Big 12: Jeremy Smith
1. Attack Missouri’s run defense: You saw what Tre Mason did to this defense last month, right? The Auburn back became a Heisman finalist thanks to his domination of this Mizzou front (46 carries, 304 yards, 4 TDs). OSU can have similar success but will need contributions from several backs, including Desmond Roland, Jeremy Smith and maybe even Kye Staley. And don’t forget Clint Chelf, who’s capable of breaking big runs off the zone read. The Pokes need all hands on deck to get their run game going and attack a defense that, prior to the SEC title game, was holding teams to 119 rush yards per game.
2. Protect Chelf: Nobody needs a month of preparation to know that Missouri’s Michael Sam and the rest of the Tigers' defensive line are a disruptive, problematic unit. Missouri ranked among the top 15 nationally in sacks with 38 this season and is more than capable of getting to Oklahoma State’s senior quarterback. His offensive line must protect their passer and preserve their tempo against what should be a great challenge.
3. Get those pistols firing: The best we’ve seen Oklahoma State this season was when Baylor came to Stillwater on Nov. 23. The Cowboys came out firing, attacking the Bears’ defense like nobody had before and stifling Bryce Petty. The momentum built and a 14-3 halftime lead quickly became 35-3. Mike Gundy broke out a few trick plays, but the rest was no fluke. Oklahoma State needs to be the aggressor and regain that confidence tonight.
LUBBOCK, Texas -- Back in July, Oklahoma State was the preseason pick to win the Big 12.
Saturday night, the Cowboys finally showed why.
And why they might be contenders after all.
Behind its new-look backfield, Oklahoma State unleashed the most impressive performance yet in the Big 12 season, overpowering Texas Tech 52-34 before a record Jones AT&T Stadium crowd.
"We've got a chance," answered Cowboys coach Mike Gundy, when asked if this team could win the Big 12. "We're not good enough to look past the next game. But we're improving."
Roughly a month ago, the Pokes hardly looked the part of contender in a 30-21 loss as a 19-point favorite at West Virginia. Nor did the Cowboys look it in sluggish home victories over Kansas State and TCU.
This, however, is a different team.
More specifically, a different offense.
A week ago, the Cowboys overhauled their entire backfield, replacing quarterback J.W. Walsh with Clint Chelf and running back Jeremy Smith with Desmond Roland and Rennie Childs.
They haven't stopped scoring since.
"We're coming together as an offense," said Roland, who plugged away between the tackles for 96 yards and his fifth, sixth and seventh touchdowns since getting the starting nod. All three touchdowns came from inside the Tech 3-yard line, as Oklahoma State scored touchdowns on all six of its red-zone possessions.
As a change of pace, Childs scooted for 70 yards on nine carries.
Even Smith contributed to the effort with a 17-yard catch and 23-yard run on the Cowboys' first scoring drive.
"We're running more physical; that's what you have to do," Gundy said. "We made a strong commitment to it three weeks ago. We've really improved in that area."
The biggest difference Saturday, though, was Chelf, whose mistakes kept the Red Raiders in the game, but whose playmaking turned them back and ultimately put them away.
Chelf lost the starting job to Walsh two ineffective series into the opener against Mississippi State. But Walsh's inability to get the ball down the field prompted the Cowboys to turn back to Chelf and his stronger arm midway through the TCU game.
Since, the Oklahoma State offense has gradually improved.
Saturday, it took off.
All told, Chelf threw for 211 yards, ran for another 88 and accounted for four touchdowns. He also connected on a 44-yard flea-flicker to Jhajuan Seales to the Tech 1 to set up Roland's first touchdown and put the Cowboys up 14-0.
"He made some big plays," Gundy said. "Some big throws."
Chelf also made one really bad play on one bad throw.
Up 28-10 in the second quarter, the Cowboys were on the verge of putting the Red Raiders away after linebacker Shaun Lewis' interception. But two plays later, Chelf tried to drop off a pass into the flat. Instead, Tech's Pete Robertson stepped in front of the throw and took the interception 21 yards for a touchdown to wake up the crowd.
The Red Raiders scored again on their following drive to cut Oklahoma State's lead 28-24 and nullify all momentum the Cowboys had built.
"There's no question they had the momentum," Gundy said.
But Chelf would help Oklahoma State regain it.
A Josh Stewart punt return led to another Roland touchdown.
Then on the ensuing drive, Chelf broke through the middle of the Tech defense on a quarterback draw for a 67-yard touchdown run -- Oklahoma State's longest run of the season.
Chelf scored again on an eight-yard keeper late in the third quarter, giving the Cowboys a 49-31 lead and all but putting Tech away.
"It's a glaring mistake when you throw it to the other team," Gundy said. "But if it's not for that, everybody's saying, 'Hey, (Chelf) played a great game.' "
Since Oklahoma State's loss at West Virginia, Baylor has assumed the role of Big 12 favorite. Texas and Oklahoma have surged into the conference-title conversation, too.
But the preseason favorite showed it should not be overlooked, either. Not with this new backfield, which has the Cowboys offense finally humming.
The running back showed why with a 219-yard, four-touchdown performance against Iowa State on Saturday. The junior averaged 8.4 yards on his 26 carries as he put the Cowboys offense on his shoulders and set career highs in carries, yards and touchdown runs. For his efforts, Roland earned ESPN.com Big 12 player of the week honors.
Playing behind season-opening starter Jeremy Smith, Roland had shown signs he could be a bigger part of OSU’s offensive attack earlier this season with solid performances against Mississippi State and West Virginia, but he never got the opportunity to be the man in OSU’s backfield until Saturday.
