Big 12: Kliff Kingsbury

Athletic director Kirby Hocutt declared that there’s “never been a more exciting time” within the Texas Tech football program.

And that is precisely why the Red Raiders elected to make a huge investment in their 35-year-old head coach.

[+] EnlargeKliff Kingsbury
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsKliff Kingsbury's contract extension is due in big part to the excitement that he has generated at Texas Tech.
Kliff Kingsbury agreed to a contract extension Friday that will make him the fourth-highest paid coach in the Big 12. Tech will play Kingsbury $3.1 million in 2015, with a $200,0000 raise each year to $4.1 million through 2020.

Tech isn’t necessarily rewarding Kingsbury solely for the mere eight wins he’s brought the Red Raiders last season.

Instead, the school is rewarding Kingsbury for the excitement he’s brought to the program. And the news Tech revealed earlier in the day was proof of that excitement.

Just hours before they disclosed Kingsbury’s extension, the Red Raiders held a press conference announcing the launch of a capital campaign to raise $185 million to construct an indoor practice facility and build 30 suites as part of a renovation of the Jones AT&T Stadium south end zone.

The school would not have fashioned such a project had Kingsbury not filled up the stadium last season. Nor would Tech have raised the $75 million it already has committed for the project without the buzz Kingsbury has generated for the program.

“We are very fortunate that we have 85 suites in Jones AT&T Stadium and they're all at capacity right now,” Hocutt said. “There is a wait list for folks who have requested those seats.”

Kingsbury’s return to Lubbock spearheaded the formation for that demand.

Bucking a national trend of declining student attendance, Tech actually set a student season-attendance record in Kingsbury’s first season. This summer, Tech sold out its season-ticket allotment for the first time in school history, shattering the previous record by roughly 7,000.

Hocutt attributes all of the above to a “new pride” in Tech football. And Kingsbury, who was Mike Leach’s first great quarterback for the Red Raiders when he played from 1999-2002, is the one flying the banner.

And he's the one who has unified what previously was a fractured fan base.

Sure, the Red Raiders still have a ways to go on the field. Another November swoon last season underscored that. But before that, Tech started out 7-0 and reached its first top 10 ranking in five years despite rotating through a pair of true freshman quarterbacks. And even after the late-season losing streak, the Red Raiders bounced back to throttle Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl.

Going into this season, Tech appears to have one of the best young quarterbacks in the country in sophomore Davis Webb. And the Red Raiders have been going toe-to-toe with prominent programs for blue-chip talent. Tech already has landed commitments from a trio of ESPN 300 recruits including Jarrett Stidham, one of the top quarterback prospects in the country.

There’s plenty of excitement for where the Tech football program is.

But plenty more for where Kingsbury is taking it.

Kliff Kingsbury agrees to extension

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
8:45
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Texas Tech and Kliff Kingsbury have agreed to a contract extension through 2020 that will pay $3.1 million in 2015 with a $200,0000 raise each year to $4.1 million in 2020, the school announced.

Kingsbury became the Red Raiders' coach in 2012 on five-year deal that ran through 2017.

"This is where I want to be and I couldn't be happier," Kingsbury said in a statement issued by the school. "I can't wait to take this thing to the next level."

To continue reading this story, click here.
LUBBOCK, Texas -- One of Lubbock’s most popular families walked around the Jones AT&T Stadium field in April like they’d been there forever. But this was their first time back in almost three years.

The leaders of the Fehoko clan, Vili and Linda, passed out prizes from stuffed-full bags: Hand-woven headbands made of coconut leaves -- from their culture’s “tree of life” -- for each and every Texas Tech player after the spring game. Then fans started lining to snag one of the more than 150 headpieces, even offering to pay.

You can’t put a price on what the Fehokos were bringing back to Lubbock that day.

[+] EnlargeLinda, Sam, Breiden, Vili Fehoko
Max Olson/ESPNThe Fehoko family -- Linda, Sam, Breiden and Vili -- are back rooting for Texas Tech.
Their son Sam Fehoko, a Mike Leach-era linebacker known for his fiery spirit and game day war paint, had made the family from Honolulu a fan favorite. Now they’re back, and they’ll be Lubbock regulars for the next few years.

Sam's brother, V.J. Fehoko, transferred from Utah for his senior year and will start at Will linebacker for Tech. And their youngest brother, Breiden Fehoko, is an ESPN 300 recruit who recently signed financial aid papers to officially join the Red Raiders in January.

“The people around here welcome you with open arms, just like the people of Hawaii do,” Sam Fehoko said. “It’s amazing to me. That’s why I came here. I love the city of Lubbock, and I know the city loves the Fehokos.”

For Sam, a homecoming was overdue. He left the program early in his senior season of 2011, during ex-coach Tommy Tuberville’s first year, and tried to make it in the NFL. After two years away, he returned to Tech last fall to finish his undergrad degree.

