Big 12: Carson Coffman

Kansas State-Texas: More Cats dominance?

November, 17, 2011
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Which Big 12 team has the best record against Texas since the league formed? It's not Oklahoma. It's not the angry Aggies. It's not the pesky Red Raiders, either.

In all of their five-star recruitiness, the Longhorns have had infamous struggles against Kansas State, which comes to Austin this week with a 5-2 record against the Longhorns since the Big 12's inception in 1996. The Wildcats have won past three meetings.

"Good fortune, I think, probably as much as anything," coach Bill Snyder says of K-State's recent dominance over Texas.

Former K-State coach Ron Prince never beat Kansas or Mizzou in his three seasons in Manhattan, but he was 2-0 against Texas. Snyder continued the tradition with an epic 39-14 beatdown a season ago in Manhattan.

I don't know about "good fortune."

"They’ve outcoached us and outplayed us. It’s pretty simple," Texas coach Mack Brown said.

[+] EnlargeCollin Klein
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelIn last season's Kansas State-Texas matchup, Collin Klein ran wild, rushing 25 times for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
That's more like it. Last year, K-State quarterback Collin Klein found out he'd be making his first start an hour before kickoff.

He carried the ball 25 times for 127 yards and two scores, and K-State needed only four pass attempts before jumping out to a 39-0 lead after three quarters.

"In that particular game, the good fortune was the fact we ended up playing a different style of quarterback, and one that they had probably not prepared for," Snyder said. "Collin was in the ballgame because Carson Coffman was injured. We were more geared toward quarterback run game, and I’m sure they probably hadn’t prepared well for that, so that’s my guess."

The defense, though, picked off Garrett Gilbert five times. Only three teams beat Texas by double digits in last year's 5-7 campaign. K-State's 25-point margin of victory was the season's most lopsided loss for the Longhorns.

"We were running the ball so well, with turnovers and good field position, the way we were controlling the ball, why throw it? Shoot," Klein said. "We played so well across the board as a team, it really took a lot of pressure off me. We executed so well up front that I had a lot of big holes to run through. Daniel was running well, they opened up some big holes for me, and when you take the turnovers and field position into effect, it equals a big victory."

Despite getting a longer look at Klein than most other teams in the Big 12 entering this season, that experience hardly provides an advantage for the Longhorns.

"He ran up and down the field last year and didn’t throw any passes and we didn’t stop him," Brown said. "He whipped us really good."

Despite entering this weekend 10 spots higher in the BCS standings, K-State is a nine-point underdog, a familiar spot for a team that's won five games as an underdog already this season.

If Texas can't get healthy, though, that status could change quickly on Saturday. If Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron aren't able to return, the Longhorns will be without their top three running backs. (Fozzy Whittaker injured his knee last week.) A knee injury has hounded top receiver Jaxon Shipley as well, and the offense sputtered in a 17-5 loss to Mizzou a week ago, failing to score a touchdown for the first time since 2004.

"Everybody’s got to play better. And we didn’t. We’ve got to coach better, we’ve got to play better, and we didn’t do either one," Brown said.

Texas, Brown says, just needs a win, however it happens.

"Even if it was a pee wee team," he said.

Beating No. 13 K-State would be a big one, and the Wildcats are no pee wee team, especially against the Longhorns. What bearing will history have, though?

"Every year is different. Every team of ours is different. Every team of theirs is different," Klein said.

The results when K-State and Texas get together, though, have been the same.

The Revolving Door: Kansas State

May, 26, 2011
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I've done it. You've done it.

"Hey, is that guy still around?"

Even with two fewer teams, it's hard to keep track. Our next series, which we did last year, too, takes a look at two key players for every team in the league who are taking their talents elsewhere, returning to campus, or arriving to try to write a legacy of their own.

So really, this series isn't so much for the fans of the teams in the posts, but more for everyone else. It wouldn't be a bad idea to bookmark these.

Next up: Kansas State

Going:

Daniel Thomas, RB

Thomas came to Kansas State from junior college and joins a line of juco players turned FBS stars under coach Bill Snyder. The 6-foot-2, 228-pound back bounced off defenders and led the Big 12 in both carries and rushing yards in his two years in the league, finishing with 2,850 career rushing yards. He battled a shoulder injury his junior year, but played through it and his efforts paid off as a senior when he helped carry the Wildcats back to a bowl game for the first time since 2006. He was drafted by Miami in the second round.

Considering Kansas State's struggles throwing the ball during his time there, Thomas' production is even more staggering. Defenses knew he was coming, and he ran over and through them anyway.

Zach Kendall, OL

And how did Thomas do it? Kendall and the offensive line, which loses three starters from last year's team, were the biggest reason. Kendall, a 6-foot-2, 317-pounder, took over as the starting guard midway through the 2008 season and remained a constant on the line for the next two and a half seasons, taking over as one of the team captains in 2010 and earning All-Big 12 honors.

Staying:

David Garrett, CB

Garrett was a rarity last season, the Big 12's only cornerback to lead his team in tackles. That's not a great sign for the defense as a whole, but there's no denying Garrett is one of the team's best playmakers. A 5-foot-8, 175-pound junior college transfer made 92 tackles, including 68 solo stops. He's undersized, but the Big 12 is thin at cornerback. Don't be surprised if Garrett lands on the All-Big 12 first team next year.

Brodrick Smith, WR

Smith transferred from Minnesota and finally got on the field last year, jumping out to a nice start, catching 12 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns in his first three games, providing a much-needed target for Carson Coffman. But late in the game against Nebraska, Smith suffered an ugly broken leg that ended his season. He'll be back on the field again this year with a breakout season in mind.

Coming:

Ian Seau, DE

Seau comes from a rather obvious bloodline that bodes well for his football future. His uncle is veteran NFL linebacker Junior Seau. The Wildcats' top recruit from the 2011 class will get to campus this summer and try to crash the rotation on a defensive line that loses two starters from last year's team. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Carlsbad, Calif., native may end up moving to linebacker, but for now, he's the nation's No. 18 defensive end.

Lamonte Clark, DT

Kansas State was pretty deliberate about its efforts to beef up the defensive line in this year's class. The top five signees from this February were all defensive linemen, and Clark is the biggest, by far. The Washington, D.C., native weighs in at 310 pounds, and stands 6-foot-4. There aren't many defensive linemen in this league that tip three bills on the scale, and Kansas State would certainly like to see him become a force up front.

Click here for more from The Revolving Door.

The Big 12's three dark horses

May, 25, 2011
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A little more than three months before we kick off the 2011 season, one thing is clear: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M are the Big 12 favorites.

Of course, last season, Texas and Oklahoma were the favorites and Oklahoma State came out of nowhere to contend.

So, who could be this season's Cowboys? Here are three teams with the most upside that could contend for a Big 12 title.

