Big 12: Tyreek Hill

Poll: Big 12's best return man?

October, 30, 2014
Oct 30
10:00
AM ET
It's the moment Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia fans hold their breath for.

When Tyler Lockett, Alex Ross, Tyreek Hill or Mario Alford set up for a kick or punt return, the game might change in a manner of seconds. All four players have returns for touchdowns this season.

But which one is the Big 12's top return man? Well, that's up to you.

SportsNation

Who is the Big 12's top return man?

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    12%
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    10%
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    44%
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    34%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,101)

Oklahoma's Alex Ross leads the conference in kick return average at 38 yards per return with a pair of kick returns for touchdowns. The sophomore running back has returned 41.7 percent of his kickoff returns for 30 yards or more, best in the Big 12 and his average of one kickoff return for a touchdown every six opportunities also sits atop the conference. His terrific speed has made him a deadly threat allowing the Sooners to count on good field position, either from a Ross return or teams trying to kick away from him.

West Virginia's Mario Alford is second in the conference at 31.08 yards per kickoff return. The Mountaineers receiver is silky smooth with an uncanny ability to accelerate and leave defenders in his wake. He has two kickoff returns for touchdowns and has returned 30.8 percent of his kickoff returns for at least 30 yards, third in the Big 12.

Ranking among the league leaders in kickoff and punt returns, Oklahoma State's Tyreek Hill is the best dual return threat in the league. His 26.58 yards per kick return average is third in the conference and his 7.43 yards per punt return ranks fourth. His four punt returns for 20 yards or more is tied for the league lead and he's returned two kickoffs for score to join Ross and Alford atop that list. His blazing speed makes him a nightmare for special teams coordinators.

Tyler Lockett doesn't leave a trail of smoke behind him like the other returners on the list but he does tend to leave a trail of frustrated defenders. The Kansas State receiver first made his name in the Big 12 as a returner during his freshman season and has continued to be a threat on returns even as he's elevated himself to one of the Big 12's top receivers. The senior is averaging an eye-popping 23.6 yards per punt return, easily the best in the Big 12 and he's returned a punt for a score. His impact on kickoff returns (5 returns for 91 yards) has been minimal but ask any Big 12 coach if they think it is a good idea to kick to him.

Texas Tech's Jakeem Grant, TCU's Cameron Echols-Luper and Texas' Jaxon Shipley are other returners who have made opponents think twice before kicking to them this season.

Who do you think is the Big 12's top return man? Vote now and leave your comment below.

ESPN.com midseason All-Big 12 team

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
11:00
AM ET
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.

Big 12 midseason overview

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
10:30
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Halfway through the season and this much is already clear: The Big 12 title chase will be a fascinating one. Six teams remain alive in a race that still looks wide open. After somehow surviving TCU, Baylor is the league's lone remaining undefeated team. But the Bears have a couple of tough games away from home coming up, including a trip to West Virginia this weekend.

But instead of just looking ahead, we're also looking back in our Big 12 midseason overview. Who has been the league's offensive MVP? Its defensive MVP? Its biggest surprise? Its biggest disappointment?

Find out in our Big 12 midseason overview:

[+] EnlargeKevin White
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsWest Virginia receiver Kevin White has amassed at least 100 yards in each game so far this season.
Offensive MVP: Even though the Mountaineers have faced one of the nation’s toughest schedules in the first half of the season, West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White has been unstoppable. White, who has at least 100 yards receiving in every game so far, leads the country with 888 receiving yards, placing him within striking distance of challenging Michael Crabtree’s Big 12 single-season record of 1,962 receiving yards.

Defensive MVP: The Longhorns are off to their worst start in 58 years, but that’s not the fault of Malcom Brown. The behemoth Texas defensive tackle has been unblockable as the Longhorns have locked up the offenses of Baylor and Oklahoma the past two weeks. He leads the Longhorns with nine tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and three quarterback hurries. Texas has played defense as well as anyone in the league since Big 12 play began. Brown is the biggest reason.

Biggest surprise: The Horned Frogs had been a disappointment their first two years in the league, compiling a measly conference record of 6-12. This season, the Frogs have finally arrived. TCU stunned Oklahoma 37-33 two weeks ago to jump into the Big 12 title and national playoff conversation. The Frogs had a chance last weekend to take total command of the Big 12 but couldn’t preserve a 21-point fourth-quarter lead at Baylor. Still, the surprise Frogs remain in the thick of the Big 12 race. Who knows, maybe even in the playoff picture, too.

Biggest disappointment: Coming into the season, Texas Tech had high hopes it could capitalize on its dominating win over Arizona State in last season's Holiday Bowl and emerge as a surprise contender for the Big 12 crown. Instead, after a 2-4 start the Red Raiders are in danger of missing out on a bowl for just the second time since 1999. Tech leads the country in penalties and the Big 12 in turnovers lost. The Red Raiders haven’t been able to stop anyone, either, with the league’s worst statistical defense. After the disastrous start, Tech faces the monumental task of having to upset TCU, Oklahoma or Baylor just to avoid a losing season.

Newcomer of the year: In Stillwater, they call him “The Freak.” So far, Oklahoma State’s Tyreek Hill has lived up to that moniker. The fastest player in the Big 12 ranks second in the league in all-purpose yards. He opened the second half against Iowa State with a kickoff return touchdown, then took one to the house late in the fourth quarter at Kansas to lift the Cowboys to a 27-20 win. Yet his most impressive performance came in the opener against defending national champ Florida State, when he racked up 278 all-purpose yards in Oklahoma State’s near-upset of the Seminoles. Hill has lived up to the preseason hype, and then some.

Best coach: After a 4-8 season last year, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen was on the hot seat coming into 2014. But just halfway in, he’s already solidified his job status while turning around the Mountaineers. Despite facing a brutal early-season schedule, West Virginia is 4-2, with its only two hard-fought losses coming against Alabama and Oklahoma. He’s also helped turn quarterback Clint Trickett into one of the most improved players in the league and orchestrated a passing offense that has been prolific. This weekend, the Mountaineers even have a chance to jump into the Big 12 title conversation against Baylor.

Best game: This one is easy. This past weekend, TCU-Baylor provided more than four hours of high drama, with the Bears rallying from a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit to stun the Horned Frogs 61-58 as time expired. It was the most points ever scored between two teams ranked in the top 10. And it was a must-see classic.

