Big 12: Darrin Moore

2012 record: 8-5
2012 Big 12 record: 4-5
Returning starters: Offense: 5; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners: WR Eric Ward, RB Kenny Williams, TE Jace Amaro, DE Kerry Hyder, DE Branden Jackson, LB Will Smith, CB Tre Porter, DE Dartwan Bush

Key losses: QB Seth Doege, S Cody Davis, S D.J. Johnson, WR Darrin Moore, OL La'Adrian Waddle, RB Eric Stephens

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Passing: Seth Doege (4,205 yards)
Rushing: Kenny Williams* (824 yards)
Receiving: Eric Ward* (1,053 yards)
Tackles: Cody Davis (101)
Sacks: Dartwan Bush*, Kerry Hyder* (5.5)
Interceptions: Cody Davis (3)

Spring answers

1. Springing to safety. Replacing Johnson and Davis at safety was a huge concern since that kind of experience and talent isn't easy to find. But J.J. Gaines and Tre Porter, had a strong spring and that position looks to be in good hands. There may be some trouble with inexperience, but defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt has to feel pretty good about the group.

2. More depth at quarterback. I don't buy that there's competition between Michael Brewer and Davis Webb. Brewer was consistently praised all spring, and coach Kliff Kingsbury remarked at how quickly he picked up the schemes and how well he kept the up-tempo pace. Webb, a true freshman, adds comfort as a backup, but this is Brewer's job.

3. A spring miracle in Lubbock. Injuries have just been a constant for the last few years. Every spring and fall, it's been surgery after surgery, injury after injury. Not this year. Apparently the Red Raiders' practice fields are not, in fact, cursed. Getting through the spring without any serious losses is a huge deal considering the school's recent bad luck.

Fall questions

1. Can they weather the storm? I've written about this in the past, but I'm curious to see how the young coaching staff handles the inevitable crises and issues that will come with a season of college football. Kingsbury's a first-time head coach in a big job and stocked Tech's staff with a ton of Red Raider alums. It's an interesting approach, but adjusting on the go in a season full of learning experiences will be interesting to watch.

2. Is there an identity crisis? Tech will air it out plenty, but the full identity on both sides of the ball is still forming and Kingsbury is still getting to know his team. The defense will play some three and four-man fronts and has a lot of strength on the defensive line, but both sides of the ball will adjust on the go to what works and what doesn't next season. Both sides could look different in December than it does in August.

3. Where will the running game factor in? Tech has a ton of strength at running back in Kenny Williams and SaDale Foster, along with DeAndre Washington and Quinton White adding some additional depth. The big question for any post-Mike Leach coach in Lubbock is how much they plan to run the ball. Kingsbury will throw it plenty, but can Tech break its streak of well over a decade without a 1,000-yard rusher? And how much will Brewer be asked/allowed to run? He's no Johnny Football, but he's got wheels and can keep Big 12 defenses on their toes.
More than 250 players were drafted over the weekend, but not everyone who plans on playing in the NFL made it happen.

Minicamps aren't far away, but players can sign with teams as soon as the draft ends. Many did over the weekend. Here's a look at the Big 12's notable signings.
A few thoughts:
  • Collin Klein is the obvious headliner on this list, and I'm torn on him. On the one hand, there's nothing like playing quarterback, and that's the position he wants to play and loves to play. On the other, he hasn't looked like an NFL passer at any point in his career, and he did his future career a disservice by not letting scouts get a look at him at receiver or tight end. He's a big body and an athletic, tough guy. If he wants to play quarterback and only quarterback, then fine. That's up to him. If he really is open to doing something else at the next level, he should have done more work at other positions. I don't see him making an NFL roster as a quarterback.
  • Safeties Tony Jefferson and Cody Davis should definitely make their respective rosters, however, and I'll be intrigued to see what Jefferson looks like and says once he's in camp. He sounded pretty salty on Twitter over the weekend. "I can't even attempt to express how I feel right now. Y'all really don't know how hurt/confused I am!" he tweeted. "Y'all don't even understand the fire inside of me man." Him going undrafted was definitely the most shocking Big 12 development of the draft for me, but he'll have a whole lot of motivation and a lot to prove.
  • I have to think Jake Knott would have gotten drafted if not for his shoulder surgery and being limited in workouts for NFL teams. He makes his name on his smarts, instincts and toughness because he lacks speed and a ton of agility, but being banged up and not testing well certainly didn't bode well for him in the immediate future. Mildly surprised that somebody didn't start drooling over his game tape and take a shot on him in the sixth or seventh round.
  • First guy in this group to get paid big soon? My money is on Quinn Sharp, the do-everything special teamer.
  • Very surprised to see Darrin Moore and Meshak Williams go unsigned so far. Moore is physically gifted, but lacked production and didn't make a team fall in love with him. Williams, though? I get that he's not exactly ideal size, but for his effort and production, how does some team not at least bring him into minicamp? That's just insane.
  • Watching the Big 12 quarterbacks is always interesting. Doege didn't have great arm strength, but had solid accuracy. Crist had the big arm, but his decision-making and accuracy were lacking. We'll see if either of those guys can make a splash with a fresh start in a new spot.
  • One final thought: If I have to hear the phrase "chip on their shoulder" another time in the next week, I'm going to lose it. For the record, if you really did have one, I'm fairly certain that's something that would require surgery.
Turnover is an annual tradition in college football, but with that, teams' strengths and weaknesses constantly shift, too. Today, we'll begin a look at the biggest strengths and weaknesses for each Big 12 team.