Missouri

Last season: 10-3

Big 12 Power Rankings: 4th

Why the Tigers aren't a contender: Simply put, Blaine Gabbert is gone. If the Tigers still had their first-round pick, they'd likely be a borderline top-10 team entering the season.

Why they can contend: Missouri's defense should be great once again after taking big strides in 2010 under coordinator Dave Steckel. The Tigers have lots of confidence in corners Kip Edwards and E.J. Gaines, and even list Edwards as a returning starter since he was in the rotation alongside Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland last season. They'll get a lot of help up front from an offensive line that should be the Big 12's best, and perhaps one of the best in college football.

Offensively, James Franklin replaces Gabbert, but has lots of talent around him, including four returning running backs with experience and every single receiver on the team returns, including four with at least 39 catches a season ago. That's rare, and the experience gained will pay off next fall.

Texas

Last season: 5-7

Big 12 Power Rankings: 7th

Why the Longhorns aren't a contender: The offense crashed and burned in 2010 and the reigning Big 12 champs and national runner-up endured its worst season since 1997.

Why they can contend: Mock recruiting rankings all you'd like, but it's still hard to shake the feeling that Texas is a sleeping giant in 2011. The offensive talent didn't look like it was there last season, but can new coordinator Bryan Harsin change that? The Big 12 won't have a truly elite defense this season, so it's possible.

Texas also should have one of the Big 12's best defenses, as long as it can overcome some inexperience in the secondary. The front seven has loads of experience and potential, and if the turnovers, which coach Mack Brown has harped on all offseason, swing in the Longhorns favor, Texas could become a factor once again. That 5-7 record last season wasn't far from 9-3. Texas lost four games by eight points or fewer.

Kansas State

Last season: 7-6

Big 12 Power Rankings: 8th

Why the Wildcats aren't a contender: The Wildcats rode Daniel Thomas for two seasons, and lose him, as well as starting quarterback Carson Coffman. Combine that with a defense that struggled for most of last season, and it's not an attractive résumé.

Why they can contend: It all comes down to how good the new faces will be. Bryce Brown and Arthur Brown have gotten plenty of press this spring, but Arthur and quarterback Collin Klein will likely have the most to do with the Wildcats exceeding expectations. Klein will have receiver Brodrick Smith back, a transfer who started the season hot before breaking his leg against Nebraska.

The Wildcats are by far the darkest of these horses, but it could be one of Bill Snyder's best coaching jobs if this team contends or finishes in the top 25.

New transfer QB for Kansas State?

May, 16, 2011
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Tate Forcier, a Michigan transfer who started all 12 games for the Wolverines in 2009, signed a financial aid agreement in February and planned to transfer to Miami.

But since his visit to Coral Gables, Fla., Forcier hadn't been back and for personal reasons, decided not to officially become a Hurricane.

That leaves his immediate future in flux, but is it time to complete his winter "Tour de Forcier" that was cut short when he originally decided to make Miami his new home?

Forcier appeared in eight games as Denard Robinson's backup in 2010, and in 20 career games, Forcier threw for 2,647 yards with 17 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

He was scheduled to visit Washington, Arizona and Montana, but never made it to Kansas State during his decision-making process.

Bill Snyder is known for his ability to turn transfers (both major and junior college) into stars, and in 2011 his team might be led by a pair of them -- Arthur and Bryce Brown -- who were once top-flight recruits who transferred closer to their home in Wichita, Kan.

If Forcier re-opened his "recruitment" and came to Kansas State, he might have another transfer quarterback to compete with for the future job.

Collin Klein, who leads the race to replace Carson Coffman and played extensively last season, is a junior. If he officially wins the job, he'd do it over Justin Tuggle and Sammuel Lamur. Tuggle transferred from Boston College before last season.

It's hardly a perfect situation for Forcier, but Klein has attempted just 19 career passes. If he struggles in his first season as a starter, it's possible the job might be up for grabs again next spring.

Forcier, of course, likely won't have that knowledge when he makes his decision, but if he believes he can win the job, the Wildcats just might have a new quarterback.

If Kansas State was among his top options the first time around, there's no reason to believe the Wildcats won't be the second time.

Kansas State spring wrap

May, 6, 2011
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KANSAS STATE

2010 overall record: 7-6

2010 conference record: 3-5

Returning starters: Offense (5), Defense (6) P/K (1)

Top returners: QB Collin Klein, CB David Garrett, S Tysyn Hartman, LB Alex Hrebec, S Ty Zimmerman, WR Brodrick Smith

Key losses: RB Daniel Thomas, WR Aubrey Quarles, OL Zach Kendall, DL Prizell Brown, QB Carson Coffman, RB/KR William Powell

2010 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Daniel Thomas (1,585 yards)

Passing: Carson Coffman (2,060 yards)

Receiving: Aubrey Quarles (765 yards)

Tackles: David Garrett* (92)

Sacks: Prizell Brown (5)

Interceptions: Ty Zimmerman* (3)

Three spring answers

1. Quarterback spot looks clear. It’s not over, but it’s obvious Klein will enter fall camp with a lead in the quarterback spot, ahead of Sammuel Lamur and Boston College transfer Justin Tuggle. He’s only thrown 18 career passes, but will the experience he gained on the field in 2010 should help entrench him as the starter next year.

2. Defensive playmaker emerges. Linebacker Arthur Brown returned home from Miami and sat out last year, per NCAA rules, but made an impact as a scout team defender. This spring, he moved up and will likely start next year. He made a game-high 14 tackles in the spring game and has speed unlike any other Wildcats linebacker.

3. Snyder works his juco mojo again. Juco cornerback Nigel Malone showed up to campus this spring from a junior college in California, and after just 15 practices he may be a starter across from one of the team’s stars, Garrett. Bill Snyder is known for his juco talent-mining skills, and with Malone it looks like he’s struck again.

Three fall questions

1. Who’s the running back? Daniel Thomas was a do-everything back for two years, but we may see a share of carries this year. Bryce Brown hasn’t had quite the impact his brother, Arthur, has, but he’s competing with John Hubert for a starting spot.

2. Where’s the D? Kansas State has found a few new pieces in Malone and Arthur Brown, but embattled defensive coordinator Chris Cosh is still there. The Wildcats defense struggled last year, ranking 11th in total defense. How much better can it be in 2011?

3. What’s in store from Klein? Even if Klein wins the job, he won’t be facing Kansas State’s secondary every week. Is he developed enough as a passer to give Kansas State a viable passing threat? That’s something the Wildcats didn't have with Carson Coffman or Grant Gregory, but can Klein buck the trend?