Biggest games of the second half:

Kansas State at Oklahoma (Oct. 18): OU needs this win to stay in the Big 12 and playoff races. K-State needs it to join the Big 12 and playoff races.

Baylor at West Virginia (Oct. 18): This is West Virginia's last chance to be a factor in the Big 12 title conversation.

Oklahoma State at TCU (Oct. 18): One of these two teams will be eliminated from the playoff picture this weekend.

Baylor at Oklahoma (Nov. 8): The Bears have never won in Norman, but they'll probably have to this time to defend their Big 12 title.

Kansas State at TCU (Nov. 8): Everyone thought Baylor-Oklahoma would be the game of the year in the Big 12, but this game the same weekend looms large.

Kansas State at West Virginia (Nov. 20): Morgantown will be abuzz for this Thursday night clash.

Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (Dec. 6): Bedlam almost always goes down to the wire.

Kansas State at Baylor (Dec. 6): This regular-season finale could carry major Big 12 title implications.

Big 12 morning links

October, 6, 2014
Oct 6
8:00
AM ET
Katy Perry, meet Tyler Knight.
  • After his team beat Texas 28-7, Baylor coach Art Briles complained to reporters about the way the Big 12 configured the Bears' early conference schedule. "We open up Big 12 conference play as reigning champions," Briles said. "We didn’t finish eighth last year. How do we get rewarded? We go to Iowa State and go to Austin to open up conference play." I'm not sure I understand Briles' gripe. The 2014 conference schedule was constructed Nov. 5 of last year, weeks before the Bears actually won the Big 12 title. And by the way, Oklahoma, which has been the class of the league for more than decade, will actually play three games away from Norman -- at West Virginia, at TCU and Texas in Dallas -- to start the conference season.
  • Speaking of Baylor, Bears starting defensive end Jamal Palmer will miss the remainder of the year after suffering a torn ACL against Texas, the Waco Tribune-Herald's John Werner reported. Palmer, who has been a key part of the Baylor's defense since 2012, was an honorable-mention All-Big 12 pick last year. The Bears still have enough talent and depth on the defensive line to overcome the Palmer injury. But for a team with big aspirations, it never helps to lose a veteran starter.
  • TCU coach Gary Patterson accused Oklahoma transfer quarterback Baker Mayfield of stealing signs in TCU's 37-33 win. Mayfield played under first-year TCU co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie at Texas Tech last year. "Old Baker Mayfield was on the sidelines and calling out every freaking signal we had," TCU QB Trevone Boykin told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Travis L. Brown after the game. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops sort of denied that Mayfield was stealing signs, though it sure looked like he was on the sidelines. This is the second time this season a Big 12 coach has accused an opponent of stealing signs. Kansas State's Bill Snyder accused Auburn of the same last month. There's nothing illegal about it. It happens frequently in college football. And Cumbie should have been prepared that it might happen. But it's not exactly a good look for the Sooners, either.
  • Former Texas coach Mack Brown has been contacted by representatives from SMU about the school's vacant coaching job, the Austin American-Statesman's Kirk Bohls reported. “He was approached, I was approached, but he’s not interested in coaching anywhere right now," Brown's attorney, Joe Jamail, told Bohls. "He misses it, frankly, but he loves being on ESPN." Brown would be a great fit for SMU, the same way Larry Brown has been for the SMU basketball team. Mack Brown has plenty left in the tank and the connections in the state to get players to Dallas. Brown has said he's going to wait until December before deciding whether he wants to coach again. I hope he does.
  • Mike Gundy told The Oklahoman's Kyle Fredrickson that Oklahoma State running back/receiver/returner Tyreek Hill has been better utilized as a decoy lately. Hill had only 11 offensive touches for 27 yards in the 37-20 win over Iowa State. "They're so zoned into to him," Gundy said. "When he's on the field, they're moving toward him, crowding him." The Cowboys are wise to take advantage of the mismatches that Hill's presence create elsewhere. But they also have to do better getting him touches in space. As his 97-yard kickoff return touchdown to open the second half underscored, Hill is way too electric to be used merely as a decoy.

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 6

October, 5, 2014
Oct 5
9:00
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Honoring the best performances from the Big 12 in Week 6:

QB Trevone Boykin, TCU: Not many people expected him to outplay Trevor Knight, but Boykin did that and a lot more. He made a statement on a national stage, throwing for 318 yards and two scores and rushing for 77 in TCU's 37-33 upset of No. 4 Oklahoma. Boykin ranks No. 7 among FBS quarterbacks in total offense and is playing like arguably the Big 12's most improved player.

LBs Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet, TCU: What a day for these two. Dawson jumped a fourth-quarter pass from Knight and returned it 41 yards for the go-ahead touchdown that proved to be the winning score. Then Mallet stuffed Samaje Perine on fourth-and-1 to kill a Sooners drive that had reached the TCU 22-yard line. The duo also combined for 21 tackles and helped TCU hold Perine to 87 rushing yards and OU to 152 on the ground.

DT Beau Blackshear, Baylor: Art Briles rightfully lauded Blackshear as one of the unsung heroes of Baylor's 28-7 victory. Not only did he block a 52-yard field goal attempt that Baylor returned for a touchdown, he also recovered Texas' fumbled snap at the 1-yard line to stop a touchdown. In a tight first half, that's an absolutely critical 14-point swing in Baylor's favor.

QB Jake Waters, Kansas State: It's probably time to start crediting Waters with becoming a dual threat. In addition to his 290 passing yards and four TDs on efficient 24-of-31 passing, Waters also broke runs of 50, 22, 19 and 18 yards to finish with 105 on 17 carries in a 45-13 beatdown of Texas Tech. He's already surpassed his rushing total from 2013 with 320 yards through five games.

RB Rushel Shell, West Virginia: Shell broke 100 yards for the first time in his brief time at West Virginia, rushing for 113 and a touchdown to help pace WVU's 33-14 win over Kansas. While Kevin White and Mario Alford continue to make huge plays, the Pittsburgh transfer has scored in four consecutive games and is giving this unit importance balance.

