Big 12: Calvin Barnett

Seventeen Big 12 players heard their names called during the 2014 NFL draft. Many other Big 12 alums will have a chance at the next level as undrafted free agents.

Below is a list of undrafted players who reportedly have agreed to free agent deals. This is not a final list, as teams are still working to sign undrafted free agents. But these are the players we know of so far.

Baylor
Iowa State
Kansas
Kansas State
Oklahoma
Oklahoma State
TCU
Texas
Texas Tech
West Virginia

Top 25 players in the Big 12: No. 25

January, 20, 2014
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With signing day quickly approaching, it’s time to close the chapter on the 2013 season. We’re counting down the top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 over the next few days with a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. We open the postseason countdown with the No. 25 player in the Big 12.

No. 25: Calvin Barnett, DT, Oklahoma State

Previous ranking: Barnett was No. 18 in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s top 25 players.

Making the case for Barnett: He was the best defensive tackle in the league, giving the Cowboys a consistent force up front in the trenches. Thanks in large part to Barnett and fellow defensive tackle James Castleman controlling the line of scrimmage, Oklahoma State led the Big 12 in fewest points allowed per drive.

Barnett was a first-team All-Big 12 selection, and the only defensive tackle on the team. He finished his senior season with nine tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, and will go down as one of the better defensive players to play for Oklahoma State during the Mike Gundy era.

Big 12 all-bowl team

January, 9, 2014
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The Big 12 had some memorable bowl performances, and some not-so-memorable ones. Below, we honor the memorable ones with the Big 12's all-bowl team:

OFFENSE

QB: Trevor Knight, Oklahoma. Texas Tech’s Davis Webb and Kansas State’s Jake Waters were marvelous, too, but Knight was simply incredible, throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns against the two-time defending national champs.

RB: Malcolm Brown, Texas. Brown did everything he could to keep the Longhorns in the Valero Alamo Bowl, rushing for 130 yards on 26 carries. Unfortunately, he had little help from the rest of the offense.

[+] EnlargeTyler Lockett
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesTyler Lockett proved just as much a handful for Michigan as he does Big 12 teams.
RB: John Hubert, Kansas State. In his final game at K-State, Hubert went out with a bang, rushing for 80 yards and a touchdown as the Wildcats rolled Michigan.

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State. The Wolverines became the next team unable to guard Lockett, who had another stellar outing with 10 catches, 116 yards and three touchdowns. Big 12 defensive backs cannot be looking forward to this guy coming back next season.

WR: Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma. Saunders hauled in two of Knight’s touchdown passes, the second a 43-yarder coming off a gorgeous double move that gave OU the lead for good.

TE: Jace Amaro, Texas Tech. Amaro became the NCAA's all-time single season tight end record holder for receptions and receiving yards, reeling in eight catches for 112 yards against the Sun Devils before revealing he would be turning pro.

OT: Bronson Irwin, Oklahoma. Irwin held up remarkably well against Alabama’s mighty front in his first career start at right tackle, as Knight was sacked only once. Irwin, a guard his entire career, had to move outside because of an injury to Tyrus Thompson.

OT: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech. Webb attempted 41 passes and wasn’t sacked once. Clark was a big reason.

OG: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State. The Wildcats moved the ball at will against Michigan. Along with Clark, Whitehair is one of the best young returning offensive linemen in the league.

OG: Beau Carpenter, Texas Tech. After missing three straight games with a concussion, Carpenter returned to help shut down Arizona State All-American DT Will Sutton, who basically was a non-factor.

C: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma. Even with a makeshift offensive line, OU somehow won the battle in the trenches against Alabama. Ikard, an All-American and quarterback of the line, deserves a ton of credit for keeping the line together.

DEFENSE

DE: Geneo Grissom, Oklahoma. Grissom was a man possessed against the Crimson Tide. The former tight end had two sacks and two fumble recoveries, the latter of which he returned for a touchdown to clinch the Sooners’ victory.

DT: Calvin Barnett, Oklahoma State. Despite the loss, Barnett tied a career high with five tackles and one sack and repeatedly found his way into the Missouri backfield.

DT: Dartwan Bush, Texas Tech. The Red Raiders desperately missed Bush late in the regular season. His performance against Arizona State underscored why, as Bush delivered three tackles and a sack and freed up Kerry Hyder to make plays, too.

[+] EnlargeEric Striker
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesSooners LB Eric Striker sacked AJ McCarron three times in the Sugar Bowl.
DE: Jimmy Bean, Oklahoma State. Bean had a breakout game in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, with a career-high seven tackles, including three for loss.

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma. Not even Alabama could block Striker off the edge. Striker had a monster performance against the Tide with seven tackles and three sacks, with his final sack forcing the game-clinching fumble in the final minute of the fourth quarter.

LB: Will Smith, Texas Tech. The senior had a National University Holiday Bowl-high 14 tackles, as the Red Raiders held Arizona State 17 points below its season average.

LB: Blake Slaughter, Kansas State. One of the better linebackers in the Big 12 all year, Slaughter had another fine game in the desert with seven tackles, including one for loss, as Michigan’s offense was held in check all night.

CB: Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma. The Sooners gave up some big plays in the passing game, but Colvin was the exception. He also had a critical, touchdown-saving tackle in the first quarter that resulted in Alabama having to settle for a field goal.

CB: Demetri Goodson, Baylor. The Bears gave up 52 points, but they might have given up more had Goodson not collected an acrobatic interception inside the Baylor 5-yard line.

S: Dante Barnett, Kansas State. Barnett led the Wildcats with eight tackles, and he delivered the exclamation point against Michigan with a 51-yard interception return in the fourth quarter.

S: Tanner Jacobson, Texas Tech. In his last college game for a while, the walk-on freshman had a very solid performance with seven tackles. Jacobson is leaving the program for a two-year Mormon mission to Bolivia.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma. “Moneycutt” nailed a season-long 47-yard field goal in the second quarter that allowed OU to keep momentum. It was the third-longest field goal of his career.