“I have been waiting on this opportunity for a long time now,” he said. “Once coach told me I would be starting, I was thankful and took advantage of it.”
Roland was particularly lethal on first down with 17 first-down carries for 106 yards and one touchdown to help kick-start OSU’s running game. He's a strong, slashing runner who made the Cyclones defense look silly on a 58-yard touchdown run.
“We felt he deserved the start this week and when he got rolling and playing well, there was no reason to take him out,” Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. “I was interested in watching to see about how his durability held up. He had 26 carries today and we haven’t had guys get that many carries in quite a while."
Gundy is hoping Roland can become the type of workhorse the Cowboys offense has been searching for all season long.
“Sometimes after 15-17 carries, guys have a tendency to fade off,” Gundy said. “[Former OSU all-Big 12 running back] Keith Toston used to get better as the game went on. I’m hoping Roland can do that and get stronger throughout the game.”
If he does the overall outlook could be on the rise, for Roland and the entire OSU offense.
1. TCU's offense is hopeless: Once again, the TCU defense kept the Horned Frogs in the game. Once again, it didn't matter. TCU's inept offensive attack reached a new level in Stillwater. QB Trevone Boykin delivered a Total QBR of 5.9 (scale of 0-100) and was benched in the second quarter. Except his backup, freshman Tyler Matthews, fumbled the ball away on his first snap. This was the third Big 12 game the Horned Frogs were held scoreless in a first half. Coach Gary Patterson became so frustrated he made co-offensive coordinator Rusty Burns the primary playcaller for the second half and brought the other offensive coordinator, Jarrett Anderson, to the sideline from the booth. The Horned Frogs moved the ball better, but not better enough. As a result, TCU is now 1-3 in the league and has become the Big 12's biggest disappointment. That's even with its defense playing big-time football. No defense, however, can overcome this drive chart: punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, interception, interception, fumble, turnover on downs, punt, field goal, interception, rushing touchdown, turnover on downs. The Horned Frogs could get QB Casey Pachall back from a broken forearm soon. That's really their only chance to prevent this season from turning into an all-out dumpster fire.
3. Oklahoma's issues weren't a one-game thing: The Sooners still can't pass. And they still can't stop the run. The two areas that doomed the Sooners in last week's loss to Texas resurfaced at Kansas. With the Sooners missing LB Corey Nelson and DT Jordan Phillips, the Jayhawks took a cue from the Longhorns and ran the ball right down Oklahoma's throat to take a 13-0 lead in the first half. Coach Bob Stoops took blame off the defensive line and said afterward that the linebackers and defensive backs were out of position. But cameras briefly caught defensive coordinator Mike Stoops laying into defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery. On the other side of the ball, the Sooners continued to struggle passing. In fact, the prettiest throw of the afternoon came from wide receiver Lacoltan Bester, who hit Sterling Shepard on a reverse pass that finally gave the Sooners a lead in the second quarter. Blake Bell played much better than last week but still threw for only 131 yards with a Total QBR of 67.3, which surely will drop once the strength of the Kansas defense is factored into the equation. Think about this: The Sooners scored a touchdown off a trick play, blocked an extra point and returned it for a two-pointer, blocked a punt for a safety and held the Jayhawks to 16 yards passing -- and Kansas still was down only one score well into the fourth quarter. The same Kansas team fell to Texas Tech on the same field two weeks ago, 54-16. That same Texas Tech team travels to Norman next weekend.
4. Baylor's defense has a chance to be special, too: In 2011, Oklahoma State captured its first Big 12 title with one of the best offenses in conference history. That '11 Cowboys defense, however, was sneaky good, as well, and led college football with 44 forced turnovers. This Baylor defense has a chance to be sneaky good, too. The Bears' offense got back on track with a 71-point deluge against Iowa State. But Baylor's defense was almost as impressive. The Bears held Iowa State to just 174 yards of offense and only 41 yards on the ground. Baylor had a shutout going, too, until the Cyclones scored on a 27-yard touchdown pass with 47 seconds remaining. Iowa State isn't exactly Oregon (or Baylor), but the Cyclones had scored 30 or more points in three straight games. Baylor's offense alone makes the Bears the Big 12 favorite, but a sneaky good defense could elevate them into a dark-horse national title contender.
5. Kingsbury believes in his quarterbacks: As coordinators around the Big 12 call plays reflecting a lack of confidence in their quarterbacks, Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury has done the complete opposite. And when the game was on the line in Morgantown, he put the game -- and Texas Tech's season -- on the arm of true freshman Davis Webb, who came up with two huge throws on the final drive of the game. With Tech coddling a 30-27 lead in the final two minutes, Kingsbury called a pass on third-and-6. Three plays later, with Tech facing third-and-goal, Kingsbury called another pass. Both times, Webb delivered completions -- the latter a game-clinching touchdown strike to tight end Jace Amaro. Many coaches would have sat on the ball that drive. Even more would have done so with a true freshman quarterback making his first career road start. But by calling those passes, Kingsbury proved he believes in his quarterback. Quite a bit.
While some OSU fans yearn for Clint Chelf, a closer look at the offensive numbers reveal quarterback J.W. Walsh might be playing the role of scapegoat for his team’s offensive difficulties. Several of OSU’s passing numbers are quite similar to last season and it’s been the running game that has let the Cowboys down. Here’s a closer look at some statistics, thanks to ESPN Stats and Information, that represent the offensive struggles in Stillwater and some ways to improve the Cowboys offense in the second half of the season.
Yards per play: The Cowboys averaged 7.01 yards per play in 2012, leading the Big 12. This season OSU is averaging 5.95 yards per play. It’s a clear sign the Cowboys aren’t as consistently explosive this season as they were last season.
