound from the loss of Broyles.

What’s next: In the immediate future, Oklahoma faces Iowa, Bob Stoops' alma mater, in the Insight Bowl. After that, it's decision time. The defense loses Alexander, Ronnell Lewis and Travis Lewis, but brings back a lot of talent with guys like Tony Jefferson, Aaron Colvin and Tom Wort. Offensively, if Jones returns, the Sooners could be in for a 10-win season in 2012 with a bit of upside. If Jones leaves, the Big 12 is wide open in 2012 and Oklahoma will have a quarterback competition between Bell and Drew Allen on tap for the spring. Running back Dominique Whaley will be back with Brennan Clay and Roy Finch, but the Sooners will be without a lot of experience if Jones leaves.

Season recap: Oklahoma State

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
7:30
AM ET
OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS

Record: 11-1 (8-1)

Oklahoma State achieved a ton in 2011, but even the most optimistic will always wonder how much more it could have done. Only .0086 points in the BCS standings separated Oklahoma State from Alabama, the closest margin in the history of the BCS. A 44-10 blowout win over rival Oklahoma, the first Bedlam win since 2002, was enough to win the Big 12 title in convincing fashion, but not enough to convince voters that Oklahoma State deserved to play for the national title, instead of giving the Crimson Tide a rematch with LSU. The loss to Iowa State on Nov. 18 was too much to overcome.

For all the attention given to Dana Holgorsen's exit, it proved to be a non-story. Todd Monken stepped in and helped OSU score 49.3 points a game, nearly breaking Oklahoma's NCAA scoring record from back in 2008. Last season, the Cowboys scored just over 44 points a game. Joseph Randle stepped in perfectly for Kendall Hunter, and Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon were both outstanding, as expected. Combine that with a defense that finished second nationally (behind LSU) in turnover margin, and you get a historic season in Stillwater. The first 11-win regular season ever and the first Big 12 title ever, celebrating it in perfect fashion: With thousands of Cowboys fans who rushed the field at Boone Pickens Stadium after the win over Oklahoma.

Offensive MVP: Brandon Weeden, quarterback. Receiver Justin Blackmon's probably the most "talented" player on the offense, but Weeden is its most valuable asset, the man who makes it all go. His Heisman hopes were dashed by an interception in the second overtime of the Iowa State loss, but he still led the Big 12 with 4,328 yards, 34 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Defensive MVP: Jamie Blatnick, defensive end. Really, really tough call here. OSU didn't have a big-time player on defense, but had a ton of solid ones that could probably earn this award. Markelle Martin, Brodrick Brown, Shaun Lewis and Daytawion Lowe are all on that list. In the Big 12, though, pass rushers are so, so valuable, and Blatnick was the Cowboys' best. He had seven sacks, four more than any other Cowboy, and led the team with 11.5 tackles for loss. That's a lot of time in opposing backfields.

Turning point: The Iowa State loss. Oklahoma State had been perfect to that point, surviving heart-stopping wins over Kansas State and Texas A&M and staying on track for a national title game appearance. Then the 24-7 third-quarter lead evaporated and the Cowboys didn't play again for two weeks. The blowout win over Oklahoma proved it was a bit of an aberration, but those final few moments and turnover in double overtime forever altered the season.

What’s next: Time to rebuild. Oklahoma State's recruited really, really well lately and brings back a lot on defense, but offensively, the Cowboys will have a new look. Blackmon's NFL Draft entrance is a mere formality after being honored as a junior on Senior Night, and Weeden is headed to the NFL. The Cowboys will need a new primary target to step up after Blackmon, a likely two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award, is gone, and after a huge Fiesta Bowl showdown with Stanford, will have a quarterback competition on their hands this spring, likely between Clint Chelf, J.W. Walsh and possibly incoming freshman Wes Lunt, who's still mulling an early entrance to OSU.

Season recap: Texas

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
7:00
AM ET
TEXAS LONGHORNS

Record: 7-5 (4-5)

This season was all about change for the Longhorns, and they made plenty in the offseason, bringing in offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz to inject some youth and new ideas into Mack Brown's coaching staff, as well as a handful of new assistants.

