Big 12: James Sims

All-Big 12 players such as Lache Seastrunk, Aaron Colvin and Ahmad Dixon had to wait until the final day to be drafted. Jackson Jeffcoat, James Sims and Josh Stewart settled for free-agent deals after going undrafted.

You have expectations going in, but truthfully, you just never know how the NFL draft is going to play out. The good organizations know, however, that you can't construct a contender without finding high-impact player in the draft's final rounds.

Borrowing a page from our friends over at's SEC blog, who authored this thoughtful post earlier this week, here's a reminder why you shouldn't sleep on the late-round choices.

Here are a handful of active players from Big 12 schools who were not selected in their respective drafts' first three rounds but have still managed to develop into big-time talents, starters and contributors. The round they were drafted in is listed in parentheses, and FA indicates the player was an undrafted free agent.
Seventeen Big 12 players heard their names called during the 2014 NFL draft. Many other Big 12 alums will have a chance at the next level as undrafted free agents.

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

Iowa State
Kansas State
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech
West Virginia

Kansas spring wrap

May, 1, 2014
A recap of what we learned about Kansas this spring as Charlie Weis prepares for his third season as coach.

Three things we learned in the spring:

1. Montell Cozart is the guy. Weis named the sophomore his starting quarterback after reviewing the Jayhawks’ spring practice performances. Not only did Cozart star in the spring game, he separated himself in the other 14 spring practice sessions and convinced Weis to name him the starter now so the team would know who would lead the offense this fall.

2. Receiver Nick Harwell could make a big difference. The Miami (Ohio) transfer looked like a legitimate difference-maker during the spring. Harwell clearly proved he should be a guy who new offensive coordinator John Reagan will try to get the ball as much as possible in 2014.

3. KU’s defense should be improved. The Jayhawks return several starters on defense and appear faster and more athletic than last season. Linebacker Ben Heeney is one of the league's most underrated defenders and a veteran secondary should be able to better handle the passing offenses in the conference.

Three questions for the fall:

1. Who will replace running back James Sims? Sims was KU’s offense for much of his four-year stint in the Jayhawks' backfield. Senior Brandon Bourbon looks like he can contribute but will have to hold off a star-studded group of running back signees set to arrive in the summer.

2. Will KU’s defense live up to lofty expectations? The defense was vocal about its desire to be the best defense in the Big 12 this season. That’s a lofty goal for a defense that finished in the bottom third in the Big 12 in nearly every category.

3. Will the coaching changes pay off? Weis brought in Reagan to run the offense and added receivers coach Eric Kiesau. The veteran head coach has made a point to take a step back from the offense and take more of a CEO approach this season. We’ll see if it pays off.

One way-too-early prediction:

Cozart will validate Weis’ decision to name him the starter with a strong sophomore season. If he shows he can be a "pass first, run second"-style quarterback, Cozart will cause some real problems for Big 12 defenses this fall.

Reviewing the Big 12 pro days

March, 31, 2014
Pro day season has come and gone. Draft-eligible players returned to school this month and hit the weight room and practice field to give NFL scouts a taste of their potential. Here’s a rundown of how the Big 12’s top draft prospects fared as well as a few who surprised.

TCU (March 6)
Big name: CB Jason Verrett. A total of 26 NFL teams had reps at the Horned Frogs’ pro day, and you know many of them came for Verrett. He didn’t look to improve his 40 time from the NFL combine (4.38), but he did show off a 39 -inch vertical and benched 19 reps.
Sleeper: QB Casey Pachall. While he’ll have to answer lots of questions about his off-field issues, Pachall’s on-field work at pro day was encouraging. He checked in at 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds, ran his 40 in the mid-4.9s and completed 62 of 72 passes, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Kansas State (March 11)
Big name: S Ty Zimmerman. Though 20 Kansas State players worked out at pro day, Zimmerman was not one of them. He’s still recovering from labrum surgery and reportedly plans to hold a workout next month to show his progress.
Sleeper: OT Cornelius Lucas. Hard to project how things will play out for Lucas, a mammoth tackle at 6-8 and 316 pounds, after he discovered a stress fracture in his left foot at the NFL combine. He’s supposed to be out up to eight weeks but plans to work out along with Zimmerman on April 28.

Oklahoma (March 12)
Big name: CB Aaron Colvin. The Sooners had 28 NFL organization represented at their pro day, but a few key players were still on the mend. Colvin, who suffered a torn ACL at the Senior Bowl, did not work out but hopes to be running again by late April and vowed his recovery is ahead of schedule.
Sleeper: C Gabe Ikard. While Ikard elected to stand by his combine numbers, which were strong for his position group, he did use the pro day to show in position drills just how athletic an interior lineman he can be for an NFL club. Running back Damien Williams also made a solid impression, and receiver Jalen Saunders drew mixed reviews after poor shuttle times.