Strongest position: Pass-catchers

I had to expand the position of strength to include tight ends, because to exclude Jace Amaro would be criminal. He and Eric Ward will be a strong 1-2 punch in the passing game next season, but there are a ton of options that give this unit lots of depth, too. Ward caught 82 passes for 1,053 yards and 12 touchdowns and will be the Red Raiders' first returning 1,000-yard receiver since Michael Crabtree in 2007-08. Darrin Moore is gone, but Amaro wouldn't have been far from 1,000 yards if he'd avoided a rib injury suffered in the sixth game of the season when he racked up 156 receiving yards and a score in a blowout win over West Virginia. Jakeem Grant and Javon Bell offer two more solid options at receiver, and ESPN 150 recruits Reginald Davis and Dominique Wheeler may make an impact after redshirting in 2012. Bradley Marquez should find more responsibility this year as well. This unit is solid from top to bottom, with lots of possible contributors, lots of targets with varying strengths who can help Michael Brewer grow into his new role as starting quarterback. That's nothing new at Texas Tech, and watching his offense take shape in 2013 will look pretty familiar for new coach Kliff Kingsbury.

Weakest position: Safety

Replacing Cody Davis, a four-year starter and the leader of the defense, is an unbelievably difficult task. D.J. Johnson is gone, too, leaving the Red Raiders without their top two tacklers and a big hole at the back of the defense. We saw how poor Tech's defense can look when the safety play is weak like in 2010 and 2011, but the unit grew up a bit this past season, and Davis and Johnson were two big reasons why. New coordinator Matt Wallerstedt will have a lot of youth to deal with back there, and Kevin Curtis will coach the position with the most turnover for Tech in 2013. It's anyone's guess as to who fills Davis' and Johnson's void, and reserve Chris Yeakey is gone, too. Sophomore J.J. Gaines should get a shot, but I wouldn't rule out a position change from a more experienced corner.
We wrapped up our list of the Big 12's top 25 players in 2012 on Monday, but let's take a look at the guys who just missed making the list. In no particular order:

BJ Finney, OL, Kansas State: Finney has grown from a walk-on to a starter and emerged as one of the league's best offensive linemen as a sophomore. He was one of the biggest pieces of one of the Big 12's best offensive lines and the 6-foot-4, 303-pounder is one of the best stories of what players can become under Bill Snyder.

Eric Ward, WR, Texas Tech: Ward has been Texas Tech's most consistent receiver of late, finishing this past season with 82 catches for 1,053 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Red Raiders. He's back for more in 2013. Expect to see him on the preseason list.

Ty Zimmerman, S, Kansas State: Zimmerman was a big-time ball hawk for an opportunistic K-State defense, snatching interceptions in four consecutive Big 12 games for the Wildcats. He finished with 50 tackles and three tackles for loss after breaking a bone in his leg and missing a few late-season games.

Kenny Cain, LB, TCU: Cain quietly put together one of the best seasons of any Big 12 linebacker this past season. He's not the most physically gifted player in the group, but led the Big 12's best defense with 86 tackles and had 5.5 tackles for loss as a senior leader for the unit.

Darrin Moore, WR, Texas Tech: Moore joined Ward as the Red Raiders' first 1,000-yard receivers since 2008, grabbing 92 passes for 1,032 yards and 13 scores. He was a dangerous target in the red zone all season long, and the 6-foot-4, 216-pounder was consistently one of the most physical players in the league at his position.

Shaun Lewis, LB, Oklahoma State: Lewis is another solid linebacker in the Big 12 with 58 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss. He also broke up four passes and has one more season left to add a crescendo to a promising career.

Postseason position rankings: WRs

February, 1, 2013
I'd peg receiver as the Big 12's strongest position in 2012, with lots of elite talent and a whole lot of depth, too. We'll continue our postseason position rankings with the guys who catch it.

Here's what you've missed so far: 1. Terrance Williams, Baylor: Williams led the nation in receiving yards, with 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns on 97 catches. He can do whatever you want him to do. He's big enough to box out defenders and be a possession receiver who fights for the ball, but he's speedy enough to stretch the field and break the big play. NFL first-round talent.

[+] EnlargeMike Davis
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesMike Davis is poised for a great senior season after averaging 16.5 yards per catch in 2012.
2. Stedman Bailey, West Virginia: Bailey was a touchdown machine who racked up 25 scores this season, more than Justin Blackmon or Michael Crabtree did in any of the four Biletnikoff Award-winning seasons between them. He caught a league-high 114 balls for 1,622 yards and played through a painful ankle injury in the middle of the season.

3. Tavon Austin, West Virginia: Let me be clear about this: I think you could arrange the top three on this list in any order and have a really, really compelling case. Don't let me stop you. I think Austin is a better overall player than anybody on this list, but this is a ranking of guys as receivers. When we're talking pure receiving talent, I've got to go with Austin at No. 3. That's nothing to be ashamed of. The guys ahead of him were Biletnikoff finalists. He also caught 114 passes, for 1,289 yards and 12 scores.

4. Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State: I've written a lot about Stewart this offseason, but he was probably the most improved and underrated player in the league. OSU needed a No. 1 target, and that was Stewart last season. He finished with 101 catches for 1,210 yards and seven scores.

5. Darrin Moore, Texas Tech: Moore's probably the most physical guy on this list. The 6-foot-4, 216-pounder hauled in 13 touchdown catches and caught 92 balls for 1,032 yards to become the first Tech receiver to surpass 1,000 yards since Crabtree back in 2008.

