Big 12: Shock Linwood

2014 All-Big 12 underclassman team

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
12:00
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From Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine to West Virginia placekicker Josh Lambert, the Big 12 was loaded with underclassmen who made an impact on the 2014 season. With that in mind we unveil our second annual All-Big 12 underclassman team (freshmen and sophomores).

The underclassman team is based on 2014 performances, not future potential -- though many on this list have bright futures as well. Number of games played was also a factor, which is a reason why budding true freshman quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Mason Rudolph, who both came on strong only during the final month of the season, just missed the cut.

Without further ado, the ESPN.com 2014 All-Big 12 underclassman team:

Offense
QB: Tyrone Swoopes, Texas
RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor
RB: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma
WR: Corey Coleman, Baylor
WR: KD Cannon, Baylor
WR: Allen Lazard, Iowa State
OT: Adam Pankey, West Virginia
OG: Baylen Brown, Texas Tech
C: Kyle Fuller, Baylor
OG: Daniel Burton, Iowa State
OT: Kent Perkins, Texas
FB: Glenn Gronkowski, Kansas State
AP: Wendell Smallwood, West Virginia

Defense
DE: Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State
DT: Andrew Billings, Baylor
DT: Hassan Ridgeway, Texas
DE: Jordan Willis, Kansas State
LB: Taylor Young, Baylor
LB: Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma
LB: Seth Jacobs, Oklahoma State
CB: Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma
CB: Nigel Tribune, Iowa State
S: Jordan Sterns, Oklahoma State
S: Orion Stewart, Baylor

Special teams
K: Josh Lambert, West Virginia
P: Colin Downing, Iowa State
KR: Alex Ross, Oklahoma
PR: Cameron Echols-Luper, TCU
Admit it. You never, ever thought Trevone Boykin would end up being a Heisman Trophy finalist.

It's OK to confess that. No way Gary Patterson or even Boykin himself could've seen that coming. In fact, Vegas didn't even start putting odds on his chances until the end of October. And yet, the TCU quarterback ended up finishing No. 4 in Heisman voting, thanks to more than 100 third-place votes and even seven first-place ballots.

So the question must be asked: Who's the next Boykin? Following up on Jake Trotter's post today that Boykin and Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine give the Big 12 two significant Heisman contenders, we're taking a way-way-way-too-early look at the conference's potential dark horse candidates.

QB Seth Russell, Baylor: There are a lot of logical reasons for betting on whoever replaces Bryce Petty as Baylor's quarterback. Not betting on Russell here so much as on Baylor's style of play, coaching and surrounding skill talent producing yet another prolific passer. Russell will be an experienced fourth-year player and brings a sneaky ability to run (4.49 40-yard dash speed). Whether it's Russell or somebody else, whoever earns the starting job has to play up to Art Briles' standard. That standard has already produced a Heisman winner and Petty, who finished in the top 10 in Heisman voting twice.

QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech: Why Mahomes over young QBs like Mason Rudolph or Tyrone Swoopes? We can only go by what we've seen so far, and Mahomes' four starts to end Texas Tech's season offered promise. He was the Big 12's leading passer over the final month of the season, and Jarrett Stidham exiting the picture helps Mahomes' chances of holding down the job. He'd still have to beat out Davis Webb and lead Tech to a huge comeback season, but this kid showed flashes of being special as a true freshman.

RB Shock Linwood, Baylor: We have to throw a running back in here due to the lack of established, exciting Big 12 quarterbacks returning in 2015. Since the start of the 2013 season, Linwood ranks 20th nationally in rushing with 2,107 yards. All of those yards have come while splitting carries, and he'll have to again next season. But Briles' offense has always run as much (in fact, more) than it has passed, and leaning on Linwood will make the next QB's job easier. You can also make a deep-sleeper case, by the way, for running backs Johnathan Gray and maybe even Aaron Green.

WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Oklahoma: OK, yes, this is an absolute shot in the dark and perhaps a pointless one. The biggest "if" here is really whether DGB elects to go pro after a season of practicing with the Sooners. If he spurns the draft and rewards Bob Stoops' faith with another year in Norman, Green-Beckham should be one of the Big 12's most talented players in 2015. The Heisman traditionally has no love for receivers, but DGB is good enough to put up crazy numbers for the Sooners next year.
WACO, Texas -- Art Briles walked back to the benches and saw five beat-up, rain-soaked, worn-out Baylor offensive linemen.

"They were just gasping," Briles said. "I thought, 'What's the deal?'"

[+] EnlargeArt Briles
AP Photo/LM OteroA hard-earned win over Oklahoma State might be just what Art Briles and Baylor needed.
So the head coach asked his assistants on the headset: How many plays had they just run?

Nineteen. Now Briles was gasping.

"Wow."

Baylor's longest offensive drive in two years will not go down as being overly memorable. The possession that reset the tone in the Bears' 49-28 win over Oklahoma State won't make any season highlight reels. It's a line scribbled on a College Football Playoff committee member's notepad and probably nothing more.

By the Bears' high-speed standards, a drive like this is calling winning "ugly." They shouldn't have to apologize. Possessions like these tell you something about a team's toughness.

In 19 plays, Baylor's offense burned through half of the first-quarter clock. They stayed on the field for 10 uninterrupted minutes, working through problem after problem with patience.

