Big 12: Justin Blackmon

Take Two: Biggest Rushmore gripe?

February, 25, 2014
Feb 25
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It’s Take Two Tuesday, where we give our takes on a burning question in the league.

Today's Take Two topic: Which player has the biggest gripe about being left off our Big 12 Mount Rushmore

Take 1: Jake Trotter

The player with the biggest gripe is Texas running back Ricky Williams.

SportsNation

Who has the biggest gripe for being left off the Big 12 Mount Rushmore?

  •  
    8%
  •  
    20%
  •  
    21%
  •  
    44%
  •  
    7%

Discuss (Total votes: 3,495)

Plenty of people have taken up his cause and filled up my Twitter timeline and email inbox, asking why the 1998 Heisman winner who also broke the FBS career rushing record was omitted.

My reply: Who then would you take off?

Nobody would argue that Vince Young doesn’t belong after his magical season that put Texas over the national championship hump for the first time in 35 years. Oklahoma’s dominance of the conference under Bob Stoops warranted the Sooners at least one spot on Rushmore. So if Adrian Peterson came off, he’d have to be replaced by some other Sooner.

Ndamukong Suh is the only defensive player, and while the Big 12 has been an offensive conference, the Rushmore wouldn’t feel legitimate without at least one defender. What about Williams over Robert Griffin III? Well, no player has had a bigger impact on his school -- or the entire Big 12 -- than RG III, who with his coach transformed Baylor from the laughingstock of the league to one of its premier programs.

But if Rushmores included five spots, Williams would have been on mine, and here’s why: by coming back to school, winning the Heisman and leading Texas to a 9-3 record (a year after the Longhorns went 4-8), he expedited Mack Brown’s rebuilding project in Austin. Two years later, the Longhorns would go on to win 10 or more games in nine consecutive seasons, culminating with the national title.

Without the rapid turnaround in ’98, who knows if the national title happens in ’05? Williams’ Heisman season gave Brown the credibility to recruit the best talent in the country. And that’s why Williams has a gripe.

Take 2: Brandon Chatmon

Big 12 folklore is full of players who are worthy of their place on the conference’s Mount Rushmore and Ricky Williams has a stronger case than most. Yet former Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon was the biggest snub.

Has he been the best receiver in Big 12 history? No, Michael Crabtree will have some say in that. Is he the most productive player left off the original foursome? No. Did he hoist the Heisman Trophy? Not even close.

But he’s the biggest snub because he fits the criteria to land on our Big 12 Mount Rushmore. OSU’s first Big 12 championship in 2011 was built upon his shoulders, as the Cowboys went 23-3 in his final two seasons. He won back-to-back Biletnikoff Awards as the nation’s top receiver with 232 receptions for 3,304 yards and 38 touchdowns combined in 2010 and 2011. And he had at least 100 receiving yards in every game he played in 2010, a 12-game streak that is the best in the FBS since 2004, with only BYU’s Austin Collie (11 games in 2008) joining Blackmon in double digits.

So, while Blackmon isn’t a name that immediately comes to mind, he helped take a football program to new heights, dominated opponents with his individual brilliance and had the ability to take over games from the receiver position in a way that has been rarely seen since the Big 12 was formed in 1996.
With the BCS era ending, we released the Big 12 all-BCS-era team this morning. ESPN.com also put together a national all-BCS-era team, and four Big 12 alums made that illustrious squad:
  • RB: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma (2004-06) -- Nicknamed "A.D." because he could run "All Day," Peterson set an FBS freshman record with 1,925 rushing yards while finishing second to Matt Leinart in the '04 Heisman voting. Injuries plagued his next two seasons, but he still was a force and rushed for more than 1,000 yards to finish with 4,041 career rushing yards and 41 touchdowns before turning pro early.
  • WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (2009-11) -- Blackmon joined Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree as the only receiver to win the Biletnikoff twice. In those two seasons, Blackmon put up 233 receptions, 3,304 receiving yards and 38 touchdowns. Blackmon gets the slight nod over Crabtree, because Oklahoma State won its first Big 12 title with Blackmon at wideout, while the Red Raiders came up just short with Crabtree.
  • DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09) -- There was no more dominant defensive tackle during the BCS era than Suh. After registering 12 tackles and 24 tackles for loss, he placed fourth in the Heisman voting in '09, and won a host of national awards, including the Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski and Bednarik. Suh too went on to become the second overall pick in the draft.
  • S: Roy Williams, Oklahoma (1999-01) -- Williams was a major part of Oklahoma's revival at the turn of the millennium. He was one of the Sooners' best players on the 2000 national championship team, before winning the Thorpe and Nagurski awards in '01. That year, he also was the Big 12 defensive player of the year and a unanimous All-American while placing seventh in the Heisman voting.

Big 12 all-BCS-era team

January, 13, 2014
Jan 13
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After 16 years, the BCS era is finally over. Next season, college football will have a playoff instead.

With the BCS done, we've come up with our Big 12 all-BCS era team (1998-2013) below:

Offense

[+] EnlargeVince Young
Scott Clarke/Getty ImagesWith Vince Young at the helm, Texas won a national title and Rose Bowl.
QB: Vince Young, Texas (2003-05) -- Young led Texas to its first national title in 35 years with an unforgettable performance in the Rose Bowl against USC. The Heisman runner-up also became the first QB in college football history to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 in the same season.

RB: Ricky Williams, Texas (1998) -- Williams was part of the BCS era for only one season, but what a season it was. He rushed for 2,327 yards and won the Heisman Trophy going away. Only Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne has more career rushing yards than Williams (6,279).

RB: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma (2004-06) -- Despite battling injuries throughout his career, Peterson still was a beast in college. After rushing for 1,925 yards while leading the Sooners to the national title game, he finished second in the ’04 Heisman voting, even though there was still a stigma then in voting for a freshman.

WR: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (2007-08) -- Crabtree became the first two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver. In '08, he and QB Graham Harrell led the Red Raiders to an upset of Texas and a No. 2 ranking in the polls.

WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (2009-11) -- Blackmon became the second and only other two-time winner of the Biletnikoff. In his final two seasons, he finished with 233 receptions, 3,304 receiving yards and 38 touchdowns, and he helped propel the Cowboys to their first Big 12 title in '11.

TE: Chase Coffman, Missouri (2005-08) -- Coffman had a monster statistical college career for a tight end with 247 catches for 2,659 receiving yards and 30 touchdowns. He won the ’08 Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end. Missouri won 37 games during the four years Coffman was in the lineup.

OT: Jammal Brown, Oklahoma (2001-04) -- Brown was a unanimous All-American and a three-time All-Big 12 selection. He became the fifth Sooner to win the Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top interior lineman.

OT: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State (2007-09) -- In Okung’s final two seasons, Oklahoma State led the Big 12 in rushing yards. The Cowboys were also third in the country in ’07 in fewest sacks allowed with Okung at left tackle. He was a unanimous All-American and Outland finalist in ’09 and became the sixth overall pick in the ’10 NFL draft.

OG: Cyril Richardson, Baylor (2010-13) -- Richardson became Baylor’s seventh all-time unanimous All-American. The Outland finalist was also a key piece on the nation’s highest-scoring offense this season.

OG: Justin Blalock, Texas (2003-06) -- Though a guard in the NFL, Blalock actually started 50 games for Texas, most coming at right tackle. He was a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and a consensus All-American in 2006.

C: Dominic Raiola, Nebraska (1998-2000) -- Raiola was the inaugural winner of the Rimington Award, named after former Nebraska center Dave Rimington, which recognizes the best center in college football. He was an Outland finalist and a consensus All-American.

APB: Darren Sproles, Kansas State (2001-04) -- One of the most prolific all-purpose performers in college football history, Sproles finished his career with 6,812 all-purpose yards. Among his 39 consecutive starts, his most memorable performance came in the ’03 Big 12 championship, when he had 235 yards rushing and 88 receiving, as K-State upset top-ranked Oklahoma 35-7.

Defense

DE: Brian Orakpo, Texas (2005-08) -- Orakpo captured the ’08 Nagurski Award as the most outstanding defensive player in the country, and the Lombardi Award, given to the best college lineman or linebacker. He also was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American while piling up 11 sacks his senior year.

DE: Von Miller, Texas A&M (2007-10) -- Out of a hybrid defensive end/linebacker role, Miller led the nation with 17 sacks in ’09. He was a two-time All-American and won the Butkus Award in ’10 as the nation’s top linebacker.

DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09) -- There was no more dominant defensive player in college football during the BCS era. Suh finished fourth in the Heisman voting in ’09 and won several national awards, including the Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski (most outstanding defensive player)and Bednarik (defensive player of the year). He was also a unanimous All-American and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

DT: Tommie Harris, Oklahoma (2001-03) -- Harris was a force from the beginning as a freshman on the OU defensive line. He won the Lombardi his junior year, and he was a two-time consensus All-American, garnering unanimous honors in ’03.

LB: Derrick Johnson, Texas (2001-04) -- Johnson was a menacing linebacker for the Longhorns, earning consensus All-American honors in ’03 and unanimous honors in ’04. He was also a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and won the Butkus (best linebacker) and Nagurski awards as a senior. Johnson finished his career with 458 tackles.

LB: Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma (1998-2001) -- Calmus played a major role in OU’s resurgence under Bob Stoops. He won the Butkus in ’01 and was a finalist for the Nagurski and Bednarik. A three-time All-Big 12 pick, Calmus led the Sooners in tackles in all three of those seasons.

LB: Teddy Lehman, Oklahoma (2000-03) -- Lehman too won the Butkus, beating out Johnson for the award in ’03. He also was Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, captured the Bednarik, was a unanimous All-American and played in two national championship games.

[+] EnlargeTavon Austin
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesWest Virginia receiver and returner Tavon Austin had a huge 2012 season.
CB: Terence Newman, Kansas State (1999-2002) -- Newman was a solid player for Bill Snyder his first three seasons, then broke out as a senior. Newman was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, a unanimous All-American and the Thorpe winner, given to college football’s top defensive back.

CB: Derrick Strait, Oklahoma (2000-03) -- A four-year starter, Strait finished with a school-record 52 career pass breakups. He also won the Thorpe, and was a unanimous All-American.

S: Roy Williams, Oklahoma (1999-2001) -- Nicknamed “Superman,” Williams was the Big 12’s most dominating defensive player until Suh came along. He won the Thorpe and Nagurski in ’01, and was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a unanimous All-American the same season. He also famously skied over the Texas offensive line to force the game-clinching interception to earn his moniker.

S: Michael Huff, Texas (2002-05) -- Huff became the first Longhorn to win the Thorpe, and was the leader of the ’05 national championship defense. He was also a unanimous All-American that season.

Special teams

K: Mason Crosby, Colorado (2003-06) -- Crosby was three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and twice was a consensus All-American even though he never won the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation's top kicker. He was also the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year as a junior, and converted 66 field goals in his career.

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State (2009-12) -- Sharp became the first three-time All-American in Oklahoma State history, and he earned All-American honors both as a punter and a kicker. He was twice named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year. In his career, he made 50 of 59 field goals, averaged 45.9 yards per punt and missed only one extra point.

KR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia (2012) -- Austin was in the Big 12 only one season, but he was unstoppable that one season. On top of being one of the most dangerous kick returners in the country, Austin had 1,289 yards receiving and 643 rushing, and finished second in the country in all-purpose yards.

PR: Ryan Broyles Oklahoma (2008-11) -- On top of being a prolific punt returner, Broyles was one of the most efficient receivers in college football history. He finished his career with an FBS-record 349 receptions, and was a two-time consensus All-American before a knee injury cut his senior season short.

Best WR tandems in Big 12 history

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
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The Big 12 has featured some prolific wide receiver tandems over the years.

Baylor’s Tevin Reese and Antwan Goodley, however, have a chance to top that list.

