Big 12: Brandon Herald
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Kansas State turns to legendary coach Bill Snyder to help resuscitate the program. Snyder will find an underrated pool of talent returning, but his immediate success will be largely determined by recruiting at one key position.
With the departure of Josh Freeman early for the NFL draft, it means that Wildcat coaches will turn either to returning quarterback Carson Coffman or look for a junior college replacement to orchestrate new coordinator Andy Ludwig's spread passing attack.
Depth is needed across an offensive line that loses its entire right side in center Jordan Bedore, guard Gerard Spexarth and tackle Penisini Liu. Additional players are needed as projected starting left tackle Nick Stringer and guard Brock Unruh both will be seniors next season.
Allowances also must be made for a receiving corps that returns all four top pass-catchers in wide receivers Brandon Banks, Deon Murphy and Aubrey Quarles and starting tight end Jeron Mastrud. All will be seniors in 2009, meaning that depth must be built.
New defensive coordinator Vic Koenning will likely build his defense with the Wildcats like those at Clemson, where his unit led the ACC in pass defense and turnovers last season. That would put a premium on depth in the secondary and an infusion of playmaker types, although the Wildcats lose no starters from their 2008 defensive secondary.
It will be interesting to see if Koenning thinks his current players are good enough to thrive in his defense or if they make a big jump into the junior college ranks like Snyder's teams have traditionally done.
New starters will be needed along the defensive front as defensive end Ian Campbell and nose tackle Brandon Balkcom both completed their senior seasons last year. But the defense does have a nice building block with the return of Brandon Harold, who led the team with 10.5 tackles for loss as a freshman in 2008.
The linebacking corps needs some players for the future as Reggie Walker finished his senior season last year and starters Olu Hall and Ulla Pomele both will be seniors next season.
The transformation won't be as daunting as the one that faced Snyder when he arrived in 1993 in his first stint as Kansas State's coach. But the Big 12 figures to be even more challenging than the old Big Eight was, meaning the Wildcats must start getting some players quickly.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The ouster of Ron Prince wasn't really unexpected, especially after the Wildcats' struggles in a North Division that wasn't exactly imposing this season.
But the timing was. Prince was let go on Nov. 5 with three games left in the season when the Wildcats still harbored bowl aspirations. After those hopes were extinguished later in the season, the school administration reached out to legendary former coach Bill Snyder, who led them to 11 bowl appearances during his 17-season coaching tenure at the school.
It will be a tough rebuilding chore as Snyder inherits a defense that ranked 117th nationally and allowed at least 509 yards of total offense in eight of its final 10 games.
Quarterback Josh Freeman had his moments, accounting for 3,349 yards of total offense and 34 touchdowns. His efforts helped the Wildcats rank 18th nationally in passing offense, 21st in scoring offense and jump to a 4-2 record that stoked bowl hopes.
Defensive collapses eventually killed those aspirations during a five-game losing streak that ultimately led to Prince's firing. His hopes of a talent upgrade through a massive junior-college infusion did not materialize and eventually led to his firing.
Offensive Player of the Year: WR Brandon Banks. The mighty-mite receiver emerged as the success of Prince's junior-college class as a receiver and return threat. Banks led the team with 67 receptions for 1,049 yards and nine touchdowns. He was also a threat with a conference-best 98-yard kickoff return and on a 93-yard run that was the second-longest in school history.
Defensive Player of the Year: DE Brandon Harold. One of the few bright spots on a struggling defense, Harold provided the most consistent pass-rushing threat for the Wildcats with 45 tackles and three sacks. His 10.5 tackles for losses led all freshmen defensive linemen in the nation and his tackles led all freshmen Big 12 linemen.
Turning point: The Wildcats started the season 2-0 before dropping a 38-29 decision at Louisville. Those defensive struggles incensed Prince so much that he had his team run 38 50-yard wind sprints -- one for each point allowed -- when it returned home at 3 a.m. The teaching point apparently didn't stick as the Wildcats lost six of their last nine games after their nocturnal workouts.