P: Spencer Roth, Baylor. One of the few bright spots for Baylor in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl was its punter, who was busier than he had been all season. Roth averaged almost 44 yards on seven punts, and pinned UCF inside the 20-yard line three times.

Returner: Reginald Davis, Texas Tech. After Arizona State had trimmed Tech’s lead to 27-20 early in the third quarter, Davis answered on the ensuing kickoff with a 90-yard touchdown return down the sideline. The Sun Devils failed to retake the momentum again the rest of the game.

Big 12 lunchtime links

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
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Don't forget to take a glimpse at the future during the Under Armour All-America Game later today (3 p.m. CT, ESPN).

Bedlam the final obstacle for Cowboys

December, 3, 2013
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STILLWATER, Okla. -- Oklahoma State has won a Big 12 title. And been to a BCS bowl.

The Cowboys have the Big 12’s best record over the last five seasons. And defeated Texas three straight times in Austin.

[+] EnlargeMike Gundy, Bob Stoops
Brett Deering/Getty ImagesWhile Mike Gundy (left) has raised Oklahoma State's profile, he is just 1-7 against Bob Stoops and OU.
Since the turn of the century, the Big 12 has always been about the Big 2 -- Oklahoma and Texas.

But spurred by Boone Pickens’ dollars and Mike Gundy’s coaching, Oklahoma State is on the verge of turning that into a Big 3.

Only one obstacle remains for the Cowboys: consistently vanquishing their in-state rival.

This weekend in Stillwater, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma will stage the 108th meeting of the Bedlam rivalry. The Sooners have lost only 17 of those meetings, making Bedlam the most lopsided in-state rivalry in college football history.

“It’s a rivalry,” Cowboys guard Brandon Webb said. “But we haven’t won too many times in that rivalry.”

With opulent facilities, a substantial uptick in recruiting, assistant coaching salaries commensurate to the nation’s top programs, exciting schemes and a galvanized, expanding fan base, Oklahoma State’s rise has been rapid in Gundy’s nine years as head coach.

“Oklahoma State has come a long way in football,” Gundy said. “Our goal nine-and-a-half years ago was year-in, year-out, on a daily basis, when we went to play a football game, to have a chance to win. And not go to a stadium and the fans feel like we don’t have a chance to win. I think we’re at that point. … The program is at a different level nationally.”

Oklahoma State, however, won’t go any further nationally until it can overcome its local problem.

Under Gundy, the Cowboys are 1-7 against the Sooners, preserving the lopsidedness of the series, while also preventing Oklahoma State from climbing to the lofty perch where Oklahoma has comfortably resided since Bud Wilkinson agreed to coach the Sooners after the Second World War.

“They’re standing in our way,” said Webb, whose father Terry was an All-American guard for Oklahoma in the early 1970s and one of countless Sooners who finished their careers unblemished in Bedlam. “If they can beat us every time, it’s not good. We’ve got to beat them to get to where we want to be. It’s something we have to overcome.”

Saturday, the Cowboys have a prime opportunity to accomplish just that.

Oklahoma State is a double-digit favorite in Bedlam for the first time since odds makers began keeping track. And with a victory, the Cowboys can clinch their second Big 12 title and Fiesta Bowl appearance in three years.

To the players, the stakes are still higher.

“It’s not just another game at all,” said Cowboys defensive tackle Calvin Barnett, who grew up in Tulsa, Okla. “This is not just for the Big 12 championship, not just to finish the season out winning, not just for a BCS game. It’s about people knowing there’s not just one dominant team in Oklahoma.”

For seven decades, there was just one dominant team. From 1946-2009, Oklahoma won Bedlam by double digits a stunning 43 of 63 times.

“We’ve made it a very competitive game,” said safety Daytawion Lowe, an Oklahoma City native who chose the Cowboys over Oklahoma coming out of high school. “Back when I watched the game growing up, it used to be blowouts. The last five years, it’s been very competitive.”

[+] EnlargeClint Chelf
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesClint Chelf and the Cowboys will earn a second Big 12 title with a Bedlam win.
So competitive that two of the last three games have been decided on the final possession, with the Cowboys actually landing the lone blowout victory.

“That’s what’s changing,” Webb said. “People say we used to be afraid of OU. But we’re not afraid anymore.”

After losing a wild shootout in 2010, Oklahoma State came back to destroy the Sooners 44-10 in 2011 to seize the program’s first outright conference title in 63 years.

Last year in Norman, the underdog Cowboys showed no fear and thoroughly outplayed Oklahoma for three quarters, before the Sooners stormed back to win in overtime. It was the first time in 12 years the Cowboys played Oklahoma to within 27 points in Norman.

“It’s been a give and take where people that watch it, when you went to the stadium, you didn’t know who was going to win,” Gundy said. “There was a time … where I’m not sure that was (true).”

Gundy downplayed the significance of specifically beating Oklahoma, noting the goals at Oklahoma State are now bigger and broader.

“Our goal is to win our conference,” Gundy said. “Then (let) the chips fall based on how the country feels about us. … getting into the (College Football Playoff).”

But winning the conference requires beating Oklahoma more than once a decade. The Sooners, after all, have captured eight Big 12 titles in the last 13 years. Winning the conference also requires being more than just competitive with Oklahoma, which once constituted Bedlam success in Stillwater not long ago.

“Oklahoma has a ton of tradition and has been good for a long time,” Cowboys wide receiver Charlie Moore said. “Hopefully 50 from years now, people will say the same about Oklahoma State.”

To get there, the Cowboys must first beat Oklahoma.

Starting first with Saturday.

“You can only change it one year at a time,” Barnett said. “We’re going to try and help change that this year.”

STILLWATER, Okla. -- With nine minutes still to be played, America’s top offense finally had enough.

