Big 12: Graham Harrell

Big 12 viewer's guide: Week 13

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
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Lesson learned.

Last weekend appeared like it would have minimal impact on the race for a College Football Playoff berth, with TCU visiting Kansas and Baylor sitting at home during a bye week. Instead, KU gave TCU everything it could handle and the Horned Frogs ended up dropping out of the CFP rankings top four despite a win.

This weekend, Baylor faces a similar scenario as the clear favorite over Oklahoma State, which is in the midst of a four-game losing streak.

Here are the storylines to watch in the Big 12 during Week 13:

[+] EnlargeCody Thomas
AP Photo/Alonzo AdamsCody Thomas will get his second start at QB this weekend for Oklahoma.
Kansas at No. 21 Oklahoma, noon ET (Fox Sports 1): The Sooners returned to the Top 25 after a 42-30 road win over Texas Tech last Saturday, but it has been a while since Bob Stoops' squad looked like one of the nation’s elite. Redshirt freshman quarterback Cody Thomas will get his second start and a second opportunity to show he should be in OU’s future plans. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks are coming off a strong performance, albeit a loss, against TCU. KU’s offense is more explosive with Eric Kiesau handling the play-calling duties and could make enough plays to put another ranked team on upset alert.

Texas Tech at Iowa State, 3:30 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Networks): Both teams badly need a win with one conference victory combined between the Red Raiders and Cyclones. Texas Tech showed plenty of fight in the loss to OU and has the better offense of the two with either Patrick Mahomes or Davis Webb at quarterback. But the Red Raiders also have an ugly trend of shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers and penalties. The Cyclones are coming off a bye week with a renewed focus on righting the ship after a blowout loss to KU in their last game. In a lot of ways, the 2015 season starts now for the Red Raiders and Cyclones with players on both teams looking to solidify themselves as key playmakers of the future.

Oklahoma State at No. 7 Baylor, 7:30 p.m. ET, (Fox): There is no shortage of reasons for Baylor to want to win -- and win impressively. Not only did Oklahoma State hammer Baylor 49-17 in 2013, but the Pokes have been the biggest thorn in the Bears' side in the entire conference in recent years, having won four of the past five meetings. Combine Baylor’s pursuit of a College Football Playoff berth and desire to impress the committee with Oklahoma State’s recent struggles and it could be an explosive night at McLane Stadium.

AUSTIN, Texas -- When it came to David Ash, Malcolm Brown's answer was no different than any other Texas player has given over the past several years when the quarterback question has come up.

"Like Mike Davis said, he has a swagger about him now," the running back said of the quarterback.

Only now it might be time to believe in the rising junior. Not because of some huge personality shift in Ash, but because this time –-- the junior season following a multiyear starter's sophomore season -- is typically when said actions start to speak louder than words.

Looking back at eight Big 12 multiyear starting quarterbacks -- Texas’ Colt McCoy, Texas’ Vince Young, Missouri’s Chase Daniel, Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and Kansas’ Todd Reesing -- all but one had a dramatic leap in every statistical category from their sophomore to junior years. (Jones was the exception. In the six categories measured, he only increased his stats in one category, average yards per game.)

So the odds are Ash, who started 12 games in 2012, should follow suit. Maybe not to the extreme of Young, who topped the other seven aforementioned quarterbacks when it came to overall production increase. But there should at least be a measure of improvement to Ash’s stats. How much is up for debate for the next several months.

But if he follows the statistical average presented by those eight quarterbacks who have gone before him, Ash could see his passing efficiency rating rise by 17.10 points, completion percentage by 5 percent, touchdowns by 5.8, interceptions shrink by a nominal 0.25, overall yards move up 581.8 and yards per game to increase by 45.6.

Of course, there are mitigating factors that could shape whether or not Ash has a rise or fall in his stats in 2013.

One of which is that Ash already experienced a dramatic rise in his stats from 2011 to 2012. In his sophomore season, Ash finished in the top 25 in passer efficiency rating and increased that rating 45.9 points. He had 15 more touchdown passes as a sophomore, threw for 1,620 yards and completed 10.4 percent more of his passes. (He also had 144 more attempts as a sophomore than as a freshman.) The point being that quite possibly a ceiling, if not already hit, is at least within arm’s length.

A counterargument could be that a shift in offensive philosophy, from traditional sets to spread, should serve to bolster his stats. In addition, the Big 12’s defenses -- at least that of top teams Oklahoma and Kansas State -- have experienced huge losses on their side of the ball. Add that fact to the unavoidable truth that the Big 12 is not exactly chock full of top defenses -- only TCU and Texas Tech finished in the top 40 in total defense in 2012 -- and it sets up for Ash to have at least a nominal rise in his statistical production in his junior season.

If all that is not enough to make a decision, there are still the words of Ash’s teammates to go by as well:

"Now that he has it down, he’s a lot more comfortable," Brown said. "He’s loosened up with us and he talks more now because he knows what he’s doing."

Given that this is Ash’s junior year and that history is on his side, it might just be time to believe those words.


Thoughts on this, Big 12 fans?

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 13

November, 26, 2012
11/26/12
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Time to pass out a few superlatives from the week that was in the Big 12.

Best offensive performance: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma. Jones broke his own school records for pass attempts (71) and completions (46) and threw for 500 yards, the third most in school history, in his final home start. He finished with three touchdowns and surpassed Texas Tech's Graham Harrell as the Big 12's all-time leading passer, moving to No. 3 on the NCAA all-time list.

[+] EnlargeEddie Lackey
AP Photo/LM OteroEddie Lackey's interception return gave Baylor its first lead of the game against Texas Tech.
Best defensive performance: Eddie Lackey, LB, Baylor. The Bears linebacker swung the game with an interception he returned 55 yards for a score early in the fourth quarter that gave Baylor its first lead of the game at 35-31. He also picked off Texas Tech QB Seth Doege again on a potential game-winning drive to set up a field goal at the end of regulation, which was missed. He also jumped on a Doege fumble at Baylor's 7-yard line to keep the game 21-7 late in the second quarter. The Bears took advantage with a touchdown drive to get within 21-14 at the half. He also finished with five tackles. Honorable mention: Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma.