“From the time I set foot back here in Lubbock, it was amazing,” he said. “With Coach Kliff Kingsbury here, he knows exactly how to relate to people. He’s such a people person. You feel this energy come off of him. I was watching the team and watching the culture and this new Texas Tech brand. I fell in love with it again. I fell in love with Texas Tech.”

V.J. took notice. He won’t discuss why he left Utah, but he hadn’t forgotten about Tech. He’d given a silent commitment to Leach during his recruitment in 2009 but had to change plans upon the coach’s firing.

“Coming back was kind of destiny, in a way,” V.J. Fehoko said. “It’s sort of full circle.”

When he joined Sam in Lubbock this January, V.J. asked his brother for a crash course on Big 12 defense. The Pac-12 prepared him for high-speed offenses, but he’s still learned plenty in the past eight months. Like Sam, he quickly took a liking to the Red Raiders’ new leader.

“My goodness, man, Kliff Kingsbury, you can quote me on this: Best head coach in college football,” V.J. said. “He’s sort of like an older brother to you.”

[+] EnlargeV.J. Fehoko
Courtesy of Texas Tech Athletics V.J. Fehoko, who transferred from Utah for his senior year, will start at Will linebacker for Tech.
For Kingsbury, who’s adopted “Family Over Everything” as one of his program’s mottos, embracing the Fehokos and welcoming them back made too much sense.

"That’s been a great relationship,” Kingsbury said. “Their entire family, through and through, are big-time Red Raiders, obviously. They bring a lot of passion, a lot of energy to the football field.”

He’s seen that trademark passion in Sam, who’s working with program again as an off-field defensive intern, as well as in V.J., a backup for the Utes last year who’s already making Texas Tech’s defense better.

“Every day he's yelling, screaming, hopping around and excited to be out there,” Kingsbury said. “That's contagious to his teammates.”

What made Tech a natural fit for this family from 3,500 miles away? Sam says the seclusion of Lubbock out in West Texas -- “almost like you’re on an island, you know?” -- suits their dedication. No distractions, he says. Just football and school. That was enough to sway their youngest brother.

And if you ask the elder Fehoko brothers, the best is yet to come. Breiden, a defensive tackle at Farrington High in Honolulu, is ranked No. 56 in the ESPN 300 and committed soon after attending Tech’s spring game.

The 6-foot-2, 285-pound lineman already maxes out a 45 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and 585 pounds on squats. After growing up in the shadow of three brothers, he’s developed into a freak athlete -- Sam calls him a “rare breed,” V.J. says he’s a “whole ‘nother species” -- with a deep admiration for what his family has started.

“Tradition meant a lot to me. Carrying on a legacy meant a lot to me,” Fehoko said of his recruitment. "To have the Fehoko name as a household name in Lubbock, it only makes sense to continue it. Why go somewhere else? People there, with that West Texas hospitality, they took us in and treated us like their own.”

When Breiden made his commitment on April 14, his future head coach took to Twitter to celebrate. Now that Breiden has signed financial aid papers, Tech coaches can call, text and even visit as much as they want. He’s in the family.

“Whenever Kliff comes to Hawaii, I’ll be taking him out for surf lessons,” Breiden said. “Whatever he wants to do. Maybe a Hawaiian luau. You know, he’s single, he’ll probably want to go see all the Hula girls over here.”

Another tradition they’re bringing back: The Haka. In 2010, the three brothers and their father led a Maori war dance before the spring game. Vili and Breiden did another rendition at this year’s game and should be back for more this season.

The ritual, meant to invoke a warrior's spirit, isn't just an expression of the Fehoko family's culture. For the brothers, it's also a tribute to the parents who got them this far.

“We were raised tough," V.J. said. "We had six members of our family and we grew up in a one-bedroom house. Mom worked two jobs. Dad, with his health, was unemployed at times. We grew up in the struggle.

"We looked at each other and told each other we were going to make it out for our parents.”

For a family that didn’t come from much, the Fehokos can’t wait to bring a whole lot back to Texas Tech.
At some point this weekend, Dravon Henry will trot onto the field against SEC power Alabama. It will be baptism under fire for West Virginia's true freshman safety.

He's not alone.

More and more, true freshman skill position players are stepping on campus ready to take jobs and play immediately at schools across the Big 12.

Seven of the nine Big 12 schools that play this weekend had released their depth charts by Tuesday afternoon. Twenty-two true freshman find themselves on those depth charts at skill positions around the conference with every school featuring at least one true freshman on its depth chart.

TCU and Oklahoma lead the league with five apiece while ISU receiver Allen Lazard is the lone true freshman skill position player on the Cyclones depth chart. Coaches at Kansas, Oklahoma State and Texas — the other three schools — have already said they have true freshmen are in set to play for them at the skill positions in 2014.

The growth of pass-heavy spread offenses, increased summer and offseason football -- specifically 7-on-7 competitions -- and elite camps like The Opening are at the heart of the increased readiness of true freshman. Henry and Texas Tech cornerback Tevin Madison are the lone true freshman to earn a starting spot heading into the season but that duo is could be joined by other impressive freshmen -- like Lazard, Kansas running back Corey Avery or Kansas State safety Kaleb Prewitt -- in their squad's starting lineup at some point this season.