Oklahoma State (March 13)
Big name: CB Justin Gilbert. The Steelers have the No. 15 pick, so it made sense that Mike Tomlin and his GM were among the many coaches in Stillwater to scout Gilbert. He stood by his 4.37 in the 40 from the NFL combine but did agility drills and reportedly wowed in his position drills. He’s a first-rounder, no doubt.
Sleeper: WR Josh Stewart. Well, OK, he’s not much of a sleeper. But Stewart had work to do to raise his stock, and pro day should’ve helped. He improved his 40 slightly, from 4.69 at the combine to 4.59 at pro day, and showed what he can do as a receiver and returner. Safety Daytawion Lowe also made a good impression.

Texas Tech (March 14)
Big name: TE Jace Amaro. The All-America tight end tried to secure a spot in the first round with improvements in the 40 (4.68) and vertical, and at 6-5 and 266 pounds he evoked comparisons to Vernon Davis from one 49ers scout.
Sleeper: CB Bruce Jones. He’s undersized at 5-7 and 183 pounds, but Jones did grab some attention at pro day with a run of a 4.5-second 40 time and team-best vertical of 41 inches.

Kansas (March 14)
Big name: RB James Sims. A dozen scouts showed up for the Jayhawks’ pro day, and the highlight was probably Sims busting off a run of 4.56 seconds in the 40. The 6-foot, 205-pound back was not invited to the NFL combine and told the Lawrence Journal-World he felt good about the numbers he put up.

Baylor (March 19)
Big names: OT Cyril Richardson, RB Lache Seastrunk, S Ahmad Dixon. Richardson shed 20 pounds after his senior season, which had to encourage NFL scouts, and he did nothing at his pro day to diminish his chances of being a top-50 pick. Seastrunk was as explosive as expected, with a time of 4.37 in the 40 and a 4.36 second shuttle, and tried to show off his pass-catching ability. Dixon ran a 4.64 in the 40 at the NFL combine and improved that to 4.48 at pro day.
Sleeper: TE Jordan Najvar. At nearly 6-6 and 280 pounds, Najvar certainly has the size to make the NFL. His speed had been a question mark, but his reported best for pro day was 4.86 seconds in the 40.

West Virginia (March 21)
Big name: RB Charles Sims. A nice showing at the NFL combine (40 time: 4.48) meant Sims needed only to do positional drills, and he drew good reviews for his pass-catching ability despite small hands.
Sleeper: DE Will Clarke. Knowing it’s possible he’ll be asked to play outside linebacker in an NFL scheme, Clarke worked out at both end and linebacker on pro day and tried to show what he can bring to pass coverage as a nearly 6-6, 268-pound defender.

Iowa State (March 25)
Big name: LB Jeremiah George. After a subpar showing at the combine, George had a nice day in front of 30 NFL officials. He hit 4.69 in the 40-yard dash, posted a big improvement in his broad jump and was solid in positional work.
Sleeper: CB Jeremy Reeves. How’s this for a success story? Reeves played at ISU from 2010-12, missed last season with a pectoral injury and showed up to pro day to prove he’s still got it. He had a crazy good day: 4.29-second 40, 43-inch vertical, 11-foot broad jump. The New York Jets signed him on Friday.

Texas (March 26)
Big name: DE Jackson Jeffcoat. Like most other top prospects, Jeffcoat stuck with his NFL combine testing numbers. The 6-3, 253-pound end demonstrated his coverage ability in position drills amid talk that he might have to be a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level.
Sleeper: CB Carrington Byndom. Questions about the three-year starter’s speed were put to rest when he ran his 40 in 4.37 seconds. Byndom was happy with his positional drills and is starting to line up meetings.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll continue to close the door on the 2013 season. Every Big 12 team suffered at least one loss during the regular season and losses can be as beneficial as wins. In this team-by-team series, we’ll take a look at the best loss of the year for each Big 12 team including what happened and why it matters.

On Friday, we wrap up the series with Kansas.

Best loss: 27-17 to TCU, which sparked changes on offense for the Jayhawks.

What happened: The Jayhawks put up a good fight against TCU in an early Big 12 road game but their offense, which was expected to be the strength of the squad, let them down. KU’s defense forced five turnovers and gave the Jayhawks a 10-point advantage in points-off-turnovers yet the Jayhawks still lost the game by double digits.

KU averaged a season-low 1.4 yards per carry, gained 198 total yards and averaged 3.3 yards per play. The game was tied at halftime but KU’s offense simply could not make big plays against a quality Horned Frogs defense as quarterback Jake Heaps’ 16 Adjusted QBR was one of the worst single-game performances from a Big 12 quarterback this season, and his inability to force TCU’s defense to account for his running ability limited the Jayhawks' options of attack.

Why it was helpful: KU coach Charlie Weis took the redshirt off freshman quarterback Montell Cozart the following week against Oklahoma. Cozart wasn’t considerably better than Heaps and the duo rotated for much of the season but Cozart provided an added element to KU’s offense with his feet, helping create running lanes for standout running back James Sims. And he was the starting quarterback who led the Jayhawks to their lone Big 12 win, a 31-19 win over West Virginia.

But Cozart is just part of the equation. Weis started tinkering with the Jayhawks offense and recommitting to the running game after the subpar performance at TCU. KU had Oklahoma on its heels the following week, behind a strong commitment to the running game, and the Jayhawks’ win over WVU was built on the shoulders of Sims. The TCU loss was the last time KU attempted a pass on at least 50 percent of its plays -- until the season finale loss to Kansas State -- after putting it in the air 50 percent of the time for three straight weeks heading into that game.

