Big 12: Nick Rose

Texas vs. Oklahoma primer

October, 8, 2014
Oct 8
11:00
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The last time Oklahoma and Texas met when both were coming off losses was 2007. Last weekend, the Longhorns gave Baylor a valiant fight, but ultimately fell, 28-7. The Sooners, meanwhile, are coming off a 37-33 defeat at TCU.

Both schools will attempt to get back on track by taking it to their Red River rival in the Cotton Bowl.

Jake Trotter and Max Olson break down the Red River Showdown below:

How Oklahoma can control this game: The Sooners lost their way in Dallas last year, and failed to get their running game going. Oklahoma lost its way in Fort Worth, too, as the offense went south while Trevor Knight attempted a staggering 35 passes. Texas is formidable in the defensive trenches. But the Sooners need to get back to what they do best, and that’s running the ball with Samaje Perine between the tackles. Even if they get stuffed early, the Sooners shouldn’t panic. Texas is limited offensively, so a punt isn’t necessarily a bad play. By avoiding giving Texas quarterback QB Tyrone Swoopes any short fields, Oklahoma should eventually be able to frustrate and wear down the Longhorns with Perine on the ground. -- Trotter

How Texas can pull off the upset: Texas got it done last year by being the more physical team, making big plays in all three phases and riding the momentum that came from those big plays. This year, it has even fewer position-by-position advantages over the Sooners, especially on offense. Texas needs to score every time it crosses OU’s 40. It needs a first-half game-changer and its defense, fresh off an impressive effort against Bryce Petty, needs to make Knight make mistakes. -- Olson

Oklahoma’s X factor: The last time I named a place-kicker an “X factor,” he missed three field goals against Auburn. But Oklahoma has a major edge in special teams in this game, especially with its All-America candidate at kicker in Michael Hunnicutt, who is already the school’s all-time leading points leader. “Moneycutt” has connected on 31 of 35 field goal attempts the last two seasons. Meanwhile, Texas’ Nick Rose has made just 3 of 7 tries this year, and had a 52-yard attempt blocked and returned for a touchdown last week. If this game comes down to field goals, the Sooners will hold a decided advantage. -- Trotter

Texas’ X factor: With all of its weapons on the defensive line and at linebacker, Oklahoma is absolutely capable of manhandling Texas up front this year. The Longhorns' offensive line must win the day, or at least the majority of the day, and surely Joe Wickline knows that. There are still a lot of moving parts in that group and almost no depth. None of them started against OU last year. Those guys have to endure and pave the way for Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown the way their predecessors did in 2013. -- Olson

What a win would mean for Oklahoma: Despite the loss to TCU, the Sooners are still very much alive in the Big 12 title race and the playoff chase. Oklahoma can jump back into the playoff conversation by stringing together a few wins. A statement victory over their arch-rival would set the tone for a potential run the second half of the season. -- Trotter

What a win would mean for Texas: Texas is in dire need of the first signature win of the Charlie Strong era. Look at its schedule. At this rate, Texas will need to beat all of its unranked foes and pull one upset in order to hit six wins and bowl eligibility. So, yes, a win in the Cotton Bowl is probably a season-changer. It’d also provide a timely injection of confidence for Swoopes and his teammates entering the second half of their schedule. Plus, another year of bragging rights couldn’t hurt. -- Olson
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Not pretty, not easy, but not a problem for the usually flashy Baylor Bears. No. 7 Baylor defeated Texas for the fourth time in five years thanks to some stout defense and a few special-teams surprises, pulling away in a tight game that was 7-0 at halftime. Here's how the 28-7 final went down:

How the game was won: Special teams. Baylor blocked a 52-yard field goal attempt and returned it 62 yards for the first score of the day. Spencer Roth’s 19-yard fake punt set up the Bears’ second TD. On a day in which these teams were surprisingly even otherwise, the Bears dominated that phase of the game.

Gameball goes to: Baylor RB Shock Linwood. The pass game wasn’t clicking on Saturday, so the Bears attacked the middle hard in the run game, and that finally paid off in the fourth quarter. He rushed for 42 of his 148 yards on the game-sealing drive to go ahead 21-0, including the 1-yard touchdown.

What it means: The Bears survived their first major challenge of the season with a 21-point win on the road. So Art Briles can’t be that upset. The Longhorn defense was surprisingly stout, but its struggling offense fumbled away its best first-half scoring drive at the 1-yard line and didn't get on the scoreboard until there was 2:14 left in the ballgame. They moved the ball on Baylor but made far too many little mistakes.

Playoff implication: Baylor hadn’t faced a Top 25 defense this season, and at times it showed. Bryce Petty had one of the worst starts of his career, completing four passes and leading Baylor to just 129 yards in the first half. They can’t play like this again against TCU, Oklahoma and foes that are better equipped to capitalize than Texas was.

Best play: Opportunistic football at its finest. Baylor made Texas pay for its poor decision to try a 52-yard field goal by easily batting down Nick Rose's attempt. Terrell Burt scooped it up on the bounce and dashed 62 yards to give the Bears a critical 7-0 lead in a game with no offensive scores until midway through the third.