Best game: Oklahoma 51, Oklahoma State 48. Bedlam yet again lived up to its billing with tons of points and a pair of Oklahoma scores late to help force overtime. Jalen Saunders ignited Owen Field with an 82-yard punt return, followed by a game-tying two-point conversion from Jones to Justin Brown. Oklahoma State answered later with a strong seven-play, 77-yard touchdown drive to take the lead. Oklahoma didn't tie it until Blake Bell escaped a tackle in the backfield and pushed his way into the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown run on fourth down with 4 seconds to play. The Sooners held for a field goal in the first overtime before Brennan Clay bowled over a couple of defenders on the way to a game-winning 18-yard touchdown run that set off one of the biggest celebrations at Owen Field in a long time.

Second-best game: Baylor 52, Texas Tech 45. The Bears trailed by 14 late in the second quarter, but forced a turnover near the goal line that helped spark a comeback. The fourth quarter featured four lead changes and a missed field goal at the gun, but the Baylor defense won the game with a defensive stop against a Texas Tech offense that had sliced them up all game.

Best play: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia. The Mountaineers' offense had sputtered a bit late, but Austin provided the final blow to send WVU to a bowl game. Austin took a short touch pass in the open field and raced to the left sideline, outrunning the Iowa State defense for a 75-yard score and backed it up with a two-point conversion on the next play that provided the final score in Friday's 31-24 win in Ames.

Second-best play(s): Brennan Clay and Blake Bell, Oklahoma. Bell's game-tying, 4-yard touchdown run might have been a loss for some quarterbacks. Bell lowered his shoulder and powered his way for the score to force overtime, where Clay trucked safety Daytawion Lowe and shrugged off a few other defenders on the way to a game-winning, 18-yard score to clinch the 51-48 win over Oklahoma State.

Third-best play: Jalen Saunders, WR/PR, Oklahoma. Saunders took a punt back 82 yards in the fourth quarter to turn Owen Field into a powder keg and help the Sooners erase an eight-point deficit and tie the game in one huge, game-changing play that got OU believing it could get over the hump and win.

Worst play: Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech. The senior QB had the ball and the game in his hands. A harmless screen was a bit too low and hit his offensive lineman in the head, drifting into Lackey's hands and nearly costing Texas Tech the game. Baylor missed a game-winning field goal after the miscue, but it cost Tech a chance to win the game.

Best team performance: TCU. The Frogs replaced Texas A&M as Texas' Thanksgiving opponent and walked all over the Longhorns on national television in prime time. Welcome to the Big 12, Frogs. It was the weekend's most dominant performance, featuring 217 rushing yards against a Longhorns defense that looked to have rediscovered its mojo in recent weeks.

Worst team performance: Texas. The Longhorns flopped with a BCS bid and Big 12 title still on the table and a trip to K-State awaiting next week. Texas got worked on its home field, and though a late rally nearly made it interesting, the Longhorns suffered one of the program's most painful losses in a while.

Best stat: Oklahoma hasn't had a lead in the last 120 minutes of Bedlam. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. The Sooners were dominated in a 44-10 loss a year ago and never led until Clay's 18-yard score ended the 51-48 win on Saturday.

Best quote: Oklahoma CB Aaron Colvin, on the post-Bedlam celebration on the field: "I don't know how the '08 [Texas] Tech game felt but I've never experienced anything like this tonight. I wish I had a video camera after the game to record what it was like."
Thanks for all the emails this week. Here's where you can reach me if you've got more to say. Let's get to this week's mail!

Jeremy in Junction City, Kan., writes: Hey Ubbs, I got a quick question for you, and i really hope its a good enough question for you to answer, what is your view or thoughts about if Oregon cannot beat there ranked opponents as convincingly as k state has beat there's (like if they only won by 3 points as an example, and if there not in the top 15 either) do you possibly see some eye-voters changing their minds? Thanks Ubbs, or shal; I say "Ubbtimus Prime". -Jeremy-

DU: It's definitely possible, but Oregon will definitely have better wins down the stretch. It could get a big win on Saturday against USC, and if that happens, there's no way the Wildcats get the jump this week. The computers love K-State, and the Wildcats have the edge in the schedule department. Voters tend to look at the most recent results, and if Oregon State still has one loss when it faces Oregon and the Ducks win that game by 10, I doubt many voters will remember how badly K-State beat Texas Tech and West Virginia. If Tech and WVU win games down the stretch and get back into the top 10, it's definitely possible, but I'm not betting on it.

Still, it should be enough for K-State to hang on to the spot ahead of Oregon in the BCS. For my money, Notre Dame will be a much bigger problem, right or not.




Daniel Otto in Lincoln, Neb., writes: If you were a K-State fan who would you be rooting for in the Ala/LSU game?

DU: This one is all too simple, Daniel. All this bunk about a one-loss SEC team getting to the national title game ahead of an undefeated Oregon, K-State or Notre Dame? That's just insanity. It could happen to Louisville, but the idea that Bama or LSU could get in ahead of those other three is just silly.

That said, you most certainly want all the undefeated teams to lose. That means you need to be cheering hard for LSU. Additionally, if LSU wins, the SEC would all of a sudden be all but out of the national title race. If Bama or LSU is going to get back in, two of the three undefeated teams would need to lose down the stretch.

So, K-State fans, no doubt: Fire up your "Geaux Tigers" chants for Saturday night during the game against Oklahoma State.




Cyclones in Everywhere writes: Thank You Jake Knott. You mean so much to all of Cyclone Nation. You will never be forgotten.

DU: Absolutely. I saluted Knott in my Friday Four Downs today, but you can't say enough about the guy. I see you, Collin Klein. For my money, though, Knott is the toughest player in the Big 12 and one of the toughest we've seen in a long time. He's Iowa State through and through and played through so many injuries, including popping his shoulder back into place twice against Baylor last year and playing all game. The guy was unstoppable.

My favorite Knott story, though, is when he broke his arm earlier in his career during spring practice. He broke it one day, had the surgery the next morning and that afternoon, he had his mom drive him out to practice before he'd even gone home.