[+] EnlargeAntwan Goodley, Tevin Reese
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsAntwan Goodley and Tevin Reese rank 1-2 in the Big 12 in receiving yards per game.
This season, Reese is second in the Big 12 with 118 yards receiving a game. He trails only Goodley, who leads the league with an average of 128 yards receiving. They are a big reason why the Bears are on pace to break the FBS records for points (56.0) and yards (624.9) per game that were set by Army in 1944 and Houston in 1989.

Depending on how they finish, Reese and Goodley could wind up becoming the best duo in Big 12 history. But they aren’t the only big-time duos in the Big 12 this year.

Kansas State’s Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett have been lighting it up since returning from injury. The last two weeks the two have totaled five touchdown catches.

Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard lead the Sooners with five touchdowns apiece. Texas Tech’s Eric Ward and Jakeem Grant are fifth and sixth in the league in receiving. Oklahoma State’s Josh Stewart and Tracy Moore are beginning to warm up with Clint Chelf at QB. And Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis have been stalwarts in this league for years.

But who are the best tandems ever to play Big 12? We lay it out below.

Tight ends were not included (sorry Jermaine Gresham and Chase Coffman). The tandems were evaluated on what they accomplished together, not on whether their careers simply overlapped (eliminating Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexander, for example); and, this is a list for duos, not singles, trios or quartets (apologies to Rashaun Woods, and the 2008 Oklahoma and 2010 Baylor receiving corps).

To the list:

1. Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, West Virginia (2012): In their only year in the league, this tandem was one-two in the Big 12 in receiving, combining for 224 receptions and 2,914 receiving yards. Bailey himself had 25 receiving touchdowns; nobody else in the league had more than 13. Austin, meanwhile, also rushed for 344 yards in one game at running back. As Bailey tweeted out earlier Monday morning on this topic, “case closed.”

2. Michael Crabtree and Danny Amendola, Texas Tech (2007): Crabtree got all the headlines in 2007 on his way to winning his first of two Biletnikoff awards. But out of the slot, Amendola quietly put up 109 receptions for 1,245 yards, as Tech went 9-4.

3. Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby, Texas (2008): Shipley and Cosby starred on one of the three best Big 12 teams that didn’t win a conference title. The two each had 1,000 receiving yards and double-digit TDs from QB Colt McCoy, as the Longhorns finished the year 12-1, their only loss coming on Crabtree’s game-winning touchdown in the final seconds in Lubbock. The two were also prolific on special teams, with Shipley’s kick return touchdown sparking Texas’ 45-35 comeback win over Oklahoma.

4. Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper, Oklahoma State (2011): As with Crabtree-Amendola, Blackmon got all the attention on his way to a second Biletnikoff award. But Cooper was a pivotal piece in OSU’s first Big 12 title team, as he racked up 71 receptions out of the slot. Blackmon, of course, had a monster year with 121 catches and 18 touchdowns.

5. Kendall Wright and Terrance Williams, Baylor (2011): Reese was actually the third wheel to this duo, which shined with RGIII at quarterback. Wright was an All-American with 108 catches, 1,663 yard and 14 touchdowns. Williams was big time, too, finishing fifth in the Big 12 in receiving before taking over the No. 1 role in 2012.

6. Ryan Broyles and Kenny Stills, Oklahoma (2010): Broyles led college football with 131 receptions on his way to becoming the all-time FBS leader in career catches. Stills broke OU’s freshman single-season receiving record, as the Sooners stormed back to capture the Big 12 crown after a pair of midseason losses.

7. Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas (2008): It might be difficult to remember now, but the Jayhawks used to play some ball. Meier tied Crabtree for second in the league with 97 receptions. Briscoe trailed only Dez Bryant with 1,402 receiving yards. This was an underrated duo.

8. Quincy Morgan and Aaron Lockett, Kansas State (1999): On one of the first passing teams in the Big 12, Morgan and Lockett shined. Morgan had 42 receptions for 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns and was a first-team all-conference selection. Lockett, Tyler Lockett's uncle, was a second-team all-league pick for the Wildcats, who went 11-1 and finished the year ranked sixth in the polls.

9. Mark Clayton and Travis Wilson, Oklahoma (2004): Clayton carried the moniker of best receiver in OU history until Broyles came around. Because of Adrian Peterson, Clayton’s numbers dipped in ’04, but he was still an All-American with 66 catches. Wilson led the Sooners with 11 TD grabs, as OU advanced to a second consecutive national championship game.

10. Jarrett Hicks and Joel Filani, Texas Tech (2005): Neither might be a household name around the Big 12 anymore, but these two were both first-team All-Big 12 selections in ’05 along with Iowa State WR Todd Blythe.
Our list of the top 10 Big 12 players ever generated as much response from you all as anything we've ever done. I really appreciate all of it. Many of you agreed with the list. Plenty of you didn't. That's pretty natural. It was an absolutely brutal list to put together. Tons of talented guys have a case to be on it, and might be on your list. I wouldn't necessarily disagree. Still, I only had room for 10. Here's an extensive list of all the guys who I also think have a strong case for inclusion. They're the players who just missed my all-time top 10. In no particular order, here they are:

Eric Crouch, QB, Nebraska: In 2001, won the Heisman Trophy, Davey O'Brien Trophy, Camp Award and was the Big 12's Offensive Player of the Year. Finished his career with 4,481 passing yards and 3,434 rushing yards and accounted for 84 touchdowns.

Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: Won the Biletnikoff Award in 2010 and 2011, and was the Big 12's Offensive Player of the Year in 2011. Finished his three-year career with 252 catches, 3,564 receiving yards and 41 total touchdowns.

Grant Wistrom, DL, Nebraska: Won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1996 and 1997. Won the Lombardi Award in 1997 and helped Nebraska go 49-2 during his career. Finished with 58.5 tackles for loss and 26.5 sacks.

Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech: The first-ever two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver. He was a unanimous All-American in both seasons and finished his career with 231 catches for 3,127 yards and 41 touchdowns.

Troy Davis, RB, Iowa State: Finished second in the Heisman voting in 1996 and fifth in 1995. Topped 2,000 yards rushing in both seasons and scored 37 touchdowns. He was the Big 12's Offensive Player of the Year in 1996.