So instead of going for another seemingly hopeless fourth-and-long, Baylor called its record-setting offense to the sideline and sent out the punt team. On the other side of the field, sensing the capitulation, Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer began hopping up and down, slapping the helmet of any defender passing by his general vicinity.

The 10th-ranked Cowboys always believed they could knock off fourth-ranked Baylor. But nobody, from "College GameDay" guest picker Marcus Smart to the Cowboys themselves, thought they would put the mighty Bears away before the fourth quarter.

Yet, Saturday night before a sold-out Boone Pickens Stadium, Oklahoma State did exactly that, pummeling Baylor into submission 49-17 to ensure the Big 12 title will go through Stillwater.

Again.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty, Daytawion Lowe, Tyler Johnson
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiThe Oklahoma State defense bottled up Bryce Petty and the high-flying Baylor offense all night.
“We weren’t intimidated,” said Cowboys linebacker Caleb Lavey. “And we were able to shut them down.”

No defense had slowed the Bears down all year, much less shut them down.

Baylor came into the night leading the nation with 61 points per game. After three quarters in Stillwater, the Bears had managed a single field goal.

“The Baylor offense deserved to get the pub it was getting,” Lavey said. “So being able to keep them off the board in touchdowns until the fourth quarter says a lot about this defense. Our defense did a great job.”

Great doesn’t do it justice. The Big 12’s best defense was dominant.

Head coach Mike Gundy said he felt Oklahoma State would need to score 35 points just to have a chance against Baylor. Thanks to his defense, the Cowboys needed only half that.

Even with All-American candidate Justin Gilbert limited to spot duty because of a shoulder injury, fellow cornerbacks Tyler Patmon and Kevin Peterson locked up Baylor’s speed-demon receivers in man-to-man coverage. The Bears, who led the country in completions of 30 yards or more, finished with just two such completions Saturday.

Up front, Oklahoma State tackles James Castleman and Calvin Barnett owned the line of scrimmage. Baylor, which had been averaging more than 300 yards per game on the ground, was held to just 96 yards rushing with a paltry average of 2.6 yards per carry.

And in between, linebackers Lavey and Shaun Lewis came up with huge plays all night.

All told, the Cowboys forced three fumbles, including two from inside their own 5-yard line. In the first quarter two plays after Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty stumbled to the turf at the 1 after a 27-yard dash, Castleman batted the ball out of Shock Linwood’s hands, and recovered it himself. The Cowboys countered with a 99-yard touchdown drive to grab control and a 7-0 lead.

Early in the fourth quarter, Baylor finally drove the ball back to the Oklahoma State 2 with a chance to cut the deficit to 35-17. Instead, Petty fumbled a wild snap, and Patmon scooped it up and returned it 78 yards for a touchdown to put the Cowboys up 42-10.

After a three-and-nothing on its the next possession, Baylor punted, starting up the party on the Oklahoma State sideline.

“They’re a great team,” said Spencer, who mixed up eight-man coverages with exotic blitzes all game. “But our kids tonight executed and played great defense.”

Yet as good as it was, the Oklahoma State defense was hardly the whole story.

[+] EnlargeClint Chelf
Allen Kee/ESPN ImagesOklahoma State QB Clint Chelf had a career day, throwing for 370 yards and accounting for four TDs.
Cowboy quarterback Clint Chelf remained on fire while outgunning Petty, Chelf's Heisman hopeful counterpart.

Chelf completed his first 12 passes, threw for a career-high 370 yards and accounted for four touchdowns as he continued his late-season charge since taking back over the starting job last month.

“He was accurate, and he made good decisions,” Gundy said. “I couldn’t be more proud of what he’s accomplished. He’s been a good leader, and he’s done it quietly. He's been humbled, and for that he's had success.”

Chelf lost the starting job two lackluster series into the season opener against Mississippi State. With J.W. Walsh in at quarterback, the offense languished, including in a 30-21 loss at West Virginia in a conference opener that looks more stunning by the week.

But since reclaiming the job on Oct. 26 at Iowa State, Chelf has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Last week, he delivered the second-highest QBR in the country in a 38-13 win at Texas.

Saturday, he was even better, throwing darts all over the field while picking apart Baylor’s secondary. Then in the third quarter, Chelf delivered the exclamation point, hauling in a throwback pass from Josh Stewart before racing 48 yards to the Baylor 5-yard line to set up a touchdown that put the Cowboys up 28-3.

“Chelf toughed everything out,” Stewart said. “He stayed with it. And tonight he was very impressive.”

So were the Cowboys, who before 2011 had only one conference title -- a three-way split in 1976 – in 58 years. After its stomping of the Bears, Oklahoma State is now one Bedlam win in Stillwater away from winning its second Big 12 title in three years.

“We have made great strides,” Gundy said. “The best way I can explain that is: I don’t know the last time we took the field and our players didn’t think we could win.”

Once again, the Cowboys took the field thinking they could win. They left it in control of the conference title. Again.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 12

November, 18, 2013
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The only change in the power ranks comes at the bottom:

1. Baylor (9-0, 6-0 Big 12, last week 1): Is there any team at any level of football that seems less worried about a 14-0 deficit? The Bears have to be one of the best vertical passing teams in college football history. Who knows, maybe the best. Baylor now has 27 pass plays that have gone for at least 40 yards. Nobody else in college football has more than 16. As a result, QB Bryce Petty is on pace to shatter Colt Brennan’s season passing efficiency record set in 2006. With another big game in Stillwater, Petty could set himself up for a trip to New York while lifting the Bears firmly into third ahead of Ohio State in the BCS standings.

2. Oklahoma State (9-1, 6-1 Big 12, LW 2): As Texas found out, the Cowboys are stout on every level defensively. Tackle Calvin Barnett is ferocious up front, linebacker Caleb Lavey is in on seemingly every play and corner Justin Gilbert is one of the best cover men in college football. All three should be on every first-team All-Big 12 ballot, and Lavey, the heart and soul of this team, should be the front-runner for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. This is the only unit in the conference with a chance against Baylor.