WR Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State: The Big 12's most dangerous man struck again, adding a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to his highlight reel. Hill finished with 222 all-purpose yards in OSU's 37-20 victory over Iowa State and, between offensive snaps and returns, he touched the ball 21 times. He ran his nearly 100-yard dash in under 11 seconds despite needing a juke and a stiff-arm to break free. That's blazing.
Thursday night, Oklahoma State defeated Texas Tech 45-35 in the Big 12 opener for both teams.

Here were my thoughts on the game:

The long ball figures to be Oklahoma State’s bread-and-butter going forward with Garman: This is not the sharpest offense Oklahoma State has featured under Mike Gundy. But with Daxx Garman at quarterback and some big-play receivers at his disposal, this offense has the ability to throw the ball downfield as well as any offense Gundy has had. Garman completed six passes of 30 yards or more against Tech, and had chances to connect on several others. Marcell Ateman, true freshman James Washington, Tyreek Hill and tight ends Blake Jarwin and Jeremy Seaton were all part of the barrage. Brandon Sheperd, Jhajuan Seales and David Glidden all have the ability to go deep, too. At varying times since 2011, the Cowboys have been seeking a consistent offensive identity. They now appear to have one. It’s a little bit feast or famine, underscored by a drive chart Thursday that included six three-and-outs. But with all six of their touchdown drives against Tech coming in five plays or fewer, the Cowboys showed they are also capable of putting up points at any moment.

Tech won’t break out of its slump until it eradicates the penalties: The Red Raiders played much better in Stillwater than they did in the 49-28 home thumping Arkansas gave them two weeks ago. Quarterback Davis Webb came out on fire, and the Red Raiders basically controlled the game through the entire first half. Yet, Tech still trailed at halftime 21-14. The reason? Penalties and turnovers. Tech was penalized 16 times for 158 yards, and currently leads the nation with almost 106 penalty yards per game. Jakeem Grant had a kickoff return for a touchdown negated by a holding call. The Red Raiders also lost an opportunity at a field-goal try because of a delay of game. That’s 10 points Tech left on the field in a game it lost by, that’s right, 10 points. "I have to figure out something to tone that down, because we are not going to win any more games the rest of the year if we keep doing stuff like that," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. Kingsbury is right. No matter what else Tech does, it is going to be a long season until the Red Raiders correct their penalty problem, and fast.

The Cowboys have to get Hill more involved: Hill is an immense talent. But since the opener against Florida State, the Cowboys have struggled to find ways to get the speedy back involved. Before the season, Gundy said he wanted to get Hill 20-25 touches per game. But in each of Oklahoma State’s past three games, Hill has gotten exactly nine offensive touches. The Cowboys actually did a better job of involving Hill in the second half Thursday. In the third quarter, they lined him up in the slot, and he beat the defense down the middle for a 50-yard touchdown. Later in the quarter, Hill popped through on a well-designed, 17-yard draw on third-and-18, which led to a first-down conversion on fourth-and-1. That draw was the key play on a drive that ended with a field goal that put the Cowboys up by two scores for good. Hill is too explosive, though, to only be getting nine offensive touches per game. But the second half could be a sign offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich is finally getting a feel for how to utilize Hill more often.

What Oklahoma State can take from this game: Before the season, this was the key game on the Cowboys’ schedule. With it now out of the way, Oklahoma State has a great chance to move to 5-1 before heading to Fort Worth for an Oct. 18 clash at TCU. The Cowboys still have plenty to correct before then. The offensive line yet again didn’t impose its will in the running game, despite facing a defensive front that gave up 438 yards on the ground to Arkansas. The Oklahoma State defense also had issues early on covering up Tech’s nickel-and-dime passing attack, and was dreadful at times with its tackling. That said, there is a lot to like about this team in what was supposedly going to be a rebuilding year. The offense with Garman has big-play ability. And the defense is loaded with young players who seem to be getting better with every appearance. Oklahoma State doesn’t have the look yet of a Big 12 contender. But the Cowboys could still do a lot of damage in the league.

What Texas Tech can take from this game: This was actually the best game Tech has played so far this season. Webb was on point early, and Grant, Reginald Davis and Bradley Marquez made big plays in the passing game. The run defense also made huge improvement in Mike Smith’s first game as coordinator, limiting the Cowboys to just 3.8 yards per carry. But while plugging the run, the Red Raiders were left vulnerable downfield, and the Tech defensive backs repeatedly failed to make plays in one-on-one situations. Even then, had it not been for the penalties and three turnovers, this was a game Tech could have won. In many ways, this is a performance the Red Raiders can build on. But it won’t amount to much unless they can also fix their penalty problem.

Roundtable: Most intriguing matchup

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
1:00
PM ET
With seven games against Power 5 conference opponents, this is a huge week for the Big 12. We examine that and other storylines in our weekly Big 12 roundtable:

Which Big 12 matchup are you most looking forward to this weekend?

Max Olson: While watching UTSA give Arizona all it could handle last week, I had to wonder if the rising Roadrunners were playing well enough to beat Kansas or Iowa State. Well, we get to find out on Saturday when UTSA travels to Stillwater. Larry Coker's bunch doesn't have much star power besides a stout defensive line, but they play sound football and can keep it close against an OSU team that might not have J.W. Walsh. An upset win would be absolutely gigantic for this upstart.

Brandon Chatmon: Texas Tech’s battle with Arkansas is intriguing. The Red Raiders will look to rebound after a slow start, albeit two wins, to start the season. Arkansas will try to pound the ball and control the clock so whichever team controls the tempo is likely to win the game. The key for Tech is to start showing some improvement by limiting turnovers and penalties, otherwise it could be looking at a potential loss against an SEC foe.

Jake Trotter: I’m interested to see how West Virginia fares in a payback game against Maryland. The Terrapins returned 17 starters from a squad that throttled the Mountaineers 37-0 last season. But West Virginia has the look of a different team so far. If the Mountaineers also go to Maryland and win, it will be a signal West Virginia might actually be for real this season.

In light of its performance against BYU, does Texas has have hope for the rest of the year?