Fifteen rushes. Four pass attempts. Four penalties. Four second-and-longs. Four third downs. A fourth-down conversion.

"That was, uh ... um, tiring," Baylor left tackle Spencer Drango said.

Just ask his running back. Devin Chafin logged seven of his 21 carries on that drive and finished it with a 2-yard score. By the end of the night, his arms were covered top to bottom with red scars, scuffs and cuts.

"Just playing football," Chafin said.

His Bears have scored in three plays or fewer 18 times this season, including twice in that same first quarter. This time, to go ahead 21-3 on the Cowboys, they had to earn one.

Thanks to the penalties, the Bears had to travel 94 yards on their 79-yard drive. They did so by asking Bryce Petty, Chafin and two more backs to trust that the run game could grind out those gains. Ten of their 15 rushes gained less than 4 yards. Still, they kept the sticks and the clock moving.

They kept going after that drive, too. Briles was content to run on 33 of Baylor's 40 second-half snaps and maintain a double-digit lead the rest of the way.

Shock Linwood loved every minute of it. When the running back played football video games as a kid, he said he'd always turn on the rain before kickoff. Chafin was all for a little nasty weather, too.

"As running backs," he said, "we favor the rainy, muddy, grimy games rather than the sunny days."

After drying off, the last thing on those backs' minds late Saturday night was whether they'd done enough to impress the playoff committee. A 21-point win in rough weather over the team that spoiled Baylor's national title hopes a year ago? Yeah, they'll take that.

But they should know by now that, as Baylor embarks on its final stretch against Texas Tech and Kansas State with everything on the line, this offense and this team will continue to be held to almost unreasonable standards.

For Baylor to reach the playoff, it will have to outperform TCU, Ohio State, Mississippi State and, in a way, itself. "Be the standard" is the program's mantra. The bar was set incredibly high in 2013. This team hasn't had such an easy time reaching it.

The public expects America's Top Offense (as Baylor's own PR people call it) to keep cranking out long-bomb scores and instant blowouts. That's not getting easier. When an opponent tries Tampa 2 coverages and offers up beneficial rushing opportunities in return, as Oklahoma State did, Baylor sticks to taking what's easiest.

"That Tampa 2 just messed everything up," receiver Jay Lee said. "We had to go the ground game and pound 'em like that. If they're going to back [the safety] out, we're going to run it at them."

And what's wrong with that? The Bears, as well-equipped to chase style points as any team in this playoff hunt, didn't pile on against OSU. Briles didn't do much politicking Saturday. Maybe he shouldn't have to.

The easy wins on sunny days are more fun, no question. But these hard-earned ones might be better for Baylor.

"I just think our team's record speaks for itself," Briles said, "and I think good teams find ways to win."
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WACO, Texas -- Baylor got revenge for its late-season upset loss in Stillwater last year, knocking off Oklahoma State 49-28 in a rain-drenched game at McLane Stadium to keep its College Football Playoff hopes intact. Here’s how it went down:

How the game was won: The 9-1 Bears jumped ahead 14-0 in the first three minutes on two Bryce Petty bombs, but a heavy second-half commitment to the run game got the job done. Orion Stewart's interception of freshman Mason Rudolph with 5 minutes left and Petty's 21-yard TD run with 3 minutes left sealed the win after the rallying Pokes threatened to make it a one-score game.

Game ball goes to: Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin. The Bears’ running backs both surpassed 100 yards on Saturday and combined for 219 of the team’s 317 rushing yards along with four TDs. Baylor wasn’t operating at its usual rapid pace in the near-constant rain, but didn’t have to thanks to these backs putting the offense on their ... backs.

What it means: Baylor defeated Oklahoma State for just the third time in the past decade and still shares the lead atop the Big 12 standings with TCU and Kansas State. The Cowboys, now 5-6, have lost five in a row but have at least discovered a promising QB for the future in Rudolph, who threw for 281 yards in his first career game after OSU coaches burned his redshirt.

Playoff implication: Will this win significantly help the No. 7 Bears in the College Football Playoff rankings this week? Hard to say, though No. 6 Ohio State did have a tough time knocking off a 3-8 Indiana team on Saturday. Until that fourth-quarter Oklahoma State rally that almost made this game very interesting, the Bears were in control for most of the ballgame.

What's next: Baylor heads up Arlington next Saturday to take on Texas Tech at AT&T Stadium. Then comes the big championship-week showdown with Kansas State. Oklahoma State has one final chance -- a trip to Norman to face Oklahoma on Dec. 6 -- to achieve bowl eligibility.

Baylor at West Virginia primer

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17
2:30
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You haven't forgotten the last time No. 4 Baylor went to Morgantown, have you?

The 133 points. The 1,237 passing yards. The 1,507 total yards. The 70-63 West Virginia win that, for all of its fantasy numbers, was very real and very crazy.

Should we expect a similar outcome this time around? Probably not. But we will be entertained, that's for sure. Max Olson and Jake Trotter break down the matchup of the undefeated Bears and the 4-2 Mountaineers.