3. Texas (7-3, 6-1 Big 12, LW 3): Over the weekend, Oklahoma State handed coach Mack Brown his most lopsided home loss in 16 years in Austin. Now, barring a miracle upset in Waco on Dec. 7, the Longhorns are staring down a regular-season finish of 8-4 -- at best. That record would not bode well for Brown’s future at Texas, even after a gallant recovery from the early-season disaster.

4. Kansas State (6-4, 4-3 Big 12, LW 4): As Bill Snyder said, the Wildcats didn’t play their best against TCU. But they played just well enough to win. Perhaps they were peeking ahead to this weekend, which will be the game of the year for K-State. If the Wildcats can take out Oklahoma, they will likely end the regular season on a six-game winning streak, go to a solid bowl and carry tons of momentum into next season.

5. Oklahoma (8-2, 5-2 Big 12, last week 5): The Sooners once believed that Trevor Knight was their QB of the future. He just might be, after all. In relief of injured QB Blake Bell, Knight looked the best he has all year against Iowa State. He completed 8 of 14 passes and rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown while delivering a respectable adjusted QBR of 74.8. It’s time for the Sooners to turn the offense back over to Knight and see what he can do down the stretch.

6. Texas Tech (7-4, 4-4 Big 12, LW 6): The Red Raiders brought their A-game to Arlington and still got beat by 29 points. But that was more indicative of how explosive Baylor is. If the Red Raiders play the same way in Austin on Thanksgiving night, they stand a good chance to finally get off this November schneid.

7. West Virginia (4-7, 2-6 Big 12, LW 7): You don't just waltz into Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kan., and expect to stroll out with a victory. Oh wait, you do?

8. TCU (4-7, 2-6 Big 12, LW 8): The Horned Frogs fought hard against K-State, but came up short again. Now, as coach Gary Patterson put it, they’ll have to settle for turning the Baylor game in two weeks into a bowl.

9. Kansas (3-7, 1-6 Big 12, LW 10): Congratulations to the Jayhawks. Nobody outside the KU program believed that the 27-game Big 12 losing streak would be snapped. Well, almost nobody. Iowa State is up next. And if the Jayhawks win Saturday, it will be called a winning streak.

10. Iowa State (1-9, 0-7 Big 12, LW 9): Forgive Iowa State fans for storming the court after a November basketball victory against Michigan. The Cyclones haven’t had much to cheer about in awhile.

Under Spencer, OSU D on the attack

November, 14, 2013
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STILLWATER, Okla. -- The play indicative of the Oklahoma State defense’s past came in the waning moments against the Longhorns last year.

On a fourth-and-6, Texas quarterback David Ash completed a 29-yard pass with ease across the middle of the field. During the play, the Cowboys rushed only three. And boosted by the big pass, Texas ultimately came back to win.

But that was then.

[+] EnlargeGlenn Spencer
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiOklahoma State's defense has improved since Glenn Spencer has allowed a more attacking style.
Under first-year coordinator Glenn Spencer, Oklahoma State has finally shed the stigma of a bend-and-hope-not-to-break style this season. And now, heading into another Big 12 showdown with Texas this weekend, the Cowboys are playing defense at heights Stillwater hasn’t seen since the turn of the millennium.

“A lot of people can draw things up, but we’ve got good players that have allowed us to do some things we haven’t done in the past around here,” Spencer said. “Bottom line, we couldn’t do the things we’re doing if we didn’t have good players.”

The Cowboys certainly have good players. And with Spencer’s new aggressive approach, the Pokes are shutting the opposition down for the first time in a long while.

Nationally, Oklahoma State ranks just 20th in scoring defense and 37th in total defense. But those numbers don’t give the Cowboys their due.

Because they play alongside a fast-paced offense, the Cowboys have to defend more plays than most defenses. That’s why “next-level” analytics such as “points per drive” and “yards per play” better underscore the Pokes’ defensive resurgence behind Spencer.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Cowboys rank sixth in the country in fewest points per drive allowed. They also rank ninth in yards per play allowed. Dating back to 2010, Oklahoma State hasn’t finished in the top 40 in either category.

Yet even some of the more traditional numbers suggest a steep upward trend.

The Pokes rank in the top 10 nationally in takeaways (ninth), third down defense (sixth) and red zone defense (ninth).

Put all that together, and it’s not difficult to see why the Cowboys have surged back into the Big 12 title race after an early-season loss at West Virginia. Only, for the first time in the Mike Gundy era, it isn’t the offense leading the charge.

“We’re not sitting back and letting offenses attack us,” senior safety Daytawion Lowe said. “We’re attacking them.”

The last time an Oklahoma State defense was on the attack, Rob Ryan was its defensive coordinator. Since Ryan bolted for the NFL in 2000, the Cowboys have shuffled through several coordinators to little avail.

Oklahoma State’s top defensive effort came behind Bill Young in 2011, when the Cowboys captured their first Big 12 title. The Pokes’ bending defense surrendered points and yards in droves. But they countered by leading the country in takeaways, setting up Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon with short fields.

Yet last season, the defense broke more than it bent. And the Cowboys closed out the regular season getting gashed by Oklahoma and Baylor, prompting Young to step down and Gundy to make another change.

Gundy had always looked outside the program for offensive coordinators, bringing in Dana Holgorsen, Todd Monken, and, most recently, Mike Yurcich all the way from Division II Shippensburg.

But to resurrect his defense, Gundy looked within, and promoted Spencer from linebackers coach to coordinator.

“I liked his demeanor, his style of coaching, how he dealt with his players,” Gundy said. “He’s a very smart coach.”

Gundy also liked Spencer’s plan for a defensive turnaround. No longer would the Cowboys rush three on critical downs. Nor would they play their corners 10 yards off the ball due to the fear of getting beat deep.

“We talked about that the first meeting we had,” Spencer said. “To do that, you can get exposed really fast. They’re getting challenged every day, because of things we as a defensive staff are asking them to do. But play in, play out, we also wanted them to feed on that.”