Not only was he tough, but he truly loved his teammates and being a Cyclone. Knott was the absolute best of what we see in college football.




Kevin Vondemkamp in Rosa Linda, Calif., writes: David, Love the Aurthur Brown / Predator reference :)How does he compare stat wise against the ND LB Heisman hopeful...is he that far off?Kevin

Scott in Manhattan, Kan. writes: Explain something to me Ubbs, why is manti te'o getting so much love for Heisman contention?Is he really that much better than Arthur Brown, or Jarvis Jones?If he is then why do major draft boards have Jarvis being drafted before te'o?It's just media bias at it's finest. If ESPN wants to plug a defensive player for a Heisman contender they should actually give props to the best defender in the nation Jarvis Jones.

DU: I hear you, Scott, and I agree that Jarvis Jones is the best player of the three, but he also missed a pair of games and was slowed in one. That's enough to take you out of what's a tough, tough race.

As for Brown and Te'o, you can't compare defensive numbers across the board, but here's a look:

Arthur Brown:
  • 60 tackles (35 solo)
  • 6 tackles for loss
  • One sack
  • Two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown
  • Three pass breakups
Manti Te'o:
  • 80 tackles (39 solo)
  • 4.5 tackles for loss
  • one sack
  • Five interceptions
  • Three pass breakups
  • One fumble recovery

So, statistically, there you have it. Te'o obviously has the big plays in the passing game which I think have earned him the most recognition, but he's also been in on the mix in a lot more tackles. Twenty is a ton.




Pete in Frisco, Texas, writes: You stated that the Crabtree catch against Texas to win the game a few years ago was the best play in Big 12 football history. I think it was an awesome play, but disagree on the best in the history of the conference. While Crabtree's catch was to win a conference game, Sirr Parker from A&M caught a pass in the 98 Big 12 Championship game to win the Conference Title. That catch was in overtime and knocked Kansas State from the national championship discussion. Wouldn't you agree that would be the best play in Big 12 football history to decide a Conference champion on the last play of an OT game?

DU: It's definitely close, Pete. When you talk about the best plays in Big 12 history, those two are up there. Vince Young's fourth-down scramble to win the title in 2005 is on the list, too, but I don't know if you can really count that as a Big 12 play, considering it was in a bowl game. Still, those three are sort of the league's triumvirate.

I give the edge to Harrell and Crabtree, though, because of a) the risk. It was a tie game. Throwing that ball was a huge risk, but Crabtree made the catch and slipped out of Chykie Brown's tackle instead of going out of bounds like just about every other player might have. Additionally, what a risky play call. How many coaches besides Mike Leach throw a ball to the opposite sidelines with so little time left and no timeouts?

Additionally, beating Texas -- and that Texas team especially -- was something special. Kansas State was a great team, but everybody in the Big 12 knows there's a little something extra these days when you beat Texas or Oklahoma. Texas Tech did it at home in one of the most hyped games in school history, and did it to stay undefeated and keep its national title hopes alive. That game made people take Tech seriously as a title contender (even though Oklahoma unraveled it shortly after).

Parker's catch and run was awesome, but if he gets tackled instead of getting into the end zone, the odds are still high that A&M wins that game. Parker's play is exciting and much more memorable than, say, Iowa State's Jeff Woody scoring from a couple yards out on a zone-read to beat Oklahoma State last year.

No question: Parker and Young's plays challenge Harrell-to-Crabtree, but the skill, risk and scene give that play the edge for me.
Yesterday, I unveiled my list of the best Big 12 seasons of all-time, but there were plenty of seasons that got left out.

In no particular order, here are the best of the rest:

Colt McCoy, QB, Texas, 2008: McCoy carried the Longhorns to a BCS bowl win and a win over national title participant and Big 12 champion Oklahoma while throwing for 3,859 yards, 34 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Most impressive? He completed just under 77 percent of his passes. Crazy.

Jason White, QB, Oklahoma, 2003: White racked up 3,846 yards passing with 40 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions, and won the Heisman Trophy and Davey O'Brien Award. The Sooners went undefeated in the regular season, but lost in the Big 12 Championship and national title games.

Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor, 2011: Griffin did the unthinkable and brought a Heisman Trophy to Baylor, as well as a 10-win season. He threw for 4,293 yards, 37 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He also ran for 699 yards and completed 72.4 percent of his passes.

Darren Sproles, RB, Kansas State, 2003: Sproles led the nation with 1,986 yards and 16 touchdowns, leading K-State to its only Big 12 title with an upset of No. 1 Oklahoma, soundly beating the unbeatable Sooners, 35-7. Sproles ran for an eye-popping 235 yards and caught three passes for 88 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown.

Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State, 2010: Blackmon caught a touchdown pass and topped 100 yards in every game he played all season, winning the Biletnikoff Award (he'd do it again in 2011) and putting together the league's best individual season of 2010. He finished with 1,782 receiving yards, 111 catches and 20 touchdowns.

Graham Harrell, QB, Texas Tech, 2007: Harrell threw for a country mile and then some, topping 5,700 yards in Texas Tech's pass-happy offense (713 attempts in 2007) under Mike Leach and throwing 48 touchdowns to just 14 interceptions.

Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech, 2007: Tech had a more memorable season as a team in 2008, but Crabtree's first of two Biletnikoff-winning seasons was better. He finished with a Big 12-record 1,962 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns on 134 catches.

Eric Crouch, QB, Nebraska, 2001: Crouch carried the Huskers to the national title game in 2001 despite a Big 12 Championship Game loss, throwing for 18 touchdowns and running for 19 more. He rushed for 1,178 yards and threw for 1,115 to win the Heisman Trophy and Davey O'Brien Award.

Troy Davis, RB, Iowa State, 1996: Davis finished second in the Heisman voting after carrying the ball 402 times for 2,185 yards and winning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors in the league's inaugural season. That's not enough for you? It was his second consecutive 2,000-yard rushing season.