The fix: OSU has to start having more success on the ground. Most people think of OSU’s offense as a high-flying attack, but its running success was the foundation. If the Cowboys can force teams to respect their running game more, play-action passing will open up and the big plays will follow. If not, teams will stack the box and force Walsh to beat them deep with his arm.
Yards per carry: Last season the Cowboys easily led the Big 12 in yards per carry at 5.41 yards per carry. This season they rank in the bottom half of the conference at 4.14 yards per carry. Running back Joseph Randle has been sorely missed and the Cowboys’ offensive line hasn’t created the running lanes current starter Jeremy Smith was accustomed to in 2012, when he averaged 5.3 yards per carry. He’s averaging 3.7 yards per carry this season.
The fix: Better offensive line play. The loss of left tackle Devin Davis in the preseason has been devastating. Parker Graham was forced to move to left tackle from right guard and Chris Grisbhy was thrust into a starting role. But the offensive line is a unit, so one player isn't to blame for the entire line’s struggles. The starting five simply needs to play better and execute more efficiently.
Carries of more than 10 yards: OSU led the Big 12 with 88 rushes for 10 or more yards in 2012, an average of 6.76 per game. In 2013, it ranks No. 8 in the conference with 22 rushes for 10 or more yards in five games, an average of 4.4 per game. Randle had 40 carries of 10 yards or more last season.
The fix: This is where the offensive line and Walsh could help make life easier on Smith and the rest of the Cowboys running backs. Smith been forced to make defenders miss in the backfield too often and rarely has had one-on-one opportunities in the open field. The senior needs to be decisive with the ball in his hands, the offensive front needs to limit missed assignments, and Walsh needs to make teams pay for overloading the box.
Yards after contact: The Cowboys finished with 1,227 yards after contact in 2012, an average of 94.38 per game. This season, they sit at the bottom of the Big 12 in that category with 282 in five games, an average of 56.4 per game. It’s an area where the Cowboys clearly miss Randle, who gained 713 of his 1,417 rushing yards after contact in 2012.
The fix: Randle was a special player; he’s playing in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys for a reason. Nonetheless, Smith needs to attack defenses like he did in 2012 and OSU needs to give No. 2 running back Desmond Roland more opportunities to make plays. Using the duo together in their Diamond formation more often would be a good place to start.
Yards after catch: One of the few passing categories with a significant difference between last season and this one. OSU gained 2,252 of its 4,312 passing yards after the catch in 2012 (52.2 percent). This season, the Cowboys have gained 679 of their 1,502 passing yards after the catch (45.2 percent). Josh Stewart is the lone Cowboy who has gained more than 75 yards after the catch this season, with 196 of his 332 receiving yards coming after the catch.
The fix: Walsh could be more accurate with his passes, allowing receivers to catch the ball on the run more often. OSU tends to only try to get Stewart the ball on the move, but they have their deepest group of receivers in recent memory. Therefore, they need to spread the ball more and give young receivers with upside, such as Brandon Sheperd and Marcell Ateman, more chances to make teams pay for leaving them in one-on-one situations and give Walsh more playmaking options.
Or so I thought.
I assumed Tyler’s bride-to-be was getting on his case about focusing on his picks instead of his wedding. Sure, getting married is a big deal. But being the guest picker? Way bigger deal.
Turned out, my correspondence kept getting dumped into his spam folder. And once this was cleared up, Tyler pleaded for another early wedding present. What can I say? I’m a romantic.
So I missed out on my chance to be the guest picker last week, and Trotter let me have it in the Week 7 predictions. You'll have to excuse me for making my wedding a bigger priority than being the guest picker. As they say, a happy wife is a happy life, and as a K-State fan, I need all the happiness I can get. Fortunately, Jake gave me a second chance to get my priorities straight before I tie the knot.
When I thought Tyler was blowing off the blog, Curtis from Washington D.C., stepped in as the guest picker. It was a rough week for Curtis, whose Sooners took it on the chin in a Red River wipeout. I just hope he was stuck in that military office with no TVs so he didn’t have to witness it.
This weekend, the Big 12 team will be canvassing the conference landscape. Brandon will be in Stillwater for TCU-Oklahoma State; Max will head to Waco for Iowa State-Baylor; and I will be reunited with my favorite league mascot -- “The Mountaineer” -- in Morgantown for Texas Tech-West Virginia. Have the deer jerky ready, Jon.
Congratulations, too, to Tyler and his bride, who will be honeymooning in France.
To the Week 8 picks:
Trotter last week: 3-1 (.750)
Guest picker (Curtis in Washington D.C.) last week: 2-2 (.500)
Trotter overall: 33-11 (.750)
Guest picker overall: 19-8 (.704)
Texas Tech 21, West Virginia 20: Last season, the Mountaineers were in a spot similar to where Tech is now. And the Red Raiders thrashed West Virginia in Lubbock, sending the Mountaineers into a tailspin that lasted the rest of the season. As a result, the Red Raiders are very aware just how precarious this 1,500-mile road trip back is. Tech, however, appears to have more staying power than last season's Mountaineers, who were really just a three-man show. These Red Raiders have more defense and more depth, and sneak out of Morgantown with their biggest win of the season yet.
Tyler’s pick: Eventually, Kliff Kingsbury is going to turn Tech into a team that can consistently compete for a Big 12 championship. His youth and coaching style will be a magnet for blue-chip recruits. Unfortunately, inexperience trumps hype here. West Virginia, 34-31
Oklahoma State 16, TCU 13: If the Cowboys couldn’t move the ball against West Virginia or Kansas State, why would anyone have confidence they’ll be able to against the best defense in the Big 12? Cornerback Jason Verrett and Co. will have Oklahoma State’s receivers on lockdown, not that QB J.W. Walsh has been able to get them the ball anyway lately. The problem is, TCU can’t score, either.