Despite living on an island, Oklahoma State cornerbacks Justin Gilbert and Kevin Peterson have held up well. In fact among Big 12 teams, only Oklahoma has allowed fewer plays of 40 yards or more.

“We’re challenging the receivers,” Peterson said. “And that aggressiveness has really allowed everything to come together.”

Meanwhile, the rest of the defense has fed on Spencer’s assertive approach.

“The effort and excitement is everywhere -- guys want to make plays,” senior middle linebacker Caleb Lavey said. “No one wants to sit back and let someone else make a play. We have 11 guys on defense that are hungry and want to make big plays.”

No one has played with more hunger than Lavey, who has gone from Bedlam goat, to the short list for Big 12 defensive player of the year.

Last year, Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell ran through Lavey for a goal-line touchdown to send the game to overtime, where the Sooners prevailed.

This year, Lavey has become the cornerstone of Spencer’s defense, leading the Cowboys in tackles and tackles-for-loss.

“A lot of them like him have been through those storms, those valleys,” said Spencer, who has had the Cowboys meet as a defense more than in the past to help build unity and accountability.

“I’ve been around and seen them, heard them and felt them get beat up, unwarranted in my opinion in a lot of cases. I just wanted to work so hard for them to achieve some success and some realization of their hard work.”

That hard work is finally coming to a realization. And Saturday, the Cowboys have a chance to show just how far they’ve come since Ash’s fourth-down pass.

“Coach Spencer has given us that identity,” Lowe said. “This last stretch, that’s going to be the real test.

“But we’re on our way.”

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 11

November, 11, 2013
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Taking stock of Week 11 in the Big 12:

Teams of the week: For the first time this season, we're recognizing two teams here, as both Baylor and Kansas State snagged the biggest wins of their seasons in impressive fashion.

The Wildcats jumped to a 35-10 lead at then-No. 25 Texas Tech, then coasted to a 49-26 rout. QBs Daniel Sams and Jake Waters produced the two-highest Big 12 Adjusted QBRs of the week (98.4 and 94.9), while John Hubert, who had a 63-yard touchdown run on the opening drive, finished with a season-high 157 rushing yards.

Baylor was equally dominant in a 41-12 win Thursday night over Oklahoma. QB Bryce Petty kept his Heisman campaign alive with three touchdowns passes and two touchdown runs. Baylor's defense put the clamps on the Sooners, holding them to just 237 yards, the lowest output from an OU offense since 2007.

Disappointment of the week: Oklahoma traveled to Waco with a chance to gain an upper hand over the Big 12's favorite. Instead, the Sooners were exposed as a second-tier team in the conference. OU was especially dreadful offensively. Blake Bell completed just 15 of 35 passes with two interceptions for a raw QBR score of 5.9 (scale 0-to-100). The Sooners averaged only 2.6 yards per carry on the ground, as well, with just one run going for more than 10 yards. With games at Kansas State and Oklahoma State still looming, the Sooners could be on the verge of their worst season since 2009.

[+] EnlargeShock Linwood
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezThird-team running back Shock Linwood had his third 100-yard game for Baylor on Thursday.
Big (offensive) men on campus: Baylor running back Shock Linwood, TCU receiver/quarterback Trevone Boykin and the Kansas State offensive line.

With Lache Seastrunk banged up and Glasco Martin injured, Linwood kept the Baylor ground game rolling without a hitch, piling up 182 yards while averaging 7.9 yards per carry. Despite being Baylor's third-team tailback, Linwood astonishingly is second in the Big 12 with an average of 89.3 rushing yards per game.

Back in the role he was always meant for, Boykin was excellent at Iowa State as a receiver and change-of-pace quarterback. He scored three touchdowns on five carries, including a one-yard keeper in the final minute to lift TCU to a 21-17 win. Boykin also had four receptions.

Finally, K-State's offensive line obliterated Texas Tech up front, setting the tone for the Wildcats in Lubbock. Behind Cornelius Lucas, Cody Whitehair, BJ Finney, Keenan Taylor and Tavon Rooks, the Wildcats rolled up 291 yards on the ground with an average of almost seven yards per carry.

Big (defensive) men on campus: Texas defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed, Oklahoma State defensive tackle Calvin Barnett, Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon and Kansas State safety Ty Zimmerman.

The Longhorns gave up 40 points in Morgantown, but Jeffcoat and Reed were swarming West Virginia's backfield all night. The two combined for three sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, as the defense gave the Texas offense excellent field position for most of the game.

Barnett spearheaded another strong defensive effort from the Cowboys in a 42-6 win over Kansas. Barnett had five tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack.

Dixon led Baylor's shutdown effort of the Sooners. He had a team-high 8 tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass breakup, as Oklahoma failed to score a touchdown until late in the third quarter.

Zimmerman gutted out a shoulder injury to lead the Wildcats defensively. He had a couple of big hits, and a 43-yard interception return to provide the exclamation point in Lubbock.

Special-teams players of the week: Oklahoma State returner Justin Gilbert, Iowa State returner DeVondrick Nealy and Texas kicker Anthony Fera.

With former Oklahoma State great Barry Sanders in attendance, Gilbert pulled off his best Sanders impression, taking the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.

Nealy opened the third quarter against TCU with a 98-yard TD return that tied the game.

As he has been all year, Fera was clutch in Texas' overtime win at West Virginia. He converted all five of his extra points and all four of his field goals, including the 24-yarder in the final seconds to send the game to overtime. Fera has missed only one field goal attempt all season, and the four makes at West Virginia were a career-best.

Play of the week: With 59 seconds to play, Texas faced fourth-and-7 trailing West Virginia 40-37. Out of a timeout, QB Case McCoy stepped into the blitz and delivered a first-down strike to Jaxon Shipley a yard ahead of the marker. Fera ended the drive with a game-tying field goal, then the Longhorns prevailed in overtime to win their sixth straight game.