The additional offseason work's ability to help groom quarterbacks is well-documented but those extra reps are helping receivers, running backs and defensive backs as well.

"All the skill players, receivers, quarterbacks, tight ends, they all grow up throwing the football," Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "So they're much more developed at an early age. We're seeing that we can do things with freshman that we could never do before because a lot of them have been doing it in high school."

Recruits step on campus having been seasoned in competitive situations like never before. Their understanding of offensive concepts gained in high school makes transitions to similar systems in college easier than before.

"As much as anything it's the offenses they're growing up in," OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. "They're playing in those [offenses] 365 days of the year. You go to certain parts of the country and they're practicing every day. They're growing up in those systems."

The state of Texas is at the forefront of trend with everything from weather and strong high school coaching helping to prepare signees to play from Day 1 at Big 12 schools.

"With the 7-on-7 aspect and the level of high school coaching in the state of Texas helps us," Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "They're throwing the year round, they're catching the ball year round, quarterbacks go through reads year round, so by the time they get to us, they're college ready.

"As far as throwing, catching and seeing defenses, they're more prepared than ever."

The rise of elite national and regional football camps could also be helping to increase the readiness of true freshmen. Players like OU's Michiah Quick, a 2013 participant in The Opening who is listed as a backup slot receiver and punt returner for the Sooners, are stepping on campuses across the country having been tested in ways they had not been a decade ago.

"I think anytime you get to go against competition, you're going to come out more confident if you have a good showing," Kingsbury said. "The kids we have that have attended such camps come out of it knowing they belong and they fit in."
He has to deal with them every Saturday, so TCU safety Sam Carter would know better than most.

"The Big 12 is a quarterback league," the Horned Frogs senior said. "When the game is on the line, the ball will be in the air."

Yet the Big 12 seemed to lose its way a year ago.

Outside of the exploits of Baylor’s Bryce Petty or Texas Tech’s true freshman duo of Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield, quarterbacking in the conference took a clear step backward.

The Bears and Red Raiders were the only Big 12 teams that finished in the top 25 in the FBS in passing yards or averaged more than 300 passing yards per game. Two seasons ago, in 2012, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia joined Baylor and Tech in the top 10 in that category and averaged at least 330 passing yards per contest.

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
Chuck Cook/USA TODAY SportsTrevor Knight is one of several unproven Big 12 quarterbacks who have flashed plenty of potential.
But conference coaches don’t expect the downward trend to continue indefinitely.

"I think time will take care of that," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "There were so many years with top-notch guys that got drafted. It’s the same schools, recruiting the same kids, being coached by the same guys and playing the same type of ball in the Big 12 for the last decade and a half. Time will tell."

Petty is the unquestioned face of Big 12 quarterbacks heading into 2014, the guy every team in the conference would love to call its own. He’s an ultraproductive, experienced leader who still has room to grow as a senior. Alongside Petty, the league features young talents led by Tech’s Webb and OU’s Trevor Knight. Kansas State’s Jake Waters, Kansas’ Montell Cozart and West Virginia’s Clint Trickett are other Big 12 quarterbacks who entered preseason camp as clear starters at their respective schools and still have room to grow as quarterbacks.

"I just think they have to get older," Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said of the Big 12’s return to prominence at quarterback. "I don’t think it’s anything other than that. You have some stars that are younger guys getting broken in in this league. They’re a year older, year wiser. You had such a good run of three or four years, now it’s these guys’ chance."

That run is well-documented. No league supplied the NFL with more first- or second-round picks in the past five NFL drafts then the Big 12. Six quarterbacks who played in the conference have been drafted in the first two rounds since 2010, including a No. 1 overall pick in Oklahoma's Sam Bradford. The SEC and Pac-12 are tied for second with three apiece during that span.

The trend slowed a bit in recent years, as former West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is the lone quarterback who played in the Big 12 to be drafted in the first two rounds in the past two drafts. But Petty, who enters the season as Mel Kiper's top-ranked senior quarterback, could hear his name called in Round 1 or 2 of the 2015 NFL draft, while Knight or Webb could find themselves in a similar position if their development continues during the rest of their careers.

Petty's proactive nature has helped cement his reputation as the Big 12's top quarterback, as he has refused to be satisfied with the accolades he earned a year ago. The Midlothian, Texas, native spent some of his offseason with quarterback guru George Whitfield, who has played a key role in Petty’s development. Petty says he would recommend time with Whitfield to any young quarterback looking to excel in the Big 12.

"When we have breaks, I want to work," Petty said. "A lot of times, because of NCAA regulations, I can’t do that with my coach [at Baylor], so Coach Whitfield is kind of my outlet to keep working."

It’s an approach Kansas coach Charlie Weis understands. The veteran coach believes the quarterback position has been in need of better coaching, be it individual quarterbacks coaches or more detailed coaching at their school, for years.