What's next: Snyder, 69, will have to do a quick rebuild, especially with the defense. The hiring of former Clemson coordinator and former standout Kansas State linebacker Vic Koenning is a big start. It also will be critical for Snyder to do what he can to convince Freeman to return to school and not declare for the NFL draft.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
MANHATTAN, Kan. -- After an obligatory early struggle on fourth down, Texas Tech's offense woke up.
The Red Raiders ran off the final 24 points of the first half, cruising to a 38-14 lead over Kansas State as they looked more than deserving of their No. 7 national ranking.
Graham Harrell has orchestrated Tech's huge early effort, passing for 316 yards and five touchdowns. The Red Raiders have rolled up 417 yards of total offense and averaged 7.7 yards per snap, controlling the ball for more than 21 minutes.
The margin could have been much worse, but Tech coach Mike Leach again was burned after the Red Raiders failed to convert a fourth-and-short possession late in the first quarter from their own 29. Four plays later, Josh Freeman's 1-yard keeper enabled the Wildcats to tie the game on the second play of the second quarter.
But that early setback seemed to only irritate the Red Raiders. Kansas State produced only 21 yards on their final three possessions as Tech exploded on the 24-point run.
Tech has dominated the game in the trenches. The Red Raiders have already gashed KSU for 101 yards of rushing to go along with Harrell's big effort. And KSU has been limited to 19 yards of rushing.
Harrell's big day has already enabled him to break Kliff Kingsbury's school record of 12,429 career passing yards. He's at 12,571 and counting and could be poised to jump all the way to sixth place on the NCAA list with 200 yards in the second half.
Tech started running the ball well at the start of the game, but struggled as Kansas State's much-maligned defensive front started playing better in the second quarter. Freshman defensive end Brandon Harold emerged as a force, making several key plays.
But Kansas State defensive end Ian Campbell, a preseason honors candidate, has been shut out without a tackle on any of Tech's 54 snaps.
After a strong early start, Freeman has quickly come back to earth as Tech has confused him with an array of switching defenses. After completing seven of his first eight passes, he hit only two of his next 12 passes to finish the half.
And after two three-and-outs and an abortive one-play drive to finish the half, a steady chorus of boos could be heard as the Wildcats left the field. It wasn't pretty, but neither the Wildcats' offensive and defensive struggles to finish the second quarter.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here's a look at who's hot and who's not around the Big 12, as well as a few other nuggets to provide some interest heading into Saturday's games. Enjoy.
Missouri's offense with Chase Daniel in charge. With Daniel running Missouri's No. 1 offensive unit, the Tigers have yet to have a single three-and-out possession.
Oklahoma State's offense. The Cowboys have produced two of the eight best "total offense" games in school history in the last three games -- 699 yards against Houston and 612 against Troy.
Missouri's defense, which has struggled all season, mainly because senior safety William Moore has been injured much of the year. The Tigers are last in the league in total defense, allowing 378.5 yards per game.
Oklahoma, which is one of three FBS teams not to fumble this season. The Sooners lead the nation in red-zone offense, converting 19 attempts into 18 touchdowns and a field goal.
Oklahoma's special teams. The Sooners are ranked 104th in kickoff return yardage allowed per kick, 51st in punt return yardage allowed per punt and 95th in net punting average.
Missouri, which has trailed for 13 seconds all season.
Missouri's cornerbacks, who have produced only two interceptions in the Tigers' last 19 games.
Freshman Kansas State defensive end Brandon Herald, who has notched three sacks and eight-and-a-half tackles for losses after only four games.
Colorado's depth in the offensive line. Since the start of fall camp, the Buffaloes have lost six offensive linemen because of injuries, academics and suspensions.
Kansas State wide receiver Brandon Banks, who leads the nation in yards receiving per game (115.8 ypg) and has produced at least one touchdown in all four games.