KU’s loss to TCU was a bad loss but it helped spark some changes that led to the Jayhawks snapping their 27-game conference losing streak against WVU.

Revealing stat: KU averaged 10.8 yards per drive against TCU, the lowest output of the season for the Jayhawk offense and the lowest average yards per drive in a single game in the Big 12 in 2013.

Quote of note: “People talk about pulling redshirts off, but really we haven't put the redshirts on. I think that once we get past the halfway mark of the season that's when the conversation begins. If a kid can be involved for half a season sometimes it makes him more prepared to play the next year.” -- Weis on Cozart the week before playing the freshman for the first time against OU.
With signing day quickly approaching, it’s time to close the chapter on the 2013 season. We’re counting down the Top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 over the next few days with a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. We continue the postseason countdown with the No. 14 player in the Big 12.

No. 14: James Sims, RB, Kansas

Previous ranking: Sims was No. 8 in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s top 25 players.

Making the case for Sims: An extremely productive runner since his first carry as a freshman in 2010, Sims saved his best for his final season. He had career highs in yards (1,110), yards per carry (4.8) and receptions (25) as a senior.

His tough running style -- and durability -- made him one of the Big 12’s top players for the past few seasons. He led the Big 12 with 230 carries, did not miss a game and had just one game with less than double-digit carries. Working behind an unsettled offensive line, Sims still managed four 100-yard rushing performances, including a 22-carry, 211-yard, three-touchdown display against West Virginia in the Jayhawks' lone conference win.

Replacing Sims won’t be easy in 2014 as he had been the only known and productive commodity on an offense laced with uncertainty and lack of production.

The rest of the list:

2013 Big 12 Super Seniors

January, 27, 2014
Before we wrap up our review of the 2013 season, it’s time to pay homage to the Big 12’s top seniors.

After much deliberation, we’ve selected the best 12 seniors in the league, period. These players all raised their game this season with their on-field production, leadership and impact to their respective teams.

[+] EnlargeJustin Gilbert
J.P. Wilson/Icon SMIOklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert had 12 career interceptions.
This wasn’t easy, and a lot of talented and deserving seniors did not make the cut. This was a particularly challenging season, with more than 30 seniors earning All-Big 12 honors from the league’s coaches. We looked closely at how these players fared in conference play, their consistency and whether they were able to make it through the full season.

Here are our 2013 Big 12 Super Seniors, listed in alphabetical order:

Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma: His senior-year stats weren’t stunning -- Colvin recorded 55 tackles, an interception and three pass breakups -- but it’s not as if opposing quarterbacks were interested in throwing his way. The three-year starter was a longtime leader of this Sooners defense and now has a long road to recovery ahead after suffering a torn ACL at the Senior Bowl.

Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor: Love him or hate him, the All-American is one of the best playmakers in the Big 12. The hard-hitting safety racked up 81 tackles, six pass breakups and one interception and served as the enforcer over the middle of a much-improved Bears defense.

Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State: After an unsatisfying junior season, Gilbert stepped up big again for the Cowboys with a Big 12-leading seven interceptions along with seven pass breakups and 42 tackles. He’ll go down as both a lockdown corner and elite kick returner in his time at OSU.

Gabe Ikard, C, Oklahoma: No player is more deserving of making this list than Ikard, an All-America lineman on the field and Capital One Academic All-American of the Year in the classroom. He won the Wuerffel Trophy for his combination of athletic, academic and community service success. He was one of the nation’s best at his position and brought off-the-charts leadership to the Sooners.

Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas: Finally injury-free for a full season, Jeffcoat shined in his last year as a Longhorn and led the Big 12 in sacks (13) and tackles for loss (19) to earn consensus All-America honors. When Texas lost its defensive coordinator and two of its first three games, Jeffcoat stepped up and played a big role in turning Texas’ season around.

Eddie Lackey, LB, Baylor: The Bears found one heck of a steal in Lackey, a junior college transfer who finished with 108 tackles (13 for loss), 4.5 sacks and three INTs in his senior season. He earned All-Big 12 honors for his play and probably deserved more than that for what he brought to this unit.

Caleb Lavey, LB, Oklahoma State: Sure seems like this guy was a little too underrated during the 2013 season. Lavey led the Pokes in tackles with 93 and a team-high 13 tackles for loss, and he chipped in four interceptions, three pass breakups and 2.5 sacks. Oklahoma State’s defense emerged as the league’s best for much of the season and Lavey was a big reason why with his play over the middle.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsBaylor linebacker Eddie Lackey was a big part of the Bears' improved defense.
Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor: The unanimous All-American entered the season with considerable hype and managed to surpass expectations. He paved the way for the No. 1 offense with 89 knockdown blocks and, at 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds, is the kind of menacing guard any coach would love to have leading a line.

Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia: In his only season with the Mountaineers, the Houston transfer was a do-everything workhorse who had no trouble adjusting his game to Big 12 competition. He led the league with 1,496 yards from scrimmage (1,095 rushing, 401 receiving) and scored 14 total touchdowns. The guy wanted to make a name for himself and did just that.