Darren Sproles, RB, Kansas State: Rushed for 1,986 yards in K-State's Big 12 title season in 2003. Finished his four-year career with just under 5,000 rushing yards. Scored 44 touchdowns in his final three seasons and was fifth in Heisman voting in 2003. Also returned a punt for a touchdown in 2003 and averaged more than 27 yards on kick returns.

Dat Nguyen, LB, Texas A&M: Won All-Big 12 first-team honors three times, and was the league's Defensive Player of the Year in 1998, leading the Wrecking Crew to Texas A&M's only Big 12 title. Won the Bednarik Award and Lombardi Award that season. Made 51 consecutive starts and finished his career with 517 tackles, the only player in A&M history to lead the Aggies in tackles for four seasons.

Cedric Benson, RB, Texas: Won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's best running back in 2004 and was a two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection. His 5,540 career rushing yards are second all-time at Texas to only Ricky Williams.

Chase Daniel, QB, Missouri: Led Missouri to two Big 12 Championship games and helped the Tigers reach BCS No. 1 in 2007. Finished his career as the school's all-time leader in total offense. Threw for 12,515 yards and 101 touchdowns in three years as a starter. Finished fourth in Heisman voting in 2007.

Tommie Harris, DT, Oklahoma: One of the greatest freshmen in Big 12 history. Won the Lombardi Award in 2003 and earned All-Big 12 and All-American first team honors in 2002 and 2003.

Derrick Johnson, LB, Texas: Made the All-Big 12 first team three times and finished his career with 458 tackles, 69 tackles for loss, 11 forced fumbles (nine in 2004) and nine interceptions. Won the Butkus Award and Nagurski Trophy in 2004.

Michael Bishop, QB, Kansas State: Became a starter at K-State after a junior college national title. Finished second in the 1998 Heisman voting to Ricky Williams and helped K-State to an undefeated regular season. Was 22-3 as a starter and accounted for 5,715 yards of total offense and 59 total touchdowns.
Thanks for all the mail this week. Here's where you can reach me if you've got more to say.

Mulley in Cleveland, OH writes: For the Playoff Committee, not that anyone would go for this, but wouldn't a Committee consisting of smaller schools (ie, AD's from old Non-BCS schools) work nice? That way the Big Boys would have to play nice with the little guys, as not to make them angry and give them a reason to not vote them into a playoff.

David Ubben: That's definitely an interesting idea, Mulley. Hadn't heard that one before. That said, I think you might run into some snags if some of those guys are angling for jobs at the bigger schools. A lot of major school ADs come from those smaller schools, so it's not a bad idea at all, but you're not going to find any suggestion for selection committee members that don't have some appearance of bias.

Interesting suggestion, though. I could be on board.



Bobby in Portland, Ore. writes: At Kansas State, this coming year reminds me A LOT of the 2001 season. Bill Snyder was deciding between a potentially dynamic running quarterback (Ell Roberson/Daniel Sams) and a highly touted juco transfer (Marc Dunn/Jake Waters). He was also trying to replace several defensive stars (Beisel, Fatefehi, Cooper and Butler were all drafted). That year resulted in a see-saw battle between the quarterbacks that lasted all year, and a 6-6 record (3-5 Big 12) with a loss to Syracuse in the insight.com bowl. I fear that the 2013 Wildcats can expect a similar result this year.

DU: Decent comparison, Bobby. That 2001 team, though, was sandwiched between a pair of 11-win seasons. If that means enduring a six-win season this year, I'm betting K-State folk would take that one.



Ryan in Austin writes: I have this scary feeling Baylor is going to be really good and people are sleeping on them. I flipped on that K-State game last year and didn't recognize Baylor. So I decided to watch the Bowl game. Again, that team looked incredible. And I can't believe Wright, Williams, Gordon and RG III were all on the same team at one time. I feel weird about this Art Briles guy. He knows something.

DU: His eye for offensive talent is just absurd. I agree with you on the Bears, but I would say this: The Bears have never had a better chance to win the Big 12 title than they do this season. That's the case for a couple reasons. For as much attention as offenses get, everybody in the Big 12 knows you can't win league titles without a good defense. Time will tell how good Baylor's truly is, but that spurt last year was good enough to win Baylor a Big 12 title in a number of seasons. They completely shut down UCLA and K-State. We'll see if it carries over, but I know this: They aren't short on athletes. Guys like Javonte Magee and Ahmad Dixon and Bryce Hager along with K.J. Morton and Demetri Goodson give Baylor a great shot athletically to have a fantastic defense. That hasn't been the case in the past. RG III was a transcendent player, but Baylor has a better shot to win a title this year than in any year Griffin was on campus. This is simply a more complete team. Briles has that crazy eye for offensive talent, but his development on the team defensively is what has Baylor in position to do some special things this year.



Nathan Nely in Kansas City, Kan. writes: I get the sense from the blogs that it kind of bothers you that Bill Snyder is not more forthcoming when dealing with the media. I'm always wondering, would you feel more at ease if he gave up all his secrets about where his team is at and what direction the Wildcat's are moving in for their upcoming season? I know from being a K-State fan for many years now, it takes time but you get used to not knowing what kind of football team is going to show up on opening day. I guess for most of us, it's part of the magic!

DU: No, not really. Coaches are CEOs, and they've got a right to handle programs however they see fit. Is it easier and more fun for me to do my job if they open up practice and answer questions directly? Definitely. But I'm not going to blame a coach if he doesn't want to do things that way.

It's not really about me feeling at ease, though. I'm not nervous. I just like to be more informed, and that's hard to do when programs lock it up so tight. If I was a coach, I'd probably handle it more like Snyder than I would coaches who operate programs with a lot of openness.



Bill in Orange County, Calif. writes: Geno Smith and Justin Blackmon could wind up teammates in the Arena League before you know it. When you're their age, you don't always see clearly how tenuous that link to your brilliant future can be. Here's hoping they both get a clue before it's too late.

DU: This is so, so misguided. Terrible comparison that's not even close to the same thing. Blackmon has gotten into trouble twice on alcohol-related offenses and now violated the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Geno Smith is battling anonymous reports with vague critiques that don't really fall in line with what his college coaches say and the reputation he had in college.