Tyler’s pick: TCU fans can't wait to have QB Casey Pachall back, as the offense continues to struggle without him. TCU's defense keeps the first half close, but Oklahoma State pulls ahead with Jeremy Smith rushing for 100 yards and a score. OSU, 24-17
Oklahoma 30, Kansas 17: Bob Stoops is 14-0 the week after Texas with an average margin of victory of 27 points. Stoops, however, doesn’t have Josh Heupel, Jason White, Sam Bradford or Landry Jones at quarterback this time. And Texas showed this Oklahoma defense isn’t anything special without linebacker Corey Nelson or tackle Jordan Phillips, who are both out for the season. The Sooners win. But their problems on either side of the ball remain very evident as Kansas keeps this one relatively close.
Tyler’s pick: After Oklahoma takes out its frustrations, Charlie Weis calls the Jacksonville Jaguars to see if they'll be needing a new offensive coordinator. OU, 54-3
Baylor 66, Iowa State 28: The scariest part for the rest of the Big 12 about Baylor’s win over K-State last week? The Bears were sluggish offensively -- and they still scored 35 points. Who knows if this is the best offense in Big 12 history? But it certainly is the fastest scoring. Iowa State is one of 11 teams in college football that has yet to allow a touchdown in three plays or fewer. That changes Saturday.
Tyler’s pick: As a K-State fan, I am required to comment about how amazing Bill Snyder is. Since K-State is off this week, we will add the Snyder love here. Last week, he showed the country how to beat Baylor. Unfortunately for Iowa State, Snyder doesn't coach the Cyclones. If Snyder coached the talent Texas and OU had, he’d have five national championships. Baylor, 58-35
Hi there guys! I'm an avid follower of college football, which is rather rare in this country! I'd love to be your guest picker and give you some good ol' English dry wit to add to your insight!
David, after last week’s disaster picking games, we could use some insight. And since you’ll be picking games from our version of football, I’ll be picking one from yours. David is a Tottenham bloke, so we’re going to pick Sunday’s West Ham at Tottenham match.
If you want to be next week’s guest picker, contact me here, and tell me why. And, as always, creativity counts.
By the way, the Big 12 blog team will be out and about this weekend. Max Olson will be in Waco for West Virginia-Baylor, Brandon Chatmon will be in Stillwater for Kansas State-Oklahoma State, and yours truly will be in Norman for TCU-Oklahoma.
To the Week 6 picks:
Trotter last week: 1-3 (.250)
Guest picker last week: 2-2 (.500)
Trotter overall: 26-8 (.765)
Guest picker overall: 12-5 (.706)
Iowa State 27, Texas 25: The Longhorns revealed Wednesday that QB David Ash would not travel to Ames due to lingering issues from a head injury. Backup Case McCoy has actually filled in well for Ash this season. However, the offense is limited with McCoy, and I’m not sure that changes if the redshirt is pulled off freshman Tyrone Swoopes, either. The Cyclones, meanwhile, found their offensive footing last week with the healthy return of center Tom Farniok and emergence of speedy running back Aaron Wimberly. Ames will be rocking. Iowa State is tenacious on weekday games. I smell upset here.
David’s pick: Texas is coming off a bye week and a standout game against K-State. Iowa State is coming off losses to two other Iowa teams (neither of them particularly impressive games anyway) and could barely handle Tulsa. Watch for Johnathan Gray to have a standout game against a particularly poor rush defense. Texas 35-14
No. 20 Texas Tech 28, Kansas 7: Long known for its high-powered offense, Tech has actually jumped to 4-0 with defense this season. Despite having talent on offense, the Jayhawks have struggled to score points. That continues, as the Red Raiders win another ugly game to remain undefeated.
David’s pick: Kansas welcomes a Texas Tech team that is achieving over 400 yards passing per game. The Jayhawks capitulate, as the combination of Baker Mayfield and Jace Amaro tears through them. Texas Tech 42-7
No. 21 Oklahoma State 29, Kansas State 17: For the first time in seemingly forever, Oklahoma State is without much of an offensive identity. The offense’s best asset is receiver, but J.W. Walsh is a running quarterback without the arm strength to get the ball downfield. So far, Jeremy Smith has also proven to be a major downgrade from Joseph Randle at running back, which has limited the effectiveness of the running game. Bill Snyder is one of the best, and off an open week, he’ll have a strong defensive gameplan that attacks Walsh’s weaknesses. OSU wins, but Walsh continues to sputter passing, raising questions about whether the Cowboys should turn back to Clint Chelf at QB.
David’s pick: OSU's BCS title dreams are in tatters thanks to a woeful showing against at West Virginia. Kansas State faces an angry team and one that's ready to let it rip. OSU 32-17
No. 11 Oklahoma 28, TCU 16: This is the ultimate trap game for the Sooners, who get TCU sandwiched between the big win at Notre Dame and the Texas game next weekend. The Sooners, however, know better than to overlook TCU, which has played OU tough over the years, winning in Norman in 2005. These Horned Frogs don’t have enough offense to pull off the upset, but the TCU defense keeps the Horned Frogs in the game until the fourth quarter.