James Sims, RB, Kansas: Sims was quietly one of the best running backs in the Big 12 over the past four years, finishing his career with 3,592 rushing yards after surpassing 1,000 for the second straight year. Though he played for struggling offenses, he made a bigger impact on this program than most realize.

Jason Verrett, CB, TCU: In his only two seasons in the Big 12, Verrett earned All-America honors in back-to-back seasons and was one of the league’s most feared defenders in his final year. The former junior college transfer broke up 14 passes and picked off two, and he didn’t see many more thrown his way.

Ty Zimmerman, S, Kansas State: He dealt with some injury issues in his final season, but the few games he missed made clear just how important Zimmerman was to this K-State defense throughout his career. He finished with 74 tackles, three interceptions and four pass breakups as a senior and started nearly every game of the past four seasons.

Other Big 12 shoes to fill in 2014

January, 23, 2014
Earlier this week, we examined the three underclassmen leaving the Big 12 and who could replace them at their respective schools. Below, we look at 10 of the biggest shoes to fill in the Big 12 in 2014.

[+] EnlargeAhmad Dixon
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsWill Baylor's defense be able to replace Ahmad Dixon's leadership?

Ahmad Dixon, S: Dixon was the heart and soul of coach Art Briles’ best defense at Baylor. The All-American was the Baylor defense’s tone-setter and a tackling machine. He was also its vocal leader, and as someone who grew up in Waco, he fully understood the significance of Baylor’s resurgence. With QB Bryce Petty back, the Bears figure to put up the points again. But whether they find another defensive leader like Dixon will play a big part in whether Baylor can repeat as Big 12 champs.


Jeremiah George, LB: George finished first in the Big 12 with 133 tackles and ranked fourth nationally with an average of 11.1 per game. That level of defensive production isn’t easily replaced. The onus will be on heir-apparent Luke Knott to keep Iowa State’s strong linebacking tradition rolling next season.


James Sims, RB: The past two seasons, Sims has been -- by far -- Kansas’ top player. With 211 rushing yards and three touchdowns, he carried the Jayhawks to a 31-19 win over West Virginia to snap the school’s 27-game Big 12 losing streak. Sims was able to produce, even when the focal point of defenses was squarely on him. The All-Big 12 back will not be easily replaced.


Ty Zimmerman, S: The Wildcats just weren’t the same defense when Zimmerman had to sit because of injury. With the hard-hitting safety on the sidelines, Oklahoma gashed the Wildcats for 301 rushing yards. When Zimmerman was on the field, K-State was so much steadier defensively. Just ask Michigan, which struggled to move the chains in Zimmerman’s return in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, which the Wildcats won going away, 31-14.


Gabe Ikard, C: Ikard was the constant on an offensive line that held up throughout the season despite constantly changing parts. In the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Ikard was the only Sooners offensive lineman to start in the same spot as the team’s Big 12 opener. And yet, OU became the first team to put 31 first-half points on Alabama under Nick Saban. The Sooners have a nice center prospect in Ty Darlington. But he’ll be stepping in for one of the top centers in college football.


Clint Chelf, QB: The Cowboys lose some key players defensively, notably CB Justin Gilbert, DT Calvin Barnett and LBs Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey. Chelf, however, was the biggest reason for Oklahoma State’s November surge, which put the Cowboys in position to win the Big 12 title on the final day of the regular season. The Cowboys will have to replace him with either J.W. Walsh, who struggled before losing the job back to Chelf, or true freshman Mason Rudolph, who has enrolled for spring ball.


Jackson Jeffcoat, DE: Jeffcoat was the only player from the Big 12 to win a national award, capturing the Ted Hendricks Award, given annually to college football's top defensive end. When the switch was turned on, Jeffcoat was as dominant as any end in college football, tying for third nationally with 13 sacks. The Longhorns return one of the nation’s best non-senior defensive ends in Cedric Reed. Jeffcoat, however, was a special talent.


Eric Ward, WR: Overshadowed somewhat by tight end teammate Jace Amaro, Ward too had an outstanding final season in Lubbock. He finished fifth in the Big 12 in receiving and was a consistent big-play threat on the outside. The Red Raiders will be counting on Reginald Davis to replace Ward on the perimeter.


Jason Verrett, CB: The co-Big 12 defensive player of the year had a stellar senior season, even though the Horned Frogs struggled as a team. Matched up one-on-one, Verrett completely shut down Baylor All-Big 12 wideout Antwan Goodley in TCU’s final game. The Horned Frogs have some talented players coming back in the secondary, but nobody at the level of Verrett.


Charles Sims, RB: The Houston transfer was West Virginia’s best and most consistent offensive weapon all season. Even without the best blocking up front, Sims always managed to produce. Sims was superb at making the first tackler miss and led all Big 12 running backs in receiving. Dreamius Smith is a solid returning running back, but West Virginia will have to improve elsewhere offensively to compensate for the loss of Sims’ versatile skill set.

Season report card: Kansas

January, 17, 2014
It was an odd season in Lawrence, Kan.