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsCharlie Strong's Longhorns get a tough test against UCLA on Saturday.
 Olson: Let's not call them dead just yet, but a 2-4 start seems like a distinct possibility now. If UCLA blows them out of the water, it's hard to envision a scenario in which the Longhorns trip up Baylor or Oklahoma without an absolutely perfect day of defense. The hope rests on the defense coming together as one of the nation's best and, in either Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard, the discovery of a quarterback who can lead this team in 2015 and beyond if David Ash is indeed done.

Chatmon: Yes, just look at last year. The loss to BYU was bad, really bad. But the same thing happened in 2013 yet UT still found itself playing for a Big 12 title on the final day of the regular season. I don’t expect them to match that feat again, but I still think 6-8 wins is possible if the Longhorns can get things turned around and somehow survive this four-game stretch of UCLA, Kansas, Baylor and Oklahoma.

Trotter: I don’t have a lot of hope for Texas. Yeah, the Longhorns bounced back after last season’s BYU debacle. But that offense wasn’t gutted to the point this one has been. I just don’t see Texas scoring enough points to avoid a 2-4 start. And after that, the Longhorns would still have road trips to Kansas State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. It’s not unthinkable that Texas misses out on a bowl game, which would be a disappointing start to the Charlie Strong era in Austin.

What player has impressed you most so far this season?

Olson: Just from an instant-impact standpoint, KD Cannon and Justin Stockton come to mind. But I covered their recruitments and watched them play live in high school at Mount Pleasant and Cibolo Steele, respectively so their play early on hasn't shocked me at all. Two guys who have my respect two weeks in are Clint Trickett and Jake Waters. They're underrated gamers, they've gotten sharper, and they're leading their teams at a high level right now.

Chatmon: This one’s easy. Somehow, someway, Tyreek Hill has been even better than advertised for Oklahoma State. I had my reservations about the track star heading into the season, but his performance against Florida State proved he is a football player not a track guy having fun on the gridiron. And OSU’s use of Hill has been smart as the Cowboys have looked to get him the ball in several different ways. Hill looks poised for a all-conference season.

Trotter: Trickett has impressed me the most so far. He ranks 22nd nationally in QBR, and I’m not sure that rating does justice to how well he’s played. Through two games, he’s completing 75 percent of his passes, a year after he connected on only 53 percent of his throws. As a result, Dana Holgorsen’s offense has been humming. He still has more to prove, including this weekend against Maryland. But if he plays this way the rest of the season, West Virginia will win a lot of games.
Tyreek Hill’s position on Oklahoma State’s official online roster says it all.

The junior college transfer is not listed as a running back, kick returner or receiver. The uncommon description “athlete” sits beside his name while the rest of his Oklahoma State teammates have been pigeonholed into a specific position.

In his breakout debut against Florida State, the label fit Hill perfectly. He ran around Seminoles defenders with devastating speed on one play, then broke between the tackles for a short gain on the next. FSU’s defenders experienced something Oklahoma State defenders learned a long time ago while trying to chase Hill down during practice.

“The angles are definitely different,” linebacker Ryan Simmons said of trying to corral his teammate in practice. “[One time] he got a sweep play and one person missed [their assignment on] the edge and nobody was touching him.”

That exceptional speed was on display last weekend as Hill turned on another gear multiple times against the Seminoles to pull away from a defense known for its speed and athleticism.

Tyreek Hill, Jalen Ramsey
Tony Gutierrez/Associated PressOklahoma State's coaches don't want to overuse Tyreek Hill after his scintillating debut.
“I’ve never coached anybody as fast and as explosive as Tyreek is,” offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said of Hill, who earned All-American honors in indoor track last spring and is the reigning Big 12 indoor 200-meter champion.

The Cowboys coaching staff knew Hill had blazing speed before his debut game with the Pokes, which included 278 all-purpose yards as he stuffed the stat sheet with 140 kick return yards, 62 receiving yards, 44 rushing yards and 32 punt return yards in a 37-31 loss to the Seminoles. He averaged 12.2 yards per touch against FSU on 22 total touches. But his durability and toughness was on display for the first time in a game as he showed he’s not a track guy who plays football; he’s a football player who excels on the track.

“We knew what we had there,” Yurcich said. “You’re always concerned with durability, and when it’s live and in color, it is different. Those questions were answered. He did a great job for us. He was really tough and physical.”

The disappointment of the loss was softened by the realization that Hill was living up to the hype that he carried in the season as the Big 12’s Preseason Newcomer of the Year. Now, the Cowboys task is to make sure not to overload the Georgia native by putting too much of the playmaking burden on his shoulders every Saturday.

Seeing Hill make an impact in the season opener in four different ways would make anyone dream of the options at Oklahoma State's disposal. Yet Yurcich knows he has to be smart about how he uses Hill, as a healthy Hill could be the difference between a win or a loss in conference play.

“We just have to be careful,” Yurcich said. “The funny thing is he’s so hungry and he wants to play. From an offensive coordinator’s standpoint, it’s hard to say no to that. It’s going to be up to the running backs coach, the special teams coach or the head coach to say 'whoa' for me not to call upon No. 24.”

Running Hill between the tackles won’t become the focal point of Oklahoma State's offense, particularly with Desmond Roland's ability to excel in that role. The Cowboys' preseason goal of getting Hill 15-20 touches per game will focus on maximizing his opportunities in the open field in one-on-one situations with defenders.

“You have to pick and choose,” Yurcich said. “You have to make sure those touches are meaningful and the right kind of touches. We don’t want to jam him in there with nine guys in the box.

“We’ll try to keep him in space as much as possible.”

OSU, WVU look to build off openers

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
2:25
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Oklahoma State and West Virginia might both be 0-1.

But the way they lost their openers has completely changed the outlook for the rest of their seasons.

For the better, too.

The Cowboys took defending national champion Florida State to the wire. The Mountaineers went toe-to-toe with second-ranked Alabama.

[+] EnlargeKevin White, Bradley Sylve
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsWest Virginia's Kevin White had nine receptions for 143 yards and a touchdown against Alabama.
 Before last weekend, Oklahoma State was thought to be in rebuilding mode. Facing a brutal schedule, West Virginia seemed headed for another year without a bowl.

Not anymore in Stillwater.

And not anymore in Morgantown.

“They should be able to establish a certain level of confidence from the way we played,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said of his team. “The second half we were very competitive. Once they got up and going and realized they could play with the speed that Florida State brought to the table, they were much better. And so I think there’s a certain amount of confidence they should have developed from that game.”