David’s pick: A once-ranked TCU finally found some offense against SMU. If Oklahoma had lost to Notre Dame, this would have been a blowout. Instead, it’s a nail-biter. OU 28-27
No. 17 Baylor 49, West Virginia 21: Neither of these teams played defense last season. This season, both units have made major improvements. The difference is that Baylor’s offense is better than last year. West Virginia’s is much worse. Even though the Mountaineers toppled then-No. 11 Oklahoma State last weekend, they are four-touchdown underdogs in Waco. Vegas is giving Baylor major respect for a reason. This offense appears to have no weakness. The Bears continue to roll.
David’s pick: Being an Oregon fan at heart, Baylor's impression of the Ducks’ high-speed offense has paid off. But I must give credit to that Baylor defense. West Virginia's shocking win against OSU will give it the confidence, but only scoring just over 20 points per game is not going to give you a win against Baylor. Baylor, 52-10
Tottenham Hotspur 5, West Ham United 0: I wanted to pick West Ham to troll David. But then I found out Tottenham is third in the Premier League standings; West Ham is 17th out of 20 and has failed to score away from home. This is like when Louisiana-Monroe traveled to Baylor, and we all know how that turned out.
David’s pick: Tottenham is flying high to start this season. Only one loss (to top of the table Arsenal) is the blip in an otherwise comfortable start to life without Gareth Bale. Gylfi Siggurdson has had a tremendous start to the campaign, bank on him to get one or two against a frail West Ham side. West Ham, typically, doesn't travel well in the BPL. Their key to victory will be to play Tottenham at its game: slick passing counter attack. Fail to do so, and we could be looking at a blowout in the first half. Tottenham 3-0
Team of the week: Oklahoma. With their victory over Oklahoma State, the Mountaineers deserved strong consideration here. But by winning in South Bend, the Sooners delivered the Big 12 its best win of the year while vanquishing past demons. OU, which fell to 1-9 all-time against Notre Dame last season, controlled this game wire-to-wire in a 35-21 win. QB Blake Bell operated the Sooners' offense like a veteran in just his second career start. And the OU defense took it to QB Tommy Rees to force three first-half interceptions that allowed the Sooners to pad their lead. OU might have been one of the most overlooked teams during the preseason. After Saturday, the Sooners won’t be overlooked anymore.
Disappointment of the week: Oklahoma State. The Cowboys fell in Morgantown 31-21, despite being 18-point favorites. OSU sputtered all day offensively across the board. J.W. Walsh had a QBR of just 38.1 (scale of 0 to 100) and the Cowboys averaged just 2.8 yards per carry. The defense didn’t fare much better, allowing a West Virginia offense that had been completely inept to rack up 21 first downs. Dating to last year, the Cowboys have now lost three consecutive Big 12 games.
Big (offensive) men on campus: Sterling Shepard and Aaron Wimberly. Both the Oklahoma receiver and Iowa State running back sparked their offenses to big wins on the road. Shepard had five catches for 83 yards, and delivered the nail in the coffin to Notre Dame with a 54-yard touchdown reception to put OU back up by two scores in the fourth quarter.
In a 38-21 win at Tulsa, Wimberly produced Iowa State’s first 100-yard rushing game in more than a year with 137 yards on 19 carries. He added a 31-yard reception as the Cyclones came alive in their first win of the season.
Big (defensive) men on campus: The Oklahoma linebackers, and Sam Carter. Corey Nelson, Frank Shannon and Eric Striker came up with huge plays in the first quarter to set the tone for the OU defense the rest of the way against the Irish. On Notre Dame’s first series, Striker blindsided Rees from behind, popping the ball loose into the arms of Nelson, who returned it 24 yards for a TD. On Notre Dame's next play from scrimmage, Shannon caught a tipped pass and returned the interception 17 yards to the Notre Dame 32. The Sooners scored again four plays later on an 11-yard run by Damien Williams. OU rode the defensive flurry all the way to the win.
Carter, TCU’s junior safety, had a huge day against SMU. Carter had two interceptions, forced a fumble and recorded a sack in the Horned Frogs’ 48-17 victory over the Mustangs. For his efforts, Carter was named the Walter Camp national defensive player of the week. With cornerback Jason Verrett ailing with a shoulder injury, Carter might have to take an even bigger leadership role in the TCU secondary moving forward.
Special-teams player of the week: Jaden Oberkrom. In a complete downpour, TCU’s place-kicker nailed two field goals to help the Horned Frogs pull away from SMU in the second half. As the rain began to fall in droves early in the third quarter, TCU had the ball on the SMU 5-yard line trailing 10-7. Because of the rain, a botched shotgun snap resulted in a loss of 20. But Oberkrom made sure the Frogs came away with points with the 35-yard field goal conversion. Had Oberkrom missed, who knows how the game would have gone for TCU? Instead, buoyed in part by getting points off the drive, the Frogs dominated the rest of the way.
Stat of the week: Oklahoma State running back Jeremy Smith rushed for just 1 yard on 15 carries at West Virginia. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Smith’s rushing total was the second worst by an FBS running back with that many carries in any game in the past 10 years.
Quote of the week: "No doubt in my mind that we're a national championship-type of team." – OU running back Brennan Clay, after the Notre Dame win
What we learned about the Big 12 from Week 5:
The West Virginia defense appears legit: The performance against Oklahoma State was the best by a West Virginia defense since joining the Big 12. The Mountaineers controlled the line of scrimmage to shut down OSU’s vaunted running game, and the secondary laid the lumber, knocking receivers Josh Stewart and Jhajuan Seales out of the game with big hits. The 21 points, in fact, were the fewest scored by a Cowboys offense in a loss since the 2009 Cotton Bowl. West Virginia did give up 37 to Maryland a week ago, but the six turnovers from the West Virginia offense had a lot to with that. In holding the Bedlam schools to a combined 37 points, Keith Patterson’s unit has now locked up, perennially, two of the Big 12’s highest-scoring offenses. The Mountaineers will get their shot at another on Saturday in Waco, and Baylor’s high-flying attack will provide the toughest test to date. But the West Virginia defense will give Baylor its toughest challenge yet as well.