Both should be great players, though the deck is stacked against both with no offensive weapons in New York for Geno, and no quarterback in Jacksonville for Blackmon.

Blackmon's choices have gotten him suspended four games in the NFL and one game in college. They've put charges on his record.

The stories about Smith are reports people think will affect his ability to succeed at the next level. They might. They might not. If he plays well, they largely go away. He can also defeat them by being a good teammate and going about his business with the Jets whether he plays or not.

Neither of these guys will be in the Arena league anytime soon, but they're not even close to the same level of issues. That's silly.



janorman74 in Fort Worth, Texas writes: In your recent post on the 2014 draft you mentioned that you were surprised not to see Jeffcoat as the biggest surprise -- what about Casey Pachall? No one is talking about this guy in terms of the 2014 draft despite his prototypical height and arm -- is his past really weighing him down so much? If he has a solid season and stays clean don't you think he'll run up the draft board?

DU: He has to prove he can play. He's got NFL-type size, and if he has a huge season, he'll definitely get a lot of NFL attention. His past is obviously a red flag, and those kinds of struggles are never 100 percent behind you. It's a daily battle. It sounds harsh, but it's the truth. For now, though, Pachall is a player whose troubles with alcohol and the law are more recent than his success on the field. He's got to change that this season.

If he does, you can bet he'll show up on NFL teams' draft boards.
Glenn Spencer climbed up the coaching ranks this offseason by assuming the Pokes' defensive coordinator post, vacated when veteran Bill Young's contract wasn't renewed at the end of the season.

He's already made it clear he wants Oklahoma State's defense to get a reputation as an aggressive defense, something it hasn't been in the past. The transition's been easier for one big reason: The same one that Spencer says makes this season a good one for him to take over.

"I’ll be the first to admit, you’ve got older guys, a lot of seniors on that defense that have played a lot of ball. You can’t coach that. They’ve seen the speed of the game in the conference. They know how to function. They know how to execute," said Spencer, who was promoted from coaching the Oklahoma State linebackers. "Typically guys like that that have played a lot, when something’s going wrong, they know how to fix it. They know how to approach game day mentality. They know how to travel. A lot of things you don’t think about but they make a difference on game day, and I’ve got some."

The Pokes are still trying to find their quarterback, but linebacker Shaun Lewis and cornerback Justin Gilbert are entering their fourth seasons as contributors for the Pokes and headline the unit. Defensive tackle Calvin Barnett grew up late last season after transferring from junior college and safeties Daytawion Lowe and Shamiel Gary can both provide senior leadership for the Cowboys defense that hovered in the middle of the Big 12 last year.

"We challenged certain individuals to play some different techniques just to get a different look. They did," Spencer said. "Not to say we didn’t give up plays here and there and not to say we didn’t fundamentally have a lot of things to improve on, but it’s a building from this spring and summer and keep building on that, but I think they’re buying into it and they’re excited and hopefully the results will show in the fall. That’s really all that matters."

The "results" Oklahoma State might be helped most by is another avalanche of turnovers. Spencer's aggressive style might help that. The Cowboys ranked in the top 11 in turnovers forced from 2009-2011, peaking with an FBS-high 44 forced turnovers in 2011 on the way to a national title. Last season, that number dropped to just 22, 58th nationally.

Oklahoma State's made a reputation for sending tons of offensive talent to the NFL, highlighted by first-round picks Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden in 2012, but offensive lineman Russell Okung made waves after going in the top 10 back in 2010, too. The defense doesn't have those types of talent, but Spencer's out to prove he can field a Big 12 title-caliber defense without one.

I can honestly say this since I’ve been here, going into Year 6, there’s more quality in numbers than I’ve ever had. Is there an All-Pro guy there? No," Spencer said. "There’s a lot of guys that know how to compete and compete in this conference and be successful."
Hope you guys enjoyed the team-by-team spring wraps today. More to come this afternoon.
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper has two Big 12 players -- Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson and Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro -- potentially going in the first round of this year’s NFL draft.

Fellow expert Todd McShay has the same two as Kiper and also is optimistic about the chances of West Virginia’s Geno Smith and Tavon Austin.

So let’s split the difference and label the potential Big 12 first-round picks as an optimistic three, with Johnson being the only absolute first-round lock.

Those three would represent the fewest Big 12 players taken in the first round of the NFL draft since 2008. Even if four went, the Big 12 still would have the fewest since 2008.

That year, only Kansas -- yep, the Jayhawks -- managed a first-rounder, Aqib Talib to Tampa Bay with the 20th pick. In the four drafts that followed, the Big 12 has always put at least five players into the first round, including the first four overall picks in 2010.

How well this year’s group of first-round picks will fare might not be known for years. What is known, though, is how well Big 12 players have done when they are selected in the first round. With that in mind, here is a ranking -- from worst to best -- of the Big 12’s best first-round draft classes over the past 10 years.

2008: It’s all about quantity, and a little bit of quality. In 2008, the Big 12 only produced one first-round pick, Talib. He has not produced dramatic returns in the NFL. In the past two years, he has only started nine games. He was somewhat productive for Tampa Bay in the previous three seasons, starting 41 games and playing in 53. But, again, he was the only Big 12 player taken in the first round in 2008.

2006: Vince Young is working out at Texas’ pro day at the end of March. Enough said. Davin Joseph and Michael Huff have been solid producers. But when the No. 3 overall pick is out of the league and having to work out at his alma mater's pro day, it means it was a bad year for the Big 12 in the first round of the NFL draft.

2004: Tommie Harris and Marcus Tubbs, the two defensive tackles taken in the first round, were productive for a few years, with Harris selected to Pro Bowls in 2005, '06 and ’07 before he was beset by injuries. Tubbs lasted four seasons in the NFL. Roy Williams had 5,715 receiving yards but never lived up to the hype he generated coming out of Texas. Rashaun Woods played only two years and had seven career catches.