The Mountaineers should take plenty of confidence out of their opener with Alabama, too.

West Virginia went into Atlanta almost a four-touchdown underdog. But on the first drive, the Mountaineers took it right to the Crimson Tide. Rushel Shell grinded out tough yards between the tackles, while quarterback Clint Trickett fired completions all over the field. The opening drive stalled inside the Alabama 5-yard line, leading to a field goal. But the Crimson Tide quickly learned they’d have a fight on their hands.

“We’re not interested in any moral victories,” Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said Monday. “But we felt like we could play with those guys. And went into the game with a good frame of mind that was going to happen. And it did.”

Coming off an injury-riddled year in which he was still learning Holgorsen’s offense, Trickett looked like a completely different quarterback. With perfect poise and even more perfect hair, he completed 29 of 45 passes for 365 yards -- the second-highest passing total a Nick Saban defense had ever allowed at Alabama.

“Clint is a completely different quarterback than he was last year,” West Virginia receiver Jordan Thompson told reporters after the game. “People are basing our team off of what we were last year. We were inexperienced last year. Everybody now has a year under their belts. We’re healthier, stronger, faster, a little bigger, but most of all we’re more experienced, and Clint’s the No. 1 difference.”

Mario Alford and Kevin White were difference-makers, too. Against one of the top-rated defensive backfields in the country, White showed he could flourish as West Virginia’s first go-to wideout since Stedman Bailey. White hauled in nine receptions for 143 yards and a 19-yard touchdown pass. Alford, meanwhile, kick-started a return unit that ranked last in the Big 12 last fall, returning a kick 100 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.

Defensively, the Mountaineers should get better, too. They struggled to contain Alabama’s powerful rushing attack up front. But at the back end Karl Joseph finished with 18 tackles and Daryl Worley pick off a pass, underscoring the playmaking West Virginia will have in its secondary this season.

Ultimately, the Mountaineers dropped too many passes and coughed up too many touchdown chances to pull off the upset. But along the way, they learned they can play with anyone in the country, which should do wonders for a program that has struggled the past season-and-a-half.

“Our guys are in a good place right now,” Holgorsen said. “That’s the standard that we need to play with. And if we can play with that kind of mentality the whole year, we’ll have a good team.”

[+] EnlargeJ.W. Walsh
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY SportsAfter a slow start, J.W. Walsh and the Cowboys regrouped against defending champion Florida State.
 If the Cowboys continue playing the way they did in Arlington, Texas, they might have a great team.

With the fewest returning starters among any team from a Power 5 conference, Oklahoma State’s young squad seemed to be on the verge of getting blown out after falling behind 17-0 in the second quarter.

Instead, the Cowboys hung tough. Quarterback J.W. Walsh settled down after a rocky start. Tyreek Hill began running away from anyone wearing a white Seminoles jersey. And Oklahoma State’s defensive line began imposing its will against Heisman winner Jameis Winston and a Florida State offensive line starting five seniors.

"We saw our team grow a little bit and mature," Gundy said. "I wasn't really sure how a number of players would react, and I think we learned that they'll fight and compete. We were in a really tough situation at one point, being down 17 points to a really good football team, but they kept their focus. I was proud of them for that."

Every time Florida State made a play, the Cowboys answered. And only after the Seminoles -- who won every regular-season game last season by least two touchdowns -- recovered an onside kick in the final minutes could they rest easy.

The Cowboys figure to be favored in at least their next five games, with the key tilt coming Sept. 25 at home against Texas Tech. And as Saturday showed, Oklahoma State has the pieces to transform its season outlook from rebuilder to Big 12 contender.

"We've got a lot of things to work on, and we had our mistakes, but there's obviously a lot of talent,” said slot receiver David Glidden, who hauled in a 55-yard touchdown bomb against the Seminoles. “There are a lot of guys who can play the game of football pretty well.”

The Cowboys and Mountaineers didn’t win Saturday. But based on how they played, plenty of victories could be on the way.

Big 12 Weekend Rewind: Week 1

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
1:30
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Taking stock of Week 1 in the Big 12:

Teams of the week: Yes, West Virginia and Oklahoma State might have ultimately lost. But as heavy underdogs, they also took the top two ranked teams in the country to the wire on neutral sites. Both squads should gain a ton of confidence from their performances. And assuming they both play the way they did in their openers, their 2014 outlooks will look much different than they did in the preseason.

Disappointment of the week: Iowa State lost its season opener to an FCS opponent for the second straight year. The Cyclones jumped to a 14-0 lead, then got dominated by North Dakota State the rest of the way. Iowa State could be without leading receiver Quenton Bundrage for awhile. And the schedule doesn’t get any easier, with the next four opponents all coming off bowl appearances.

Big (offensive) man on campus: West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett was terrific in the loss, throwing for 365 yards -- the second-most a Nick Saban Alabama team had ever allowed behind Johnny Manziel in 2013. Trickett also completed 29 of 45 passes, and would have had more completions had it not been for several drops.

Big (defensive) man on campus: Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman was unblockable against SMU Sunday night. He had two of Baylor’s eight sacks, as the Bears held SMU to just 64 yards of a total offense in a 45-0 shutout -- the first time the Mustangs had been shutout since 2004.

Special teams player of the week: Tyreek Hill set an Oklahoma State record for all-purpose yards in a debut with 278. And he did it against the No. 1 ranked team in the country. Florida State has one of the nation’s fastest teams around, and yet they couldn’t catch Hill, whether it was on offense, on punt returns or kickoff returns. The Cowboys have one dynamic playmaker in their backfield, and on special teams.

Play of the week: Oklahoma State had the ball at midfield with five minutes left and a chance to take the lead over the Seminoles. But as quarterback J.W. Walsh dove for a first down, he was upended and lost control of the ball. The Seminoles recovered and scored two plays later to extend its lead to 37-24. Oklahoma State came right back and scored a touchdown, but couldn’t come up with the onside kick. The fumble was the difference maker.

Stat of the week: Baylor finished with more sacks (eight) than SMU did first downs (seven).

Quote of the week: “We can function. It’s not like it’s the end of the world.” – Texas coach Charlie Strong, after revealing Monday morning that quarterback David Ash would miss Saturday’s game with BYU due to concussion-like symptoms suffered in the opener.