How Baylor can control the game: Points and stops, early and often. That's how the Bears took it to WVU in Waco a year ago. By the time BU's defense finally gave up a score, it was already 42-7 and the Bears were well on their way to a 56-point first half. The Mountaineers won't fold so quickly this time, but it's imperative that this Baylor team, considering its past road issues, throw punches early and put all the pressure on the home team. -- Olson

How West Virginia can pull off the upset: In whatever form they come, the Mountaineers have to get stops. Punts, turnovers, even field goals. This game has shootout written all over it. But it’s not one the Mountaineers can win with their offense alone. West Virginia’s young secondary has to come up with some big plays. And the Mountaineers’ undersized defensive front can’t allow Shock Linwood and the Baylor running game to maul them like Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine did last month. – Trotter

Baylor's X factor: The pressure is on for Baylor cornerbacks Ryan Reid and Xavien Howard. Baylor has the best receiving corps in the country, so the Bears' cornerbacks have plenty of practice against elite pass-catchers. That doesn't mean they're going to be able to shut out both Kevin White and Mario Alford, but keeping the ball out of their hands is critical. These days, White calls a 100-yard game a quiet day. Can Reid and Howard show him an actual quiet day? -- Olson

West Virginia’s X factor: White has gotten all the midseason accolades, and for good reason. After all, he leads the country in receiving. But Alford is the Mountaineer that can change the game in more ways than one. He’s ninth in the Big 12 in receiving to go along with his two kickoff return touchdowns. The Mountaineers will need a bevy of big plays to keep up with Baylor. – Trotter

What a win would mean for Baylor: Every road wins helps when it comes to the résumé that Baylor is assembling for its run to the College Football Playoff. This could be a prime opportunity, too, to send a message to those who are doubting this Bears defense after the 61-58 drama last Saturday. Art Briles is dead serious about Bryce Petty winning the Heisman, too, so here's a good platform to put up some big numbers. -- Olson

What a win would mean for West Virginia: The Mountaineers are off to a phenomenal 4-2 start for a program that was picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 in the preseason. Yet despite playing Alabama and Oklahoma tough, West Virginia has yet to pull off that program-changing win. An upset of Baylor would constitute just that, giving the Mountaineers a ton of momentum going into the second half of the season and a chance at the Big 12 title. – Trotter

ESPN.com midseason All-Big 12 team

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
11:00
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We're halfway through the season, which means it's time for our midseason All-Big 12 team. There's plenty of football still to play. And this midseason team might be very different from the end-of-season one. But this list recognizes the players who have distinguished themselves thus far.

After careful consideration and friendly debate, our midseason All-Big 12 team:

Offense

QB: Clint Trickett, West Virginia: Baylor's Bryce Petty had the Big 12's best game last weekend, but Trickett has had the better season so far. He leads the Big 12 in QBR and completion percentage and is third nationally in passing, fueling the Mountaineers' surprising 4-2 start.

RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor: The Big 12's top rusher has 326 rushing yards over Baylor's last two games, including 104 in the fourth quarter of the Bears' monumental comeback win against TCU.

RB: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma: This true freshman is second in the league in rushing, first in rushing touchdowns and delivered an historic performance at West Virginia with 242 yards and four scores.

WR: Kevin White, West Virginia: White has been as dominant as any player in the league. He easily leads the country with an average of 148 yards receiving per game, and has come up with a hundred yards receiving in every game.

WR: Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma: It's hard to imagine where the Oklahoma passing game would be without Shepard. He has accounted for 48 percent of Trevor Knight's passing yards.

WR: K.D. Cannon, Baylor: The true freshman might already be the most dangerous big-play receiver in the league, averaging 62.5 yards per catch on his six touchdowns.

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State: The senior has been a big part of the Cyclones' offense with 22 receptions for 190 yards and four touchdowns, including a one-handed scoring grab at Oklahoma State.

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor: The Bears' franchise left tackle is thriving again after a return from a season-ending back injury. He has graded out the highest on the offensive line of the nation's top scoring offense.

OL: Joey Hunt, TCU: Hunt is the best offensive lineman on the Big 12's most improved offense, which is second in the league in scoring with almost 46 points per game.

OL: B.J. Finney, Kansas State: Finney is well on his way to a third consecutive All-Big 12 season as the lynchpin of the K-State offensive line.

OL: Quinton Spain, West Virginia: He and Mark Glowinski form one of the top guard duos in the country for the league's second-best passing offense.

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech: Arkansas coach Bret Bielema singled out Clark's prowess after facing him. Despite throwing the ball on almost every down, Tech leads the league in fewest sacks allowed with Clark protecting Davis Webb's blindside.

AP: Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State: The speedy Hill has kick return touchdowns the past two weeks, and has proven to be tough and durable as well as really fast.

Defense

DE: Shawn Oakman, Baylor: The freaky 6-foot-9 end is second in the league with five sacks and fourth with eight tackles for loss.

DT: Chucky Hunter, TCU: Hunter has been the anchor of the TCU defensive line, joining Davion Pierson to give Gary Patterson's squad one disruptive duo up front.

DT: Malcom Brown, Texas: This 320-pound monster has been unblockable, and the most disruptive defensive player in the league.

DE: Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State: Ogbah has broken out with five sacks, including two on defending Heisman winner Jameis Winston in the opener. In addition to being tied for second in the Big 12 in sacks, he's also second with 9.5 tackles for loss.