2005: The lack of numbers might be what hurts this group the most. Cedric Benson, Jammal Brown, Derrick Johnson, Mark Clayton and Fabian Washington all proved they could play at the NFL level. Benson has had three 1,000-yard-plus seasons. Johnson is one of the top linebackers in the game. Brown remains a solid option on the offensive line. Clayton played seven NFL seasons; Washington played six. But there were only five guys selected and that isn't enough to push 2005 to the top of the list.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson
Andy Clayton King/Getty ImagesThe Big 12's 2007 draft class wasn't huge, but did feature 2012 NFL MVP Adrian Peterson.
2009: Every Big 12 player selected in the first round in 2009 has produced and appears to be poised to continue to do so. Only Jason Smith didn’t have a start last year. But the offensive lineman still played in all 16 games for the New York Jets. Michael Crabtree, Brian Orakpo, Josh Freeman, Jeremy Maclin, Brandon Pettigrew and Ziggy Hood are all starters for their respective teams.

2007: It wasn’t the biggest group, but it did include Adrian Peterson, so there could be some quibbling that maybe 2007 should be higher in the rankings. Throw in Aaron Ross and Michael Griffin and the debate could get even more heated. Adam Carriker was also taken this year. He started his career strong but suffered an injury and only played in two games last season.

2003: Kevin Williams has been the standout of this group. The defensive tackle has started every game but four in his 10-year career. Terence Newman has been effective as a defensive back, first in Dallas and last season in Cincinnati. Tyler Brayton played at least 15 games on the defensive line in a nine-year career. Ty Warren played eight solid seasons for New England but tailed off last season with Denver. Andre Woolfolk lasted four seasons, mostly as a reserve.

2011: Von Miller, who was the highest pick among Big 12 players this year, has proved to be the top player so far. Aldon Smith is not far behind. Add in Prince Amukamara, Phillip Taylor, who when healthy is a starter at defensive tackle, a somewhat productive Blaine Gabbert and Nate Solder as well as reliable backups Danny Watkins and Jimmy Smith and this proved to be a successful year for Big 12 first-round selections.

2012: Three quarterbacks, and all were not only starters as rookies but also made huge differences for their respective squads. Clearly, Robert Griffin III made the most dramatic impact, but Ryan Tannehill, with the Dolphins, and Brandon Weeden, with Cleveland, were both solid. Kendall Wright and Justin Blackmon each had 64 catches, for Tennessee and Jacksonville, respectively. Blackmon was targeted more (133 to 104) and had 200 more receiving yards.

2010: This list maybe doesn’t have the star power and is not littered with offensive playmakers, but six of the nine players picked were selected for the 2013 NFL Pro Bowl: Gerald McCoy, Trent Williams, Ndamukong Suh, Earl Thomas, Russell Okung and Jermaine Gresham. And the other three players -- Dez Bryant, Sam Bradford and Sean Weatherspoon -- were vital pieces for their respective teams.
Oklahoma State nabbed three prospects in the ESPN 300, and all three have officially signed their letters of intent.

The Cowboys have a pair of receivers in the fold in Ra'Shaad Samples, the nation's No. 166 player, and Marcell Ateman, the nation's No. 245 player. The duo ranks No. 19 and No. 37 at the position, respectively. Samples is a 5-foot-11, 170-pound target from power program Skyline in Dallas, and Ateman is a 6-foot-5, 200-pound prospect from Wylie, Texas. Those are two very different receivers, but they'll get a chance to start their career in an Oklahoma State offense with lots of receptions to go around.

Oklahoma State missed out on the nation's top receiver, Laquon Treadwell, who signed with Ole Miss earlier today, and longtime commit Fred Ross (No. 22 WR) flipped to Mississippi State on Tuesday. But it's still a solid pair of pickups for Oklahoma State, which has established a stellar receiver tradition with Dez Bryant and two-time Biletnikoff Award winner Justin Blackmon, as well as 2012 breakout star Josh Stewart. There's no doubt those guys influenced Samples' and Ateman's decisions.

The Cowboys' third ESPN 300 signee, defensive tackle Vincent Taylor, made it official this morning, too. He's a 6-foot-2, 267-pound defensive tackle from San Antonio, Texas, and ranks as the nation's No. 24 defensive tackle.
Every year, we see players take the leap. It's a natural progression in college. Contributors become impact players. Solid starters become superstars and there are plenty of moves in between. Only players who have played two full seasons in college football count. That means no freshmen or transfers. My regrets to guys such as Calvin Barnett, Lache Seastrunk and Devonte Fields.

Here are my picks for the Big 12's most improved players:

[+] EnlargeJosh Stewart
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports Oklahoma State's Josh Stewart stepped in at receiver and delivered a 101-catch, 1,210-yard season.
Josh Stewart, WR, Oklahoma State: Stewart takes the honor of being the Big 12's most improved player by a landslide. A year ago, he was a bit player on a high-powered offense, grabbing 19 catches for 291 yards. The Cowboys lost their three best receivers from last season's team (Justin Blackmon, Josh Cooper, Mike Harrison) and needed somebody to step up. This season, Stewart answered the bell for an offense that needed him, catching 101 balls for 1,210 yards and seven scores.

Kerry Hyder, DL, Texas Tech: Hyder was arguably the biggest reason for Texas Tech's defensive resurgence this season, racking up 14 tackles for loss to rank fifth in the Big 12. A year ago, he had just five among his 42 tackles. This year, he made 56 stops, but had 5.5 sacks alone and broke up four passes.

Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor: Williams was a really good receiver a year ago, putting together maybe the quietest 900-yard receiving season ever. This year, though, he was better than anyone could have predicted. I voted for him for the Biletnikoff Award after leading the nation with 1,832 yards and 12 scores on 97 catches, up from 59 a year ago. He made the jump from great player to true superstar. He'll be an NFL first-rounder.

Jason Verrett, CB, TCU: Verrett had a nightmare start to 2011, getting burned by Robert Griffin III in a painful loss in Waco to begin the season. This year, he was unquestionably the Big 12's best shutdown corner and arguably one of the best in the country. Ask any Big 12 receiver. He's fast, physical and his great hands helped him grab six interceptions (fifth-most nationally) and break up a ridiculous 16 passes. That's 22 pass defenses. No other Big 12 player had more than 15.