Oklahoma State not the same offensively: The Cowboys have basically played two teams with a pulse and scored only 21 points both times. The Pokes seems to really be missing former coordinator Todd Monken and running back Joseph Randle, maybe even more than anybody thought they would. The Cowboys never found a flow offensively in Morgantown with Mike Yurcich’s play-calling, and Randle’s successor, Jeremy Smith, finished with just 1 yard on 15 carries. Given J.W. Walsh’s limitations throwing the ball downfield, it’s been awhile since an Oklahoma State offense had this many vulnerabilities.
TCU offense gains confidence with new faces: The Horned Frogs offense finally came alive late in the third quarter of a 48-17 win against SMU. And it came alive via plays from some new faces. True freshman Ty Slanina hauled in a 20-yard touchdown with four minutes left in the third quarter to break a 10-10 tie. On TCU’s next possession, former Florida transfer Ja'Juan Story took a 56-yard pass to the house to ignite the rout. Then freshman Cameron Echols-Luper returned a punt 51 yards to set up another touchdown. Going into the SMU game, Slanina, Story and Echols-Luper had a combined five touches through three games. The trio, however, figures to be a big part of the Horned Frogs' attack going forward, including next weekend in Norman.
OU at Baylor looking like the Big 12’s biggest game: With the Cowboys’ loss in Morgantown, OU-Baylor in Waco on Nov. 7 is looking more and more like the game of the year in the Big 12. Several other pivotal matchups remain (TCU-OU, the Red River Rivalry, Tech-OU, Baylor-OSU, Baylor-Tech, Bedlam). And there are still other teams (Tech, TCU, OSU, even Texas) that could play their way to the top of the conference title race. But as of today, OU-Baylor is looking like the game that will have more conference title implications than any other.
- The Cyclones found their footing, and an offense, at Tulsa, according to the Ames Tribune's Bobby La Gesse. Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register writes about how QB Sam Richardson overcame injuries to guide Iowa State to the 38-21 win. The paper's Bryce Miller explains how center Tom Farniok shored up the Cyclones offensive line.
- Saturday, Clint Trickett will become West Virginia's third starting quarterback already this season. The Charleston Daily Mail's Mike Casazza breaks it down. The Mountaineers are also ready to pick up the pace, writes Dave Hickman of the Charleston Gazette. Opposing defenses, meanwhile, have the blueprint for stopping the West Virginia offense, in the opinion of Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- The Sooners are expecting a big-time atmosphere in South Bend. The Oklahoma players talk about playing in big-time games. The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey breaks down the OU-Notre Dame matchups. The Dallas Morning News does the same.
- Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich is getting the opportunity of a lifetime, writes The Oklahoman's Gina Mizell. Running back Jeremy Smith has been a reason for Oklahoma State's 3-0 start.
- Baylor coach Art Briles is hoping his book, “Looking Up: My Journey from Tragedy to Triumph," inspires. The Bears expect to get back tight end Jordan Najvar and running back Glasco Martin next week in their Big 12 opener against West Virginia. The Dallas Morning News compares the Baylor and Oregon offenses side-by-side.
- TCU is the best in the Big 12 when it comes to non-conference scheduling, according to The Oklahoman's Ryan Aber. The Horned Frogs need an offensive spark, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Jimmy Burch and Stefan Stevenson. E.J. Holland of the Dallas Morning News predicts the Frogs will keep the Iron Skillet in Fort Worth.
- The Lawrence Journal-World's Matt Tait writes that the Kansas offensive line is trying to get tougher during its open week.
- A bye week on the schedule doesn’t mean Kansas State has taken it easy, either, according to Ken Corbitt of the Topeka Capital-Journal.
- Texas Tech is planning some reunions.
- Could there be crimson on the burnt orange side? The AP reports that Texas students have not claimed all their tickets for the Red River Rivalry.
Receiver Quenton Bundrage, Iowa State: Overshadowed by the Cyclones’ struggles against Iowa, Bundrage could be emerging as a go-to target for quarterback Sam Richardson. He finished with seven receptions for 146 yards and three touchdowns. Four of his catches resulted in first downs for the Cyclones. He could be a reassuring option for Iowa State's offense if he can be consistent for the rest of the season.
Safety Isaiah Johnson, Kansas: The junior college transfer had a strong showing against Rice. He had nine tackles, including seven solo stops, and one interception against the Owls. It was a disappointing 23-14 loss for the Jayhawks, but coach Charlie Weis praised the performance of his defense and hopes that unit will continue to play well when Big 12 play opens. Secondary play is critical in this league, and Johnson could help the Jayhawks in that regard.
Running back John Hubert, Kansas State: It’s odd to call Hubert an unsung hero, but the Wildcats’ use of their star running back should be noted. He’s gotten more opportunities to get the ball in space and has seen the ball more in the passing game since KSU's season-opening loss to North Dakota State. Hubert had 168 all-purpose yards (118 rushing, 50 receiving) and one touchdown in KSU’s 37-7 win over UMass. With KSU facing Texas this weekend, Hubert could be a key guy to watch for the Wildcats.
Cornerback Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma: Sanchez is quietly off to an outstanding start in the first three games of his college career. He had six tackles, including 0.5 tackles for loss, and one pass breakup against Tulsa. The redshirt freshman has been competitive, trustworthy and confident as the starter opposite All-Big 12 cornerback Aaron Colvin. Sanchez gone from potential weak link for the Sooners to a potential strength in the secondary.