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma: Striker has 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss, and his relentless pass-rushing ability makes him the primary focus of opposing offensive coordinators.

LB: Jordan Hicks, Texas: The Longhorns' fifth-year senior is racking up 10 tackles per game, and is bringing leadership to the Texas defense after an injury-plagued career.

LB: Paul Dawson, TCU: The Big 12's leading tackler is on pace for the most single-season tackles in the Gary Patterson era. He also had the game-winning pick-six to upset the Sooners.

CB: Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma: Sanchez has given up some big plays, but he's countered with big plays of his own. He's second nationally with five interceptions, including a pick-six against Texas.

CB: Danzel McDaniel, Kansas State: McDaniel hits more like a linebacker than a cornerback. He's been another impressive junior-college find for Bill Snyder.

S: Sam Carter, TCU: Carter doesn't have eye-popping numbers, but he's once again been the heart of the TCU defense.

S: Karl Joseph, West Virginia: The enforcer of the West Virginia secondary is second among Big 12 defensive backs with 45 tackles.

Special teams

K: Josh Lambert, West Virginia: All he's done is nail two game-winning field goals as time has expired to beat Maryland (47 yards) and Texas Tech (55 yards) on the road.

P: Trevor Pardula, Kansas: He's gotten plenty of chances, but he's made the most of them, averaging 44.8 yards per punt, while putting 37.8 percent of them inside the opponents' 20.

PR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State: Lockett, who is second in the nation in punt returns, once again has been an electric all-around playmaker. He's also sixth in the league in receiving.

KR: Alex Ross, Oklahoma: Ross leads the nation in kickoff returns, taking two of his nine kick returns to the house for touchdowns.
Here’s what we learned about the Big 12 in Week 7:

1. No matter how far down, Baylor is never out: TCU led the Bears by three touchdowns with just over 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter. After a pick-six, the Horned Frogs had all the momentum, too. Yet even all that wasn’t too big an obstacle for Art Briles’ club to overcome. Behind quarterback Bryce Petty, the Bears put together touchdown drives of 45, 92 and 91 yards covering a combined 3 minutes, 21 seconds to tie the game. Then after stopping TCU on fourth down, Shock Linwood (who had 104 yards rushing in the fourth quarter) bulled the Bears into field goal range to set up Chris Callahan’s 28-yard game winner, which lifted the Bears to the improbable 61-58 win. Baylor never lost its resolve, even after Marcus Mallet’s pick-six of Petty that put the Bears in a seemingly insurmountable hole. That speaks to the character of the team and of the program. And it bodes well for Baylor’s Big 12 title and playoff hopes the rest of the season.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesBryce Petty's fourth-quarter heroics on Saturday likely put the Baylor signal-caller back in the Heisman race.
2. Bryce Petty is officially in the Heisman race: After a banner junior season, Petty started out the year on the short list of Heisman contenders just below reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston. But the combination of a back injury and a soft early-season schedule knocked Petty off the radar. On Saturday, Petty returned to the Heisman picture with authority, delivering his Heisman moment -- or moments -- while rallying the Bears in the fourth quarter against TCU. Petty threw for a career-high 510 yards and six touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter. With Winston struggling and Georgia running back Todd Gurley ineligible indefinitely, the Heisman race is wide open. As long as the Bears keep winning, Petty could surge to the top of the Heisman conversation.

3. TCU still has a really good team: The Horned Frogs played phenomenally in Waco, Texas, for 50 minutes. Unfortunately for them, they had another 10 minutes still to play. This epic collapse won’t be easy to put in the rear-view mirror. The Horned Frogs had a prime opportunity to beat a top-5 team for the second straight week while putting themselves in the driver’s seat of the Big 12 title and a playoff spot. But TCU couldn't make any plays in the final 10 minutes of the fourth quarter, including a crucial failed fourth-and-3 attempt on a questionable fade call that set up Baylor's game-winning field goal. Nevertheless, this remains a very good TCU team that could still be a major player in the Big 12 title race. Which means, despite Saturday's fourth-quarter collapse, this season could be a special one for a team that is vastly improved from its first two years in the league.

4. Texas has reason for hope: The Longhorns might have lost the Red River Showdown 31-26, but they also showed there’s hope for this season and hope for this program under Charlie Strong. Texas completely dominated the box score, outperforming the Sooners in almost every statistical category. Oklahoma's big plays ultimately did Texas in. But even when the Sooners led 31-13 in the fourth quarter, the Longhorns didn’t give up. Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes threw for a career-high 334 yards and displayed tremendous poise in a building-block performance. The Texas defense was also dominant again, and is looking more and more like it might be the class of the league. With a 2-4 record, the Longhorns have an uphill climb to make a bowl game. But Strong had to feel better about his club leaving Dallas than he did arriving.