Both were as advertised, though Diaz's side of the ball showed much better results. For a fourth consecutive season, Texas led the Big 12 in total defense, and did so by a wide, wide margin, exactly 67 yards a game. It also finished second in the Big 12 in scoring defense, limiting big plays all season and keeping a struggling offense within reach of several games.

Offensively, youth and injuries were the story all season. Garrett Gilbert made two starts before ceding the quarterback spot to inexperienced sophomore Case McCoy and true freshman David Ash. Their top weapons? True freshman running back Malcolm Brown and receiver Jaxon Shipley, as well as sophomore receiver Mike Davis. That wasn't a recipe for success, at least immediately. Texas didn't bounce back all the way from its 5-7 season in 2010, but it was better this year and much more focused offensively. Injuries to Brown and Shipley, as well as fellow freshman back Joe Bergeron, handcuffed Ash and McCoy late in the season, but the Longhorns had a season to build on.

Offensive MVP: Malcolm Brown, running back. Brown was slowed late with injuries, but helped Texas jump out to a 5-2 start, rushing for over 100 yards in three games over a five game stretch before suffering a toe injury. He didn't play in three games, and rushed for only 78 yards in the two games he appeared in over the final five, but still finished with a team-high 707 yards and five touchdowns, offering lots of hope for the future.

Defensive MVP: Emmanuel Acho, linebacker. Acho, a Lott Trophy finalist, racked up 109 tackles for the Longhorns, and was its most consistent performer, especially with a late charge of at least 12 tackles in four consecutive games before making just four against Baylor's wide-open offense last week. He also had 13.5 tackles for loss and three sacks, forcing a fumble and providing a lot of necessary senior leadership for a solid defense.

Turning point: Gilbert's benching. Quite frankly, Texas looked headed for another 5-7 season after the Longhorns struggled early against BYU, falling behind 13-3 while Gilbert tossed a pair of awful-looking picks. In came McCoy and Ash, who tag-teamed the QB spot for most of the rest of the season, and the duo helped the Horns' rally for a gutsy 17-16 win that included a Jaxon Shipley touchdown pass.

What’s next: Time to build on offense. Ash's decision-making and McCoy's lack of measurables and arm strength present big, big questions about whether either can be the quarterback of the future at Texas. Shipley, Brown, Davis and Bergeron will all be solid. One of the nation's top QBs, Connor Brewer, and running backs, Johnathan Gray, are on the way at Texas, but ultimately, Texas can't go very far in the Big 12 without solid quarterback play. Diaz and Harsin were solid hires who will get better and better, but the Longhorns need a quarterback.

Season recap: Texas A&M

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
6:30
AM ET
TEXAS A&M AGGIES

Record: 6-6 (4-5)

Through all the rough moments for the Aggies in 2011, the lasting image will be the ecstatic Longhorns sideline emptying onto Kyle Field to chase down Justin Tucker, who kicked a game-winning field goal to beat A&M in the final iteration of the Lone Star Showdown. Texas might come to College Station again at some point before the end of the world, but with an ending like that, it could be awhile. The Aggies are headed to the SEC, but did it with one of the most disappointing seasons in school history, which resulted in coach Mike Sherman's postseason firing.

By now, the numbers are well known. The Aggies were good enough to lead 11 games by double digits and bad enough to lose six of those games. It was truly maddening. Texas A&M was so, so much better than 6-6, and stocked with as much talent as any team in the Big 12, and maybe the country. Why were there so many second-half meltdowns? Sherman and everyone else involved never figured it out, and the Aggies will try and bring in a coach to fix it.

Offensive MVP: Ryan Swope, wide receiver. This is a bit of an upset, but the only other option is going with Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael as a shared option. Both could be replaced by the other and missed key games, but Swope was consistent most of the year, and played his best in conference games. He finished with a team-high 81 catches for 1,102 yards with 11 touchdowns. He was one of only four Big 12 receivers to top 1,000 yards receiving. Even with his year, the former high school running back might be the most underrated player in the Big 12. Without him, Texas A&M's passing game wouldn't have been functional, and without that, what happens to the running game?