Roy Williams, S, Oklahoma, 2001: Williams is best known for his "Superman" play that sealed a Red River victory over Texas, but he had 12 tackles for losses and five interceptions that season. He also recovered two fumbles, returning one for a touchdown. Williams revitalized the safety position in the Big 12, bringing some bulk to the position and playing closer to the line of scrimmage. He earned the Nagurski Trophy and Thorpe Award that season.

Chase Daniel, QB, Missouri, 2007: Daniel took Missouri to the No. 1 ranking entering the Big 12 Championship Game and put Missouri football on the map. He finished with 4,306 yards, 33 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in the best season ever under Gary Pinkel. He also completed 68 percent of his passes and rushed for four scores.

Michael Bishop, QB, Kansas State, 1998: Bishop carried Kansas State to an undefeated regular season before losses in the Big 12 title game and Alamo Bowl. He threw for 2,844 yards, 23 touchdowns and four interceptions, while also running for 748 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Mailbag: System QB, A&M doubt, upsets?

November, 18, 2011
11/18/11
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Thanks for all the questions this week. As always, send them here if you want to show up here next week.

Matt Walters in Dallas asked: Graham Harrell was labeled a "system quarterback" in 2008. Should players like Brandon Weeden and Case Keenum be given this label since they are in the exact same 'system'?

David Ubben: Here's the deal with the whole "system quarterback" knock: Most of the time, the criticism comes when quarterbacks don't make difficult throws and mostly rely on dink-and-dunk plays blocked downfield for big yardage. Anybody who watches Oklahoma State knows the Cowboys offense is nothing remotely of the sort. OSU throws it downfield plenty, and Weeden can make every throw. He's got a much bigger arm than Harrell or Keenum has, and OSU's offense shows it.

Also, Weeden is relied upon to make a lot of split-second decisions after the snap. OSU runs a number of plays that have the option to be a run or a pass, and he's the guy who has to read the defense and make the apt decision. I don't know if you've taken a look at OSU's offensive numbers lately, but it seems like he's done OK.

John Schultze in College Station, Texas, asked: After watching Von play at the next level, is Timmy D a great defensive mind? Or just a decent coordinator with an absolute freak on his side of the ball?

DU: It can't be both?

I had a chance to sit in on a lecture about the 3-4 that defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter gave to a couple hundred coaches at a coaching convention in January, and trust this: The guy knows his stuff. A&M's defense has fallen apart for a number of reasons, but DeRuyter's not the only one. You forget how bad this defense was in 2009, before DeRuyter arrived. It gave up about five more points a game than any other Big 12 team.

Former Aggies linebacker Von Miller is an unbelievable player who is having exactly as much success in the NFL as most of us thought he would, but DeRuyter's still a solid coordinator, and one of the best in the Big 12.

John in Ames, Iowa, asked: How big of a deal would it be if ISU pulled off the upset against Oklahoma State?

DU: Uh, the term "Poke Choke" comes to mind. Simply put, Iowa State doesn't have the necessary offense to win this game. Uncharacteristic mistakes like drops, turnovers or a weird night for Weeden is the only way Oklahoma State loses this game. Prepare for it, Iowa State fans. If the Cyclones win this, it's going to be about OSU.

John in Olathe, Kan., asked: What will it take for Collin Klein to be considered nationally as a legit QB talent? He is putting up ridiculous numbers in the nation's second best conference. On ESPN's Heisman Expert polling, there is no mention of his name. Do you think they will ignore him next year, too?

DU: It took a while for a couple reasons, most of which is he's not a big-play guy and he doesn't throw a pretty ball, which is sort of a prerequisite as a quarterback. You saw Taylor Martinez and Denard Robinson get Heisman hype last year because they made highlight runs and terrified defenses. Klein pushing the pile for a 3-yard touchdown run isn't exactly the stuff of legend.

Combine that with an underwhelming early-season schedule and it took a lot of folks (myself included) to realize what Klein really could be. Now, with K-State proving itself as a top 15-20 team or better, and Klein putting up some big-time numbers, he's gained attention. He'll definitely be a guy on Heisman watch lists next year.

Lee in Raleigh, N.C., asked: How can you say that the Texas defense is the best that Kansas St will face? The OU defense stiffled Kansas St (in Manhattan). I think the Wildcats will put up a lot more points on Texas, than they did on OU. And they'll do it in Austin.

DU: It might have something to do with that pesky rumor that Texas is giving up 47 fewer yards per game than any team in the Big 12 and more than 85 fewer than the Big 12's No. 3 team. Combine that with a ton of fantastic athletes at all three levels, and, well ... you get the point.

Kansas State might score a few more points on Texas, but that doesn't mean Texas' defense isn't better. The Longhorns D is legit.

Arnav in St. Louis asked: LSU couldn't score off of Alabama's defense, and if Alabama had had any passing attack whatsoever instead of having [Trent] Richardson try to run through 10 defenders, they might have scored a touchdown. Does OK State's passing juggernaut and pretty solid defense find a win there?

DU: I'm not ready to predict a win just yet, but I think it'd be close and a game that nears the 30s, probably something like 23-20 or 28-24. Could probably go either way. OSU's defense is better than I thought it was early in the year, and the offense isn't going to get totally shut down by any defense.

Mark in Corpus Christi, Texas, asked: BCS selection(s) aside. Which Big 12 team would you consider must watch out of the following. Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Baylor, Texas or Kansas State. List them in order of preference. Thanks.

DU: Give me OSU, Baylor, OU, K-State and then Texas. Oklahoma State's offensive athletes are a thing of beauty. The same's true of Baylor and Oklahoma, especially Robert Griffin III. He might be the most fun player to watch in the league. K-State and UT are doing it ugly.

Chris in Manhattan, Kan., asked: Everyone is saying K-State's offense isn't sexy. But Collin Klein is our offense, right? For the most part yes. Collin Klein is rugged, right? Yes. And being rugged is generally considered sexy, right? I think so. Therefore K-states offense is generally sexy when Klein is on the field.

DU: You just blew my mind.

Scary trip ahead for Oklahoma State

November, 9, 2011
11/09/11
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So what if Halloween was last week?