5. West Virginia, Oklahoma possess gumption: The Baylor comeback overshadowed another amazing display of resiliency in the Big 12, as the Mountaineers rallied from a late 14-point deficit to stun Texas Tech 37-34 earlier in the day. The Mountaineers scored 17 points in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter, which ended on Josh Lambert’s game-winning field goal from 55 yards out (Lambert also had the game winner that beat Maryland). The Mountaineers struggled all day offensively in Lubbock, Texas, but they turned it on when they had to. Speaking of a struggle, Oklahoma's win over Texas didn't come easy. The Sooners had just one first down the entire first half, then nearly squandered a 31-13 lead in the fourth quarter. Yet from Alex Ross’ kickoff return touchdown on the Sooners’ first touch of the game to Samaje Perine’s two third-down conversions on their final drive, the Sooners made the plays they had to make to win. Even when not at their best, good teams find a way to win. That's what the Mountaineers and Sooners did Saturday.

Big 12 stat check: Week 7

October, 8, 2014
Oct 8
5:30
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A closer look at one statistic worth keeping an eye on for each Big 12 team entering Week 6:

Baylor: When its passing game wasn't rolling like usual against Texas, Baylor resorted to running the ball 60 times in a 28-7 win. The Bears are 13-1 since the start of 2012 when they've surpassed 50 rushing attempts. The Shock Linwood-Johnny Jefferson duo combined for eight rushes of 10-plus yards against UT.

Iowa State: You can see why athletic director Jamie Pollard was upset about the end of the second half of ISU-OSU. According to ESPN win percentage data, that Pokes' odds of winning went from 57 percent to nearly 80 percent during the drive set up by the botched sky kick recovery. Tyreek Hill's kick return touchdown to start the third quarter put OSU's odds at 90.5 percent. Game over. But the truth is, the sky kick (13.4 percent) had a far greater impact on OSU's odds of winning than Desmond Roland's TD (7.7 percent).

Kansas: One obvious reason for Kansas' ineptitude on offense: its now-reopened quarterback situation. Kansas' quarterback play and production -- measured in opponent-adjusted QBR -- ranks No. 117 nationally. Only Vanderbilt and Wake Forest have worse quarterback play among Power 5 conference schools. KU's team adjusted QBR of of 26.1 is nearly 30 points below the national average.

Kansas State: The Jake Waters-to-Curry Sexton rapport has made this Kansas State offense even more dangerous. Waters is completing 77.7 percent of his passes to Sexton (28-of-36) and has a QBR of 95.9 on his pass attempts to Sexton. Waters still targets Tyler Lockett on nearly one-third of his pass attempts, but Sexton is getting one-fourth and doing a lot with it.

Oklahoma: Trevor Knight has not been very reliable when the pressure gets turned up on third down. He's completing 41.8 percent of his passes (18-of-43) on third downs and is converting for first downs on just 32.5 percent of those attempts (14-of-43).

Oklahoma State: The Cowboys have now scored 20 or more points in 57 consecutive games dating back to the start of the 2010 season. According to OSU, that streak is the longest active streak in the nation and second-longest in FBS since 1978. OSU is 45-12 and averaging 44 points per game during the streak.

TCU: In addition to ranking seventh nationally in both scoring defense and total defense, the Horned Frogs have the No. 3 efficiency defense in the country according to ESPN Stats & Info. Throw in the fact the Frogs are sixth in QBR defense and you can make a strong case that nobody is playing better defense in this conference right now.

Texas: According to the efficiency data, Texas' offense isn't its only problem. The Longhorns' special teams play ranks No. 124 nationally in efficiency and second-worst among all Power 5 conference teams behind West Virginia. The opponent-adjusted data shows Texas' special teams is worth minus-3 points on its scoring margin. That's a problem going into this big game against Oklahoma.

Texas Tech: The Red Raiders now have a minus-22 turnover margin since the start of the 2013 season. They've had a positive turnover margin in just one game under Kliff Kingsbury: plus-three against Kansas last year. In the past decade, only Iowa State has had a longer stretch (14 games in 2006-07) among Big 12 teams when it comes to not winning the turnover battle. Tech is now at 13 straight games.

West Virginia: Not a big fan of on-pace numbers, but Kevin White could be in for one of the all-time great statistical seasons by a Big 12 receiver. His current rate of 153 receiving yards per game ranks No. 1 among Big 12 wideouts in the past decade, just ahead of Michael Crabtree's 150.9 per game in the 2007 season. It'll be hard for White to sustain this rate of production, but he's been excellent through five games.
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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.
Who will have the best offense in college football this season?

The Bears essentially won that argument last year after leading the nation in points (52.4), yards (618.8), 20-yard plays (112) and yards per pass attempt (10.4).

ESPN Stats & Info has put together a case why the Bears might have the country’s best offense again. And why they might not.

[+] EnlargeShock Linwood
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesShock Linwood should get more work this season in the Baylor backfield.
The case for:

Quarterback Bryce Petty was responsible for 46 touchdowns last season, the most of any returning quarterback. He had only six turnovers, too.

The Bears bring back five of their top six receivers, including Antwan Goodley, who led the Big 12 with 1,339 receiving yards and 13 receiving touchdowns.

Baylor did lose running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, but projected starter Shock Linwood averaged 3.5 yards after contact per carry last season, which was tops among all BCS-AQ conference running backs with at least 100 carries.

Baylor scored 60 touchdowns in 2 minutes or less last season, the most of any team in at least the last decade. The Bears’ average touchdown drive lasted only 1 minute, 32 seconds. With Petty back to run the show, there’s no reason to believe Baylor will operate any slower this season.