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 1

August, 31, 2014
Aug 31
8:00
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Well, that was a pretty great day of football in the Big 12, all in all (sorry, Cyclones). We were on the lookout for guys who surprised in this first week of college football, and we had no trouble finding enough guys worthy of the coveted helmet sticker. Yes, Baylor still has to play, but here's who we're handing stickers out to for big games on Saturday:

ATH Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State: The best compliment you can offer Tyreek Hill might be that, without a doubt, Florida State wishes that guy was on their team. The heavily-hyped junior college transfer might've actually exceeded his electric expectations with 106 yards of offense on 14 touches and, including returns, 278 all-purpose yards in the 37-31 loss to Florida State. We tried to warn you all about him. Hill is going to be special and he's going to give Big 12 defenses fits.

QB Clint Trickett and WR Kevin White, West Virginia: What a gutsy performance from the Mountaineers and especially this duo during the 33-23 loss to Alabama. Trickett came out firing and finished with 365 passing yards and no turnovers. White might've been even better. He took it to the Alabama secondary with 143 yards on nine receptions, including a 19-yard score, and evoked a lot of talk about his NFL future. Trickett and White were put on a big stage and they stepped up.

WR John Harris, Texas: Welcome back to the big show. Harris, a senior who was seldom used last season, had an eye-opening, career-best performance as David Ash's go-to guys during a 38-7 win over North Texas. He hauled in seven receptions for 110 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown in which he trucked through a defender near the goal line. Harris caught five passes in all of 2013 but could be poised to do big things if he and Ash keep up this rapport.

QB Jake Waters, Kansas State: Waters kicked off his senior-year campaign with another typically steady showing, leading K-State on a 55-16 rout of SF Austin while putting up some nice numbers: 223 yards on 19-of-28 passing, two passing TDs, 55 rushing yards, two rushing TDs. He's becoming an excellent distributor. KSU's offense won't ask him to put up crazy Air Raid stats, but this was a nice performance.

RB Keith Ford, Oklahoma: Freshman Samaje Perine finished with more yards and Alex Ross chipped in two scores, but Ford did some really nice things with his touches. He finished with 116 total yards (65 receiving, 51 rushing) and punched in two first-quarter touchdown runs to get the Sooners rolling to a 48-16 win over Louisiana Tech. OU's inexperience stable of backs got the job done.

DE Mike Tuaua, TCU: The Horned Frogs' defensive line fared just fine without Devonte Fields thanks to a breakout performance from Tuaua. The former juco transfer went wild on Samford with 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles during TCU's 48-14 win. A three-game starter last season, Tuaua almost matched his entire TFL output from last season in one night. He won't get to catch folks by surprise anymore, that's for sure.
Here's what we learned about the Big 12 in Week 1:

1. Oklahoma State and West Virginia showed the Big 12 can go toe-to-toe with anyone: The Mountaineers went 4-8 last season and were picked in the preseason to finish eighth in the Big 12. After graduating 28 seniors, the Cowboys had the fewest returning starters of any program from a Power 5 conference. And yet, Oklahoma State and West Virginia gave college football’s two highest-ranked teams all they wanted. Ultimately, the Cowboys committed too many turnovers to topple No. 1 Florida State, and West Virginia dropped too many passes to knock off No. 2 Alabama. But both Big 12 teams acquitted themselves well with valiant efforts against formidable competition to set up the rest of their seasons. The Cowboys and Mountaineers also sent a message at the outset of this playoff era that the Big 12 is a conference to be reckoned with.

Tyreek Hill, Jalen Ramsey
Tony Gutierrez/Associated PressTyreek Hill and Oklahoma State gave No. 1 Florida State all it could handle.
2. Tyreek Hill is the real deal: This summer, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy confessed that running back Tyreek Hill was the fastest football player he’d ever witnessed in person. Hill confirmed Gundy’s proclamation against Florida State, and showed he was faster than anyone playing for perhaps the fastest defense in college football. "We know he's fast," Gundy said. "Because those guys who were chasing him are fast." Hill produced 278 all-purpose yards and quickly drew the full attention of the Seminoles, both defensively and on special teams. Hill is going to be fun to watch over the next two seasons and will be a difficult matchup for Big 12 opponents.

3. Trevone Boykin is the man in Fort Worth: All preseason, TCU coach Gary Patterson refused to showed his cards at quarterback. He even reportedly had the Amon G. Carter Stadium public address announcer introduce both Boykin and Matt Joeckel as starting quarterbacks. But once the game began, there was no doubt left that Boykin is Patterson’s quarterback. After relieving Casey Pachall the last two seasons, Boykin came out sharp in his first opening-game start against Samford. He completed 29 of 41 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns before passing off to Joeckel for mop-up duty. The Horned Frogs, who limited Samford to 143 yards of offense, figure to be tough defensively again. But Boykin will be the key to them getting over the hump in the program’s third year in the Big 12.

4. Oklahoma remains stout at running back: Coming into the season, the Sooners had to replace starting running back Brennan Clay. They then lost blue-chip freshman Joe Mixon to a season-long suspension. But Oklahoma showed Saturday it is still loaded in the backfield. The three-headed monster of sophomore Alex Ross, sophomore Keith Ford and freshman Samaje Perine stole the show in the Sooners’ convincing 48-16 win over Louisiana Tech. The trio combined for 164 yards and five touchdowns while averaging almost five yards per carry. Ford also added 65 yards receiving. “They’re powerful, physical guys,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “But they have speed and can run, too.” Mixon had the talent to boost Oklahoma’s offense, and the Sooners will miss Clay’s reliability. But Oklahoma is going to be just fine at running back this season.

5. The Big 12 should avoid North Dakota State like the plague: If you can’t beat them, ban them. After falling behind 14-0, North Dakota State roared back to throttle Iowa State 34-14 in Ames. The Bison have now won three in a row against Big 12 teams, including last year’s victory over Kansas State. It’s apparent the back-to-back-to-back FCS national champs have reloaded again. And it would be wise for the Big 12 to avoid scheduling them ever again. As for the Cyclones, it was a disheartening start to the 2014 season. Iowa State lost center Tom Farniok and wideout Quenton Bundrage -- both critical cogs -- to first-half injuries. And from the second quarter on, the Cyclones got dominated in the trenches. It doesn’t get any easier for Iowa State, which had high hopes before the season of getting back to bowl. The Cyclones’ next four opponents went a combined 37-14 last season.