Tell that to the ghosts roaming around Texas Tech's Jones AT&T Stadium these days.

Back in 2007, there was a woozy Sam Bradford of Oklahoma sidelined with a concussion on the game's opening drive. National title hopes? Gone.

A year later? An easy interception inexplicably slid through the hands of Texas' Blake Gideon. A play later, an ill-advised, unnecessary throw by Graham Harrell somehow became one of the most famous plays in college football history.

[+] EnlargeMike Gundy
Kevin Jairaj/US PresswireMike Gundy is keeping his team's focus squarely on upset-minded Texas Tech.
Beware the winds of West Texas, Oklahoma State.

The Cowboys travel there on Saturday, to the place where two Big 12 national title runs have been buried. The Cowboys will go there with the intention of preventing a third.

Gundy's players watch the weekly BCS rankings get unveiled, and this week, they saw themselves at No. 2, higher than any team in Oklahoma State history and firmly in control of their postseason destination.

"They’re being told that they’re having a great year and everywhere you go, it’s ‘Make sure you keep it going’ and this and that," said coach Mike Gundy.

The odds say Oklahoma State will. The Cowboys enter as 17-point favorites over this particular band of Red Raiders that haven't wrecked much in recent weeks.

"There’s examples every Saturday, and just speaking for our staff, we’re able to use examples of teams that, on paper or people thought may have had a better team, but for whatever reason, they didn’t play as well that Saturday and didn’t win," Gundy said. "Because of that, you have to stay focused and understand the importance of preparation going into each game."

The Cowboys won't have to look far for inspiration. Texas Tech is just 1-4 in its past five games, and its past two losses have come by 32 and 34 points.

Its one win?

Tech made it count. The Red Raiders raced to a 31-7 lead and beat Oklahoma, who entered the game as 28-point favorites. Oh, and they hadn't lost at home since 2005 or in a home conference game since 2001, concurrent streaks of 39 and 32 games.

Oklahoma State should -- should -- win on Saturday. Last year's win in Lubbock was Oklahoma State's first since 1944.

Whether it does or doesn't do it again is likely up to the superior team.

"We just have to stay focused, absorb information in meetings and have good practices on Wednesday and Thursday," Gundy said.

So how does that happen?

"There’s not really anything other than trying to keep them in the moment and in the right frame of mind so they can stay focused on what’s important here and not get caught up in all the hype outside the program," Gundy said.

We'll find out on Saturday if the Cowboys did it. Iowa State awaits a week later, and win that one?

Bedlam.
Seth Doege had just polished off a performance that would land him national player of the week honors. He and his Texas Tech teammates rushed to the corner of the field to sing their fight song, the first visiting team to do so in victory at Oklahoma's Owen Field in more than six years.

[+] EnlargeTexas Tech's Seth Doege
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiTexas Tech quarterback Seth Doege passed for 441 yards and four touchdowns against Oklahoma.
As they got there, Doege spotted a familiar face: his dad. Their eyes met, and Randy Doege pumped a fist. No words necessary. We did it.

"I’ll always remember that," Seth Doege said.

This relationship between Doege and Texas Tech has been give-and-take forever. All of Doege's West Texas family are Texas Tech fans. He grew up watching Kliff Kingsbury, whose single-game NCAA completion percentage record Doege broke this season against New Mexico.

When Tech offered him a scholarship early in his high school career, he took it and essentially ended the recruiting process.

Doege missed his final two seasons of high school football, but Texas Tech stayed committed to him.

Doege got a chance to play for Tech back in 2009, but he was benched in his first start and didn't see any meaningful action until becoming the starter this season. Transfer? Ha.

Now as a junior, he's largely responsible for the biggest win at Texas Tech in a long time. After the win at Oklahoma, coach Tommy Tuberville told his team it may have been the best of his coaching career, which included more than a decade in the SEC at Ole Miss and Auburn.

PODCAST
Landry Locker and Trey Fallon of ESPN Dallas are joined by Chris Level of Double T 104.3 to talk about Tech's shocking win in Norman and the new outlook of the season moving forward.

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"It’s something I’ll never forget. It’s something you dream about as a kid, playing the No. 1 team in the nation and coming out with the victory," Doege said. "It’s something every kid wants to do."

A dream in the sense that he always hoped it would happen, but not that he never thought it could. Texas Tech must not have heard that it was expected to lose by four touchdowns on Saturday.

"We expected to win that game. It was special, but at the same time, we weren’t surprised," Doege said. "We felt like we were a good football team. We felt like in our two losses, we had opportunities to win those games, and we felt like if we just went in there and played really well, that we would give ourselves the opportunity to win the game, which we did. It’s just one of those things where, we were confident."

Doege especially had reason to be confident. His passing numbers were competitive with anyone in the country, and after Saturday's win, his 22 touchdown passes are fourth nationally and tied for the Big 12 lead. Only Houston's Case Keenum has topped his 2,608 passing yards.

"Seth’s had a lot of success this year, not just in that game. He’s emerged as one of the best quarterbacks in the country and he’s been consistent with it," Tuberville said. "All the hype of a game like that, going in and being able to play that well at our quarterback position is going to give him a lot of confidence. They did a lot of different things in the secondary, they gave him a lot of different looks, and he was able to handle all of them."

Doege sat on the sidelines while quarterbacks before him like Graham Harrell and Taylor Potts endured lopsided beatings in the same stadium. No Tech team had won in Norman since beating 3-8 Oklahoma under first-year coach John Blake back in 1996.

"We were physical, we weren’t scared and we were there to win the game, not play the game," Doege said. "I don’t think anybody on the team was intimidated at all. We went into that game really confident and we expected to win. I don’t think anything about OU really intimidated us. We knew this was a great football team, but we also knew that we were a great football team, too, and we’d put in as much work as anybody."

"It was a party in the locker room," Doege added.

The party's over. A special night can evolve into a special season. That continues Saturday against Iowa State.

"Now we know how good we can be," Doege said.

The Sooners have struggled in the red zone all season, and have shuffled kickers in and out of the lineup for three seasons.