6. Eric Ward, Texas Tech: Granted, Ward did that whole 1,000-yard thing in Lubbock, too. He caught 82 balls for 1,053 yards and 12 touchdowns. He's not quite as physically gifted as Moore, but he's been Tech's most consistent receiver throughout his career there.

7. Kenny Stills, Oklahoma: Stills was disappointed with his season -- and it was a touch underwhelming -- but he still had a solid showing in a receiving unit that lacked a truly elite target but had a handful of very good receivers for Landry Jones. Stills caught 82 balls for 959 yards and 11 scores before electing to leave for the NFL early. He had a good career at OU, but never cracked the 1,000-yard threshold.

8. Chris Harper, Kansas State: Harper's numbers don't tell you the full story. He's one of the best route-runners in the entire league and might have the best hands, too. K-State's offense limits his targets, but he still caught 58 balls for 857 yards and three touchdowns.

9. Tevin Reese, Baylor: Reese was the most dangerous deep threat in the league outside of teammate Williams. Austin did his damage after catching the ball, but Reese caught eight passes longer than 40 yards this season. That was third in the league, and he finished with 53 catches for 957 yards and nine touchdowns.

10. Mike Davis, Texas: Davis broke out in his junior season and could be due for a big senior year after catching 57 balls for 939 yards and seven scores. His 16.5 yards per catch were third among receivers with at least 30 catches, and Davis clearly helped (and benefited from) David Ash's growth as a passer and confidence to stretch the field.

Honorable mention: Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma; Josh Boyce, TCU; Tramaine Thompson, Kansas State; Jaxon Shipley, Texas; Justin Brown, Oklahoma; Tyler Lockett, Kansas State.
We're grading each Big 12 team's season right now, and we'll move on to the next team on the list: The Texas Tech Red Raiders.

OFFENSE: Texas Tech's offense goes as its quarterback goes. Seth Doege filled up the stat sheet this season, but his 16 interceptions were the most in the Big 12. The team raced out to a 6-1 start and 3-1 in Big 12 play, but the offense's inconsistency held the team back during its late-season slide. In three of their four losses to end the season, the Red Raiders failed to score more than 24 points. That's not good enough to win a ton of Big 12 games, and Texas Tech didn't. The offense rebounded and played well in the win over Kansas, but the defense's issues made it a dramatic overtime win. Eric Ward and Darrin Moore became the Red Raiders' first 1,000-yard receivers since 2008, and the Red Raiders' trio of backs combined for more than 1,700 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. That's pretty solid. The inconsistency and struggles late in the season make it hard to give this unit a great grade, but looking at the season as a whole, the Red Raiders still finished 14th nationally in yards per play and Doege's 39 touchdown passes were second nationally. The Red Raiders ranked just fifth in the Big 12 in total offense, which means that rank of 13th nationally looks a little different on a conference scale. GRADE: C

DEFENSE: This unit was the story of the Big 12 over the first half of the season. It led the nation in total defense for a time during the first half of the season after playing offensive juggernauts like Texas State, Northwestern State and New Mexico. The brunt of Big 12 play predictably brought the Red Raiders back down to earth. Nonconference schedule criticisms aside, there's no denying that this unit was much better. It was exposed in some spots in most of its losses, and didn't force a turnover from Oct. 20 until the final possession of the bowl win over Minnesota, a span of nearly six games. It's tough to win in the Big 12 when you do that, but you still have to give these guys credit for jumping from 114th in total defense a year ago to 38th this season. Kerry Hyder and Cody Davis had solid years, but besides that duo, there was little to write home about in regards to the personnel for this defense. GRADE: B-

OVERALL: The Red Raiders were aggressively average this season. They had Big 12 title hopes after romping against West Virginia in Lubbock and edging TCU in overtime, but K-State's 31-point win in Manhattan ended those pretty quickly. The late-season slide put a bad taste in the Red Raiders' mouths, but a bowl win helped. The pain over losing Tommy Tuberville was quickly healed by bringing home a program legend in Kliff Kingsbury. Last year's team got back to the postseason and didn't have to deal with an avalanche of injuries for once. We saw this was a better team, even if it was far from a great one. GRADE: C

More Big 12 report cards:
Before the season began, I released my picks for the Big 12's 1,000-yard receivers in 2012. The Big 12 had four 1,000-yard rushers in 2011, but I picked the league to have five in 2012.

There were 35 1,000-yard receivers this season across college football, but six came from the Big 12. Here's how I picked them from the Big 12 this year.

1. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia: Austin did what we all thought he would do: Had a huge senior season. He validated his status as one of the Big 12's most dangerous players and was third in the league with 1,289 yards and 12 scores.

2. Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia: Bailey was a touchdown machine this year, hauling in 25 touchdowns, seven more than any other player in the country. He was a nominee for the Biletnikoff Award and racked up 1,622 yards on his league-high 114 catches. Both WVU receivers were anything but overrated this year. Studs, the both of them.

3. Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor: I said there was a good shot Williams could crack 1,000 yards easily, but I never thought he'd make it look this easy. I had high hopes for Williams, but he far exceeded them, leading the nation with 1,832 yards on 97 catches with 12 scores. What a year.

4. Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma: I picked Stills to crack his first-ever 1,000-yard season, but he came up short in a year he even admitted was a bit disappointing. He finished seventh in the league with 959 yards, just 41 short of a 1,000-yard season. He'd have cleared 1,000 yards if he had 50 yards receiving against TCU's stingy defense. He did have 11 scores, including four against West Virginia.