The case against:

The Baylor offense fell back to Earth down the stretch while facing tougher opponents. The Bears faced only two defenses that ranked in the top 40 nationally in efficiency their first nine games. In those nine games, Baylor averaged 61.2 points, 8.5 yards per play and 684.8 yards per game,and was on pace to break several FBS records. But in their final four games, the Bears faced three defenses that ranked in the top 40 in efficiency. In those games, Baylor averaged just 32.5 points, 5.4 yards per play and 470.2 yards per game.

While Petty and Goodley are back, the Bears lost three starting linemen, including Outland finalist Cyril Richardson. Petty struggled at times under pressure last season, completing only 8 of 27 passes for 113 yards and no touchdowns while under pressure.

Seastrunk was the team’s leading rusher with a Big 12-best 1,117 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Martin added 514 yards and seven scores.

ESPN Stats & Info also surmises that Florida State and Oregon could have stronger offenses than Baylor in 2014.

Florida State led the country last year in yards per play (7.7) and points per drive (3.7). Those, in fact, were the best totals since Hawaii in 2006. The Seminoles return several key players offensively, including reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston.

The Ducks' offense again will feature quarterback Marcus Mariota, who is one of only two quarterbacks to post two seasons of a QBR score of 86 or better since 2004 (Boise State’s Kellen Moore was the other). Oregon also brings back its top two running backs from last season in Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner. And the Ducks were second nationally in 2013 in yards per game (565) and yards per play (7.6).

ESPN Stats & Info conclusion:

According to ESPN’s Football Power Index’s predictive offensive metric, Florida State and Oregon have college football’s top offenses heading into 2014. Despite Baylor’s gaudy output last season, FPI projects Auburn to have a better offense than the Bears, too.

Here are FPI’s top five projected best offenses, according to predicted offensive efficiency:

1. Florida State: +17.0

2. Oregon: +16.8

3. Auburn: +13.9

4. Baylor: +13.6

5. UCLA: +13.2

Preseason All-Big 12 team

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
9:00
AM ET
Today, ESPN.com released its preseason All-American team. Before Big 12 media days, we released our individual preseason All-Big 12 ballots. But to pair with the All-American team, we debated, argued and eventually settled on one Big 12 blog, consensus preseason All-Big 12 team.

Here we go:

Offense

QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor
Easy choice. Petty is the reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year after he threw for 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns with just three picks. He should be even better in Year 2 as a starter.

RB: Johnathan Gray, Texas
Malcolm Brown finished strong in place of Gray the past season, but there’s a reason Gray was Texas’ No. 1 back before he suffered an Achilles injury. Gray is healthy again, which gives Texas the best one-two punch at running back in the league.

RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor
Despite being Baylor’s third-string running back the past season, Linwood still finished sixth in the Big 12 in rushing. He’s the featured back now and could wind up the league’s top rusher.

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
Lockett was literally uncoverable at times last year. Just ask Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan, which surrendered a combined 631 receiving yards and six touchdowns to Lockett. With Jake Waters settled in at quarterback, Lockett could put up even bigger numbers in 2014.

WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor
Goodley might have been the most improved player in the league the past season. He was also one of the most dominant, with 1,339 receiving yards and a national-best five catches of 60 yards or more.

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State
With Jace Amaro gone, Bibbs takes over as the top receiving tight end threat in the league. Only Amaro had more catches and yards than Bibbs among Big 12 tight ends the past season.

OT: Spencer Drango, Baylor
With Drango in the lineup, Petty was sacked only eight times through the Bears’ first nine games last year. After Drango was sidelined with a back injury, Petty was sacked nine times in Baylor’s last four games. Suffice it to say, Petty is glad to have Drango back protecting his blindside.

OG: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech
The Red Raiders previously had plans to move Clark inside to guard, but they still have him manning left tackle this season. Whether he stays at the bookend or slides to guard, Clark is one of the most dominating offensive linemen in the league.

C: BJ Finney, Kansas State
Finney owns a Big 12-best 39 starts over the past three years. The former walk-on is also a two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection and will be the favorite to garner such recognition again as the linchpin of the K-State offensive line.

OG: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
Whitehair is capable of manning either guard or tackle, but the Wildcats will be showing their trust in him by asking him to protect Waters’ blindside this season.

OT: Daryl Williams, Oklahoma
Williams is the best piece on the league’s best offensive line, which returns four starters and plenty of capable backups.

AP: Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech
Grant finished sixth in the league in receiving yards per game, despite being the third option in Tech’s passing attack the past season. Grant is now the first option in the passing game, as well as an electric playmaker on special teams.

K: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma
The Sooners have never had an All-American kicker before, but they have a strong candidate in Hunnicutt, who converted 24 of 27 field goals the past season.

Defense

DE: Ryan Mueller, Kansas State
In 2013, Mueller finished with 11.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss, which were second in the league only to Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jackson Jeffcoat. Mueller, who also forced four fumbles, has one of the conference’s best noses for finding the ball.

DT: Chucky Hunter, TCU
The Horned Frogs still had a formidable front the past season, even without Devonte Fields, due in large part to Hunter. TCU won’t have Fields again. But Hunter is back to anchor a defensive line loaded with quality players.