Big 12 spring game recap: Kansas State

May, 2, 2011
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What happened:

  • Collin Klein put on a show with his arm, completing 25-of-37 passes for 358 yards and five touchdowns.
  • Transfer back Bryce Brown ran 13 times for 73 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
  • Running back John Hubert had 79 yards and a score on eight carries.
  • Tramaine Thompson led all receivers with seven catches for 106 yards and a pair of scores. Sheldon Smith had five catches for 138 yards and a touchdown.
  • In my favorite spring gimmick perhaps in all of football, coach Bill Snyder switched the scores at halftime as usual, and the Purple team made up of mostly first-teamers won, 38-37. The real score was 59-16, though.
  • A crowd of 8,594 showed up.
What we learned:
  • What's the deal with Kansas State quarterbacks and the spring game? Last year, Carson Coffman tossed seven touchdown passes and followed it up with 14 in all of the 2010 season. This year, it was Klein's turn. He did it against second-team corners, yes, but still. That's as long of a look as fans have gotten at Klein, who threw just 18 passes all last season. While he looked good, the other two quarterbacks on the roster struggled. Sammuel Lamur was 17-of-32 for 173 yards. Justin Tuggle hardly played, and finished 4-of-6 for 62 yards and an interception. That should tell you plenty about Tuggle's status on the depth chart. Klein is obviously headed into fall camp atop the depth chart, but don't look for an official declaration just yet. "I still don't see a great deal of separation," Snyder told reporters after the game. Maybe not, but it's pretty clear this is Klein's job to lose, especially if he keeps tossing it like that.
  • Bryce Brown didn't have a big day, but he did let a cat out of the bag: He's been practicing with a bum ankle since the first scrimmage. Despite that, it sounds like he looked pretty impressive and put up a decent stat line while doing it. There's no ignoring what Hubert did, and he'll get some touches of his own next season, but it's hard to see Brown turning into a bust.
  • Arthur Brown, meanwhile, is living up to some of the hype he built while dominating the scout team during the last year. He led all tacklers with 14 stops, and his nine solo tackles were as many as any other player had total. He also had a tackle for loss. If he's not a starter and one of the true stars of a defense that needs more speed next season, I'd be shocked. Brown turned heads by chasing down running back Robert Rose and forcing him out of bounds on what looked like a touchdown, leading Snyder to admit that Brown was the fastest linebacker he's coached since returning to the sidelines.
  • Defensive end Brandon Harold had a pretty underwhelming season last year after having a strong freshman campaign, but he got back on track with 2.5 sacks on Saturday. That has to be a welcome sight for defensive coordinator Chris Cosh. The Wildcats pass rush wasn't there last season, and Harold is the most talented of the group. Turning that talent into production is a must if Kansas State is going to get back to a bowl game.
  • Three of the Wildcats key defenders, linebacker Alex Hrebec and safeties Ty Zimmerman and Tysyn Hartman, sat out. Hartman fielded punts, but didn't play defense.
They said it:

"That’s what he’s been doing all spring. Collin has just been letting the ball go. After last year, a lot of people thought he would be coming in just to run the ball, but he can throw it."


- Receiver Chris Harper, on quarterback Collin Klein.

More Big 12 spring game recaps:

Spring superlatives: Kansas State

April, 7, 2011
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Today: The fourth in our series looking at the strongest and weakest position for each team in the Big 12: The Kansas State Wildcats.

Strongest position: Secondary

Key returnees: David Garrett, Tysyn Hartman, Ty Zimmerman, Emmanuel Lamur

Key losses: Terrance Sweeney, Troy Butler, Stephen Harrison

Analysis: This group helped Kansas State rank fifth in the Big 12 in pass defense. It easily has the most proven playmakers of any spot on the field for a team that needs a new running back, a new quarterback, replaces three offensive linemen and a pair of defensive linemen.

Garrett led the team in tackles and made 15 tackles for loss, adding nine broken up passes and an interception. Hartman will be one of the team's leaders again as a senior, and finished second on the team with 86 tackles, picking off a pair of passes.

Meanwhile, Zimmerman was one of the league's best freshmen in 2010, picking off three passes on the year, including two against Texas and making 74 tackles.

Kansas State will have a lot of new faces in a lot of places next year, but the secondary should be even better next year.

Weakest position: Quarterback

Key returnees: Collin Klein, Sammuel Lamur

Key losses: Carson Coffman

Analysis: Quarterback has been a problem for Kansas State, but the past two seasons, Daniel Thomas' performance in the running game has helped the team rack up 12 wins. Thomas is gone now, though, and the Wildcats offense has big questions at the skill positions. In the Big 12, that matters most at quarterback.

Lamur has almost no real experience, and Klein was a valuable runner last year, but has to show progress as a passer. Neither's ceiling is very high, and the Wildcats fans are hoping Boston College transfer Justin Tuggle can provide some pop to the position. Like Klein and Lamur, he fits the dual-threat mold that has been most successful under Bill Snyder, but he has to win the competition first.

More spring superlatives:

Who's set and who's not at quarterback?

February, 17, 2011
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We took a look at the Big 12's spring storylines yesterday, and for several teams, that involves the quarterback. For others, it doesn't. But heading into the spring, which starts as early as Friday at Texas Tech, here's how the Big 12's teams rank in terms of certainty at quarterback.

LOCKED AND LOADED

Baylor: Baylor's offense runs entirely through the Bears' Robert Griffin III. He rebounded well last season from the knee injury that made him miss most of the 2009 season, and became a much, much better passer. We'll see if that continues in 2011, but it would take a serious injury to knock him off his starting spot.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Weeden
John Rieger/US PresswireBrandon Weeden enters next season as Oklahoma State's starting quarterback.
Oklahoma State: Brandon Weeden started every game for the Cowboys last season and earned All-Big 12 first-team honors. He's back. Look elsewhere for quarterback controversy. The backup race between Clint Chelf, Johnny Deaton and early enrolling freshman J.W. Walsh could be interesting, though.

Oklahoma: Landry Jones will effectively be a third-year starter for the Sooners next season, and a strong contender for All-Big 12 honors and possibly the Heisman. It's his offense for sure in 2011.

Texas A&M: Ryan Tannehill would be the easy front-runner even if he hadn't started the second half of the 2010 season. But he did, went 5-1 in his starts, and has the Aggies sniffing the top 10 in the preseason.

BETTER LOCK IT DOWN, KID

Texas: Garrett Gilbert had a horrible first year as starter in 2010, but he'll need to show his coaches -- new and old -- he'll be better in 2011. Grasping new coordinator Bryan Harsin's system will be key in keeping the junior ahead of his competition, Case McCoy and Connor Wood. Coach Mack Brown said last month that the job was open.

Missouri: James Franklin is the likely lead dog in the race, but only because he got more time and experience playing the game and adjusting to the speed of the game. He'll need to clearly be the best quarterback Missouri has to leave the spring as the projected starter. Tyler Gabbert and Ashton Glaser might steal the title with standout springs, but if all three aren't getting it done, incoming freshman Corbin Berkstresser could theoretically crash the party in preseason camp.