5. Josh Boyce, WR, TCU: Boyce likely would have cleared 1,000 yards if Casey Pachall stayed on the team. He took a bit of a step back this year, though, with only two 100-yard games this season and finishing with 891 yards and seven touchdowns. He had 998 yards and nine scores last season in the MWC.

Sadly, though, I missed three of the Big 12's 1,000-yard receivers this season. I did give Darrin Moore and Josh Stewart my apologies in the preseason post, but I predicted the touches would be too spread out for either player to top 1,000 yards. Shows what I know.

Here are the guys I didn't get:

Josh Stewart, WR, Oklahoma State: Stewart was the biggest breakout star in the Big 12 this year and will be the Big 12's leading returning receiver in 2012. He caught 101 passes for 1,210 yards this season, with seven touchdowns. Heck of a year, and high hopes for his junior campaign, especially considering he racked up those numbers with three different quarterbacks playing about a third of the season each.

Darrin Moore, WR, Texas Tech: Tech hadn't had a 1,000-yard receiver since Michael Crabtree won his second Biletnikoff Award back in 2008. The Red Raiders had two this year, and Moore led the team in receptions (92) and touchdowns (13).

Eric Ward, WR, Texas Tech: Ward took home the Red Raiders' receiving title and elected to stay in Lubbock for his senior season, too. He caught 82 balls for 12 touchdowns and 1,053 yards. Great season, and he'll be a huge help for Michael Brewer next year.

The All-Big 12 Bowl Team

January, 10, 2013
The Big 12 had nine teams in bowl games this season, and here is the best of the best in the Big 12's postseason. Let's get to it.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ash
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsDavid Ash's big plays fueled Texas' comeback against Oregon State.
QB: David Ash, Texas: He edges out Clint Chelf because of his game-changing plays in the Longhorns' win against Oregon State. Ash had the best play of the entire bowl season with a crazy escape and acrobatic touchdown pass to Johnathan Gray, and he hit Marquise Goodwin on a 36-yard bomb to put the Longhorns ahead in the final minutes. He finished 21-of-33 with 241 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 22 yards and a score.

RB: Lache Seastrunk, Baylor: Seastrunk helped Baylor rout UCLA with 138 yards and a score on 16 carries in the Bears' Holiday Bowl win.

RB: Glasco Martin IV, Baylor: How many rushers did the Big 12 have this bowl season who had at least 95 yards? Two, and both played for Baylor. Martin scored three touchdowns in the Holiday Bowl and carried the ball 21 times for 98 yards. Heck of a night for the Bears backs.

WR: Darrin Moore, Texas Tech: Moore was the most consistent receiver in the bowl season with 11 catches for 84 yards, keeping the chains moving for the Red Raiders in their Meineke Car Care Bowl win against Minnesota.

WR: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia: Despite playing in a snowstorm, Bailey had the best performance of any Big 12 receiver. He caught eight balls for 121 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It wasn't enough to get the Pinstripe Bowl win, but no other Mountaineer scored a touchdown.

WR: Marquise Goodwin, Texas: The track star's touches were limited, but he had a huge impact. His 36-yard grab with 2:24 to play proved to be the game winner, and he finished with four catches for 68 yards. He also had one carry -- which he turned into a 64-yard touchdown, looking as fast as any player in college football while streaking to the end zone.

TE: Ernst Brun Jr., Iowa State: Brun caught four passes for 102 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown, to get the first-quarter party started for the Cyclones, which scored 17 points in the quarter. The rest of the game was forgettable, but Brun had one of the longest plays of Iowa State's season.

OL: Cyril Richardson, Baylor: The Bears' left guard was a big reason why Baylor had so much success running the ball. Baylor racked up 306 yards on the ground against UCLA.

OL: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State: Purdue's Kawann Short is a stud and arguably the team's best player, but Taylor helped Oklahoma State rack up 58 points and helped hold the Boilermakers defensive tackle to just one tackle and one sack. Short had minimal impact throughout the game.

OL: LaAdrian Waddle, Texas Tech: The Red Raiders ran the ball well -- on the few occasions they did -- and Seth Doege had plenty of time. Waddle was a big reason why for both.

OL: Lane Johnson, Oklahoma: Texas A&M wrecking ball Damontre Moore declared for the NFL draft before the Cotton Bowl, but credit Johnson at tackle, who helped hold him to five tackles, one tackle for loss and zero sacks, despite Landry Jones throwing 48 passes.

OL: Ivory Wade, Baylor: Those 306 yards rushing for the Bears didn't come easy. Most of them came on the interior, and Wade was a solid presence in the middle of the line.


DL: Chris McAllister, Baylor: He was one of a handful of guys to hold UCLA's Johnathan Franklin to 34 yards on 14 carries, had five tackles, including two sacks, and batted down a pass to help keep UCLA's passing game grounded.

DL: Alex Okafor, Texas: Okafor is my defensive MVP of the Big 12 bowl season. He gave Oregon State's offensive line nightmares and helped the Longhorns stage a late comeback with 4.5 sacks, five tackles for loss and eight stops. He also forced a fumble.

DL: Meshak Williams, Kansas State: The Wildcats had a rough night against Oregon, but Williams played pretty well with nine tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack.

DL: Terrance Lloyd, Baylor: Lloyd was part of the Baylor gang who helped UCLA have its worst running game of the season. He had four tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack. No zone read for you.

LB: Terence Garvin, West Virginia: Garvin was everywhere for the West Virginia defense, which largely struggled in a blowout loss to Syracuse. He forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, broke up a pass, had two sacks, made three tackles for loss and had 15 tackles.