DT: Malcom Brown, Texas
This former blue-chipper broke out the past season with 68 tackles, including 12 for loss. He and Cedric Reed team up to form the best inside-outside defensive line combination in the league.

DE: Cedric Reed, Texas
Reed was third in the Big 12 in 2013 with 10 sacks, fourth with 19 tackles for loss and tied for first with five forced fumbles. He gives the Longhorns a chance to feature the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season.

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma
When it comes to rushing the passer, there’s no one better in the league. Striker has spent this offseason refining other parts of his game to become a more complete player. But his pass rushing alone makes him one of the top players in the league.

LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas
Heeney was a tackling machine last year for a defense that performed valiantly despite getting little help from its offense. Heeney will get plenty of help from his defense, though, which returns eight other starters.

LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor
Hager has notched 195 tackles over the past two seasons, while twice earning second-team All-Big 12 honors. With Ahmad Dixon and Eddie Lackey gone, he takes over as the leader of a defense angling to prove it can be as good as the past year’s.

CB: Quandre Diggs, Texas
Diggs, who has never been afraid to speak his mind, is the heart and soul of the Longhorns. If the rest of the team takes on his mentality, Texas could have one feisty team in Charlie Strong’s first season.

CB: Daryl Worley, West Virginia
Despite being just a second-year player, Worley has already taken over as one of the vocal leaders of the West Virginia defense. He’s also already one of the best cover corners in the league.

SS: Sam Carter, TCU
Carter has nine interceptions the past two years, the most of any returning Big 12 player. He leads arguably the best secondary in the league, too.

FS: Karl Joseph, West Virginia
Joseph has started all 25 games for the Mountaineers since he stepped foot in Morgantown. No other returning Big 12 defensive back has more career tackles than Joseph’s 170.

P: Nick O'Toole, West Virginia
The “Boomstache” ranked 15th nationally last year, with an average of 44.1 yards per punt. He also has the best mustache in the league, which has to count for something.
With the opening weekend of college football just a little more than a week away, we make some calls on who some of the top passers, rushers and receivers might be:

After Bryce Petty, Davis Webb, Trevor Knight and Jake Waters, who will lead the Big 12 in passing?

Chatmon: This is a tough one, but I’m going to go with West Virginia’s Clint Trickett. The Mountaineers have the skill-position talent to support Trickett, and the senior has a year of experience in Dana Holgorsen’s offense under his belt. I fully expect to see an improved Mountaineers’ offense and Trickett should play a key role in that improvement.

Olson: Gee, we’ve really narrowed that down, haven’t we? The best way I can put my answer is this: Oklahoma State will finish with more passing yards as a team than Texas, so I guess I have to go with J.W. Walsh. While I can envision Daxx Garman earning a couple starts at some point, I still think Walsh will put up good numbers. David Ash might be a smarter choice here, but his injury history makes it a tough call.

Trotter: I can’t pick any of the quarterbacks from Oklahoma State or TCU, since it’s still unclear how much any of them will play. And I can’t go with Montell Cozart, given that his best asset right now is his wheels. That leaves Ash, Trickett and Sam B. Richardson. Ash has an injury history. Then again, so do Trickett and Richardson.And while West Virginia and Iowa State have other intriguing quarterback options, Texas really does not.This is Ash’s show. And he has shown at times in the past he has the ability to put up big passing numbers.

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Gray
David K Purdy/Getty ImagesJohnathan Gray is a consensus pick to lead the Big 12 in rushing this season.
Who will lead the league in rushing?

Chatmon: Johnathan Gray is a easy choice for me. A healthy Gray is easily the best running back in the Big 12, and Texas’ offense will be built around its running game. Gray, who has a 4.8 yards-per-carry average in his career, will get plenty of opportunities, and he will take advantage of them.

Olson: Gray. It’s a really difficult prediction because I do think Shock Linwood will surpass 1,000 yards. I also think Baylor loves Devin Chafin and Johnny Jefferson enough that there’s going to be a equitable sharing of carries in Waco. Texas, meanwhile, won’t have Baylor’s passing game and should go all-in on a run-first mentality. Gray was on pace for more than 1,100 yards last year before his Achilles tear. He’s healthy again, and I think he can have a huge year.

Trotter: I have to agree with Brandon and Max. When healthy, Gray has proven to be the best all-around back in the league, and he is the best bet here. But keep an eye on Oklahoma State running back Tyreek Hill. If the Cowboys make him their offensive workhorse, he has the big-play ability to have a monster season. Sure, durability would be a question. But speed would not.

After Tyler Lockett and Antwan Goodley, who will lead the Big 12 in receiving?

Chatmon: Jakeem Grant immediately comes to mind here, but I’m going to go with Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard. The Sooners’ passing game should be improved with an improved Knight, and Shepard has the skills to make defenses play for leaving him in one-on-one situations. Grant will garner increased attention from secondaries while Shepard, helped by OU’s running game, should have more chances to make game-changing plays.

Olson: Did you know: In 2013, six of the Big 12’s top eight receivers in yardage played for either Baylor or Texas Tech. So I would be pretty stupid not to go with Grant here. Not only was he one of those six and very productive as a No. 3 option, but he’s also going to get a nice chunk of the 106 receptions (!) and 152 targets (!!!) that went to Jace Amaro last year. Tech’s No. 2 option, Eric Ward, had more catches (83) and targets (122) than Goodley. That’s insane. Grant is going to feast on their leftovers.