"I think the quarterback position used to be the most undercoached position, of all positions, even though it's the most important," Weis said. "Usually it’s because the title of quarterbacks coach almost always went to the offensive coordinator who has to worry about every single position. I think having a quarterbacks coach helps every offensive coordinator invaluably. It’s easily the most important position on your team."

Improved coaching is just one aspect. Simple game experience is another. The value of playing games in the conference is just as invaluable. At this time a year ago, none of Big 12’s top quarterbacks in 2013 were proven commodities.

"Each and every year, there have been guys emerge that were ‘no name’ guys because of youth or inexperience. Or they just hadn’t matured or developed yet," Holgorsen said. "We have some young guys that will make a name for themselves, probably starting this year."

Petty went from unproven to Heisman Trophy candidate and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. Webb was a true freshman fighting for a job, and Knight was about to be named OU’s starting signal-caller. Twelve months later, that trio represents the Big 12’s biggest hope for a return to the forefront of the elite quarterback landscape in college football.

"I think our league has a reputation and commitment to throw the football," OU co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "And because of that, we develop quarterbacks in our league, and I think we’ll see a strong group this year."
Bradley Marquez could have spent his summer chasing fly balls and trying to hit curveballs while honing his craft as a minor league baseball player in the New York Mets organization.

Instead, the receiver spent the summer alongside his teammates at Texas Tech. In doing so, he sent a clear message to those teammates, the Red Raiders coaching staff and the rest of the program about his commitment to excelling during his final season catching passes in Lubbock, Texas.

[+] EnlargeBradley Marquez
AP Photo/LM OteroTexas Tech wide receiver Bradley Marquez, a baseball player in the New York Mets organization, made 49 catches last season.
“He hasn’t hung up the baseball cleats for good, but he hung them up this summer to really work on his game with us,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “And that brought a lot of leadership to our program.”

Heading into the 2014 season, the Red Raiders will be counting on Marquez to be one of the guys to help replace departed tight end Jace Amaro, who was arguably the Big 12’s biggest mismatch en route to 106 receptions for 1,352 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in 2013.

“I think he’ll be a big part of it,” Kingsbury said of Marquez's role in replacing Amaro and Eric Ward. “He brings some speed, brings some toughness at that position. His toughness and desire has really helped us as a program.”

It started with his commitment to remain in Lubbock, Texas, this summer, a decision that showed the sacrifice the senior was willing to make to maximize his impact on the Red Raiders’ destiny this fall. It wasn’t about individual accolades or an increase in his total catches -- it was about becoming a guy Kingsbury and his teammates could count on.

“I just want to be a consistent player and want to do everything possible to help this team win,” Marquez said. “That’s why I stayed this summer, to better myself in the weight room, [help] the timing [with quarterback Davis Webb\ and be around my teammates.”

If he had decided to return to minor league baseball, it wouldn’t have been a decision that caused eyebrows to raise. Marquez finished the 2013 season with 49 receptions for 633 yards and six touchdowns, ranking fourth on the team in each category. And he did it after playing 27 games for the Kingsport Mets in 2013 before joining Tech for Kingbury’s first season.

Nonetheless, he decided to make football his top priority in 2014 immediately securing a leadership role among Tech's receivers becoming a guy whose commitment to the upcoming season could not be questioned.

“The guys believe in him,” Kingsbury said. “They know how hard he worked, they know his story and they know he sacrificed for his teammates to be here this summer, and that’s gone a long way for us.”

Now he wants to go even further and secure a lasting legacy at Texas Tech before returning to baseball in the future.

“I just want to have a great senior season and leave my lasting mark on Texas Tech,” he said.
» More team previews: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Previewing the 2014 season for the Texas Tech Red Raiders:

Key returners: QB Davis Webb, WR Jakeem Grant, OG Le'Raven Clark, LB Kenny Williams

Key losses: TE Jace Amaro, WR Eric Ward, DT Kerry Hyder, LB Will Smith

Most important 2014 games: Sept. 25 at Oklahoma State; Oct. 25 at TCU; Nov. 1 vs. Texas; Nov. 15 vs. Oklahoma

Projected win percentage: 59.0

Over/under Vegas odds: 6.5 wins

[+] EnlargeDavis Webb
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsQuarterback Davis Webb and Texas Tech are hoping for a repeat of their 7-0 start last season.
Instant impact newcomers: Defensive tackle Rika Levi and offensive tackle Dominique Robertson. Kliff Kingsbury beefed up his trenches by signing six junior college offensive and defensive linemen. Levi and Robertson figure to make the biggest impact and are on track to win starting jobs this preseason. Robertson will protect Webb’s blind side, which has allowed All-Big 12 performer Clark to move inside to his more natural position of guard. Levi is a 340-pound potential run-stuffer, which the Red Raiders lacked the past season, when they were manhandled on the lines. With Levi and Robertson providing reinforcements, that could change this season.