LB: Tyler Johnson, Oklahoma State: Johnson blew up what Purdue likes to refer to as its "passing game." He made six tackles, had two sacks and forced two fumbles, including a huge hit on Purdue quarterback Robert Marve.

LB: Eddie Lackey, Baylor: Lackey was another part of Baylor's defense that put together one of its best games of the season. He made 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and five tackles.

DB: Jason Verrett, TCU: Most of Michigan State's night was frustrating in the passing game before some late success, and Verrett was a big reason for those struggles. He broke up two passes, made a tackle for loss and had 12 tackles.

DB: D.J. Johnson, Texas Tech: Johnson made 14 tackles and is on this team for one of the biggest plays of Texas Tech's season. The defense hadn't forced a turnover since Oct. 20, but Johnson picked off a Gophers pass in the final minute with Minnesota driving and the game tied. He returned it 39 yards, helping to set up the winning field goal as time expired.

DB: Jeremy Reeves, Iowa State: Reeves returned a Cody Green interception 31 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter of the Liberty Bowl loss. He had six tackles with a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

DB: Daytawion Lowe, Oklahoma State: No second-half comebacks for Purdue. Lowe opened the half with a 37-yard fumble return for a score and made seven tackles with half a tackle for loss.


KR: Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech: This one is pretty simple. Grant returned a kickoff 99 yards for a score, giving Texas Tech a 7-3 lead early in the first quarter of its Meineke Car Care Bowl win.

PR: Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State: Purdue faked a punt to keep its opening drive alive but punted on its next set of downs. The always-shifty Stewart delivered a 64-yard punt return, giving Oklahoma State the ball on the Purdue 19-yard line. The Cowboys scored for a 7-0 lead to kick off the Heart of Dallas Bowl rout.

K: Jaden Oberkrom, TCU: He edges out Texas Tech's Ryan Bustin, who kicked a 28-yard winner, for making all three of his attempts, including a crazy 53-yarder for a 16-14 lead with 2:42 to play. He also made kicks of 47 and 31 yards.

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State: He narrowly edges out Oklahoma's Tress Way (five punts, three inside 20, long of 58 yards, average 49.4 yards) for this award after pinning Purdue inside its 20-yard line on two of his three punts. He boomed a 65-yarder and averaged nearly 53 yards on his three punts. He was more valuable for Oklahoma State because field position mattered to Purdue. It didn't to Texas A&M.

Instant analysis: Texas Tech 34, Minn. 31

December, 29, 2012

This Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas wasn't a pretty one. A fun first half gave way to a lackluster second half until the final minutes, when Texas Tech's offense shook awake and rallied for a 34-31 victory over Minnesota with a Ryan Bustin field goal in the final seconds.

Tempers boiled for much of the game, which is pretty rare in a contest between two teams with absolutely no history and few if any links among players on the rosters. Officials didn't do a great job of keeping the peace.

The Big 12 moved to 2-0 in bowl games, and the Big Ten fell to 0-1 with the loss in its postseason opener.

It was over when: Bustin busted a 28-yard field goal through the uprights to complete an unlikely comeback in the final minutes, much as Texas Tech did back in the 2006 Insight Bowl. This one was a whole lot less dramatic than the FBS bowl-record 31-point, second-half comeback of that postseason meeting with the Golden Gophers, but Seth Doege made it a ballgame when he hit Eric Ward on a short slant that turned into a 35-yard, game-tying score when the safety help went absent.

Game ball goes to: Red Raiders wide receiver Darrin Moore. There weren't a ton of truly standout performances, but Moore caught a game-high 11 balls for 84 yards.

Stat of the game: This game was chippy from start to finish. A few media members on hand reported that there was some simmering tension after a contentious rodeo contest earlier in the week (which is just as silly as it sounds) -- and it showed up on the field. Nine personal fouls (five for Texas Tech, four for Minnesota) were handed out, and at one point, Minnesota faced a third-and-49 because of personal fouls. Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro was also ejected for throwing a punch. More on that later.

Stat of the game II: Texas Tech's interception on third down in the final minute to set up the game-winning score was its first forced turnover since Oct. 20. Before that, Texas Tech had been minus-12 in turnover margin in its previous five-plus games.

Unsung hero of the game: Cornerback Michael Carter, Minnesota. He picked off Doege twice and made five tackles to help Minnesota's defense pitch a shutout in the first 28 minutes and 50 seconds of the second half.

Second-guessing: Amaro's decision-making. Texas Tech's Jakeem Grant fumbled what was nearly a go-ahead touchdown out of bounds, but Amaro made it worse by punching a defender he had pinned on the ground. Even worse? He did so right in front of an official, who flagged him for a 15-yard penalty and forced Tech into a third-and-goal from the 16. The eventual result was a blocked field goal; Minnesota took a 31-24 lead with a touchdown on the ensuing drive. Amaro didn't help his case by clearly complaining on the sideline and leaving the field while signaling "Guns Up" to the fans.

What Texas Tech learned: New coach Kliff Kingsbury has his work cut out for him. Texas Tech's offense struggled in the second half and the team looked undisciplined for all 60 minutes. The Red Raiders didn't score in the second half until the final 70 seconds. Kingsbury is right when he says the program is far from broken, but it obviously needs to be broken of some bad habits developed down the stretch in 2012. It struggled to turn red zone opportunities into touchdowns, and silly penalties hurt Texas Tech all night. The Red Raiders were clearly the better team and showed it with the victory, which came despite a very poor performance and mistakes throughout. A few minutes of solid offense in the second half were enough to win this one, but it won't be enough to win many games in the Big 12 once Kingsbury takes over.