Tony Pierson, RB, Kansas: Pierson was a great complement to power back James Sims, and ranked 10th in the league with 760 yards on just 117 carries. While Sims was suspended to begin the season, he had a pair of 120-yard games and topped 200 yards against Texas Tech, but his yards per carry (6.5) gets him on this list. Among the 25 Big 12 backs with at least 75 carries this year, only Seastrunk had a higher yards-per-carry average.

Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma: Johnson was a good tackle last season, but he made a decent argument for being the best in the Big 12 this year. He was solid all season long, but seeing him shut down Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Devonte Fields in the regular season finale made a big impact on me. He also played well against possible top-five pick Damontre Moore, who was largely quiet in the Cotton Bowl loss to Texas A&M.

Bryce Hager, LB, Baylor: Hager's tackle numbers are a little inflated because of Baylor's early defensive struggles, but he led the Big 12 with 124 stops after making just 13 in limited duty a year ago as a freshman. If you watched him late in the year against K-State or UCLA, you saw how good Hager and his partner in crime at linebacker, Eddie Lackey, could be. It seemed like he was in Collin Klein's face all day, and the game may have been different without him.
Colleague Mel Kiper Jr. named his All-NFL Rookie team this weekInsider, and if you've followed this blog very long, you'll recognize a few of the names on the team.

You'll need Insider to see it all, but it was a solid year for the Big 12 rookies at the next level. Headliner Robert Griffin III was edged out by Andrew Luck for the QB spot, but the Big 12 grabbed two of the three wide receiver spots.

Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon had one of them, and if you want to count him for Baylor, Josh Gordon grabbed another after a great rookie season with the Cleveland Browns, featuring 50 grabs for 805 yards. Blackmon tied for the rookie lead with 64 catches and led the class with 865 receiving yards, despite playing for the passing-deficient Jacksonville Jaguars. Impressive stuff.

Iowa State's Kelechi Osemele started all 16 games this year for the Ravens and earned a spot on the All-Rookie offensive line at right guard, the last spot for the Big 12.

It's no surprise that the league's only honorees were on offense, and two came at receiver, which has been the league's strongest position other than quarterback for the past few years. Nebraska's Lavonte David spent some time in the Big 12, and the Husker alum turned Buccaneer also cracked the team after making a big impact as a juco transfer back in 2011.

Pregame: Heart of Dallas Bowl

December, 30, 2012
12/30/12
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Oklahoma State (7-5, 5-4 Big 12) vs. Purdue (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten)

WHO TO WATCH: Oklahoma State receiver Josh Stewart may be the most underrated player in the Big 12. He caught 96 passes for 1,154 yards to notch his first 1,000-yard season as a sophomore, despite the Cowboys starting three different quarterbacks throughout the season because of injuries. The 5-foot-10, 178-pound Denton, Texas, native had a huge encore after a strong freshman season as Justin Blackmon's protege, and has at least 147 receiving yards in three of his past four games.

WHAT TO WATCH: To get the answer to two questions: Can Oklahoma State prove it wants to be in this game, and can Purdue overcome one of the biggest Vegas lines of the bowl season, at well over two touchdowns? With an 11-point lead in Bedlam, the 7-3 Cowboys had somewhat of a shot to crash the BCS. The Pokes blew that lead to rival Oklahoma and lost to Baylor a week later, tumbling all the way down to the Big 12's No. 8 bowl tie-in -- muddled at 7-5 with four other Big 12 teams. Meanwhile, Purdue had to win its final three games of the season just to reach a bowl, though all three wins came against non-bowl teams with a combined four Big Ten wins. Purdue's got the edge in the "Want To Be Here" rating, but the Pokes are the better team on paper. Can they prove it on the field?

WHY TO WATCH: Hey, you have to watch. It's the Big 12's only New Year's Day Game, even though the Big Ten has five bowl games the same day. You've always got to be careful with big underdogs in bowl games. They love to play fast and loose in the last game of the year with nothing to lose. Purdue might make this entertaining, and teams with interim coaches (Patrick Higgins steps in for the fired Danny Hope at Purdue) have done OK this bowl season. Ask Cincinnati, San Jose State and Utah State about that trend.

PREDICTION: Oklahoma State 37, Purdue 17. Upset potential aside, I'm going with the safe bet for the Pokes here, who will win this game with another solid game from Clint Chelf and open up a really interesting spring quarterback derby in Stillwater. Purdue's Robert Marve finished the season in style, despite playing on a torn ACL, but that ends against Oklahoma State, who finally gets an interception from one of the starting corners, Justin Gilbert or Brodrick Brown.

Bonus predictions from Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett!

Brian Bennett: There's a reason why the Boilers were the biggest underdog on the board in bowl season. They've got an interim coach in Patrick Higgins and have been exposed by some of the better offenses on their schedule, which is a frightening prospect against the high-flying Cowboys. I believe a healthier defensive line will give Purdue a chance in this one, and Oklahoma State is not going to be really pumped up to be in this game a year after playing in a BCS bowl. Robert Marve tosses a couple of scores and Akeem Shavers runs for 135 yards. But in the end, the Pokes -- led by 175 receiving yards from Josh Stewart -- have a little too much for Purdue in a wild one. ...Oklahoma State 31, Purdue 27

Adam Rittenberg: Again, the Big Ten team might be more motivated than the Big 12 squad, but can Purdue keep up on the scoreboard? I don't think so. Although cornerbacks Josh Johnson and Ricardo Allen give the Boilers' a chance against the pass-happy Pokes, Purdue isn't consistent enough or dangerous enough on offense to pace Oklahoma State. I agree Marve has a nice performance in his final college game and Antavian Edison scores twice, but Purdue will be playing catch up after a rough first half and falls short. ... Oklahoma State 38, Purdue 28

Who had the Big 12's best offense?

December, 11, 2012
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We did this poll in the preseason, but let's take a look back now that the regular season has been completed.

West Virginia ran away with the poll before the year began. Who wins now? Which Big 12 offense was best this year?