The Jayhawks defense performed better than expected but Kansas’ offense stumbled around and was the main culprit behind KU’s 3-9 record. That said, Charlie Weis’ bunch won more games in 2013 than they did in 2012 including their first Big 12 win since 2010.

Offense: F

James Sims was the only positive in an otherwise ugly KU offense. Sims rushed for 1,110 yards and seven touchdowns in his final season but the rest of the offense stumbled throughout the 12-game season. Tony Pierson, one of the Big 12’s most explosive players, struggled to stay healthy and quarterback Jake Heaps disappointed as a starter.

KU finished No. 118 in points scored per game (15.3), No. 117 in yards per game (294.5), No. 120 in yards per play (4.28) and No. 121 in third down conversion rate (27.9 percent). The Jayhawks' offense never found any rhythm or any confidence throughout the season. It was a odd turn of events for a team that was expected to lean in its offense for any success it had in 2013.

Defense: D

The defense wasn’t great but it played better than expected at times and often found itself paying for the offense’s struggles. The Jayhawks allowed 31.8 points per game and 5.82 yards per play, finishing in the bottom three in the Big 12.

[+] EnlargeJames Sims
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesJames Sims, who ran for 1,110 yards and 7 TDs, was about the only bright spot on a dismal KU offense.
Safety Isaiah Johnson was one of the surprises of the Big 12 with his active play and competitive nature. He finished tied for second in the Big 12 with five interceptions as he earned Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year honors. Linebacker Ben Heeney was another key contributor with his team-high 87 tackles and 8.7 tackle per game average which ranked fourth in the conference.

Even with some stellar individual performances, KU’s defense couldn’t really keep the Jayhawks in games and didn’t make the key plays needed to spark more victories.

Special teams: C

The Jayhawks' special teams were fairly solid. Trevor Pardula was one of the Big 12’s top punters, finishing second in net punting (40.12) and first in punts inside the 10-yard line (14). He had 51.2 percent of his kickoffs result in touchbacks. But KU’s placekicking and return game was below average as the Jayhawks’ third unit never really changed the momentum of games and sparked a win.

Overall: D

Weis’ team improved over last season's group but remains at the bottom of the conference. The offense was the Big 12’s worst unit and the defense, while improved, still wasn’t good enough to keep it in every game. The only reason the Jayhawks escaped a lower grade was their 31-19 win over West Virginia which snapped a 27-game conference losing streak.

Season wrap: Kansas

January, 15, 2014
Overall, the Jayhawks had a rough season in coach Charlie Weis’ second year. But they also snapped the program’s conference losing streak and hung tough with Oklahoma and Texas.

Below is a wrap on Kansas’ 2013 season:

Offensive MVP: Even though the Jayhawks struggled to score points, running back James Sims was one of the best running backs in the league. Even with defenses geared to stop him, Sims rushed for 1,110 yards and seven touchdowns. In Kansas’ first Big 12 win in 28 tries, Sims exploded for 211 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-19 victory over West Virginia.

Defensive MVP: Ben Heeney was one of the better linebackers in the league on a defense that kept the Jayhawks in many games. He was tied for 11th in the league in tackles, and was a major reason why the Jayhawks were improved defensively.

Best moment: The Jayhawks went into their game Nov. 16 against West Virginia on a 27-game Big 12 losing streak. But riding Sims, who broke off runs of 62 and 68 yards, they jumped to a 31-7 lead, and finally won a conference game going away. Kansas fans stormed the field, then tore down the south goalpost. They had reason to celebrate. It was just the second Big 12 win in 40 games for the Jayhawks.

Worst moment: The Jayhawks had Texas Tech on the ropes in their Big 12 opener. They dominated the first quarter and held a 10-0 lead into the second. But they completely melted down, highlighted by a bizarre failed fake punt attempt from inside the Kansas 5. That allowed the Red Raiders to take a 17-10 lead, and Tech coasted to a 54-16 victory.

Big 12 primer: Week 13

November, 23, 2013
Kansas State and Oklahoma will battle for fourth-place in the Big 12; Iowa State and Kansas will fight to avoid the Big 12 basement; and Oklahoma State and Baylor will vie for control of the Big 12 title.

Those, among others, will be the storylines to watch in Week 13 of the Big 12:

No. 20 Oklahoma at Kansas State, 11 a.m. CT (FS1): Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight will get his first start at quarterback since losing the job the second week of the season. In relief of injured starter Blake Bell last week against Iowa State, Knight had the best game of his career. But in Manhattan, he will be without two key weapons, as suspended running back Damien Williams and receiver Lacoltan Bester are both expected to miss this game. While the Sooners have sputtered the last month, the Wildcats have been red-hot, winning four straight after a 2-4 start.

Kansas at Iowa State, 7 p.m. CT (FS1): The Big 12 basement will be on the line in this one. Kansas finally snapped a 27-game Big 12 losing streak last week by taking out West Virginia with a convincing 31-19 victory. Tailback James Sims has been putting the Kansas offense on his shoulders, and freshman quarterback Montell Cozart shined in his first career start. The Cyclones are still searching for their first Big 12 win. Iowa State jumped to a 10-3 lead at Oklahoma, but after giving up a punt return touchdown late in the second quarter, got outscored 45-0 the rest of the way.