Baylor, which has lost 39 of its last 41 games against ranked teams since joining the Big 12. The Bears have lost 13 straight games against ranked teams since beating Texas A&M 35-34 on Oct. 30, 2004.
Kansas State running back Lamark Brown, a converted wide receiver who has emerged as the Wildcats' leading rushing threat after producing 137 yards on 29 carries last week against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Kansas State's rush defense, which has been gashed for more than 300 yards in back-to-back games by Louisville and Louisiana-Lafayette.
Nebraska's special teams, specificially at home against Missouri. In the Cornhuskers' last six home games against the Tigers, they have produced four punt returns for touchdowns.
Preseason All-Big 12 kick returner Marcus Hereford of Kansas, who has produced an average of only 11.4 yards per kick return.
Kansas State's offensive line, which hasn't allowed a sack in the first four games of the season.
Oklahoma's offensive line, which allowed four sacks and produced only 25 rushing yards last week against TCU. It was the lowest rushing total for the Sooners in 82 games, dating back to a 37-27 victory over Alabama on Sept. 7, 2002, where they produced minus-23 yards.
Multi-talented Missouri wide receiver/kick returner Jeremy Maclin, who has accounted for multiple touchdowns rushing (five), receiving (13), on punt returns (two) and kickoff returns (two). The only other active players with at least career touchdowns in all of those categories are seniors Derrick Williams of Penn State and Brandon Tate of North Carolina.
Texas Tech's opponents so far this season. Of the four teams the Red Raiders have beaten, they have combined for one victory over a FBS program - Nevada's triumph over UNLV.
Colorado's special teams against Florida State last week. The Buffaloes had a punt blocked through the end zone for a safety and allowed a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Returner Josh Smith also fumbled a kickoff at the 4-yard line and kicker Aric Goodman misfired on a 27-yard field goal attempt.
Weird statistical trend: Missouri is 10-3 in games where Chase Daniel has attempted 40 or more passes. Before he earned the team's starting job in 2006, the Tigers were just 1-12-1 in games where a Tiger quarterback had 40 pass attempts or more.
The chart, part I
Missouri wide receiver/kick returner Jeremy Maclin is one of the most versatile players in the nation. But he's been overshadowed in most Heisman polls so far this season.
Here's how Maclin's numbers compare with those of Desmond Howard, who was the last wide receiver to claim the Heisman in 1991.
|Desmond Howard||Jeremy Maclin|
|Receptions per game||5.5||6.5|
|Rec. yards per game||86.4||97.8|
|All-purpose yards per game||165.8||193.5|
|TD average per game||2.1||1.5|
Obviously, if Howard could break a couple of big plays in the next several games, it would immeasurably boost his Heisman hopes.
Source: ESPN.com research.
The chart, part II
Texas is on a remarkable recent streak, winning 34 of its last 37 road games. Here's a look at the road games that Texas has lost during that time.
Nov. 16, 2002 at Texas Tech 38-42
Nov. 11, 2006 at Kansas State 42-45
Nov. 23, 2007 at Texas A&M 30-38
Note: Texas' record in neutral-site games during that period is a more pedestrian 9-9, which includes six losses to Oklahoma in Dallas and three bowl-game losses.
Here are some of the more notable quotes around the Big 12 this week.
"I don't know how many ways you can say it creatively,but we're going through the gauntlet. If you want to spend time handing out game balls because you beat West Virginia or having funerals because you lost to Florida State, that's wrong. You just keep repooling and working it out."
ure over the last two weeks.
"This is not like the NFL, where you might go to the playoffs with a 9-7 record. You don't have that many opportunities in college football, because every game matters. It would do us a lot of good to come out and play well."
Kansas State coach Ron Prince on his team's mindset heading into its game against Texas Tech.
"I've never gone into a game making concessions. I won't start this week. We're going to play the best we possibly can and try to shut them out."
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini on trying to derail Missouri's explosive offensive attack.