Stat of the week: After surrendering an average of 7.0 yards per carry in losses to BYU and Ole Miss, the Texas defense has held its past six opponents to a combined average of 3.2, with nobody topping more than 4.0 in a game.

Quote of the week: "We're not a tradition. But we're going to be here awhile, the way this thing is going." -- Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, after the Bears' 41-12 win over Oklahoma
On the heels of the most disappointing loss of the Mike Gundy era, leaders of the Oklahoma State football team decided to ensure that their teammates were focused heading into the next week.

No, we’re not talking last weekend’s 30-21 loss to West Virginia.

During the week following OSU’s 37-31 upset loss to Iowa State in 2011, Brandon Weeden, Markelle Martin and the rest of the senior leaders on that squad made sure their teammates understood the Cowboys’ Big 12 championship hopes remained intact. They didn’t want the loss to snowball and keep them from winning their first Big 12 title.

Waiting in the wings, redshirting freshman J.W. Walsh observed it all. Now, the Cowboys’ starting quarterback plans to use that experience to help his squad get back on track with the heart of Big 12 Conference play looming.

[+] EnlargeJ.W. Walsh
AP Photo/Tyler EvertJ.W. Walsh says the mistakes made by Oklahoma State in its loss last week are correctable.
“When we lost to Iowa State, the older guys took it upon themselves to make sure we were buying into the next week and was not letting Iowa State beat us again,” Walsh said. “Watching what those guys did and trying to incorporate what they did is key for us this year.”

OSU lost its Big 12 favorite status with a sloppy loss to the Mountaineers as turnovers, missed opportunities and horrible special teams play doomed the Cowboys during their first Big 12 trip to Morgantown, W. Va. Walsh and company reviewed their mistakes in the film room on Sunday then turned the switch immediately.

“It’s forget it, time to move on, you have to see the mistakes you made, correct them then time to move forward,” Walsh said. “We can’t let West Virginia beat us twice, there’s still a lot of games to be played, we can still win the Big 12. We can’t sit back and ponder on what we did wrong against West Virginia.”

The Cowboys’ defense actually played well enough to win against the Mountaineers, recording two interceptions while holding WVU to 4.28 yards per play. One of WVU’s three touchdowns was off an interception return. Yet defensive tackle Calvin Barnett left Morgantown disappointed with his unit’s ability to make big plays when it mattered.

“We have to continue to get better, we allowed them to score too much, we didn’t do our job,” Barnett said. “We allowed too many big plays and [were] not making plays on the ball or getting off blocks to make a play when we had a chance to.”

As Barnett reviewed the performance, one thing stood out. The senior liked OSU’s defensive performance during several different stretches, particularly when the Cowboys stayed focused on their individual responsibilities within the system. When they didn’t, trouble arose.

“We have to be our biggest critic,” he said. “There were plays we could have made but didn’t. Everybody being accountable for doing their job, that’s really all it comes down to.”

The mistake-filled performance left the Cowboys with a bad taste in their mouths but also with an understanding of how they can improve. Walsh needs to make better decisions with the ball, the offensive line needs to block better, running backs need to run better, the receivers need to make catches when they get the chance and the defense needs to limit explosive plays from the opposition.

Because, even with the shocking setback, enough talent to win a Big 12 title still roams the halls of the West End Zone in Boone Pickens Stadium.

“We lost a game but it was just because of mistakes, it wasn’t because we aren’t a good football team,” Walsh said. “We made a lot of mistakes and all of those mistakes are correctable.”

OSU had high expectations heading into the season as the preseason favorite to win the conference. Now they’ve tumbled down the conference standings with people questioning how good they really can be. They’ll get their first chance to prove they are a team capable of winning a Big 12 title on Saturday against defending Big 12 champion Kansas State.

“We did lose but at the same time, usually the team that wins the national championship has lost that season and last year the Big 12 [title] was split,” Barnett said. “We still have a chance, our goals are still in front of us, it’s just how bad do we want it because, obviously, we’re not as good as we thought we were.”


The SEC has emerged as the preeminent conference in college football by utilizing the ground game and playing tough defense.

Oklahoma State defeated the SEC with that style Saturday. The Cowboys completely shut down Mississippi State’s offense, then got rolling on the ground to take out the Bulldogs, 21-3.

After giving up on a field goal on the opening drive, the Oklahoma State defense couldn’t have played any better under first-year coordinator Glenn Spencer, who has employed a more aggressive style than his predecessor, Bill Young. After the first drive, Mississippi State went 0 of 14 on third down against the Cowboys, who also knocked quarterback Tyler Russell out of the game in the third quarter.

Oklahoma State got off to an unusually slow start offensively behind starting quarterback Clint Chelf. But backup quarterback J.W. Walsh sparked the Pokes with his wheels late in the second quarter, using a 46-yard option keeper to set up Oklahoma State’s first touchdown. That proved to be the turning point, as the Cowboys dominated the rest of the way, outgaining the Mississippi State 200 yards to 10 in the third quarter as they pulled away.

Mississippi State is no juggernaut offensively. But the Cowboys showed they have at least a chance to field their best defense under head coach Mike Gundy. Defensive tackle Calvin Barnett and company controlled the line of scrimmage against a veteran Mississippi State offensive line while the secondary made plays.

The other big takeaway from this game is that Walsh appears to be Oklahoma State’s quarterback. Chelf could get another shot down the line, but it’s hard to see Walsh getting supplanted over the next month. The Cowboys get UTSA and Lamar before facing West Virginia and Kansas State, who both struggled against FCS opponents in their openers.

If Walsh plays like he did and the defense shows this first game wasn’t a fluke, Oklahoma State has an excellent shot of being 5-0 going into an Oct. 19 showdown with TCU in Stillwater.
During the offseason, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops defiantly dismissed the SEC’s supposed superiority over the Big 12 as pure “propaganda.”