Defensive MVP: Sean Porter, linebacker. Porter's production slowed a bit late in the season, though he did notch 2.5 tackles for loss against Texas. Even still, he had one of the best years of any defender in the Big 12. He led the team with 16 tackles for loss and had 8.5 sacks. He finished with 73 tackles.

Turning point: The loss to Oklahoma State. That's the game that started it all and was the first of many blown leads. The 20-3 halftime lead was gone before the end of the third quarter, and the 30-29 loss cost them control of the Big 12. That didn't matter long, of course. A&M blew another lead to Arkansas a week later, but the three-game losing streak to Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas State officially made the 2011 season a wash.

What’s next: They'll be walking into the SEC West with a yet-t0-be-determined coach and lots of new faces. The first year in the SEC could be rough. Tannehill is gone, Gray is gone, Jeff Fuller is gone after an underwhelming senior season and four of the top eight tacklers are gone. That's a whole lot of production. A new quarterback, likely Jameill Showers, will have to adjust to much tougher defenses in a new league. The Aggies will rely on a very experienced offensive line and power back, Michael.

Season recap: Texas Tech

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
6:00
AM ET
The season started with promise, and ended early. Despite playing the Big 12's easiest nonconference schedule (Texas State, New Mexico, Nevada) and starting 4-0, Texas Tech endured a historically bad season. It had been 18 years since the last losing season in Lubbock, but Tommy Tuberville's Red Raiders (5-7) went through one in just his second year on the job.

Both sides of the ball struggled at times, but the biggest culprit was injuries. Leading rusher Eric Stephens was the first big loss, dislocating his knee in a loss to Texas A&M. The defense was riddled with injuries all year, bad enough that during the final few games, former receiver Cornelius Douglas was forced into a role as starting cornerback.

Despite a huge win over Oklahoma, one that ended the Sooners' 39-game home winning streak, this was a season to forget in Lubbock. After that game, the Red Raiders didn't win another game, and gave up 66 points in losses to both Oklahoma State and Baylor, sandwiched around a last-minute loss to Missouri.

Offensive MVP: Seth Doege, QB. Doege was on the money early in the season, and though he struggled at times, still put together a pretty good season. He set the NCAA record for single-game completion percentage against New Mexico, completing 40 of 44 passes and finished the season with, believe it or not, more passing yards than Baylor's Robert Griffin III. He completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 4,004 yards, 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Defensive MVP: Scott Smith, defensive end. You could maybe go with Terrance Bullitt or Cody Davis in this spot, but Smith, despite sitting out the first four games with a suspension, returned and had a huge impact. It's a bit ironic, considering Texas Tech was 1-7 once Smith returned, but he was a pass-rushing force. He finished with nine tackles for loss, only half of a TFL behind the team leader, Bullitt. He also had 5.5 sacks, 3.5 more than any other Tech defender. He forced three fumbles and made 37 tackles.

Turning point: You might think it's the Oklahoma win, but clearly, that's not the case. The 41-7 loss to Iowa State seemed shocking at the time, but it was clearly a sign of what was to come. That was a 5-2 Tech team losing to a 3-4 band of Cyclones, but Iowa State finished 6-6 and Tech finished 5-7. It was the first of three huge blowouts, and against Iowa State, Texas and Oklahoma State, Doege threw two touchdown passes and three picks, including zero touchdowns against Iowa State and OSU.

What’s next: Time to reassess what went wrong this season and get healthy. Texas Tech wasn't a great team even before the injuries. They've got plenty to fix. The good news is a lot of top talent returns. Stephens isn't a 100 percent guarantee, but he should be back next fall. Darrin Moore finally got back to health late in the year, though Alex Torres should be back after tearing his ACL against Mizzou. Doege will return with his top three receivers (five of his top six, too) and his running back, and the defense returns its top six tacklers. The upside for this team is high next year.

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