Both came into play and cost Oklahoma in a shocking 41-38 loss to Texas Tech, 28-point underdogs.

Michael Hunnicut clanged a 28-yard field goal off the upright late in the fourth quarter, and Oklahoma scored just one of its three second-half touchdowns from the red zone. It settled for one field goal, and also missed a 39-yard kick earlier in the game.

With that, Oklahoma's home-game winning streak and it's national championship hopes are over.

The warning signs were there in lackluster wins over Kansas and Missouri this year. The offense sputtered for most of the game against the worst defense in the nation last week at Kansas, and the defense gave up more than 500 yards to Missouri.

Saturday night, Texas Tech did what it wanted offensively for almost the entire 60 minutes and put up 600 yards and 41 points, all season highs, against the Sooners.

Just like Texas Tech did against Texas in 2008, the Sooners' national title hopes are dashed. Seth Doege to Alex Torres may not have the same ring to it as Graham Harrell to Michael Crabtree, but the duo was almost as potent Saturday against Oklahoma's defense, which was missing top cornerback Jamell Fleming.

Torres caught four passes for 94 yards and three touchdowns, tormenting Oklahoma's secondary with big plays.

Doege threw for 441 yards and four touchdowns on 33-of-52 passing.

Oklahoma didn't play well, but Texas Tech walked in and won this game, fully intending to do so all night. Tommy Tuberville faked a punt and went for it on fourth down twice inside the 5-yard line.

Only one of those attempts worked, but it said a lot about Texas Tech's intentions and mindset. Both paid off, and Tuberville has the biggest win of his two seasons in Lubbock.

Next week's showdown with Kansas State has lost a bit of its luster, but Oklahoma State and Kansas State are the last two remaining undefeated teams in the Big 12.

Who saw that one coming?

Yards to Glory: Crabtree KOs the Longhorns

August, 4, 2011
8/04/11
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On Monday, we began a week-long project looking at the most famous touchdowns from 100-plus yards down to 1 yard, and we'll be taking a look at each of the Big 12 entrants on the blog throughout the week.

You can see the full project here.

Surely, you all remember this one. Michael Crabtree caught the most famous pass in Red Raiders history, and in the process, helped usher in an eventual three-way tie atop the Big 12 South that resulted in Oklahoma playing for a Big 12 title and eventual national title, despite losing to Texas in the Cotton Bowl months earlier and both teams finishing with one loss.

Perhaps even more famous in Texas fans' minds, besides Crabtree's catch, which grabbed the 28-yard spot on our list, is Blake Gideon's easy dropped interception earlier in the drive, and the missed tackle by Curtis Brown.

Nov. 1, 2008: If you had to reduce a program's highlight reel to a single play, this would be Texas Tech's. Trailing No. 1 Texas 33-32 with eight seconds left in a battle of unbeatens, the Red Raiders didn't play for a field goal. Instead, quarterback Graham Harrell fired a pass into double coverage for star receiver Michael Crabtree on the sidelines. Crabtree not only made the catch at the 5-yard line, he stayed in bounds, shrugged off the tackle attempt of Curtis Brown and scored the biggest touchdown in Tech history.

-- Pat Forde

Mailbag: Aggies/SEC, underrating, new QBs

July, 22, 2011
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Thanks for all the emails, everyone. Short day today. Have a good weekend, and we'll see you live Monday morning from Big 12 Media Days. Get excited.

Justin in Forney, Texas, asked: DU, Why are we seeing A&M back in the news with the SEC? While I understand their frustration with the Longhorn Network, I do not see their recruiting increasing by moving to the SEC. Is this going to be a recurring issue each summer?

David Ubben: Yeah, my stance has basically remained the same since A&M's flirtations with the SEC started up more than a year ago. Texas A&M's decision-makers understand the risk in moving to the SEC, as well as the historical repercussions, saying goodbye to long-standing traditions with so many of the other schools in Texas.

Fans see opportunity for the program to grow in the SEC, and it's not impossible, but I feel it's much, much more likely that Texas A&M doesn't win in the SEC at the level it's won in the Big 12, which is already to say, not a ton. I see them on par with what Arkansas is now. Once in awhile, you may see them in the championship game, but if they're going to win a conference title, it's going to be once every 10-20 years. Programs like Alabama, LSU, Florida and rising powers like Auburn, not to mention sleeping powers like Georgia and Tennessee, won't make good new roommates if the Aggies want to win.

The recruiting advantages are overstated. The majority of players growing up in Texas dream of becoming Longhorns and beating the SEC, not going and playing in the SEC. Sure, when they get older, some of them realize schools like OU and Texas A&M are a better fit, but I absolutely, 100 percent disagree that "playing in the SEC" is a big draw for kids in Texas, and something that would help the Aggies recruiting substantially. It might be for a few guys, but it's not a game-changer, and the more difficult schedule would negate, if not overtake those advantages.

So, no. I don't think we'll see this every summer. Once this issue with the Longhorn Network is settled, I think the Big 12 will be back on solid footing. It will be glued together by the billion-dollar deal from Fox that it signed earlier this offseason, and looking forward to making even more money in 2014-15 when it negotiates a new deal for first-tier rights.


Eric in Manhattan, Kan., asked: Why does David Garrett always seem to get the shaft? He is all of 5'8" and under 180 lbs, but he hits like a 230 lb linebacker. I've seen him on multiple occasion level running backs and not be scared to take on a fullback. Then on player and awards lists he's never mentioned, even though last year he had the most tackles for the Cats.

DU: Well, I think the biggest factor was a) Kansas State didn't win enough games to get a lot of attention last season and b) their team wasn't very fun to watch.

Big 12 fans, for better or worse, have come to love the spread game and like watching teams ring up points. Kansas State scored plenty last season (third-most in the Big 12, in fact), but it wasn't a very fun team to watch. More than anything else, I point to those two factors more than any one thing about Garrett himself. It's an exposure issue.

Anyone who saw him play appreciated him, but for as much of a great football player as he is, his coverage does leave a bit to be desired, and for a cornerback, that's a big deal. You'd probably hear guys like Prince Amukamara, Alfonzo Dennard, and Jamell Fleming be appreciated a lot more, because they specialize more in coverage. If Garrett does move around and play some more safety or nickel back, he'd probably get some more notice.