“They’ve had the best team in college football,” Stoops bristled, when asked how the Big 12 could narrow the gap with the SEC.

“They haven’t had the whole conference.”

That theory will be put to the test on the field this weekend, as two neutral-site, Big 12-SEC showdowns highlight the opening Saturday of college football.

[+] EnlargeGary Patterson
Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesGary Patterson and TCU could make a huge statement about the strength of the Big 12 with a win over LSU on Saturday.
Preseason Big 12 favorite Oklahoma State will meet Mississippi State at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Later that night, TCU will take on LSU at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

“Any time you get a chance to play a team in the SEC,” said Oklahoma State wide receiver Tracy Moore, “you have something to prove.”

Which is why for the SEC, it’s just another Saturday. For the Big 12, it’s way more. One conference has nothing to prove; the other, most definitely something.

Justified or not, the Big 12 has been fighting a losing battle lately with the SEC in the court of public perception, which anymore is -– and will be -– half the battle in college football.

Just ask Mike Gundy, whose Cowboys lost out to Alabama for a berth in the BCS title game two years ago, even though Oklahoma State had three more wins over ranked opponents than the Crimson Tide did.

"I don’t think there’s any question the Mississippi State game is a big game," Gundy said. "The way the BCS is set up and eventually with the [playoff], these games factor in. If we as an administration decide to play these games, then you have to be ready for that to factor in the nation's perspective of your football team after that game. I don’t think it’s going to be any other way.”

For the Big 12, the national perspective has not been flattering. Even though nine Big 12 teams were good enough to go to bowls last season -– the crux of Stoops’ counterargument -– none apparently were good enough to begin in the Associated Press' Top 10 for the first time in the history of the conference.

“I do think our league has not gotten the credit nationally it deserves,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “As we keep looking at it over the next couple of years, the Big 12 will gain that respect.”

The Big 12 doesn’t have to wait years. Only days, as the weekend offers a prime opportunity for the league to show it can go toe-to-toe against college football’s preeminent conference.

“The only thing that should be talked about is what happens on Saturday –- and that will be the only way we’ll ever change all that,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “The only way we’ll ever catch the SEC -– if that is true that we’re behind them –- is you’ve got to play them.”

Credit the Big 12 for at least doing that.

On top of this weekend’s SEC tilts, Texas will play host to Ole Miss in two weeks. In 2014-15, Oklahoma has a home-and-home with Tennessee; Texas Tech, the same with Arkansas.

The Big 12 has also signed three bowl agreements with the SEC, including the Champions Bowl, which will pit the two best non-playoff teams from each conference against one another in New Orleans.

But there’s a difference between scheduling the SEC and defeating it.

“That’s always been the best way,” Patterson said. “We have to prove when we get the opportunity to play well or win. That’s the key. Obviously, you can’t have what it looked like in the Cotton Bowl, either.”

The last decade of Cotton Bowls, for that matter.

The SEC has won nine of 10 meetings over the Big 12 in the Cotton Bowl, which has been the highest profile bowl game between the two conferences. The SEC’s average margin of victory in those nine wins is two touchdowns, which, of course, includes Texas A&M’s 28-point annihilation of Oklahoma last season.

To stop the hemorrhaging, the Big 12 can ill-afford for two of its contenders to get taken out on national television by programs projected to finish third and sixth in the SEC West.

“It would be something we’ll never be able to overcome, at least until we got another opportunity,” said Cowboys defensive tackle Calvin Barnett, who signed with Arkansas out of high school. “At the end of the day, we are representing the Big 12. It’s a big week for us.”

The Big 12 can’t narrow the entire SEC superiority gap in a week, whether that gap is real or propaganda. But in a day, TCU and Oklahoma State can prove the Big 12 is deserving of more respect.

“The SEC, they deserve the respect they get,” Cowboys linebacker Shaun Lewis said.

“Hopefully we can earn some, too.”

Big 12 mailbag

August, 16, 2013
8/16/13
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In today’s mailbag, some awful nicknames for Texas’ receivers, a Big 12 fight to the death and West Virginia apparently not getting the respect it deserves.

To the 'bag:

Tim in Pasadena, Calif., writes: Some recent chatter around the blogs, along with a front-page poll, has been about the best rivalries in each conference, and in all of college football. Makes me sick to see a poll like that without Nebraska-Oklahoma.

Jake Trotter: Yeah, it’s really too bad. Of course, Oklahoma deserves much of the blame for the demise of that rivalry. When the Big 12 was being put together in the mid-1990s, the Sooners did not want to continue playing Nebraska annually if they were going be placed in separate divisions. At the time, remember, the Huskers were at their height, while OU was mired in the Gibbs-Schnellenberger-Blake eras. That move effectively sent the rivalry on the decline, with the teams playing only twice every four years. By the time Nebraska split for the Big Ten, the rivalry was a shell of its former self.




Andy in Austin, Texas, writes: What are the chances that Magic Mike, CrackerJax and the rest of UT's receiving corps make it to the top of the Big 12 this year and out perform OSU’s and Tech’s? Does this all depend on the output by David Ash's arm?

Jake Trotter: I only posted this so people could see how bad these nicknames were. You’re on a two-week mailbag ban. Come back stronger next time.




Dan in Iowa writes: Your pick for the toughest Big 12 player in the octagon. Who wins?

Jake Trotter: Calvin Barnett is a contender because he’s fierce and unafraid of committing a personal foul penalty or three. Cyril Richardson is a 6-foot-5, 335-pound house, so he’s in the mix. Last year, I would have picked Iowa State's Jake Knott. The year before that, Ronnell Lewis, who already has a great MMA nickname (“The Hammer”).




Stephen in Fort Worth, Texas, writes: I've been hearing a lot of talk up in Lubbock about a potential QB battle between Michael Brewer and Davis Webb. Which one do you think has the most potential upside in a Kingsbury system?