No. 4 Baylor and No. 10 Oklahoma State, 7 p.m. CT (ABC): The winner of the Big 12 game of the year will also control its destiny for the league’s automatic BCS bowl berth. There’s even more on the line for the Bears, who hold aspirations of sneaking into the national title game. An impressive performance here would help position Baylor as the clear No. 3 team in the BCS behind Alabama and Florida State, should either the Crimson Tide or Seminoles lose down the stretch. But winning in Stillwater won’t be easy. Baylor hasn’t knocked off a Top 25 team on the road since 1991, and hasn’t defeated the Cowboys in Stillwater in 74 years. Since inserting Clint Chelf at quarterback, Oklahoma State has been a different team, too, averaging 48 points their last four games with him in the lineup. But this will also be his biggest challenge of the season. On top of a record-setting offense, Baylor’s defense has held six of its nine opponents to two touchdowns or less.

One win means plenty to Sims, Kansas

November, 21, 2013
Fans stormed the field. A goal post was torn down and ended up getting tossed in a nearby lake.

And running back James Sims and his Kansas teammates partied in the locker room like they haven’t in a long, long time.

[+] EnlargeJames Sims
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesJames Sims and Kansas attempt to end a 23-game road losing streak when they visit Iowa State on Saturday.
“It was wild,” Sims said. “Guys jumping up and down, whooping and hollering. It was a good feeling.”

The celebration in the Jayhawks’ home victory last Saturday was of a caliber expected from championship teams or stunning upsets of top-ranked foes. Nope, this was a 31-19 victory over a West Virginia team that dropped to 4-7.

This was just win No. 3 for a squad that won’t play in a bowl game for the fifth straight year. But that didn’t make this victory any less special. Finally, after years of futility, KU had broken its 27-game losing streak against Big 12 foes.

The day was unforgettable for Sims in more than a few ways. He rushed for a career-best 211 yards and three touchdowns to blow the game open. And his senior class, a group that has toiled through coaching changes and four losing seasons, finally made a good memory they won’t soon forget.

“It’s difficult, don’t get me wrong,” Sims said. “It’s difficult to prepare week in and week out and end up on the losing side. It was difficult for us, but we didn’t give up at all. We just saw it through and we got a win.”

During his career, Kansas has won nine games and lost 37. He was recruited by Mark Mangino but played for Turner Gill and Charlie Weis. Like his fellow seniors, he didn’t know this is what he was signing up for.

But he’s tried to make the best of a tough situation, and no Big 12 running back has rushed for more yards than Sims’ 3,396 yards since the start of 2010. All along, he’s believed this program can get back to its Orange Bowl heyday with a lot of hard work and development.

“That’s what we’ve been trying to show the underclassmen,” Sims said. “If you put in hard work when things aren’t going your way, eventually it’ll turn around and go your way. Don’t give up. Keep working hard like we did.”

They now have a chance to make a few more memories before they’re done. The Jayhawks travel to Iowa State with another streak in their crosshairs: 23.

That’s how many road games in a row Kansas has lost. The last victory came on Sept. 12, 2009, a 34-7 win at UTEP. Back then, Sims was still in high school.

There’s no better time to get one than now, against an ISU team that’s now 1-9. Sims doesn’t know how to explain why his team can’t win on the road. They just keep coming up short and not making enough plays.

We know we can compete with the best of the best. ... Most of our games, we’ve just been playing them for 30 minutes and not really coming out focused in the second half to finish it.

-- Kansas RB James Sims

The win over West Virginia has instilled some newfound confidence. The senior running back doesn’t think Kansas is that far off from getting things turned around.

“We know we can compete with the best of the best,” Sims said. “We always come out the first half and it’s always a good game, a good half of football. But football is played 60 minutes. Most of our games, we’ve just been playing them for 30 minutes and not really coming out focused in the second half to finish it.”

Weis indulged in the celebration on Saturday but brought his team "back to Earth" on Sunday. No need to get big-headed off one elusive victory. He needs his players to turn this milestone into something more.

"Now my sarcasm will be at an all-time high here today, because anything they do wrong, I can already hear me now: 'Oh, you win one game and all of a sudden that's the way it's going to be?'" Weis said Monday. "I've sent texts to the team about taking this and running with it vs. being complacent. ... Let's take this and run with it. Let's turn this into a positive. Let's not turn this into being satisfied with finally winning a game."

After the trip to Iowa State comes a showdown with a Kansas State team that’s as hot as any in the conference. That’s senior day for Sims and seven fellow starters.

They’ve made a resolution for finishing out the season: Treat every game left like a bowl game. Make these games matter. Fight for a happy ending.

Sims has two games left in his Jayhawk career, and there’s nothing he’d like more than to give this program a glimmer of hope and a dose of momentum for next season.

“It would be good to finish up this season strong with these wins and for the underclassmen to go into the offseason with something to build on, with the burden off their chest and knowing we can compete in this conference now,” Sims said. “We see what we can do now when we put together four quarters."