What Minnesota learned: Bowl games mean even more pain and another rough finish for the Golden Gophers, who lost their final three games of the season. Quarterback Philip Nelson showed a lot of promise for the future, but his late interception set up the Red Raiders' winning field goal. Minnesota has now lost five consecutive bowl games, and hasn't won one since the 2004 Music City Bowl.

Pregame: Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas

December, 28, 2012
Minnesota (6-6, 2-6 Big Ten) vs. Texas Tech (7-5, 4-5 Big 12)

WHO TO WATCH: Texas Tech receivers Eric Ward and Darrin Moore. They are big targets in the red zone and caught 24 of quarterback Seth Doege's 38 touchdowns this season. Only two other teams have two receivers with double-digit touchdown catches. Tech's offense runs as Doege, Ward and Moore run. Additionally, tight end Jace Amaro has been cleared to play after missing the final six games of the season with a rib injury. He adds another dangerous asset to Texas Tech's offense, which ranked 12th nationally this year. West Virginia's Geno Smith is the only quarterback with more touchdown passes than Doege.

WHAT TO WATCH: Can Minnesota compete? The two-touchdown line is one of the largest of the bowl season, but the Golden Gophers will have an opportunity to log their best win of the season since knocking off 7-5 Syracuse back on Sept. 22. The Golden Gophers lost three of their final four games of the season -- all by at least 16 points -- but all three losses came to bowl teams. Also, how will both teams handle the loss of big contributors -- wide receiver A.J. Barker (transfer) for Minnesota and cornerback Cornelius Douglas (suspension) for Texas Tech?

WHY TO WATCH: You might find a piece of the answer to the eternal question of how important quarterback play is. Tech's Doege has had his share of struggles, but he has been the guy all season for the Red Raiders and racked up 3,934 passing yards and is 12th nationally in passer rating. Minnesota, meanwhile, has played musical chairs with its quarterbacks all season long and sophomore Max Shortell was frustrated enough to transfer. Philip Nelson will get the start for Minnesota, but will he stay there? Texas Tech fans also can tune in to see how much screen time new coach Kliff Kingsbury gets during the game.

PREDICTION: Texas Tech 34, Minnesota 17. I don't think the Gophers can keep up with the speed and efficiency of Texas Tech's offense. The Red Raiders will have some defensive issues of their own, too, even though Minnesota ranks 111th nationally in total offense. Too much Red Raiders, though. Amaro returns in a big way, and Moore is a pest in the red zone for the Golden Gophers.

Bonus picks! Here's what Big Ten colleagues Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett have to say by way of a prediction:

Brian Bennett: The Red Raiders have an interim coach, and Minnesota has had a month to heal the many injuries that ravaged its offense late in the season, both of which are positives for the Gophers. I think Matt Limegrover will find some creative ways to use MarQueis Gray. Still, Minnesota lacks the weapons to go up and down the field against a high-scoring Big 12 team. Michael Carter and the Gophers' secondary will make some plays but not enough to stop Texas Tech, which pulls away after a close first two-and-half quarters. ...Texas Tech 31, Minnesota 17.

Adam Rittenberg: The Gophers' defense is much improved in Year 2 under Tracy Claeys, but you need a decent amount of offensive firepower to keep pace with Texas Tech. Like you, my concern is the lack of playmakers surrounding Nelson and Gray. Both men will see time at quarterback and help the Gophers take a first-half lead, but a Minnesota turnover changes the game and Texas Tech strikes for two fourth-quarter passing touchdowns to win. ... Texas Tech 34, Minnesota 21

A closer look: Meineke Car Care Bowl

December, 12, 2012
As the bowl season approaches, we're going to be looking a little closer at each game. We'll go down the Big 12 bowl schedule in chronological order.


Texas Tech (7-5) vs. Minnesota (6-6)

Where: Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas.

When: Friday, Dec. 28, 9 p.m. ET


About Texas Tech: Texas Tech could use a little good news. It's kind of been all bad lately. A promising season began at 6-1 and had more than a few Red Raiders dreaming of Big 12 title trophies. Then Kansas State delivered a systematic beatdown and Tech lost four of its final five games, the lone win coming at home in overtime against 1-11 Kansas. Then coach Tommy Tuberville left to take the head coaching job at Cincinnati, and OC Neal Brown followed him out the door to take the same job at Kentucky. The best news over that span? Texas Tech's bowl opponent is Minnesota. Let's look at these Gophers.

About Minnesota: Coach Jerry Kill is just 9-15 in two seasons as Minnesota coach, and this year's team doesn't have a win in Big Ten play over a team that's better than .500. One came over 6-6 Purdue and the other was over Illinois, who went winless in league play. All four losses in the final six games came by at least 16 points in a weak Big Ten that struggled in nonconference play. The Gophers improved this season to reach their first bowl game since 2009, but the Gophers haven't been to a bowl game that wasn't the Insight Bowl since way back in 2005.

Red Raiders to watch: Receiver Darrin Moore is the team's most talented player, but Seth Doege makes the offense go. If he has a good day, Tech can beat almost anyone. If he struggles, fans will be wondering if the Michael Brewer Era can get started a little early. Defensively, keep an eye on Kerry Hyder along the defensive line. He's been a huge help in revitalizing the nation's worst rush defense from a year ago, but safety Cody Davis is a playmaker and a scholar in the secondary.