Big 12 players in Week 1 spotlight

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
2:59
PM ET
Are you guys ready? We're less than 48 hours away from the first kickoff of the Big 12 season. (There are some good games tonight, too, if you can't wait that long.) Once we finally get rolling, the guys worth watching closely won't just be the All-Americans like Bryce Petty and Tyler Lockett. We know what they can do, and they'll probably be even better.

But this is our first real chance, after months of speculation and projection, to see how newcomers and players in new roles fare. Here are 11 players we'll be keeping an eye on Saturday and Sunday.

Matt Joeckel and Trevone Boykin
Getty ImagesGary Patterson won't reveal who his starting quarterback is -- Matt Joeckel or Trevone Boykin -- until the Horned Frogs take the field Saturday.
Matt Joeckel, QB, TCU: Will he be the starter? Did Trevone Boykin do enough to regain the job? Gary Patterson won't reveal a thing until his Horned Frog offense takes the field Saturday against Samford. The guy who sets foot on the field won't matter as much as which one thrives, because it seems likely both will get a fair shot. TCU just needs a capable distributor.

Devin Chafin, RB, and Johnny Jefferson, RB, Baylor: Both backs dealt with injuries in fall camp but should be good to go. And if you ask Baylor players, they'll tell you Chafin and Jefferson are about to be stars on the rise. This should be a true stable of backs led by Shock Linwood, but you're going to see Chafin and Jefferson a lot -- especially if Baylor's second team gets a lot of playing time in a blowout.

DeAndre Washington, RB, Texas Tech: We could still see Kenny Williams in short-yardage opportunities, but otherwise, Tech is ready to roll with the 5-foot-8, 201-pound junior leading its run game. Freshmen Justin Stockton and Demarcus Felton are intriguing, but Washington has a chance to establish himself as the feature back and a sneaky good one.

Deandre Burton, WR, Kansas State: The local kid from Manhattan was named a starter this week and is about to get his first meaningful action on offense. The redshirt sophomore has good size and will be one of a few wideouts getting reps with Lockett and Curry Sexton. The competition for his spot will be ongoing, so a big play or two against Stephen F. Austin could go a long way.

Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State: Cyclones fans can't wait to see what Lazard, listed as the backup to Quenton Bundrage at X receiver, can do in his first career day. After all the boasting Paul Rhoads did on signing day (and rightfully so), expectations are awfully high. Let's see Sam B. Richardson lob a few up to him and see if the 6-foot-5 stud can make a splash.

Tyreek Hill, WR/RB, Oklahoma State: What more can we say? We've hyped him up as much as anybody in the Big 12 this offseason. OSU will get the ball in his hands as much as possible. Florida State will do whatever it can to stop him. Can Hill be the game-changer the Pokes need to keep up with the defending champs?

Julian Wilson, CB, Oklahoma: Wilson's transition from nickel to cornerback, where he'll replace a big-time player in Aaron Colvin, has received good reviews. Louisiana Tech will no doubt test him and new starting safety Ahmad Thomas early on to see if they can handle the pressure.

Dravon Henry, FS, West Virginia: Mountaineer coaches have been excited about Henry all year long, and the true freshman seemingly had no trouble earning a starting job. He'll get lots of help from veteran safety Karl Joseph, but you just know Lane Kiffin will take some shots deep to see if the young dude has instincts. He would be wise to keep an eye on Amari Cooper, one of the nation's best wideouts.

Jason Hall, SS, and Dylan Haines, SS, Texas: Hall, a true freshman and former three-star recruit, was named the starter on Texas' depth chart released Thursday. But Haines, a walk-on, will play and so should Adrian Colbert. With safety Mykkele Thompson likely being used as Texas' top nickel, the Longhorns will have a lot of inexperience on the back end on passing downs. They need to play up to the considerable praise they received in camp.

Who are you excited to scout this weekend? Let us know any players we missed in the comments below.

Roundtable: Week 1 storylines

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
1:00
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Game week has finally arrived. We break down some of the storylines in Week 1 in our weekly Big 12 roundtable:

Who between West Virginia and Oklahoma State has the better chance to pull off the upset this weekend?

Olson: West Virginia, simply because I think Florida State has a little more talent than Alabama. Last year, Virginia Tech gave up two punt return TDs and a pick-six in the first half of their opener vs. Alabama. The Hokies shot themselves in the foot from the start. West Virginia has absolutely no margin of error for that. What the Mountaineers do have is a potentially explosive offense and a full game film of OU thrashing the Tide to use as the blueprint. They must strike early and often and give Bama’s new starting QB hell.

Chatmon: The Mountaineers are hoping a year in the offense will pay off for quarterback Clint Trickett and the rest of the unit. At this time a year ago, none of WVU’s playmakers on offense had much experience. Twelve months later, it should be a different offense. Oklahoma State is talented but it is largely untested, and its defense could be a deer in headlights early against the Seminoles, which would be too much to overcome. Thus, WVU gets the nod, but I wouldn’t bet on either squad to triumph.

Trotter: West Virginia. Florida State returns several key parts off a team that steamrolled most everyone on the way to a national championship. Oklahoma State has the fewest returning starters among any Power 5 conference team. That’s not a recipe for an upset. Alabama is a powerhouse, too, but at least West Virginia will be taking a veteran team to Atlanta. If the Mountaineers can pull off some big plays early -- and they have the players to pull off big plays -- then they can hang around into the second half.

Which Big 12 team should be on upset alert in Week 1?

Olson: No need to overthink this one. It’s Iowa State, because they play North Dakota State. And I don’t say that out of disrespect for the Cyclones, who could be better in a lot of ways in 2014. Just have to respect how NDSU screwed up another Big 12 team’s opener a year ago. Even with coach Craig Bohl gone to Wyoming, NDSU might still be the best team in FCS.