High point from 2013: The Red Raiders trailed by double digits late in the third quarter Oct. 19 at West Virginia. But in his second career start, Webb rallied Tech to a 37-27 victory, which vaulted the Red Raiders to a 7-0 start and their first top-10 ranking in five years.

Low point from 2013: After the 7-0 start, the Red Raiders went the other way and lost five in a row to close out the regular season. The low point came when Tech was obliterated 41-16 on Thanksgiving night at Texas. The Longhorns rushed for 281 yards against Tech’s hapless defense, and the Red Raiders failed to score an offensive touchdown until the fourth quarter.

Best-case scenario for 2014: The Red Raiders get off to another hot start by taking care of Arkansas, then stopping their five-game losing streak to Oklahoma State. Tech goes on to seriously contend for the Big 12 title, but comes up just short because of another daunting November schedule.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Tech loses its sixth in a row to Oklahoma State and never fully recovers. The Red Raiders collapse yet again in November, finish 5-7 and miss out on a bowl game for the second time in four years.

They said it: “I think Year 2 for our entire staff, our entire program, there's a comfort level. And having a guy in Davis Webb who is an established leader and an established player at quarterback position in our system really helps and has helped the entire offseason. So we're excited about him. We're excited about our team, and we'll see how it shakes out.” -- Head coach Kliff Kingsbury
Sam Eguavoen is entering unfamiliar territory.

The Texas Tech linebacker will have the same defensive coordinator for the first time in his Red Raiders career as Matt Wallerstedt returns to run the defense for the second straight season under Kliff Kingsbury. The continuity on that side of the ball is one reason Kingsbury believes his defense can reach higher heights in 2014.

"That's big for them," Kingsbury said. "Two years having the same defensive staff in place with the same terminology. I can tell this spring they weren't thinking as much. They were actually flying around with the football."

A key member of Tech's defense since his freshman season, Eguavoen started five games for Chad Glasgow as a true freshman in 2011 and 10 games for Art Kaufman as a sophomore in 2012 before starting all 13 games after Wallerstedt arrived alongside Kingsbury a year ago. It will be the first time since 2009 that the Red Raiders program returns the same defensive coordinator.

"It helps a lot, we all have the scheme down," said Eguavoen, who enters the year with 152 career tackles. "Just because I'm a senior does not mean I know the defense better than someone who was a freshman last year. I was new to that defense just like he was."

The senior insists that with the continuity comes the removal of any excuses for his returning teammates on the defensive side of the football. Even though Tech loses defensive tackle Kerry Hyder, linebacker Will Smith and safety Tre Porter, who joined him in the top four in tackles for Tech last season, Eguavoen expects the Red Raider defense to be as good or better in 2014.

"People talk about we have key losses but it's really like we haven't lost anybody," Eguavoen insists. "Because those young guys were learning the scheme at the same time those guys were. They're coming into this season knowing twice as much as those seniors knew about the defense, so I have full confidence in the people behind me, to the left and right of me."

Tech's defense had plenty of struggles in 2013, finishing in the bottom half of the Big 12 in points allowed (30.5, seventh), total yards allowed (418.5, seventh) and rushing yards allowed (201.5, ninth). But Eguavoen believes the defense's performance in Tech's 37-23 win over Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl can be a spring board for this year's unit.

"If we just pop on the game tape of the bowl game, that just showed what we're really capable of," he said. "That's the expectation this season, we've increased our standards. Incoming freshmen, juco guys, they all know what we expect of them."

'Hot' Kliff Kingsbury reads flattering tweets

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
4:50
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There's no getting around it: Texas Tech football coach Kliff Kingsbury is an attractive man. This, along with the fact that he is single and has a high-profile job in the Big 12, has gained him quite a few admirers around Lubbock, the Lone Star State and the country.

 Kingsbury isn't shy about all of the extra attention. In fact, while at ESPN headquarters with his fellow Big 12 coaches Thursday, the 34-year-old bachelor sat down with SportsNation and read aloud some of the most flattering tweets about him.

video 
DALLAS -- Winning football games holds top billing in most cases, but when discussing the most important objective to college football coaches, a great recruiting class is always high on the totem pole.

The Big 12 media days on Monday and Tuesday gave coaches a chance to share their opinions on their teams, their competitors and the future of college football. It also allowed each coach to talk about the positives and negatives of recruiting.

The media voted Oklahoma as the clear preseason favorite to win the Big 12.

But the league’s players give the slight edge to Baylor as the team to beat in the Big 12 this season.

This week, the Big 12 blog team anonymously polled 30 of the 39 players that attended Big 12 media days.

Oklahoma received 47 of 56 first-place media votes in the Big 12’s preseason poll, which was released last week. But 43 percent of the players polled said the defending Big 12 champion Bears were actually the team to beat in the league, narrowly topping the Sooners.

The players were asked several other questions about the league, including its most impressive coach, its most obnoxious team, and its most underrated player.

The results of the poll:

(Note: players were not allowed to answer their own school or any teammate in any of the questions)

Who is the team to beat this year in the Big 12?