Golden Gophers to watch: The Gophers' best player, A.J. Barker left the team and transferred to Houston recently, but sophomore Donnell Kirkwood added 848 yards on the ground to lead the team and scored five touchdowns. Barker's absence will be felt. Despite playing just eight games, he still leads the team in receiving by more than 300 yards and caught a team-high seven scores. There's been a revolving door at QB for the Gophers, which hasn't helped the receivers. Senior MarQueis Gray had a disappointing season, and Phillip Nelson took over to end the season after Max Shortell didn't make a huge impact and chose to transfer. Defensive end D.L. White may help pressure Doege. He was second in the Big Ten with 8.5 sacks.

Did you know: This game is loaded with fun facts, though the first isn't so fun. The 13-point line in this game (Texas Tech is the favorite) is one of the highest of the bowl season, muddled in the middle of some of the highest. Oklahoma State vs. Purdue in the Heart of Dallas Bowl is the highest, but depending on who you ask, Tech vs. Minnesota is No. 2. These two already played a classic in the 2006 Insight Bowl, when Texas Tech rallied from a 38-7, third-quarter deficit and outscored Minnesota 24-0 in the fourth quarter of a 44-41 overtime win that resulted in Golden Gophers' coach Glen Mason getting fired.

Big 12 did you know: Week 14

November, 30, 2012
Time for one more week of fun facts, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info and various sports information departments around the Big 12.

We love you. You make your readers the smartest folks at their tailgate. Let's get to it!

Did you know ...
  • Since Mack Brown and Bob Stoops have been at Texas and OU, only three teams have ever beaten both teams in the same season. All three, however, have been in the past two years (Oklahoma State and Baylor, 2011; Texas A&M 2010). With wins on Saturday, TCU and K-State could both add to that list.
  • If Texas loses to K-State, it will be 11-15 in Big 12 play in the past three seasons. It will be the first time Texas has lost at least four games in league play in three consecutive seasons since 1935-38.
  • Kansas State had given up zero points off turnovers in the first nine games and three quarters of its season. In the last five quarters, it's given up 21 points off turnovers, falling from first to third nationally in the stat.
  • The Wildcats commit an average of 3.6 penalties a game, but had five in the first half against Baylor two weeks ago, not counting two that were declined.
  • Kansas State averaged 213 rushing yards in its first nine games. It had 76 against Baylor.
  • Bill Snyder is 4-2 vs. Mack Brown, and K-State is +14 in turnover margin in those six games.
  • Three of those four wins came by double digits.
  • Texas is giving up an average of 99.5 rushing yards per game ... after contact. That's the most in the Big 12.
  • The Longhorns have missed 107 tackles this year, the most in the Big 12.
  • Kansas State has missed 71 tackles this year, the fewest in the Big 12.
  • Collin Klein attempted 17 passes longer than 15 yards in the loss to Baylor. He'd never attempted more than 10 in a game.
  • He completed three of those 17 attempts to K-State teammates and three of those attempts to Baylor defenders.
  • Of the 14 incompletions, 10 were overthrown.
  • Klein had completed more than 60 percent of those throws on the season for eight scores and two picks. He completed 17.6 percent of those attempts against Baylor for three interceptions and no touchdowns, and was 0-of-6 on third-down pass attempts longer than 15 yards.
  • Case McCoy is completing 70 percent of his throws longer than 10 yards this season with three touchdowns and an interception.
  • David Ash is completing 49 percent of those same throws, for eight touchdowns and six interceptions.
  • On those throws against TCU, Ash was 2-of-8 for two interceptions.
  • McCoy is 3-1 on the road as starter in his career.
  • When facing five or more pass-rushers, Landry Jones is completing 67.4 percent of his passes this season. That's up eight percentage points from 2011.
  • K-State has beaten Texas in their last four meetings, and is 7-5 all-time vs. Texas. The Longhorns have played 23 different teams at least 10 times, and only three of those teams have winning records against Texas in those meetings: Notre Dame, Vanderbilt and K-State.
  • Oklahoma has gone three-and-out just 16 times this season, second-fewest in FBS.
  • TCU leads the nation with nine of its interceptions coming on throws longer than 20 yards downfield.
  • Jones has thrown three interceptions on 60 attempts at this distance.
  • TCU converted 44.7 percent of its third downs in its first seven weeks. Since then, it has converted just 25 percent of its third downs, 118th in FBS.
  • Baylor receiver Terrance Williams has 22 catches longer than 25 yards and 14 catches longer than 40 yards this season. Both marks lead FBS.
  • Baylor receiver Tevin Reese has six touchdown catches longer than 40 yards. Only USC's Marqise Lee has more, with seven.
  • Since becoming a starter, Oklahoma State's Clint Chelf is completing 76.9 percent of his passes off play-action for three scores and no interceptions.
  • Last week against Oklahoma, he was 11-of-14, including a 75-yard touchdown pass to Josh Stewart.
  • That 75-yard touchdown was OSU's longest play from scrimmage this season.
  • Baylor quarterback Nick Florence has 21 touchdown passes thrown longer than 15 yards downfield, the most in FBS.
  • Baylor's 13 three-and-outs this season are the fewest in FBS.
  • The Big 12 has 50 percent of its teams in the top 12 nationally in total offense.
  • Baylor has had 400 yards of offense in every game this season, and over 600 yards in five games.
  • Kansas has a rush of 55 yards or more in four consecutive games.
  • Landry Jones owns all three 500-yard passing games in Oklahoma history.
  • Since 2005, TCU is 48-1 when winning the turnover battle. That's the best mark in the nation.
  • TCU is 4-1 on the road in Big 12 play, but 0-3 at home.
  • Texas is now 51-23-2 when playing on Thanksgiving.
  • Texas Tech receiver Darrin Moore's 146-yard first half against Baylor last week was the most in a half since Michael Crabtree had 152 at Oklahoma State in 2007.
  • Jakeem Grant's kickoff return for a touchdown was Texas Tech's first since Vincent Meeks returned one against Oklahoma all the way back in 2002.