Chatmon: I don’t expect any Big 12 team to be upset this weekend, but TCU is the team that immediately comes to mind. The Horned Frogs won’t lose to Samford -- their defense is too good for that upset to happen -- but they could run into some ups and downs as they try to get their offense humming in the first game with new coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham at the helm. Another team that will have to be on its toes is Baylor, as the Bears try to ignore the distraction of opening McLane Stadium against SMU and focus on the actual game at hand.

Trotter: This one is obvious. Iowa State lost last year’s opener to FCS opponent Northern Iowa. Iowa State’s Week 1 opponent this season, North Dakota State, beat Kansas State on the road in Week 1 last year. If the Cyclones play their game, they’ll be fine. But if they don’t, the three-time defending FCS national champs are more than capable of delivering the upset.

Who is the one player to watch this weekend?

Olson: Oklahoma RB Keith Ford. There were times last season, even when the freshman was getting limited reps, that I sensed Ford might be OU’s most talented running back. He didn’t get talked up too much this offseason, but I think Ford could run wild on Louisiana Tech and alleviate some concerns about an OU run game that lost its top three backs this offseason.

Chatmon: I’m looking forward to seeing what Tyreek Hill can do against the athletes on Florida State’s defense. If Hill is going to live up to the hype as Big 12 preseason newcomer of the year, he will have an immediate impact against the Seminoles and the Cowboys are sure to make getting him the ball a priority. I’m also looking forward to hopefully getting a look at Baylor receiver KD Cannon and Texas Tech quarterback Pat Mahomes in action during week 1.

Trotter: Remember David Ash? It’s difficult to remember, considering he has played in only a couple of games since 2012. Ash will be back behind center for the Longhorns this weekend and is the single biggest key to Texas’ 2014 outlook. If Ash stays healthy and plays well consistently, the Longhorns have the pieces elsewhere to make a run at the Big 12 title. If Ash struggles or gets injured again, the Longhorns will be cooked. The North Texas game will give us a glimpse of which player Texas will be getting.

Big 12 fearless predictions

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
10:00
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Today, Ivan Maisel offered up his bold predictions for the college football season. We figured we'd get in on the fun, too. Here's what we're comfortable forecasting in what should be a crazy Big 12 season.

Jake Trotter's bold predictions

Davis Webb will throw for more yards than Bryce Petty. This is no slight against Petty, who himself should be in for another monster season. But Petty will also be handing off plenty to Shock Linwood, Devin Chafin and Johnny Jefferson. Webb, meanwhile, will be airing it out virtually every down to his big-play trio of Jakeem Grant, Bradley Marquez and Reginald Davis. As long as Webb stays healthy, 4,500-plus passing yards isn't out of reach.

[+] EnlargeDavis Webb
Donald Miralle/Getty ImagesDavis Webb passed for 2,718 yards as a freshman and could compete with Baylor's Bryce Petty for most passing yards in the Big 12 this season.
Kansas State will beat either Baylor or Oklahoma on the road. Two years ago when the Wildcats traveled to Norman, they toppled Oklahoma, 24-19. Last year, nobody played Baylor tougher -- at least when the Bears were still at full strength -- than K-State (which at the time was missing Tyler Lockett). Bill Snyder teams usually come to play in big games. This season, that will come at the expense of one of the league's two co-favorites.

Tyreek Hill will lead the league in rushing. The Longhorns have the Big 12's best one-two punch at running back in Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown. And West Virginia has the league's deepest backfield. But Hill has the tools to be the best big-play back in the conference. He also figures to be the focal point of the Oklahoma State attack. Up until last season, the Cowboys had enjoyed a 1,000-yard rusher in six consecutive seasons. Hill will start another 1,000-yard rushing streak for the Pokes in a big way in 2014.

Brandon Chatmon's bold predictions

Iowa State's offense will be much improved. After finishing in the bottom two in most offensive categories a year ago, Iowa State will finish no lower than sixth in most of those categories, with a clear jump forward in points, yards per play, total yards and third-down conversion rate during its first season with Mark Mangino as offensive coordinator. The Cyclones have plenty of skill-position talent, led by receiver Quenton Bundrage and tight end E.J. Bibbs, and may have a healthy offensive line after a 2013 season full of injuries up front.

Oklahoma safety Ahmad Thomas will emerge as an All-Big 12 candidate. The sophomore safety has continued to develop and improve for the Sooners and looks like a future star in the defensive backfield. He's versatile and gives the Sooners plenty of options with his ability to line up all over the field. Coaches and teammates have raved about his ability, so he could emerge as an All-Big 12 performer, particularly if the Sooners defense becomes a dominating force this fall. Thomas is not a household name right now but he could be by the time December rolls around.

Texas will lead the conference in rushing and finish top 10 nationally. Charlie Strong plans to run the football and the Longhorns have the horses to get it done in the backfield. Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown are a terrific foundation to build UT's offense around, and the offensive line should be solid. Add Strong's insistence that the Longhorns' “soft” label is a thing of the past, and it's a recipe for UT to grab a spot among the nation's top ground games this fall.

Max Olson's bold predictions

Texas Tech will start 7-0 again. The only major hurdles in a pretty favorable early-season schedule are back-to-back road games at Oklahoma State and Kansas State. I like Tech's chances of surviving both games so long as Webb is healthy. If the defense has come together by then and shows up in the big games, look out. From there, Kliff Kingsbury's squad will have a tough slate but a huge opportunity.

Kansas State beats Auburn. Go ahead, call me crazy. This just feels like it's going to be a weird ballgame, almost akin to KSU's 24-19 win over No. 6 Oklahoma in 2012. Kansas State's coaches have the brainpower to come up with answers to Auburn's dangerous option attack. They recruited Nick Marshall hard out of junior college and know his weaknesses. And Tyler Lockett can score on anybody. In a crazy Thursday night home game atmosphere, I think KSU can get it done.

David Ash earns All-Big 12 honors. I didn't say first team! I'm not necessarily saying second-team honors, either. But Texas' fourth-year quarterback remains one of the league's most underrated players and someone who's going to make a breakthrough if he can play all 12 games. Ash was a top-25 passer in 2012, and with quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson's tutelage and the aid of Texas' impressive run game, he can do it again.

Our boldest prediction

A Big 12 team will make the College Football Playoff. Oklahoma and Baylor will meet on Nov. 8 in Norman, Oklahoma. The winner will go on to represent the conference in the inaugural playoff. You'll see.

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