Note: We can only include five teams in polls. TCU was in the preseason poll, but obviously won't be in this poll. I also put Kansas State in here, rather than Texas Tech, which was fifth in the Big 12 in total offense.

Let's take a look.

SportsNation

Which Big 12 offense was best in 2012?

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    15%
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    16%
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    29%
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    19%
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    21%

Discuss (Total votes: 7,469)

BAYLOR

The Bears boast the nation's leader in total offense, quarterback Nick Florence, and led the nation in total offense. Florence even accounted for more yards per game than Johnny Football at Texas A&M. The Bears discovered another weapon in running back Lache Seastrunk late in the season and have one of the league's best offensive lines, but Biletnikoff Award finalist and the nation's leader in receiving yards, Terrance Williams, might be the most talented player on the roster.

OKLAHOMA STATE

The Pokes had quarterback issues, but finished the season with three (!!) 1,000-yard passers and finished fifth in the nation in total offense. Running back Joseph Randle is the Big 12's best, and receiver Josh Stewart broke out with 1,154 receiving yards as a sophomore. The rest of the unit is deep, but even without Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden, the Pokes got up and down the field quickly.

WEST VIRGINIA

Geno Smith got off to one of the greatest starts in the history of the Big 12, reaching 5-0 and throwing 25 touchdowns before his first interception. He came to Earth a bit in the middle of a five-game losing streak, but Tavon Austin definitely has a case as the league's best overall offensive weapon, even though fellow receiver Stedman Bailey racked up 23 touchdown catches, 10 more than any player in the league and more than Blackmon and Michael Crabtree in their Biletnikoff Award-winning seasons. The Mountaineers never found a consistent running game, but were sixth nationally in pass offense.

OKLAHOMA

Oklahoma relied heavily on Landry Jones, but found a home-run hitter in juco transfer Damien Williams. The youth at receiver showed up early in the season, but transfers Jalen Saunders (Fresno State) and Justin Brown (Penn State) provided solid targets late in the season for Jones, who racked up consecutive 500-yard passing games in wins against Oklahoma State and West Virginia. Jones' season has already pushed him into third in NCAA history in passing yardage.

KANSAS STATE

Kansas State didn't rack up yardage by the bunches, but until late struggles against TCU and Baylor, the Wildcats led the Big 12 in scoring offense. Quarterback Collin Klein rumbled his way to New York City as a Heisman finalist, and the ground-inclined Wildcats offense had two of the Big 12's top five rushers, with Klein and running back John Hubert.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 4

September, 17, 2012
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Here's how I slot the Big 12 after a quiet week across the league in Week 3.

1. West Virginia (2-0; last week: 1) The Mountaineers' offense is setting all kinds of records and is on track to be one of the best we've seen in awhile. Geno Smith's numbers are competitive with what we saw from Robert Griffin III a year ago, and Stedman Bailey's been more productive than Justin Blackmon was this time last year. Can they keep it up when league play starts? Maryland stands between WVU and its Big 12 opener at home versus Baylor.

2. Oklahoma (2-0; last week: 2) The Sooners were off this week, but Norman will be buzzing for a hyped Big 12 opener, and what I'd consider the real start of league play: Bill Snyder, Optimus Klein and Kansas State are on their way to Soonerville.

3. Texas (3-0, last week: 4) Texas' offense looked better than it has for a long time against Ole Miss. The Rebels didn't offer much of a pass rush and its defensive backs were ... not very good. Still, who would have thought David Ash could throw for 326, four scores and go three games without an interception? As for the Big 12 Power Rankings, I hopped the Horns over K-State ... for now. The Longhorns have two weeks to prepare for their league opener at Oklahoma State.

4. Kansas State (3-0; last week: 3) The Wildcats once again struggled early against an inferior opponent. This time it was North Texas. No worries about anything like that next week. Oklahoma's lost three games at home in Bob Stoops' 13-plus seasons in Norman. Collin Klein's toughest test so far in 2012 awaits.

5. Baylor (2-0; last week: 5) The Bears looked ugly for the first half against FCS power Sam Houston State. The fact of the matter is this: SHSU is better and more composed than a lot of bad FBS teams. But still, not an encouraging sign. That said, Baylor's one-time cupcake actually gives it a chance to impress next week. The Bears travel to face Louisiana-Monroe in an awkward Friday nighter. The WarHawks knocked off Arkansas last week and nearly did the same to Auburn on Saturday.

6. TCU (2-0, 1-0 Big 12; last week: 6) The Frogs made some awful mistakes in the red zone, and what should have been a four- to five-touchdown romp at Kansas turned into an ugly 20-6 win. They'll take it, but the mistakes have to be fixed. The Frogs have another somewhat reasonable challenge coming up this week: Virginia. The Hoos were rolled by Georgia Tech this week, but beat Penn State in their second game.

7. Oklahoma State (2-1; last week: 7) Oklahoma State will do some dancing with its quarterbacks for the next two weeks before hosting Texas, but J.W. Walsh looked a lot more than just capable in the Cowboys' lopsided win over Louisiana. Can he do it against Texas? Will he have to? We may not know for sure for quite some time.

8. Texas Tech (3-0; last week: 8) Tech has been legitimately impressive through three games, easily disposing of three overmatched opponents. Still, we don't know anything about this team yet. Can it beat Iowa State? We'll find out in two weeks ... and then the Red Raiders host Oklahoma. We'll have a decent idea of whether or not this is a bowl team -- or more -- by then.

9. Iowa State (3-0; last week: 9) Iowa State did what it needed to do against Western Illinois to improve to 3-0. That's the second consecutive season the Cyclones have pulled that off, and the first time that's happened in more than a decade. Is 5-0 possible? Iowa State's never lost to Tommy Tuberville at Texas Tech, and gets the Riverboat Gambler pretty far inland in two weeks in Ames. Then, a trip to TCU awaits.

10. Kansas (1-2, 0-1 Big 12; last week: 10) The offense still leaves a lot to be desired, but there's no question the defense is better. The Jayhawks have already nabbed a Big 12-high 12 takeaways, and though TCU moved the ball, KU made it look difficult often. When will the Jayhawks' Big 12 losing skid -- currently at 13 games -- end?

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