Big 12 Game Balls: Week 13

November, 27, 2012
Not everybody can earn helmet stickers on Sunday morning or mentions in our Monday morning weekend rewind, but lots of performances deserve recognition. These are the best of the rest:

Shawne Alston, RB, West Virginia: Alston lost half of his season to a bruise, but he finally broke back out last week against Iowa State. After 123 yards in WVU's season opener, hopes were high for Alston. This hasn't been the season he wanted, but he racked up 130 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries against an Iowa State team solid against the run. It was a new career high for Alston, and just his second touchdown since the second game of the season.

Darrin Moore, WR, Texas Tech: Moore was an absolute handful for Baylor in Cowboys Stadium on Saturday afternoon. He hauled in 13 catches for 186 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the overtime loss. Teammate Eric Ward wasn't far off the pace. He caught nine passes for 113 yards and a score. Quite the duo for quarterback Seth Doege.

Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor: Another week, another huge game for Seastrunk, who's building for what may be an enormous campaign in 2013. He rolled over Texas Tech for 136 yards on 19 carries. Seastrunk began the season as the No. 3 back, but Jarred Salubi's been largely relegated to the bench for Seastrunk as the featured back in recent weeks. Seastrunk now has at least 91 yards in his last four games, and has accounted for four touchdowns and three 100-yard games in that span.

Justin Brown, WR, Oklahoma: There were plenty of big performances on Saturday, but Brown's got overshadowed in the Sooners' win. The Penn State transfer caught a game-high 15 balls for 146 yards, and also caught a two-point conversion try that tied the game in the fourth quarter. He'd never had more than seven catches in a game before Saturday night.

Big 12 Game Balls: Week 12

November, 20, 2012
We can't all get helmet stickers on Sunday morning, or get a mention in our Monday weekend rewind, but there are plenty of other performances worth mentioning. Here's the best of the rest.

Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia: As impressive as Tavon Austin's insane show was on Saturday, it overshadowed a heck of a game from Bailey, who caught four touchdowns on his 13 catches for 205 yards. Most impressive? Three of those scores came in the fourth quarter with the outcome still in doubt, and two of them gave WVU a lead, including a 40-yarder with less than three minutes left to play.

Darrin Moore, WR, Texas Tech: Moore quietly had a big game in the middle of a lopsided loss for Texas Tech against Oklahoma State. Moore caught a game-high nine balls for 140 yards and a touchdown. He's had at least nine catches in three of his last four games and his 140 yards were the most since a 221-yard outburst in Game 1 of the 2011 season against Texas State.

Chris Harper, WR, Kansas State: K-State turned in a largely weak effort, but Harper was out there fighting, and he was by far the most impressive player on the field for the Wildcats. He fought for balls and kept K-State alive early. He caught a game-high 11 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. It wasn't a fun night for the Purple Cats, but that wasn't Harper's fault.

Overtime's the charm for Red Raiders

November, 15, 2012
Only three Big 12 games have gone into overtime this season. All three have gone to multiple overtimes, but Texas Tech's emerged as the winner in two of those three games.

The latest came at home against Kansas, with the defense forcing a game-winning stop for a 41-34 win in the final home game of the season for the Red Raiders.

"I don't know what it is about overtime games and this football team, but it almost seems like we relax even more. I know for me, personally, it's like I'm in my element," quarterback Seth Doege told reporters this week. "Especially that last drive, I just felt comfortable. Maybe it's because we trust each other and like each other as a football team that we know we can get it done."

The win sent Texas Tech to 7-3, snapped a two-game losing streak, avoided an embarrassing loss to Big 12 cellar-dweller Kansas and kept the Red Raiders in the BCS Top 25, all at once. Running back Eric Stephens tossed the game-winning score on a jump pass to Darrin Moore after getting the ball on a toss play to the right sideline.

"Everybody was excited for him," Doege said. "Eric's one of our leaders and a likeable guy and has a lot of guys that respect him on this football team. It was one of those things that we knew once the play call was called, if it's in Eric's hands, it's going to get done."

Stephens also scored on a dive in the first overtime.

In a triple-overtime win on the road against TCU, Doege played the hero, finding Alex Torres for the game-winning score. Three of Doege's seven touchdown passes on the day came in the extra three periods.

"The will to win. It's that simple, man," safety D.J. Johnson told reporters this week. "We have that passion and desire to win. We knew what our goal was coming into this game and coming into this season. Though we may not achieve it, we're still going to fight for it and fight for each other."

Texas Tech heads to Stillwater this weekend to face an Oklahoma State team that beat it 66-6 in Lubbock last season, and the Red Raiders haven't beaten Oklahoma State on its home field since 2001.

"Wish we started in overtime. We play looser for some reason," coach Tommy Tuberville told reporters, adding that his team hadn't been penalized in overtime this season. "I think we've got more confidence in each other, for some reason. Offense and defense we feel like we can play looser. I think we focus better. ... If you look back at it, this is red zone all the way. Our offense, for some reason, we scored six points in three quarters Saturday against a team that hadn't played very good defense and we get the ball in the red zone two times in overtime and score very quickly. I think there is a common denominator there that we've got to focus better and rely on each other more and play, and play a little looser."