Running back Jeremy Smith, Oklahoma State: The senior had the quietest three-touchdown performance in recent memory with 10 carries for 40 yards and three scores. Smith makes the list because he will be critical for the Cowboys offense moving forward. If he can continue to be a physical, slashing runner who takes the attention off quarterback J.W. Walsh, the entire field opens up for OSU’s offense on the ground and through the air.
Defensive back Derrick Kindred, TCU: The sophomore, a backup safety, was all over the field in the Horned Frogs’ 20-10 loss to Texas Tech on Thursday. He finished with five tackles, including one tackle for loss, while adding an interception and a pass breakup. Playing in a defensive backfield that features big names like cornerback Jason Verrett and safety Elisha Olabode, Kindred is looking like he can provide quality depth in TCU’s secondary.
Safety Tre' Porter, Texas Tech: The Red Raiders senior was a key reason Texas Tech was able to limit TCU to 10 points. He had a team-high nine tackles, all solo. His ability to tackle in space and limit game-changing plays by opponents could be critical for the Red Raider defense when it starts facing Big 12 offenses. He was moved to safety to provide a consistent playmaker at that position for the Red Raiders, and that's exactly what he's done.
Defensive end Kyle Rose, West Virginia: Rose had six tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss, and one sack for WVU in the Mountaineers' 41-7 win over Georgia State. The sophomore provided quality depth last season and could become a key contributor along the defensive line if he continues to play well. He could also help lessen the burden and double-team opportunities on defensive tackle Shaq Rowell in the middle.
Note: Baylor did not play in Week 3.
QB Blake Bell, Oklahoma
Turns out Bell is a better passer than anyone realized. He threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns against Tulsa, showing impressive confidence and rapport with his receivers. Bell only ran for 24 yards, too. Considering how badly the OU passing attack fared a week ago, the 400-yard showing was a real eye-opener against a Tulsa team that went 11-3 a year ago. The question marks surrounding Bell and his ability to replace Trevor Knight were answered on Saturday, at least for one week.
WR Quenton Bundrage, Iowa State
Bundrage exploded against Iowa for seven catches, 146 yards and three touchdowns in the close 27-21 loss. His touchdowns came from 67, 26 and 17 yards out, and those final two came late in the fourth quarter as Iowa State mounted a rally.
CB Kip Daily, Kansas State
The senior cornerback nabbed an interception in the first quarter against UMass and returned it 38 yards for the first touchdown of the game. He picked off a second pass on a fourth down late in the third quarter, ensuring KSU would have no trouble in a 37-7 win over the Minutemen. Those were the first two interceptions in his career. Daily is up to 16 tackles and two pass breakups on the year after recording only one tackle in six games last season.
QB Ford Childress, West Virginia
Not bad at all, kid. In his first career start, Childress threw for 359 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-7 win over Georgia State. The redshirt freshman and former ESPN 150 recruit hit on 25 of his 41 attempts and recorded a solid QBR of 74.2. He might be just what the Mountaineers are looking for in their hopes to end their quarterback battle.
RB Jeremy Smith, Oklahoma State
Smith found the end zone three times in an easy 59-3 win over FCS Lamar. He had a modest 40 rushing yards on the day, but OSU really didn’t need much from Smith to get the victory. Smith now leads the Big 12 in rushing touchdowns with six.
Jake Trotter guaranteed he had the best team in our Big 12 fantasy football league. For week 1, he was indeed correct.
Finishing in second was Brandon Chatmon with 85 points thanks to Lache Seastrunk's 22 points and strong showing from all three of his starting receivers. And yours truly finished last. Thanks a lot, John Hubert. (To be fair, our fantasy scores are the least of K-State’s concerns after this weekend.)
The top scorer in fantasy this week? Texas quarterback David Ash, who put up 44 points. He was sitting on Trotter’s fantasy bench behind Petty during that big-time performance.
But this is a marathon, not a sprint. Several big-name Big 12 players had modest fantasy showings in their first games of the new season. Plus, there’s always the option to change up our lineups.
We’re permitted two moves on the waiver wire each week, and we went freshman-heavy this time around. I picked up Texas Tech QB Baker Mayfield and the Baylor defense, Brandon added Oklahoma State receiver Marcell Ateman and Jake signed West Virginia receiver Daikiel Shorts.
Here were the results for week 1:
Jake Trotter’s Team
QB Bryce Petty, BAY 20
RB Jeremy Smith, OSU 22
RB Damien Williams, OU 6
FLEX Charles Sims, WVU 19
WR Eric Ward, TTU 15
WR Tracy Moore, OSU 3
TE Jace Amaro, TTU 4
D TCU Defense 0
K Aaron Jones, BAY 12
Brandon Chatmon’s Team
QB Casey Pachall, TCU 4
RB Lache Seastrunk, BAY 23
RB Johnathan Gray, TEX 2
FLEX Tyler Lockett, KSU 17
WR Jalen Saunders, OU 15
WR Mike Davis, TEX 12
TE Cody Clay, WVU 0
D Texas Tech Defense 4
K Michael Hunnicutt, OU 11
Max Olson’s Team
QB Trevor Knight, OU 25
RB Glasco Martin, BAY 9
RB John Hubert, KSU 2
FLEX Brandon Carter, TCU 4
WR Josh Stewart, OSU 4
WR Tevin Reese, BAY 15
TE Blake Jackson, OSU 0
D Texas Defense 11
K Jaden Oberkrom, TCU 9
- West Virginia's leading rusher, Andrew Buie, is slated to redshirt this season, reports Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail. Houston transfer Charles Sims sits atop the depth chart at running back.