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What's next: Is Baylor going to be on upset alert next week? The Horned Frogs proved against Oklahoma they're not going to be an easy out for anybody. They'll hit the details hard this week. So will Texas, which at 2-3 has to go to Dallas to face Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl next weekend. The Longhorns will likely be double-digit underdogs once again.
With spring ball done, we’re re-examining and re-ranking the positional situations of every Big 12 team, continuing Friday with special teams. These outlooks will probably look different in August. But here’s how we see them post-spring:

1. TCU (pre-spring ranking: 1): The Horned Frogs’ coverage units were pretty lousy last year. If they can shore those up, this could be an elite special-teams unit with kicker Jaden Oberkrom, punter Ethan Perry and returners B.J. Catalon and Cameron Echols-Luper.

2. Kansas State (3): Freshman Judah Jones, who was one of the stars of the spring game with a 51-yard touchdown catch, fielded kickoffs, too. Cornerback Morgan Burns also added a 39-yard kickoff return. They could take some pressure off Tyler Lockett in the return game and also him to get a breather when needed.

3. Baylor (2): The return units are going to be spectacular, and Spencer Roth is one of the best punters in the nation. But field-goal kicking is an unknown. Freshman Chris Callahan has taken over for now as the team’s kicker, but missed one chip shot badly in the spring game. Callahan could be fine. But as Oklahoma State found out last year, rolling with a first-time kicker can be dicey.

[+] EnlargeMichael Hunnicutt
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsMichael Hunnicutt has the ability to become Oklahoma's first All-America kicker.
4. Oklahoma (5): Place-kicker Michael Hunnicutt (Moneycutt?) nailed field goals of 52 and 47 yards during a windy spring game. Amazingly, the Sooners have never had an All-America kicker. Hunnicutt has the potential to be the first.

5. West Virginia (7): Josh Lambert created plenty of buzz this spring, including his 53-yard field goal in the spring game. Mario Alford also took the opening kick in the spring game to the house. Punter Nick O’Toole is a proven commodity. If Lambert has a big sophomore year (he was really good as a freshman) and Alford’s TD is a sign of improvement in the return units, which ranked last in the Big 12 last year, this could become one of the league’s better special-teams units.

6. Texas Tech (4): The Red Raiders continued to have issues fielding punts during the spring, which is probably one reason why the return slots were left blank in the team’s post-spring depth chart. Incoming freshman Ian Sadler, who had six return touchdowns during his senior season of high school, could solidify that spot once he arrives on campus.

7. Iowa State (6): Sophomore kicker Cole Netten showed off his big leg in the spring game by making a 56-yard field goal. That came after coach Paul Rhoads gave him a shot at a 62-yard attempt. Netten, combined with the dynamic return trio of Jarvis West, DeVondrick Nealy and Aaron Wimberly, should translate into a strong special-teams unit. If incoming freshman Colin Downing can adequately step in at punter, the unit will be even stronger.

8. Texas (8): Nick Rose showed a strong leg on a missed 55-yard field goal try in the spring game and converted a 40-yarder. William Russ averaged 43.3 yards per punt in the spring game. Those were positive signs, but replacing All-American kicker/punter Anthony Fera will be one of the underrated storylines in Charlie Strong’s first season.

9: Oklahoma State (10): With so much turnover on both sides of the ball, the Cowboys need their special teams to be much better than last season. They just might be, though. With his speed, Tyreek Hill will be a major factor in the return game. Also, place-kicker Ben Grogan, after a shaky freshman season, drew praise for his improvement this spring from coach Mike Gundy.

10. Kansas (9): Special teams did not excel in Kansas’ spring game. Matthew Wyman made a 23-yard field goal but missed an extra point. The punting in the game was mediocre as well. The Jayhawks reportedly have preferred walk-on John Duvic enrolling this summer. After setting the Illinois state high school record with five field goals in a game, he could be a welcomed addition.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Mack Brown made two things clear concerning his heralded freshmen class at his press conference on Wednesday: They can’t sing worth a darn but, boy, can they play.

“We had a little night last night where the freshmen had to sing and they were awful,” Brown said. "Awful. They better make a living in football because they won’t make it in singing.”

[+] EnlargeCayleb Jones
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comTrue freshman Cayleb Jones is listed as a backup receiver for the Longhorns.
From the sounds of it there are several that have at least taken the first step toward doing so.

Fifteen freshmen were listed on the depth chart when it was released to the media on Wednesday. This coming after the Longhorns played 18 freshmen in 2011, which was the most in the country.

Brown admitted that there were others from the 26 freshmen that were signed in 2012 that would probably play against Wyoming on Sept. 1.

One name notably absent from the list was Daje Johnson, who has been one of the talks of camp because of his versatility as both a running back and receiver in Texas’ “T&Z” package with senior D.J. Monroe.

Brown said that Johnson is suspended for the season opener for a violation of team rules.

“He will not be involved in the first depth chart and that will not change,” Brown said.

There were, however, nine freshmen that did make the cut offensively. None really came as a surprise.

Johnathan Gray, high school football’s all-time touchdown leader, is listed as the third string running back behind sophomores Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, and ahead of senior Jeremy Hills.

(Read full post)

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