Iowa State: Jerome Tiller has five starts in two seasons because of injuries to Austen Arnaud, including an historic, albeit ugly, 9-7 win at Nebraska in 2009. But Paul Rhoads signed juco transfer Steele Jantz, and he'll have a great chance to win the job, too. James Capello and Jared Barnett will try to make splashes in the spring.

WHICH END IS UP?

Texas Tech: Tech, as usual, is likely to get good play out of whoever wins the job, but it's a near guessing game at this point. Seth Doege and Jacob Karam impressed coach Tommy Tuberville last spring working with the first team after Steven Sheffield and Taylor Potts were hurt, but Doege and Karam will have to hold off younger talents Scotty Young and Michael Brewer to win the job.

Kansas: The Jayhawks never settled on a quarterback, and battled injuries at the position last year. Kale Pick was moved to receiver during the 2010 season, and Jordan Webb and Quinn Mecham will be the main competition this year, despite a lack of truly inspired play for much of 2010. If incoming freshman Brock Berglund, who enrolled early, can show flashes of potential and outplay Webb and Mecham, he might be the guy best suited to help Kansas win right now and in the future.

Kansas State: The Wildcats' presumptive starter might not even be playing the position in 2011, and we've seen very, very little of the three quarterbacks hoping to replace the departed Carson Coffman. Justin Tuggle, a juco transfer, started three games at Boston College and has a good shot to win the job. Newcomer Daniel Sams could win the gig eventually, or it could be the returning Sammuel Lamur, who threw all of three passes last season (completing all three!) as the third-stringer.

What to watch in the Big 12 this spring

February, 16, 2011
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Springtime is almost here. And here's a look at what to expect across the Big 12 when it gets into full swing here in the next couple weeks.

BAYLOR BEARS

Spring practice starts: February 28

Spring game: April 2

What to watch:
  • Big changes on defense. Baylor brought in Phil Bennett as its new defensive coordinator, and he says his scheme will be multiple, built to fit the Bears' personnel. Considering the Bears' recent recruiting successes in the secondary, look for a 4-2-5 type of look.
  • Recruiting stars: time to shine. Both safeties, Tim Atchison and Byron Landor, are gone. Baylor, though, has two former ESPNU 150 recruits at safety who would be well served to start filling their potential. Prince Kent was a reserve last season and at one time, the nation's No. 51 overall recruit who originally signed with Miami. Ahmad Dixon, meanwhile, was the No. 15 overall prospect in the 2010 class. The opportunity is there. Baylor needs big talent at the position. Briles has recruited it. Can they develop into players who make Baylor a contender?
  • Running back competition. Jay Finley topped 1,200 yards in 2010, but he's gone. Who steps into his void? Terrance Ganaway is a bowling ball at 5-foot-11, 235 pounds, but the shifty Jarred Salubi could get a good amount of carries, too. They could begin to share carries this spring.
IOWA STATE CYCLONES

Spring practice starts: March 22

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Quarterback competition. It should be a good one in Ames this spring. Jerome Tiller is the name most recognize after getting lots of meaningful time and starts because of injuries to Austen Arnaud over the past two seasons. But juco transfer Steele Jantz sounds confident he can win the job. Rising sophomore James Capello and redshirt freshman Jared Barnett will compete, too.
  • Paging Cyclone receivers. Iowa State had one of the most underwhelming receiving corps in the league during the past season, and three of its top five pass-catchers won't return in 2011. Of those three, however, one is a tight end (Collin Franklin) and another is a running back (Alexander Robinson). The new quarterback will need some help, and Darius Darks and Darius Reynolds will need to provide it as seniors.
  • Shontrelle's time or not? Freshman Shontrelle Johnson looked like the running back with the most pop behind Robinson for most of 2010, but two other freshmen running backs jockeyed for carries, too. Paul Rhoads is hardly handing the job over to Johnson, but spring could be the time when he really separates himself from the pack.
KANSAS JAYHAWKS

Spring practice starts: April 1

Spring game: April 30

What to watch:
  • What are they doing behind center? Kansas never got much consistent play out of the quarterback position last year, but freshman Brock Berglund is one of the 2011 class' top recruits, and enrolled early to compete in the spring with Jordan Webb and Quinn Mecham. With a building program like Kansas, there's perhaps some value in handing the program to a younger player like Webb or Berglund, but they'll have to earn it. Doing so will start in the spring, but don't expect the Jayhawks to have a set-in-stone starter by spring's end.
  • Top linebacker back on the field. Huldon Tharp missed all of 2010 with a foot injury, but he says he's 100 percent and ready to get back on the field. As a freshman in 2009, he was fifth on the team in tackles, with 59, and looked like one of the league's possible budding stars. Now, he'll get his chance to join fellow linebacker Steven Johnson as one of the team's top tacklers, and he'll do it as a sophomore after redshirting in 2010.
  • Toben rising? Turner Gill raised plenty of eyebrows when he moved his team's leading rusher in 2009, Toben Opurum, to linebacker in fall camp, and eventually slid him up to defensive end. But toward the end of 2010, Opurum started showing some major signs of growth at the position. We'll get a better idea this spring if he's one of the league's most unlikely new stars at defensive end.
KANSAS STATE WILDCATS

Spring practice starts: April 6

Spring game: April 30

What to watch:
  • Prodigal Kansan sons come home. There's no doubt that the Wichita native Brown brothers are the main attraction at Kansas State this spring, a season after transferring back home. Bryce Brown, the running back, was the nation's No. 8 prospect in the 2009 class. Arthur Brown, the linebacker, was the nation's No. 6 prospect in the 2008 class. Bryce transferred from Tennessee and Arthur from Miami. The Wildcats are pinning much of their hopes on the duo, and we'll get a good sense of what they can provide soon.
  • Quarterback competition. Carson Coffman is gone, and two new faces will challenge for the job: juco transfer Justin Tuggle and Daniel Sams. Sammuel Lamur is also up for the gig. Collin Klein may or may not be; Bill Snyder hasn't explicitly confirmed a past comment from Sams saying Klein had moved to receiver. Don't expect a starter to be named by spring's end, but a general order could start to form.
  • Can the defense show improvement? Kansas State had the Big 12's worst overall defense last year, and the worst rushing defense in college football, giving up 3,008 yards on the ground. Coordinator Chris Cosh looks like he'll still be around in 2011, and defensive backs David Garrett and Tysyn Hartman are solid pieces to try and build around. But this young maturing defense must get better to make a bowl game again with so many questions on offense. That starts in the spring.
MISSOURI TIGERS