Trotter: Grant missed two games and was the third banana in Tech’s passing offense last year. And he still finished sixth in the league in receiving. With Ward and Amaro gone, Grant will take over as the Red Raiders’ primary receiving threat. And with quarterback Webb budding with confidence and the Red Raiders primed to air it out, Grant is easily the best bet here.
The unfortunate part of our Top 25 ranking of the Big 12’s best players is that only 25 players can make the cut.

We’re down to the unveiling of the final five players, which will come out Friday morning. You can review who has made the list so far by clicking here.

But what about the players who narrowly didn't make the list?

SportsNation

Who has the biggest gripe being left out of our top 25 ranking of the Big 12's best players?

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    33%
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    15%
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    18%
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    19%
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    15%

Discuss (Total votes: 6,088)

When putting this ranking together, we gathered a strong case for a dozen other players who didn’t make it -- standouts like Oklahoma receiver Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma offensive tackle Daryl Williams, TCU cornerback Kevin White, West Virginia safety Karl Joseph, Texas center Dominic Espinosa and Kansas wideout Nick Harwell, who once finished second in the country in receiving at Miami (Ohio).

But there were five players specifically who were the most difficult to leave out, including two of the league’s top returning running backs.

Malcolm Brown was previously known as Johnathan Gray's wing man in the Texas backfield. But Brown proved he could handle a starring role after Gray suffered a season-ending Achilles injury Nov. 9. Brown stepped in and rushed for 128, 131 and 130 yards in the Longhorns’ final three games. Gray, who did make our top 25 list, is back from the Achilles tear. But Brown will still be a big part of the Texas offense.

Baylor’s Shock Linwood also started out last season in a backup role. But when Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin both suffered injuries against Oklahoma, Linwood stepped in and the offense didn’t miss a beat. He rushed for 182 yards against the Sooners, then 187 the following week against Texas Tech. Despite being Baylor’s third-team running back, Linwood finished sixth in the Big 12 in rushing. With Seastrunk and Martin gone, Linwood will step into the starting lineup full time this season.

The other notable omissions from our top 25 reside in the trenches.

Oklahoma defensive tackle Jordan Phillips was on his way to an All-Big 12 type of campaign before suffering a season-ending back injury. Phillips is healthy again and might be the best player on one of the nation’s deepest and most disruptive defensive lines.

On the other side of the ball, West Virginia guard Quinton Spain and Kansas State tackle Cody Whitehair were on my preseason All-Big 12 ballot. Spain has 26 career starts and might be the best guard in the league after Texas Tech’s Le'Raven Clark. Whitehair is also a two-year starter and earned second-team All-Big 12 honors as a sophomore last year. Whitehair has moved to left tackle, where he’ll be protecting the blind side of quarterback Jake Waters.

Now, we put the question to you in our weekly Big 12 poll.

Who has the biggest gripe being left out of our Big 12 Top 25 player rankings?
The Doak Walker Award watch list was released Thursday morning, with five Big 12 running backs making the list. The award goes to the top running back in college football.

Here are the Big 12 players who made the list:
Five days before Big 12 media days get underway, the conference has released its official preseason All-Big 12 team as well as its preseason award-winners, as voted on by conference media.

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty was named Big 12 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. No surprise there. Oklahoma State RB/WR Tyreek Hill, the speedy juco transfer from Garden City (Kansas) Community College, received preseason Newcomer of the Year honors.

The more debatable award, preseason Defensive Player of the Year, went to TCU defensive end Devonte Fields. He played in just three games in 2013 due to a foot injury but was voted the league's top defender and newcomer in 2012 as a true freshman.

Baylor led the way with seven players on the All-Big 12 team. Kansas State had five selections on the squad, and Oklahoma received four. Only one Big 12 program -- Oklahoma State -- did not have at least one player make the team.

All-Big 12 Team

QB Bryce Petty, Baylor
RB Shock Linwood, Baylor
RB Malcolm Brown, Texas
WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
WR Antwan Goodley, Baylor
TE E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State
OL Spencer Drango, Baylor
OL Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
OL B.J. Finney, Kansas State
OL Daryl Williams, Oklahoma
OL Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

DL Ryan Mueller, Kansas State
DL Devonte Fields, TCU
DL Chucky Hunter, TCU
DL Cedric Reed, Texas
LB Bryce Hager, Baylor
LB Ben Heeney, Kansas
LB Eric Striker, Oklahoma
DB Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma
DB Sam Carter, TCU
DB Quandre Diggs, Texas
DB Karl Joseph, West Virginia

PK Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma
P Spencer Roth, Baylor
KR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
PR Levi Norwood, Baylor

There aren't many snubs to be found from this year's team. You can make a case for a bunch of other players -- TCU cornerback Kevin White, Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman, Texas' Johnathan Gray and Malcom Brown, West Virginia's Quinton Spain and Nick O'Toole. But based on 2013 performance, this list looks about right.

Any more exclusions stand out to you? Should Ryan Mueller or someone else win DPOY? Hit us with your complaints in the comments below.

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