Baylor: 43%

Oklahoma: 40%

Kansas State: 6%

Oklahoma State: 6%

Texas: 3%

Who is the league’s most impressive coach?

Kliff Kingsbury: 24%

Bill Snyder: 21%

Art Briles: 17%

Bob Stoops: 14%

If you could draft an opposing Big 12 player and put him on your team, who would it be?

Baylor QB Bryce Petty: 27%

Baylor WR Antwan Goodley: 15%

Kansas State WR Tyler Lockett: 12%

Kansas State QB Jake Waters: 12%

Who is the league’s most underrated player?

Waters: 10%

TCU DT Davion Pierson: 10%

Iowa State TE E.J. Bibbs: 10%

Other answers: Kansas State DE Ryan Mueller, Texas Tech LB Sam Eguavoen, Oklahoma WR Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma State LB Ryan Simmons, Baylor DE Shawn Oakman, Kansas State C BJ Finney, TCU CB Kevin White, Baylor RB Devin Chafin, Baylor RB Johnny Jefferson, Kansas State CB Randall Evans, Oklahoma State DT James Castleman

Who is the team you’re most fired up to play?

Texas: 24%

Kansas State: 21%

Oklahoma: 21%

Baylor: 10%

Who is the most obnoxious team in the league?

TCU: 21%

Baylor: 18%

Texas: 14%

Texas Tech: 14%

What program has the best pregame intro?

Oklahoma: 27%

Oklahoma State: 19%

Texas: 15%

Who do you predict will make the inaugural playoff?

(Note: Players were allowed to include Big 12 teams here)

Florida State: 20%

Oregon: 16%

Alabama: 15%

Other top vote-getters: Auburn, Baylor, LSU, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Stanford
Texas and Oklahoma face tough road tests as we enter the final few weeks of the season.

For the past few weeks, we've taken a closer look at the 2014 Big 12 schedule during our Big 12's Ultimate Road Trip series. This week, we'll wrap up the series with the final stretch of the regular season.

To those unfamiliar with this series, we both pick a game featuring a Big 12 team in every week of the season that we’d cover if the travel budget were unlimited and there were no editors telling us where to go.

We’ll be basing our choices on several factors, including the quality of the matchup and the stakes that could be involved. The only restriction is that each of us can pick only one game per week.

Let’s continue with Week 12.

Nov. 15

Texas at Oklahoma State
TCU at Kansas
Oklahoma at Texas Tech

Jake Trotter’s pick: Oklahoma at Texas Tech

Depending on how the Red Raiders fare in road tests at Oklahoma State, Kansas State and TCU, this mid-November tilt could hold Big 12 title implications on either side. At the very least, it could be a huge roadblock standing in the path of Oklahoma’s Big 12 title and playoff hopes.

Traditionally, Lubbock has been a disaster zone for the Sooners, who at one point fell to Tech three straight times at Jones AT&T Stadium.

In 2005, a controversial call at the goal line lifted the Red Raiders to a game-winning touchdown. In 2007, quarterback Sam Bradford was knocked out of the game with a concussion in the first quarter of another Oklahoma loss. And in 2009, Tech simply obliterated the Sooners, who wore Nike combat uniforms that afternoon.

Oklahoma played one of its best games of the 2012 season in a victory in Lubbock. But over the years Tech has given the Sooners as many problems as any team in the conference.

This will be a prime spot for Kliff Kingsbury to earn a program-defining conference win and a chance for me to wolf down another Blue Sky cheeseburger.

Brandon Chatmon’s pick: Texas at Oklahoma State

I have a feeling this will end up being a critical game for both teams.

It will be the third road game in four weeks for Texas and the lone home game for OSU during a season-ending four-game stretch, which includes trips to Baylor and Oklahoma.

The Cowboys are 3-2 against the Longhorns over the past five seasons but, surprisingly, have not beaten UT at Boone Pickens Stadium since 1997. The last time UT played in Stillwater, Okla., David Ash had the moment of his career, leading the Longhorns to a controversial late win in a game that also could be considered the best of J.W. Walsh's career. If both quarterbacks are still taking the snaps for their respective teams, odds are it’s been a pretty good season in both Stillwater and Austin, Texas.

Simply put, I want to go to this contest because games like these show us what the coaches and players in both programs are truly about. Both teams will be physically and mentally exhausted. There will be no surprises, as both teams will be well-scouted by each other, and both teams will need a win.

And I like the odds for another great game between the two teams, so I’m making a trip to BPS hoping that it won’t be as chilly as my last couple of visits against Baylor and Oklahoma last season.