It's unfair, but that's just how it is. You can't really change what people want to see or notice.


Denny Hinds in Waterloo, Iowa, asked: Tiller or Jantz in your opinion? I like jantz.

DU: I can't help but look back and think of Taylor Martinez when I think of Steele Jantz. Did Martinez have his shortcomings as a quarterback? Obviously, yes. But he wasn't significantly worse than Cody Green or Zac Lee as a passer, and his ability to run provided an absolute advantage and a new facet to the offense that no one else on the roster can provide.

For that reason, I think you'll see Jantz win the job. Tiller was very unimpressive when he got chances last season, and it's hard to believe Jantz is a worse passer. But his speed changes what Iowa State can do on offense, and it's worth putting him out there versus Tiller, unless Tiller is a substantially better passer.

For now, I don't believe he is. So, Jantz it is.


Andy in St. Louis asked: Last season, Missouri had a good rushing attack. It was strength and very effective at times, but it was still only solid. Do you think that with all returning running backs, 4 returning o-lineman, and a more run-oriented QB Mizzou's run game can make the jump to elite?

DU: It's got a pretty good chance to do it. Their running backs are great, especially when you add up their production. Any coach would love to have a 1,557-yard rusher with 19 touchdowns. And all four guys averaged more than 5.2 yards per carry! That's crazy. Missouri will benefit from not having to face a team like Nebraska, a speedy defense with instinctive defensive backs and linebackers capable of shutting down the Tigers slow-developing running game that usually starts 5-7 yards in the backfield.

Nebraska really abused Missouri's offense, but the Tigers had a lot of success against just about everyone else. I'd argue Missouri was pretty close to elite in 2010. Even though the style of its running game doesn't exactly strike fear into defenses, you can't argue with the effectiveness with the running backs. Blaine Gabbert actually had 13 more carries than any running back, but only gained 232 yards on his 112 carries, dragging down the team's average into the middle of the Big 12.


Seth Doege in Lubbock, Texas, asked: Should I attempt to do the "Teach Me How To Doege" dance after I score my first TD this year?

DU: YES.


John in Broken Arrow, Okla., asked: Ubbs, if Blackmon and Weeden have another year like last year where would you rank them as far as QB-WR tandems in Big XII history?

DU: Interesting question. If Justin Blackmon repeats and wins the Biletnikoff with equal or better numbers than he had in 2010, I think you'd have to put them at least on the level -- probably higher -- than Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree.

They won't have the longevity of the success Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley ever had, but Shipley never had a season like Blackmon had last season. Blackmon put together one of the all-time great seasons in college football history. It's been repeated ad nauseum, but I'm not sure people fully appreciate how difficult it is to account for 100 yards and a touchdown in every single game. No one had ever done that before. We might never see it again.

If nothing else, that might put Blackmon over the top.
Yesterday, you saw our college football blog staff tab one player as the conference's next household name, but what do you think? I pegged Texas A&M running back Christine Michael as the next player folks will know well, but here's a few other suggestions.

Vote in the poll for who you're expecting to see a much bigger profile this time next year:

Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma

Stills caught 61 passes for 786 yards last year as a true freshman, the most of any freshman in Oklahoma history, even with the nation's leader (131) in receptions, Ryan Broyles, across from him on the field. He's got one of the best quarterbacks in the league tossing him the ball, and he'll be back in 2011 with a year of experience under his belt.

James Franklin, QB, Missouri

Franklin is the key to Missouri's rise in 2011. If he plays well, the Tigers should be a strong contender for the Big 12 title, something Blaine Gabbert, Chase Daniel and Brad Smith could never win. This Tigers team might be the best under Gary Pinkel, but there's a gaping hole at quarterback where Gabbert used to be. Will Franklin fill it and become a star as the next in a long line of Missouri quarterbacks.

Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State

Randle caught more passes last year than any running back in the league, other than Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray, and figured to be a big piece of the backfield set to replace Kendall Hunter, who rushed for over 1,500 yards for the second time in his career last season. Randle has the advantage of a passing game that will require tons of attention and the Big 12's best offensive line. Will he hold off Jeremy Smith and become a 1,000-yard rusher?

Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech

Doege, a junior, hasn't been a full-time starter since his sophomore year of high school, but Texas Tech stayed committed to him through a pair of serious knee injuries, and Doege has done the same. Now, he'll get a chance to do what he grew up wanting to do, carry on the Texas Tech quarterback legacy that guys like Graham Harrell and Kliff Kingsbury helped build. He'll do it under a different coach, but can he still produce the big numbers?

Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas

Brown hasn't even gone through a practice yet, but hopes are high for the incoming freshman who was the nation's No. 7 recruit in the 2011 class. The Cibolo, Texas, native runs with big power and if Texas' offensive line can give him a few holes, should be able to punish defenders with his downhill style. A year from now, will he be the first 1,000-yard rusher at Texas since Jamaal Charles?

Anyone else deserve some consideration?
LUBBOCK, Texas -- Last season, Oklahoma State surely made some sort of history by starting a quarterback in Brandon Weeden, who hadn't made a start in nine years.

Next season, there's a good chance Texas Tech could have a quarterback who has made one start in five seasons. Junior Seth Doege's never made it on the field for his final two seasons of high school in 2006 and 2007, thanks to preseason torn ACLs in his right and left knees.

[+] EnlargeSeth Doege
Dustin Bradford/Icon SMISeth Doege is excited to get a chance to start for Texas Tech.
In 2008, he redshirted. Doege started against Kansas in 2009 but was benched in favor of Taylor Potts at halftime, making his only start a forgettable one. In 2010, he waited his turn behind a pair of seniors, Potts and Steven Sheffield, both finally fully healthy.

"I know a lot of people that would have gone through those [injuries] and said, 'You know what, I’m done. I’m not going to go through this.'" said Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville. " But it shows the perseverance he’s got and how resilient he is and how much he wants to play."

The big question: Why?