- TCU coach Gary Patterson likes the underdog role heading into the Horned Frogs' opener against LSU, writes Gil Lebreton of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
- Patterson goes into detail about TCU's quarterback battle and playing Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin, reports Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Also Devonte Fields is set to suit up on Saturday but probably won't play.
- There are three keys to West Virginia's season, writes Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Jake Waters may be the starting quarterback at Kansas State but don't forget about Daniel Sams, writes Bob Lutz of The Wichita Eagle.
- KSU's Travis Britz expects a different feeling in the Wildcats' season opener than he had a year ago, reports The Wichita Eagle's Kellis Robinett.
- The first weekend of high school football brought a horrifying moment for Oklahoma center Ty Darlington. The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey talked to Darlington about watching his brother Zach get injured during a high school game last weekend.
- Oklahoma State running back Jeremy Smith almost left Stillwater early in his career but ultimately decided to stay. Now he's the main man in the Cowboys backfield, writes The Oklahoman's John Helsley.
- The Oklahoman's Gina Mizell takes a look at some of Oklahoma State's options at left tackle to replace Devin Davis. Davis is expected to miss the season with a torn ACL.
- "The closest we’ve seen to Baylor’s speed was when the Carolina Panthers were here for training camp,” --Wofford coach Mike Ayers doesn't sound too excited about the prospect of facing Baylor's athletes. The Waco Tribune's John Werner has the report.
- Jeremiah George and the Iowa State defense will have to keep its focus if the Cyclones hope to exceed expectations this fall.
- Texas Tech hopes to go from "worst to first" after struggling to create turnovers last season, reports Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Williams also has a couple Red Raider newcomers to keep an eye on.
- An overlooked junior college transfer is poised to help Kansas' secondary this season, writes Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal World.
- Nobody will know what Oklahoma has in Trevor Knight until Saturday, writes Guerin Emig of the Tulsa World.
- Texas lost a defensive tackle as Ashton Dorsey elected to transfer on Tuesday, reports HornsNation's Max Olson.
- UT defensive coordinator Manny Diaz talks about the Longhorns' defense.
Who’s going to rise to the occasion and live up to those expectations? And who already has a lot on the line entering the season opener? Here are 10 Big 12 players, coaches and positions that have plenty to prove this weekend.
1. TCU QB Casey Pachall: Even if he does earn the start for TCU this weekend -- Gary Patterson is sticking to his strategy of not naming a starter until kickoff -- you have to imagine Trevone Boykin will enter the game if Pachall has some early struggles against an LSU defense that, despite losing so many starters to the NFL, should still have legitimate talent at all three levels. Remember, Pachall started only one Big 12 game last season before leaving the program, and it was a not-so-stellar 20-6 win over Kansas. So much is expected of him this season, and the presence of Boykin puts pressure on Pachall to be as good as advertised.
2. Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury: The man who molded Johnny Manziel in 2012 now must find a way to work wonders with a true freshman quarterback on the road. How will Davis Webb or Baker Mayfield operate his offense, and how much confidence will they have? Few coaches have more to prove this season than Kingsbury, and if his team isn’t ready SMU will give Tech a battle on Friday night.
3. Baylor QB Bryce Petty: There might not be a more hyped player in the Big 12 entering the opener. Most assume the junior with only 14 career passing attempts will end up becoming the league’s best quarterback by December. He gets to prove a lot of people right -- or wrong -- Saturday versus Wofford.
4. TCU linebackers: LSU’s potent power run game will give the Frogs' linebacker corps as good a test as it’ll get all season. The departure of leading tackler Joel Hasley earlier this month makes that task even tougher. Juniors Marcus Mallet, Paul Dawson and ex-safety Jonathan Anderson have to step up.
5. Oklahoma State offensive line: The Cowboys lost left tackle Devin Davis for the season to a torn ACL this week, and line coach Joe Wickline will have some interesting decisions to make as he reworks his lineup before Saturday’s game against Mississippi State. Parker Graham could slide over from guard to tackle, or a few others could fill the vacancy. Not a good problem to have when you’re prepping for an SEC foe instead of an FCS cupcake.
6. Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops: Stoops’ first year back in Norman wasn’t exactly the smashing success most expected, and he’ll put a defense on the field against Louisiana-Monroe that features only four returning starters. With West Virginia coming to town the next week, Stoops’ rebuilt D needs to get off to a good start Saturday.
7. Oklahoma State RB Jeremy Smith: OSU has been spoiled at the running back position with Kendall Hunter and Joseph Randle, and Smith will try to keep that trend going as the new feature back. What kind of dent can he make against a Mississippi State unit that ranked No. 11 in the SEC in run defense last season?
8. Kansas State QB Jake Waters: Waters was named the starter Monday but will still have to split snaps with Daniel Sams to some extent. Much is expected of the junior college transfer who has been on campus for only eight months. With Sams ready to play at any moment, he’ll need to be sharp against North Dakota State.
9. West Virginia RB Charles Sims: Coach Dana Holgorsen likes Sims and his revamped stable of backs so much, he’s redshirting 2012 leading rusher Andrew Buie. How’s that for some pressure to perform? Sims, a Houston transfer, may have to help carry the offense while WVU’s quarterback situation remains unresolved.
10. Texas offensive coordinator Major Applewhite: The first-year playcaller worked all offseason to implement an up-tempo offense at Texas, and Mack Brown has set high goals for pace and plays per game. Will the tempo make Longhorn players more mistake-prone or wear them out faster? We’ll find out how much progress has been made Saturday when they faces New Mexico State.