Previous weeks:

Week 1: Trotter -- SMU at Baylor; Chatmon -- West Virginia vs. Alabama (in Atlanta)

Week 2: Trotter -- Kansas State at Iowa State; Chatmon -- Kansas State at Iowa State

Week 3: Trotter -- Texas vs. UCLA (in Arlington); Chatmon -- Tennessee at Oklahoma

Week 4: Trotter -- Auburn at Kansas State; Chatmon -- Auburn at Kansas State

Week 5: Trotter -- Texas Tech at Oklahoma State; Chatmon -- Baylor at Iowa State

Week 6: Trotter -- Baylor at Texas; Chatmon -- Baylor at Texas

Week 7: Trotter -- Texas vs. Oklahoma; Chatmon -- TCU at Baylor

Week 8: Trotter -- Kansas State at Oklahoma; Chatmon -- Oklahoma State at TCU

Week 9: Trotter -- Texas Tech at TCU; Chatmon -- Texas at Kansas State

Week 10: Trotter -- Texas at Texas Tech; Chatmon -- TCU at West Virginia

Week 11: Trotter -- Baylor at Oklahoma; Chatmon -- Baylor at Oklahoma
Coaches and players alike can make a name for themselves on third down. Receivers earn reputations for their ability to move the chains, signal-callers separate themselves as clutch performers and coaches’ creative play calling rises to the forefront during those key moments.

A closer look at the production of Big 12 offenses and defenses on third down can provide a glimpse at how champions are made and reveal areas of improvement heading into the 2014 season.

The stats, courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information, are from conference games only during the past two seasons in an effort to provide a fair baseline for every team. The teams are listed alphabetically with third-down conversion rate, opponent third-down conversion rate, yards per play on 3rd-and-6 or more and yards per play allowed on 3rd-and-6 or more serving as the four key categories to show production on third down, or lack thereof.

Some thoughts and notes:

  • Kansas State leads the Big 12 in third-down conversion percentage in the past two seasons, and it’s no major surprise to see the Wildcats sitting atop the conference, as Bill Snyder’s Wildcats are efficient and productive. Playing three different quarterbacks -- Collin Klein, Jake Waters and Daniel Sams -- during this stretch, K-State has the Big 12’s top raw QBR on third down (85) in this span. However, Waters’ 57 raw QBR on third down was the lowest of the trio. He’s expected to be KSU’s starter this fall and will need to play better on third down if the Wildcats hope to make a Big 12 title run.
  • Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech, the only other teams joining KSU with better than 40 percent conversions on third down, combined with the Wildcats to win 92 games during the past two seasons. Third-down success on offense and overall success seem to go hand in hand.
  • [+] EnlargeBill Snyder
    AP Photo/Matt YorkBill Snyder's Kansas State teams have excelled on third down, a big reason for the Wildcats' recent success.
    Iowa State, TCU and Kansas, the bottom three teams in third-down conversion percentage, will enter 2014 with new offensive coordinators, underscoring the importance of third-down success.
  • TCU’s defense was exceptional on third down, leading the conference with a 31.9 percent opponent third-down conversion percentage. If the Horned Frogs continue that production, and the offense improves its 31.3 third-down conversion rate, TCU could return to a bowl in 2014. New coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham are tasked with jump-starting the Horned Frogs offense.
  • Oklahoma State allowed just 34.7 percent opponent third-down conversion rate, joining TCU as the lone Big 12 schools under 35 percent in that category. An underrated defense is one reason Mike Gundy's squad won 18 games while playing musical chairs at the quarterback position during the past two seasons.
  • Baylor and Kansas State are in the bottom half of the Big 12 in opponent third-down conversion rate over the past two seasons, a sign that stellar defense on third down is not a requirement to win the Big 12 title. KSU was sixth at 40.5 percent, Baylor was ninth at 44.2 percent. The Wildcats won the conference title in 2012, Baylor won in 2013.
  • West Virginia, Iowa State and Kansas are the teams in the bottom half of the conference in third-down conversion rate and opponent third-down conversion rate. Those three teams combined to win 12 conference games in the past two seasons.
  • Baylor led the Big 12 in yards per play on 3rd-and-6 or more with a 6.97 ypp average. The Bears' explosive offense was joined by Oklahoma (6.96), Texas (6.89) and West Virginia (6.43) as the lone teams to average at least six yards per play in that scenario.
  • Texas Tech, at 4.68 yards per play, is surprisingly low in this scenario, rating ninth in the conference . The Red Raiders’ offense is consistently among the Big 12’s best but this is a clear area of improvement for Kliff Kingsbury’s squad.
  • OSU sits atop the conference at 3.98 yards per play allowed on 3rd-and-6 or more, another sign of how underrated its defense has been over the past two seasons.
  • KSU is the only other team that allowed less than five yards (4.23) in that scenario and is the only team in the top half of the Big 12 in yards per play and yards per play allowed in that scenario. Third-down success, on both sides of the ball, was a big part of KSU’s ability to consistently win (and surprise) during the past two seasons.
Here's the latest in recruiting around the Big 12 with summer camps in full swing:

Baylor
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: Baylor added a commitment with the pledge of linebacker Clay Johnston of Abilene, Texas, last week. Johnston picked the Bears over offers from Texas Tech, Tulsa, Duke and others. It wasn’t all good news for the Bears as the No. 246 player in the ESPN 300, athlete Louis Brown from Burton, Texas, elected to decommit from Baylor and reopen the recruiting process.