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 13

November, 21, 2013
Four Big 12 teams are on byes this weekend, but there is no shortage of storylines in Week 13:

1. Who’s the king of the conference? The Big 12 title race won’t officially be over after this weekend’s big showdown, but by the end of Saturday we should know whether Baylor or Oklahoma State is the conference’s top team. If the Bears win, they’re one big step closer to being No. 3 in the polls and fighting for a spot in the national title game. Oklahoma State sets up a three-way tie at the top of the Big 12 standings with a home victory, and then things get messy and crazy. But the Cowboys would assert themselves as the best of the bunch with that upset.

[+] EnlargeClint Chelf
William Purnell/Icon SMIClint Chelf and No. 10 Oklahoma State are out to prove that they are the Big 12's best team when they host No. 4 Baylor on Saturday night.
2. Can OSU go four quarters? Of all the nine teams the Bears have defeated this season, only Kansas State has taken them deep into the fourth quarter. That was a 35-25 game on the road. Baylor’s average margin of victory in its eight other games has been 48 points. The Cowboys have enough talent in all three phases to challenge Baylor, but can they keep this game close entering the fourth and survive late?

3. Winning the battle of the injury report: Baylor doesn’t know if running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin will be available to play Oklahoma State. Top Bears linebacker Bryce Hager could be out, too. And the Cowboys need top playmaker Josh Stewart back on the field after he missed the win over Texas. Cornerback Justin Gilbert got banged up against Texas but has said he won’t miss Baylor. Don’t expect Mike Gundy or Art Briles to tip their hands until kickoff.

4. Baylor tries to break Stillwater curse: The last time Baylor defeated Oklahoma State in Stillwater was 1939. Since 1994, the Cowboys are 9-0 at home against Baylor and 6-3 in Waco. There’s no obvious reason for the Bears’ longtime futility at Boone Pickens Stadium other than, you know, that BU used to be the cellar dweller of the Big 12. But they have a chance to end that slump on Saturday.

5. Kansas State: Big 12’s fourth-best team? The Wildcats are on quite a hot streak after starting 2-4 on the year. K-State has won four in a row, clinched bowl eligibility last weekend with a win over TCU and has a chance to land a signature win in the home finale against No. 20 Oklahoma. Beat the Sooners head-to-head and KSU can finish 6-3 in league play and as high as fourth place in the Big 12.

6. Trevor Knight time: Or maybe Blake Bell will start. Or it could be Kendal Thompson, which evidently would make a lot of Sooners fans happy. If the Iowa State game is any indication, we could see two or all three make appearances against Kansas State. No matter what, OU needs to find a solution to its QB carousel before the team travels to Oklahoma State on Dec. 7. This is the last chance for an in-game audition.

7. Jayhawks going for two: Kansas went more than 1,100 days between Big 12 victories. Might this program have to wait only seven days for its next one? KU knocked off West Virginia with a heavy commitment to the James Sims-powered run game and has been playing foes much closer than Iowa State has in Big 12 play. This is a big chance for the Jayhawks to notch their first road win since 2009.

8. Iowa State just wants a W: Iowa State remains winless in Big 12 play, and since knocking off Baylor 35-21 last October, ISU has won two of its last 15 games. Cyclones fans are ready for this brutal 1-9 season to end. The home finale against Kansas is as good a chance as any to at least get one win and send the program’s seniors off on a good note.

Big 12 predictions: Week 13

November, 21, 2013
So, I received this email from Charlie “Bear” Boyd, last week’s guest picker:
I do not know how you pulled off that Kansas pick, but you better believe I will be launching an all-out investigation to see if there was any foul play involved. Seriously, though, well done! You were probably one of five people in the known universe who picked Kansas to beat West Virginia. Props where props are due.

I cannot confirm or deny whether foul play was involved. But Charlie is right about one thing -- props are due.

Like Clint Chelf in his return as Oklahoma State’s quarterback, I’m back with a vengeance in the picks following a sparkling 5-0 week. Sources have told ESPN that KU officials are planning to erect statues of both me and Charlie Weis outside Memorial Stadium to commemorate the West Virginia victory.

Can I keep the train rolling against this week’s guest picker, Wichita, Kan., resident Drew Hays?
Hey, I’m currently wrapping up my masters in sports management at Wichita State, however I graduated undergrad at Oklahoma State in 2012. I currently work in baseball, for an American Association Independent Baseball team called the Wichita Wingnuts (#GoNuts)! Currently, we are in our offseason, which means I get to sit around the house all-day on Saturday's doing nothing but watching football. You were one of two people that had the Jayhawks winning last weekend (very impressive pick I might add) -- my girlfriend was the other one. As a big Jayhawks fan, she likes to constantly remind me that her team beat the team that beat my team. So pick this Wingnut as your guest picker, so I can silence my girlfriend (until Marcus Smart does backflips again in Allen Fieldhouse).

Good luck silencing your girlfriend, Drew. Hope you have better luck than me with my wife (don’t worry, I got permission before writing that).

This weekend, Brandon and I will be in Stillwater manning the game of the week in college football. It should be a good one.