Spring practice starts: March 8

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Franklin comes alive! Blaine Gabbert bolted to the NFL early, and Missouri has a gaping hole a quarterback. The position, however, is surrounded by a lot of quality talent that likely makes the Tigers a Top 25 team. There's no understating the importance of the position for the Tigers, and that will begin to be decided in the spring. James Franklin, a rising sophomore, saw spot duty in 2010 as more of a runner, and may have the inside track on the job, but Tyler Gabbert, Blaine's younger brother, and Ashton Glaser should make it an interesting competition in the spring. If neither of them impress early, don't count out incoming freshman Corbin Berkstresser.
  • Here is the new secondary. Same as the old secondary? After years of pass defense being one of the Tigers' biggest weaknesses, it became a strength in 2010 behind the leadership of senior corners Kevin Rutland and Carl Gettis. But the Tigers lose them and safety Jarrell Harrison. Rutland emerged as one of the team's most impressive players last spring, but was Missouri's success in the secondary a one-time thing or the beginning of a welcome trend?
  • Time to dominate the trenches? Missouri played without likely first-round pick Aldon Smith for much of the previous season, but the defensive and offensive lines for the Tigers were as good as ever in 2010. How will they look in 2011? Impact juco transfer Sheldon Richardson won't be enrolled by the spring, but the four returning starters on the offensive line should get some solid work against Brad Madison, Jacquies Smith and Terrell Resonno.
OKLAHOMA SOONERS

Spring practice starts: March 21

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Freshmen on display. Coach Bob Stoops hasn't been shy about saying his 2010 recruiting class was his best ever, but it could look even better after this spring. Two of his best emerging recruits, Justin McCay and Geneo Grissom, didn't even play in 2010, and could start to make an impact. The same goes for Corey Nelson, who will try to earn some more time somewhere backing up star Travis Lewis.
  • Is there a golden boot in Norman? Jimmy Stevens was much more accurate in 2010, finishing 19-for-23, but his attempts outside 45 yards were sparse. The good news is he missed none of his 53 extra points. Field goals have been a bit of an adventure for the past couple years, but continuing in the spring what he started last year would be a good sign for Oklahoma. The Sooners are strong everywhere and need good special teams play to reach their lofty title goals.
  • Are the Sooners' backs back? Roy Finch missed the Fiesta Bowl with a stress fracture, and his durability is certainly questionable entering 2011. When he's healthy, he looks like the next star in the Sooners' backfield, but they'll need some depth behind the 5-foot-8, 173-pounder. Jermie Calhoun, Jonathan Miller and Brennan Clay have all looked good at times, but there should be some good competition from newcomers Brandon Wegher, an Iowa transfer who'll be in camp this spring and eligible next season, and blue-chip recruit Brandon Williams, who enrolled early.
OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS

Spring practice starts: March 7

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Every piece of the offense. The spring in Stillwater is all about keeping or improving upon the status quo. Had it kept Dana Holgorsen, there'd be little doubt that would happen, but Oklahoma State must make the most of its five returning offensive linemen, quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon. The opportunity for a historic season is there, but they'll have to pick up the nuances of the new offense quickly in the spring like they did last year.
  • What about the kicker? Dan Bailey won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top kicker in 2010, but he's gone. Oklahoma State needs to fill that role quickly, and we'll likely know who will get the nod after the spring.
  • Who steps up on the defensive line? The Cowboys lose three starters up front on defense, including All-Big 12 performer Ugo Chinasa and tackles Chris Donaldson and Shane Jarka. Can senior Richetti Jones become a star in the Big 12? We'll have a good idea if he, or any of the Cowboys' other defensive linemen, can by the end of April.
TEXAS LONGHORNS

Spring practice starts: February 24

Spring game: April 3

What to watch:
  • New coaches and their students/players. Texas has five new coaches. Although it's hard to get a good read early on, how they relate with the players on the field, in the film room and around the facilities will have a big impact on how the 2011 season plays out in Austin. The young-blooded coordinators could serve themselves well by relating to players and the players will need to spend plenty of extra time learning new schemes and plays.
  • Quarterback competition ... or not? Mack Brown says the gig is open and it is, for now. Garrett Gilbert can close it with a strong spring. If Garrett struggles on the field or has difficulty grasping the new system, the door will be wide open for Connor Wood or Case McCoy to step in and close it. Gilbert didn't get much help, but he did very little in 2010 to inspire a lot of breathing room with McCoy and Wood clamoring for playing time.
  • And you've got to defend the pass, too. Texas loses its top three cornerbacks to the NFL, and only Carrington Byndom and A.J. White got much meaningful playing time last season. Younger players can earn some rare early playing time with a strong spring. Will anyone step up?
TEXAS A&M AGGIES

Spring practice starts: March 22

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • New linebackers in the running. Spring isn't so scary when you bring back nine defensive starters, but the two Texas A&M lost were the heart of its defense. Linebackers Michael Hodges and Von Miller are gone. Kyle Mangan didn't look fantastic when forced into action during the Cotton Bowl, but the time is now for Damontre Moore and Dominique Patterson, a pair of sophomores, to make their impact.
  • Tannehill's tuning things up. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill played about as well as anyone could have hoped late last season, but he'll need it to continue his performance with a solid spring nailing down the timing with his receivers, who all return. He's already got a leg up on last year's quarterback, Jerrod Johnson, who was held out of team drills last spring after shoulder surgery that eventually derailed his senior season.
  • Christine's back. Christine Michael missed the second half of the season with a broken leg, giving way to Cyrus Gray's rise among Big 12 backs. It should make Texas A&M's depth at the position even more impressive, but we'll see how Michael looks coming back from the injury.
TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS

Spring practice starts: February 19

Spring game: March 26

What to watch:
  • Past defending that pass defense. Texas Tech had the Big 12's worst pass defense last season, but has a pair of big potential players at cornerback in rising sophomores Tre Porter and Jarvis Phillips. Starters LaRon Moore and Franklin Mitchem are gone, but if returning starters Cody Davis and Will Ford can continue to mature, the defense should improve in the area most important for success in the Big 12.
  • And they're off! There's a four-man quarterback derby set in Lubbock this spring between Seth Doege, Jacob Karam, Michael Brewer and Scotty Young. I don't expect it to be settled until midway through fall camp, similar to last season, but there should be a solid front-runner and more clarity after spring. Coach Tommy Tuberville was extremely impressed with Doege and Karam last spring after Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield went down with injuries.
  • Time to find new stars. Most of the big names on Texas Tech's defense are gone. Colby Whitlock, Bront Bird, Brian Duncan will all continue their careers elsewhere. The leaders on the defense will have to begin to emerge in the spring. Is it Scott Smith? Cody Davis? A younger, unexpected player? We'll find out. Sometimes these types of situations aren't as easy to predict as they might seem, like Missouri's strength in 2010 emerging in the secondary.
Tags:

Baylor Bears, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Texas Longhorns, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Colby Whitlock, Corey Nelson, Ahmad Dixon, Brennan Clay, Jacob Karam, Darius Reynolds, Christine Michael, Von Miller, Alexander Robinson, Kyle Mangan, Chris Cosh, Steven Sheffield, Turner Gill, Tysyn Hartman, Bill Snyder, Bront Bird, Case McCoy, Brandon Williams, Dan Bailey, Justin Blackmon, Franklin Mitchem, Richetti Jones, James Capello, Connor Wood, Shane Jarka, Ryan Tannehill, Terrance Ganaway, Byron Landor, Cody Davis, Travis Lewis, Cyrus Gray, Scotty Young, Chris Donaldson, Bryce Brown, Jerome Tiller, Brian Duncan, LaRon Moore, Toben Opurum, Darius Darks, Paul Rhoads, Brad Madison, Art Briles, Kevin Rutland, Carrington Byndom, Sheldon Richardson, Bob Stoops, Jerrod Johnson, Blaine Gabbert, Jay Finley, Jared Barnett, Taylor Potts, Huldon Tharp, Jimmy Stevens, Arthur Brown, Mack Brown, Jarvis Phillips, Garrett Gilbert, Roy Finch, Tyler Gabbert, Jordan Webb, Jermie Calhoun, Collin Franklin, Phil Bennett, Jacquies Smith, Jarred Salubi, Collin Klein, Tim Atchison, Carl Gettis, Seth Doege, Ugo Chinasa, Terrell Resonno, Carson Coffman, Aldon Smith, Brandon Weeden, David Garrett, Will Ford, Justin McCay, James Franklin, Corbin Berkstresser, Geneo Grissom, Quinn Mecham, Scott Smith, Tre Porter, Shontrelle Johnson, Prince Kent, Damontre Moore, Michael Brewer, A.J. White, Brock Berglund, Ashton Glaser, Michael Hodges, Brandon Wegher, Steele Jantz, Jonathan Miller, Justin Tuggle, Daniel Sams, Dominique Patterson

Best/worst case rewind: Kansas State

January, 25, 2011
1/25/11
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We're taking a look back at what we thought the best- and worst-case scenarios for each team were in August, and how it shook out now that January has arrived.

Next up: Kansas State.

Best case: 10-2, with losses to Nebraska and Texas.

Worst case: 5-7, with wins over Missouri State, North Texas, UCF, Iowa State and Colorado.

Reality: Kansas State finished 7-6 and third in the Big 12 North, right where I picked them in the preseason. The Wildcats did about what I expected, without any truly impressive wins, but without any embarrassing losses. K-State's worst loss was against Colorado, but the Buffaloes were a renewed team under interim coach Brian Cabral and no Big 12 road game is a sure thing. Ask the Buffs. They gave Kansas their only conference win of the season, certainly in part because the game was in Lawrence.

Analysis: The Wildcats really were who we thought they were in 2010: Daniel Thomas and Co. The win over UCF early in the season was K-State's only close victory with Thomas under 100 yards, and he added 91 yards in a 59-7 win over Kansas. Nebraska, Missouri and Colorado all shut him down and held him under 70 yards. All three beat the Wildcats.

I never understood why people in the preseason were picking K-State to finish fifth or lower in the Big 12 North. Regardless of the status quo among Big 12 offenses, if you're as disciplined as K-State (the Big 12's least-penalized team, one of just 20 nationally to average fewer than five per game) and can run the ball as well as the Wildcats did this year, there's no way they were going to take a step back from 6-6 in 2010. Carson Coffman had to be better, and he was. The same goes for Thomas, who led the Big 12 in rushing for a second consecutive year, but had 320 more yards in 2010 than in 2009 and his yards per carry rose from 5.12 to 5.32.

K-State did it ugly, but they did it. Replacing Thomas will be difficult, but ultimately, new running back transfer Bryce Brown, a Wichita, Kan., native, will have a big say about where the Wildcats fall in their best and worst-case scenarios for 2011.

ESPN.com's All-Senior Big 12 team

January, 25, 2011
1/25/11
1:15
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Inspired by our friends at the Big Ten and SEC blogs, we'll put together a long-overdue team composed of the league's best seniors.

We made a team full of freshmen, so why skimp on the old guys? Well, we won't.

My All-Big 12 team featured 16 seniors, and they're all on the team below, but plenty of other guys put together distinguished careers and 2010 seasons that deserve recognition.

Their careers may be over, but you can bet all these players will live on in school lore for quite some time. Here goes:

OFFENSE

QB: Taylor Potts, Texas Tech
RB: Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State
RB: Daniel Thomas, Kansas State
WR: Lyle Leong, Texas Tech
WR: Detron Lewis, Texas Tech
WR: Aubrey Quarles, Kansas State
C: Tim Barnes, Missouri
T: Nate Solder, Colorado
T: Danny Watkins, Baylor
G: Keith Williams, Nebraska
G: Ricky Henry, Nebraska

DEFENSE

DL: Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma
DL: Lucas Patterson, Texas A&M
DL: Sam Acho, Texas
DL/LB: Brian Duncan, Texas Tech
LB: Von Miller, Texas A&M
LB: Orie Lemon, Oklahoma State
LB: Michael Hodges, Texas A&M
CB: Andrew McGee, Oklahoma State
CB: Prince Amukamara, Nebraska
S: Quinton Carter, Oklahoma
S: Byron Landor, Baylor

SPECIALISTS

K: Alex Henery, Nebraska
P: Derek Epperson, Baylor
Returns: Niles Paul, Nebraska

Selections by school: Nebraska (5), Texas Tech (4), Oklahoma State (3), Texas A&M (3) Baylor (3), Kansas State (2), Oklahoma (2), Texas (1), Missouri (1), Colorado (1)

A few thoughts:
  • It was kind of slim pickings at receiver, but only because the Big 12's top five and 11 of its top 15 receivers will be coming back in 2011. Colorado's Scotty McKnight only narrowly missed the team. I'd say he's probably a more talented receiver than Quarles, but Quarles' production was there in 2010. McKnight's, after adding freshman Paul Richardson to the mix, took a bit of a dive in his senior year.
  • That's a heck of a defense. All 11 guys weren't very far off from making the regular All-Big 12 team. The same is true of the offensive line.
  • Potts' year was a lot better than a few Texas Tech folks would have you believe, but he didn't have a lot of competition to make the cut on this squad. His own teammate, Steven Sheffield, was probably the only guy who could keep him from this squad. The only other Big 12 starters this year were Iowa State's Austen Arnaud, Kansas State's Carson Coffman and Colorado's Cody Hawkins.
  • It's a solid group at running back, too. Thomas and Hunter were the same two guys on my All-Big 12 team, getting the nod just over Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray, Nebraska's Roy Helu Jr. and Baylor's Jay Finley. Definitely a great year for Big 12 running backs, especially the seniors.