Jake Trotter: I think they’ve wanted Brewer to be the guy, but this back injury report is alarming. On paper, he has the slightly higher upside. Either guy, though, could be successful playing under Kliff Kingsbury. Ultimately I think Brewer wins the job if he’s healthy. But this is a QB competition worth watching, maybe more so than we originally thought.




Howard in Houston writes: Do you think a Baylor can get in the national championship conversation with a weak Oklahoma and Texas? I know we are trendy, but pre-conference schedule does matter. Thanks, SMU.

Jake Trotter: I’m as bullish on Baylor as anyone. Right now, I put them in the same tier with Oklahoma State, OU, TCU and Texas. But in its history, Baylor has reached double-digit wins during the regular season just once (1980). Now all of a sudden they’re going to go 12-0? I would be worrying less about the nonconference schedule strength, and more about surviving that strong November conference schedule.




Zion in Chester, Va., writes: Do you think that West Virginia is not getting the respect they deserve? Clint Trickett will be the starter. He's a very solid player. We also have elite backs in Charles Sims and Dreamius Smith. Our defense will not be as bad as last year. I just think eighth in the conference is disrespectful.

Jake Trotter: Despite losing Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, I actually think West Virginia could be a better team. I really do. There are pieces there to like, a couple of which you mentioned. But the Mountaineers are in fact getting the respect they deserve. This team completely cratered in 2012, and now they’re without three of the best players in program history. The Mountaineers may surprise. But they have no serious justification for being picked any higher than they are.

Oklahoma State season preview

August, 13, 2013
8/13/13
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Today we continue our Big 12 preview by taking a look at Oklahoma State, the preseason media favorite to win the league in 2013.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

Coach: Mike Gundy (67-35, 8 seasons; 67-35 at OSU, 8 seasons)

2012 record: 8-5 (5-4 Big 12)

Key losses: RB Joseph Randle, K Quinn Sharp, QB Wes Lunt, OL Lane Taylor, CB Brodrick Brown, LB Alex Elkins

[+] EnlargeJosh Stewart
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports Josh Stewart was one of the top receivers in the Big 12 last season as a sophomore.
Key returnees: WR Josh Stewart, DT Calvin Barnett, CB Justin Gilbert, LB Shaun Lewis, S Daytawion Lowe, QB Clint Chelf, S Shamiel Gary, LB Caleb Lavey, WR Tracy Moore, QB J.W. Walsh

Newcomer to watch: The Cowboys have considerable depth at wide receiver entering the fall, but Ra'Shaad Samples could have a breakthrough debut season. The freshman from Dallas was an Under Armour All-American and ran a 4.32 in the 40 this summer.

Biggest games in 2013: A lot could be on the line at Bedlam this year when Oklahoma comes to town on Dec. 7. Texas, TCU and Baylor will all be tough conference tests, and OSU doesn’t start off with a cupcake: The Cowboys will travel to Houston to take on Mississippi State on Aug. 31.

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: Can the Cowboys win the close ones this year? It’s anyone’s league in 2013, and preseason favorite Oklahoma State could struggle to win it outright if the team can’t get it done in the big games like last season. A five-point loss to Texas, three-point overtime defeat against Oklahoma and seven-point loss at Baylor accounted for three of OSU’s five losses last fall. Perhaps more stability at the quarterback spot after juggling three in 2012 will help put the Pokes over the top.

Forecast: Preseason prognostication is all about paper, about how good a team’s projected depth chart looks, and how tough a schedule appears before pads are even put on. On paper, Oklahoma State looks like a potentially great team in 2013.

The Cowboys bring back 15 starters, including perhaps the Big 12’s best receiver (Stewart) and defensive tackle (Barnett). Either Chelf or Walsh could win the starting job and OSU would still have one of the league’s best passers behind center. The cupboard of talent looks pretty stocked.

Mike Gundy finds himself in an enviable position with his preseason Big 12 favorites, but there will be several challengers to the throne. His Cowboys have a chance to go 9-0 if they knock off TCU at home. The final stretch -- Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma -- is tricky, but two games are at home and there’s a bye before OU. The Pokes have the talent and the schedule needed to win this league, there’s no doubt about that.

There are really two big question marks that must be overcome, questions OSU fans are no doubt tired of asking. The first surrounds the team's two new coordinators, including its fourth new offensive coordinator in five years. What will Mike Yurcich, the intriguing hire from Division II’s Shippensburg, bring to the table?

The second is the defense. New defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer has to fix up a unit that held up well in victory last season but gave up 47.2 points per game in its five defeats.
We're counting down to the beginning of the season with the top 25 players in the Big 12. The official list is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we'll be revealing players from the bottom of the list all the way to No. 1.

Here's more on my criteria.

Let's move on with the list:

No. 18: Calvin Barnett, DT, Oklahoma State

2012 numbers: Made 30 tackles, including nine tackles for loss and a sack. Also broke up a pass.

Most recent ranking: Barnett was unranked in our postseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Barnett: Barnett was committed to Oklahoma State for a long while out of high school, but signed with Arkansas and eventually went the junior college route. After picking up two personal fouls on one play in a frustrating loss to Arizona early in the season, plenty of OSU fans were ready to send Barnett back to junior college. He bounced back, though, and spent the rest of the season showing the folks in Stillwater why he was so highly sought after coming out of junior college.

The 6-foot-2, 300-pound Tulsa native was invaluable to OSU's defense over the rest of the season. He's got the three-billed frame of a defensive tackle, but has fantastic athleticism and proved himself as the Big 12's best defensive tackle in 2012. The position has been thin for a long while across the Big 12, but Barnett earned Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year honors for his debut season in Stillwater. He won't get as much attention as some guys like Shaun Lewis or Justin Gilbert, but Barnett will be as responsible for any OSU defensive surge this season as either of those two. Big bodies who can collapse the pocket and make life easier for defensive ends and linebacker are way, way underrated in slowing the run and getting Big 12 passing offenses out of their tempo and comfort zone mid-play, and Barnett can do that better than any tackle in the league.

The rest of the list:

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