To the Week 12 picks:


Trotter last week: 5-0 (1.000)

Guest picker (Charlie “Bear”) last week: 4-1 (.800)

Trotter overall: 52-15 (.776)

Guest picker overall: 38-12 (.760)

Kansas State 31, Oklahoma 24: An early start with a freshman quarterback (Trevor Knight) with two more key offensive players (RB Damien Williams and WR Lacoltan Bester) out against a well-coached team? This is a tough spot for the Sooners. K-State is on a roll and playing with confidence, while 13 weeks into the season, Oklahoma is still trying to find its footing offensively. Even if QB Trevor Knight shines again, which he does, the Sooners lack the adequate firepower around him to keep up. Instead, K-State drops off 30 for the fifth straight week to thwart Bob Stoops’ attempt to break the Oklahoma record for coaching victories. With a road trip to Stillwater and the bowl game (Holiday Bowl?) all that’s remaining, it could be awhile before Stoops breaks that record, too.

Drew’s pick: Did anyone honestly think I would pick the dark side? The Cats are hot right now, and while the Sooners won’t make this easy, Jack Cantele nails another fourth-quarter field goal to start the party in Aggieville. K-State, 30-27

Kansas 28, Iowa State 24: Usually this time of year, the Jayhawks are the only ones in full basketball mode. But last week, Iowa State fans stormed the court after a home victory over Michigan (come on, guys, it’s November). Then again, given how south this season has gone in Ames, it’s understandable. Meanwhile, James Sims shows again why he’s one of the best running backs in the Big 12, while QB Montell Cozart makes enough plays with his feet to give Kansas -- that’s right -- the third-longest winning streak in the Big 12.

Drew’s pick: As an OSU fan, seeing anyone play a night game at Jack Trice Stadium makes me feel queasy. I don’t expect a repeat performance from Sims from last week, and Iowa State holds on for its first Big 12 win. This pick ensures I will be in the doghouse with my girlfriend for at least a week, but probably longer. Iowa State, 24-17

Baylor 49, Oklahoma State 45: Baylor coach Art Briles said this week that the Bears have played in comparable road environments this season. In actuality, Baylor has only played at Kansas State during the day and Kansas at night. A sold-out Stillwater, with “College GameDay” in town, will be a completely different animal. Especially against these Cowboys, who seem to be improving with every passing week. Especially against this veteran Oklahoma State defense, which is the class of the Big 12. This Baylor offense, however, is the class of college football. And with Levi Norwood emerging at wideout and Lache Seastrunk back to flank Shock Linwood in the backfield, the Bears outgun Oklahoma State in a Big 12 thriller to solidify their No. 3 ranking ahead of Ohio State in the BCS standings.

Drew’s pick: First, I would like to thank the Baylor faithful for returning almost your entire ticket allotment back to OSU. This will only make Boone Pickens Stadium louder. Behind the home crowd, "Choo-Choo" Chelf and Desmond Roland establish the run game early and the Oklahoma State defense keeps forcing turnovers, as the Cowboys prevail in another wild Stillwater shootout. OSU, 45-42

Big 12 fantasy football: Week 12

November, 19, 2013
Jake Trotter’s juggernaut team cannot be stopped. Trotter emerged victorious in our Big 12 fantasy football league for the fourth time in five weeks.

He got another strong showing from his loaded lineup, led by 37 points from Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty and big rushing days from Oklahoma’s Damien Williams (24 points) and West Virginia’s Charles Sims (23).

Trotter has now won three weeks in a row and holds a 27-point lead in the season standings. Once again, I finished in second after my team put up as solid 122 points, and Brandon Chatmon was back in third place with 110. He really needs to do something about his running backs.

The leading scorer in the Big 12 this week was Kansas running back James Sims, who put up 39 points in the upset win over West Virginia. Among the conference's top five scorers on Saturday, two are currently free agents in the league: Baylor receiver Levi Norwood (33) and Texas Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield (31).

Here’s how our lineups fared in Week 12 of Big 12 fantasy football:

Jake Trotter’s Team

QB Bryce Petty, BAY – 37
RB Damien Williams, OU - 24
RB Charles Sims, WVU - 23
FLEX Brennan Clay, OU - 14
WR Eric Ward, TTU - 14
WR Tracy Moore, OSU - 8
TE Jace Amaro, TTU – 17
DEF TCU defense - 1
K Aaron Jones, BAY – 9
Total: 147

Max Olson’s Team

QB Daniel Sams, KSU - 16
RB James Sims, KU - 39
RB Desmond Roland, OSU - 7
FLEX Kenny Williams, TTU - 9
WR Antwan Goodley, BAY - 16
WR Jaxon Shipley, TEX - 4
TE E.J. Bibbs, ISU - 3
DEF Oklahoma defense - 21
K Anthony Fera, Texas - 7
Total: 122

Brandon Chatmon’s Team

QB Clint Chelf, OSU - 36
RB Tony Pierson, KU - 1
RB Lache Seastrunk, BAY - 0
FLEX Jakeem Grant, TTU - 13
WR Tyler Lockett, KSU - 18
WR Mike Davis, TEX - 11
TE Jimmay Mundine, KU - 0
D Oklahoma State defense - 19
K Michael Hunnicutt, OU - 12
Total: 110

Season Leaderboard

1. Jake: 1,360
2. Max: 1,333
3. Brandon: 1,147