"Ever since I was little, this has been my dream," Doege said. "Not many people can say they’re living their dream."

Doege can. For now, it's not official. But he's established a clear lead over Jacob Karam as the Red Raiders' starting quarterback, earning the majority of the first-team reps as the most experienced quarterback on the roster.

The quarterback play under former coach Mike Leach became a signature of the Red Raiders' program, and that doesn't look likely to change.

"We still want to go out and recruit quarterbacks who can throw it 50 times a game -- maybe 60," Tuberville said. "That’s something that’s helped Tech when Mike brought it here and I don’t think there’s any doubt that it’s opened doors for us."

That includes Doege's door. A native of Wolfforth, Texas, Doege went to nearby Frenship High School and was a self-professed "West Texas kid." He remembers well the first time his dad, Randy Doege, a high school coach himself, brought him to a Texas Tech game.

"I was like, 'Man, I want to play here. I want to throw for 4,000-plus yards,'” he said. "I wanted to be the next Kliff Kingsbury, the next B.J. Symons, the next Graham Harrell. I wanted to be those guys."

That didn't change throughout high school. One of the top passers in Texas, Doege committed to Texas Tech the day he got his offer, the first of several that eventually rolled in.

"I knew this was where I wanted to be when I was little," he said. "There were other schools that offered, but as soon as they did, I’d tell them hey, I’m committed to Tech. I’m solid."

And despite missing those final two years, Texas Tech honored that commitment just as Doege honored his, both to the game itself and other schools that expressed interest.

"That really motivated me. It was like, 'OK, I still have a chance,'" he said.

Now that the chance is closer than ever, Doege's hopes and expectations are high.

"I just want to win, that’s the main goal," he said. "My expectation is to be the No. 1 offense and that’s what we want to do. For a quarterback to know that your unit is No. 1 in the nation, that’s probably the best recognition you can get."

And Doege's confidence in himself and those around him is reflected by his coach, too.

"He’s an older guy. He’s not 18 years old. He’s been through some tough times, some tough surgeries, and he’s still got the hunger for it," Tuberville said. "You can tell he’s physically tough, mentally tough to go through that, and you can tell he kept the hunger and he wanted to do it.

"Now we can see what he can do."
Baylor, Texas and Texas Tech already have begun spring drills., but I'm kicking off my spring tour around the Big 12 campuses on Wednesday.

Here's a wide-angle look at the Big 12, with the five biggest questions hounding the conference to begin the spring.

[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
Tim Heitman/US PresswireQuarterback Landry Jones is one reason Oklahoma will get plenty of preseason attention. But can the Sooners overcome off-the-field problems?
1. Does it have a national championship contender or not? Oklahoma is by no means uncontested at the top of the Big 12, but it is a clear notch above Texas A&M and Oklahoma State as the favorite to win the conference. Additionally, there's a good chance the Sooners will open 2011 as the No. 1 team in the country. But in the two months before spring drills began, Oklahoma's had plenty of negative headlines off the field. Their best cornerback, Jamell Fleming, won't be with the team in the spring and his future is in doubt. Starting defensive tackle Stacy McGee was cited for misdemeanor marijuana possession. Star freshman Kenny Stills, a receiver, was arrested on a DUI complaint and his close friend, freshman safety Tony Jefferson -- also a California native and the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, was booked on a complaint for interfering with the official process in the incident with Stills. That's a lot of distractions, but the Sooners will need to end that list now to have the best chance of validating their preseason hype on the field. Oklahoma has no glaring weaknesses as it stands, but if academics or discipline keeps players off the field, that could change. The hype will only grow if the Sooners stay out of the police blotter and book a solid spring camp.

2. Is Texas over its "entitlement?" Is the new staff jelling with players? This should be a fascinating spring in Austin. For the first time in perhaps a decade, the Longhorns have a long, long list of things to prove. They'll try to do it with a youth-infused staff and it all begins this spring. The defense was decent last season, the offense was awful. Both will need to be great if the Longhorns are going to compete for a Big 12 title after a last-place finish in the Big 12 South. Is Texas up to the challenge?

3. Where are the quarterbacks? Think back to 2008. The Big 12 had -- by my count -- eight quarterbacks that could play for about anybody across the country. Sam Bradford won the Heisman. Colt McCoy was one of the best in school history, winning more games than any quarterback in college history and reaching a pair of BCS bowls, including a national championship appearance. Chase Daniel, Graham Harrell, Todd Reesing, Zac Robinson, Robert Griffin III and Josh Freeman were all solid. That's eight out of 10 teams in the current Big 12 with excellence under center. This year? I count four. Griffin is still around. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are set with Landry Jones and Brandon Weeden and Texas A&M should be fine with Ryan Tannehill. Beyond that? It's pretty slim. The potential is there for Garrett Gilbert at Texas, but he's coming off a season in which he threw six touchdowns and 16 picks in conference play. Will we see breakout stars begin to write their legacies at Texas Tech, Missouri or Kansas State? All three have players who could be set for breakout years in Seth Doege, James Franklin and Justin Tuggle, but they'll have to win the job first and try to make a name for themselves if they can pull that off.

4. Are leaky defenses with new coordinators ready to support their teams' high-powered offenses? Texas Tech and Baylor both had offenses good enough to compete for a Big 12 title, but poor defense meant both had to settle for seven-win seasons and lower-tier bowl games. Both are back this spring with new coordinators. Veteran Phil Bennett is in at Baylor, and first-time coordinator Chad Glasgow will try to extrapolate the success he had coaching TCU's secondary into Texas Tech's secondary and defense, which ranked last in the Big 12 last year.

5. Can the Cowboys keep the status quo? Dana Holgorsen was the big story in Oklahoma State's spring camp last year, and he showed why during the season, turning the Cowboys into the Big 12's best offensive team. He's gone, and Todd Monken is taking over. Can the excellence continue? Bringing back all five offensive linemen will make it a lot easier. Skill positions look a lot better when quarterbacks have time and running backs have holes. Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden are back, but can their talents be showcased as two of the Big 12's best in 2011. They better be. If not, the Cowboys can rule out a Big 12 title.

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