Iowa State
Total commits: 2
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones reeled in their second commitment in the Class of 2015 with Bryce Meeker’s pledge. The three-star offensive tackle from Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Prairie picked ISU over offers from Illinois State and Northern Iowa. ISU also held a summer camp over the weekend including an appearance from Billy Bahl, a 6-foot-4, 213-pound quarterback from Woodstock (Illinois) Marian Catholic.

Kansas
Total commits: 1
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Jayhawks looked east to make one of their latest reported offers, putting their name in the mix for Pawling (N.Y) Trinity Pawling defensive end Austrian Robinson. The Class of 2015 prospect also has offers from Boston College, Maryland, Rutgers and others.

Kansas State
Total commits: 2
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats dipped into SEC country for their second commit for the Class of 2015. Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson receiver Isaiah Zuber picked KSU last week, spurning offers from Boston College, Virginia Tech, Purdue, Illinois, Iowa State and others. Zuber is a quick receiver who could excel as a slot possession receiver.

Oklahoma
Total commits: 6
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: It was a huge week for the Sooners as they continued to add quality recruits to their commit list. Running back Rodney Anderson picked the Sooners after attending OU’s camp over the weekend. The Katy, Texas, standout is No. 263 in the ESPN 300. Cornerback P.J. Mbanasor, the No. 84 player in the ESPN 300, also chose OU last week. The Pflugerville (Texas) Hendrickson turned down offers from LSU, Ohio State, Florida and others.

Oklahoma State
Total commits: 5
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Much like the rest of the Big 12, the Cowboys are actively involved in summer camps, including a satellite camp in Rockwall, Texas, on Sunday. Oklahoma State also reportedly offered a scholarship to ESPN 300 cornerback Kris Boyd of Gilmer, Texas, who also holds offers from Alabama, Baylor, Florida State, Texas, TCU, Oklahoma and others.

TCU
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: TCU’s class is shaping up nicely with New Boston (Texas) athlete Jeff Gladney and Houston Westfield guard Cordel Iwuagwu joining the Horned Frogs’ commit list in the past week. Gladney will likely play cornerback for Gary Patterson’s team. TCU also held a summer camp over the weekend that featured several standouts including KeShawn Somerville, who reportedly ran a 4.37 in the 40 at the camp.

Texas
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Longhorns held a camp on Sunday with several elite prospects, including cornerback Jared Mayden, a Class of 2016 recruit, in attendance. Mayden, from Sachse, Texas, already holds offers from Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, TCU, Texas A&M and others.

Texas Tech
Total commits: 7
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: This week should be big for the Red Raiders as they participate in satellite camps across the state, including one on Sunday at Euless (Texas) Trinity. But the biggest recruit the Red Raiders landed in the past week was quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who decided to turn down professional baseball to join Kliff Kingsbury’s program after going undrafted in the first two days of the MLB Draft. Joining Davis Webb as the Red Raiders’ lone scholarship quarterbacks, Mahomes should be Texas Tech’s No. 2 quarterback this fall.

West Virginia
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: The Mountaineers held a summer camp on Sunday with several targets participating, including Clairton, Pa., 2017 target Lamont Wade, who can play multiple positions, and 2016 target Aaron Mathews, a receiver.
Since last week, we’ve been examining the most indispensable player for every team in the Big 12. In other words, who is the player each team could least afford to lose to injury?

[+] EnlargeWebb
John Weast/Getty ImagesWith his starting spot assured, Texas Tech sophomore QB Davis Webb sparkled this spring.
We’re knocking on wood before we turn in these posts, so no need to worry about a jinx.

We continue with the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

Most indispensable player: Quarterback Davis Webb

Why Texas Tech can’t afford to lose him: The Red Raiders' hopes for success are sitting on Webb’s shoulders. Several other players -- including tackle Le'Raven Clark and all-purpose standout Kenny Williams -- deserved consideration, but the loss of Webb would create a major obstacle between Kliff Kingsbury's squad and success.

If he stays healthy and starts every game, Webb should secure his spot among the Big 12’s top quarterbacks for the second straight season. Webb was outstanding as a true freshman, joining Baylor’s Bryce Petty (85.2) and Oklahoma State’s Clint Chelf (83.8) as the only Big 12 quarterbacks with a Adjusted QBR above 70 in Big 12 games at 81.1.

To top it all off, he looked even better during the spring with his spot as “the man” in the Red Raiders’ offense, capping his spring with a four-touchdown performance in the spring game. Heading into his sophomore season, Webb is accurate, takes care of the football and continues to improve, making him one of the Big 12's most valuable players.

If he’s out of the equation, Tech’s hopes for success take a major hit. Not only because Kingsbury’s squad is set to have a true freshman, Patrick Mahomes, as its No. 2 quarterback, but because Webb’s stellar play would be difficult to mimic for any signal-caller.

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