Top 10 moments of 2010 in the Big 12

January, 18, 2011
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It's a difficult task to narrow down a season into 10 moments. My definition of the "top" 10 is the 10 moments that we'll look back on from this season and remember them, good or bad. So, here goes.

1. A&M makes the switch. College football can be a cruel game. Texas A&M entered the season with the Big 12's Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, Jerrod Johnson, hoping to lead the Aggies to their first Big 12 title since 1998. But offseason surgery sapped the zip from his throwing shoulder and produced an ugly start to his season, leading the Aggies to switch to Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill set the school record for passing yards in his first start, a win over Texas Tech, and helped the Aggies finish the regular season with six consecutive wins and a berth in the Cotton Bowl.

2. Texas' loss to UCLA. The red flags were there. Texas looked uninspired in wins over Wyoming and Rice, but looked dominant on defense in a road win over Texas Tech. Then the cellar-dwelling Bruins and their Pistol offense came to town. The Longhorns got rolled 34-12 in their own stadium. The loss shocked just about everyone, but it was a sign of what was to come: a 5-7 season the Texas faithful would rather forget.

3. Don't call it a comeback. Actually, you could probably call it a comeback. It was no Cam Newton in the Iron Bowl, but Landry Jones helped rally Oklahoma from a 17-0 deficit to Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship to knock off the Huskers, 23-20. The win gave Oklahoma its seventh Big 12 title of the decade.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Martinez
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelTaylor Martinez's career night included 241 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
4. T-Magic runs wild. Kansas State packed Bill Snyder Family Stadium for a Thursday night game with its eyes on an upset of the undefeated Huskers. Taylor Martinez had other ideas. The Nebraska quarterback ran for 241 yards and five touchdowns, injecting himself into the Heisman race and making people think very seriously about Nebraska as a national title contender. Who would have thought Martinez would go the season's final nine games without a rushing touchdown after scoring 10 in the first four? Yes, K-State ended up finishing the season as the Big 12's worst defense, but Martinez put on a show and previewed what Nebraska fans hope is to come in the future.

5. We got a tip drill. Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones thought he'd thrown it away cleanly. Not so, said Brodrick Brown. The Oklahoma State corner skied for Jones' pass headed for the sideline, tipped it back inbounds to his teammate, linebacker Shaun Lewis, who caught it as one of Jones' three interceptions in the first half of the Big 12 South's deciding game.

6. Taylor Martinez's injury. Nebraska already had a loss on its record, but one harmless-looking hit late in the first half of a big win changed Nebraska's season. Martinez was running laterally looking for a crease in the defense when Missouri safety Kenji Jackson flew in from the secondary and laid a hit on his lower body. Martinez sat the entire second half, and later revealed he had a sprained ankle. The freshman quarterback was never the same, and aggravated the injury again in a loss to Texas A&M.

7. Saluting your fans is bad, mmmmk. Adrian Hilburn made one of the biggest plays of Kansas State's season, catching a short pass and taking it 30 yards for a possible game-tying score with his team down eight. But after scoring, he saluted a group of Kansas State fans in the stands, and the official tossed a flag for excessive celebration after telling Hilburn he'd made the "wrong choice, buddy." The 15-yard penalty moved the Wildcats back, and Carson Coffman's pass on the conversion fell incomplete. Kansas State lost by two.

8. Moe's miracle. Missouri's season already looked off the rails. Blaine Gabbert threw a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions. The Tigers trailed San Diego State 24-20 with a minute to play and 68 yards between them and the end zone. Don't worry about it, said T.J. Moe. The sophomore receiver caught a short pass, made two defenders slam into each other and sprinted for the game-winning score that helped Missouri jump out to a 7-0 start to its season. Teammate Carl Gettis told Moe in the end zone, "Thank you for saving our season."

9. Last five minutes of Bedlam. Bedlam lived up to its moniker with a crazy finish that ended with the Sooners on top. Four touchdowns were scored within 92 seconds in the game's final five minutes. Oklahoma State scored to get within two points with just over four minutes to play, but on 3rd-and-long, Landry Jones found Cameron Kenney over the middle for an 86-yard touchdown pass. The ensuing kickoff? Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert took it 89 yards to get back within two. But 17 seconds later, Jones found tight end James Hanna down the left sideline for a 76-yard touchdown that all but sealed the Sooners' win.

10. The Jayhawks win one for the ages. Kansas and Colorado were the Big 12's only teams still without a win in conference play. Something had to give. Few figured the Buffaloes 28-point lead would be what buckled. Colorado led 45-17 with just over 11 minutes to play, but the Jayhawks scored a frenzied 35 points to finish with a 52-45 win, their only conference win of the season. Buffaloes coach Dan Hawkins never got to coach another game for Colorado after being fired following the loss.
The Big 12 bowl season is over, and we weighed in on what was an overall disappointment on Wednesday. There were plenty of good moments to come with the bad, though.

Here's the best and worst of the Big 12 bowls after the 2010 season:

[+] EnlargeRyan Broyles
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesRyan Broyles had 170 yards on 13 catches against the Huskies in the Fiesta Bowl.
Best player: Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma. Broyles caught 13 passes for the second consecutive bowl game, racked up 170 yards and scored a touchdown in Oklahoma's 48-20 win over Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl.

Best team performance: Oklahoma. The Sooners shut down Connecticut running back Jordan Todman early in the game and poured it on with plenty of offense late in the game. With their win over Connecticut, the Sooners also ended a five-game BCS bowl game skid.

Best offensive play: Broyles. Up 34-20 and on Connecticut's six-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, Broyle's caught a high pass from Landry Jones on the right side of the end zone. He jumped out of bounds to make the catch, but unbelievably reached a foot back and tapped the red paint in Oklahoma's end zone for the score on his final catch of the night.

Best defensive play: Coryell Judie, DB, Texas A&M. On LSU's opening drive, Tigers quarterback Jordan Jefferson tried to loft a ball down the right sideline for a score, but Judie flew up from a zone underneath the receiver and snagged an interception with one hand to keep the Tigers off the board early.

Worst play: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri. The Tigers looked in complete control late in the fourth quarter, driving deep in Iowa territory with a 24-20 lead. Gabbert rolled to his left, and tried to loft a pass across his body to receiver Wes Kemp. He under threw it, Iowa's Micah Hyde intercepted it and returned the pick 72 yards for the final score, 27-24.

Worst team performance: Nebraska. Few gave Washington a chance after Taylor Martinez and the Huskers stomped the Huskies in Seattle 56-21 in September. The Huskies entered as two-touchdown underdogs, and outdid the Huskers in about every way possible, running the ball well and throwing the ball efficiently with Jake Locker.

Most harmless salute: Adrian Hilburn, WR, Kansas State. With his team trailing by eight in the final minutes of the Pinstripe Bowl, Hilburn caught a short pass and took it 30 yards into the end zone, setting up a possible game-tying two-point conversion. But after the score, he flashed a salute to some Kansas State fans in the stands. An official told Hilburn "Wrong choice, buddy." and tossed a flag that cost the Wildcats 15 yards. Carson Coffman's long pass for the conversion fell incomplete and K-State lost.

Second-most harmless salute: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State. Blackmon gave one to Philadelphia Eagles' receiver/punt returner DeSean Jackson. After toasting an Arizona defender for an easy 71-yard score, Blackmon cut across the goal line, delaying his touchdown that opened the game's scoring. He wasn't flagged, but he did catch a cheap shot from a Wildcats defender later in the game, presumably for the premature celebration.

Best unsung hero: Dan Bailey, K/P, Oklahoma State. Bailey was forced into punting duty because Quinn Sharp was academically ineligible. All five of his punts were solid, and he pinned one inside the 20-yard line. He also hit all three of his field goals, two of which came from beyond 40 yards and another that was from 50.

Best out-of-nowhere performance: Hilburn. The senior receiver had a career-high 84 yards with his 30-yard score. His five catches were the most receptions he's had in a game in all but one match during his two-year stint as a Wildcat. His salute got plenty of attention, but it overshadowed a game in which he was K-State's leading receiver and made one of the biggest plays of their season.

Biggest fade into Bolivian: Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska. David finished the Big 12 season with four double-digit tackle performances in five games to lead the league by 19 stops. But against a Washington team bent on running the ball, he made just seven stops, and one for a loss. Those seven tackles were the fewest David made since he notched five against Washington earlier this season.

Worst break: Michael Hodges, LB, Texas A&M. The Aggies senior linebacker, leader and leading tackler was playing his last game after earning his spot the previous year as a former walk-on. But with a 10-0 lead, Hodges sprained an ACL and couldn't return. After his injury, A&M was outscored 41-14.

Best atmosphere: Cotton Bowl. Two of the country's best fan bases made themselves known, packing Cowboys Stadium and staying loud for most of the game. Texas A&M and LSU sold out the game just days after the matchup was announced, and brought their excitement to JerryWorld.
What a wild game, won by Syracuse, 36-34. Great entertainment and one of the best games of the bowl season, but an ugly finish that was, in the end, decided by officials. Nobody likes to see that.

How the game was won: Kansas State's Adrian Hilburn scored a touchdown on a 30-yard pass from Carson Coffman with 1:13 to play that brought the Wildcats within two. Hilburn, however, was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when officials ruled that his simple salute was excessive celebration. That forced Kansas State to try and tie the game with an 18-yard two-point conversion, but Coffman's pass fell incomplete and the Wildcats couldn't execute an onside kick.

Turning point: The flag after the touchdown. We might have been headed to overtime, but Kansas State had to settle for a low-percentage conversion and couldn't do it. Officials should have kept the flag in their pocket on a celebration that was hardly excessive, and especially a flag that had such a profound impact on the final score. Kansas State and its fans have a right to be angry. You feel bad for Hilburn, whose celebration (of his second career touchdown, by the way) was by no means out of line, but ended up costing the Wildcats the game. He didn't deserve that.

Player of the game: Delone Carter, RB, Syracuse. Kansas State had no answer defensively for the balanced back who ran over and around Wildcats defenders all day. He finished with 202 yards and a pair of TDs on 28 carries.

Unsung hero: Carson Coffman, QB, Kansas State. The Orange keyed in on Daniel THomas, but the maligned senior quarterback made play after play to keep the Wildcats alive, including catching a 29-yard pass from Daniel Thomas earlier in the game to set up a touchdown. He finished 17-of-23 for 229 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and ran for 26 yards on nine carries.

Best call: Trailing 33-28 in the fourth quarter after a Syracuse touchdown, Kansas State ran a flea flicker and completed an underthrown ball to Aubrey Quarles for 41 yards, setting up what they hoped was an eventual go-ahead touchdown, but the drive ended in the failed fake field goal.

Second guessing: I loved the late fake field goal from Kansas State, but hated the execution. That deep, there wasn't going to be enough room to run the ball up the middle, and the Wildcats needed some misdirection or trickery in the form of a pass to the kicker or a leaking receiver to make that play a success.

What it means: The Big 12 drops to 1-3 in bowl season now, with a pair of losses to Big Ten teams and one the Big East. The late flag will overshadow a bit of the loss, but the Wildcats return to the postseason for the first time since 2006 had an ugly finish.

Record performance: With his performance, Thomas moved into second place all-time for rushing yards at Kansas State. Only Darren Sproles has more, but most impressively, Thomas did it in two years as a juco transfer.

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The inaugural New Era Pinstripe Bowl will almost certainly be known for its weather. Fans and media experienced travel troubles thanks to 20 inches of snow in New York City on Sunday, which forced a Kansas State team practice to become a walk-through in the Wildcats' hotel.

There's still a game to be played, though, snow or else.

WHO TO WATCH: Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein. Wildcats running back Daniel Thomas earns the headlines, and senior quarterback Carson Coffman plays more, but when Klein's legs get churning, Kansas State's offense can look unstoppable. Against Texas, the Wildcats jumped to a 39-0 lead and threw just four passes because the duo of Klein and Thomas was gashing the Longhorns defense every time either carried the ball. Coffman said Tuesday he wasn't sure if he was going to start, but whether he does or not, Klein should get plenty of playing time, and the more effective he is, the more he'll play. For a Kansas State quarterback situation that's "complicated," it's that simple.

WHAT TO WATCH: Kansas State's defense vs. Syracuse running back Delone Carter. Earlier this week, Carter had this to say about his team: "Once we get out there and I’m healthy and my O-line is healthy and our receivers are healthy, we’re going to dominate. I know defenders don’t like to get hit when it’s cold out, and that kind of gets me excited. I won’t mind the cold. ... I’m used to it. It’s not going to bother me. I’ll go a little harder."

That may be true, and considering the way the Wildcats defense has played lately, he's got reason to believe that's what will happen. K-State gave up 270 yards on the ground to North Texas' Lance Dunbar and 195 yards to Colorado's Rodney Stewart in its final two games. Carter could be due for another big day, or the Wildcats defense could be due for a big statement. The outcome of the game depends on it.

WHY WATCH: For all the action in baseball stadiums this year, the Big 12 hasn't been affected by it yet. The allure and novelty of playing at new Yankee Stadium is a bit new for us folks in Flyover Country, and hosting a bowl is new for the folks at Yankee Stadium, who haven't done so since the 1962 Gotham Bowl.

PREDICTION: Kansas State 28, Syracuse 24. I'm going against my gut a bit here, but not much about Syracuse's offense excites me, and if it's a cold, windy day at the ballpark, I'll take the zone-read scheme with Klein and Thomas over anything Syracuse will bring.

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