Big 12 morning links

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
8:00
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In case you went to bed early: Tom Brady got benched, the Raiders need a coach and Michigan needs some better PR.
  • We've reached the end of Baker Mayfield's fight to become eligible for Oklahoma this season, and as you can imagine, the Mayfield family is not too thrilled. In an interview with The Oklahoman, Mayfield's father called Kliff Kingsbury a "scoundrel" who is "hellbent on punishing Baker." Strong words, eh? James Mayfield did more finger-pointing in this interview with the Tulsa World, too. To his credit, Kingsbury has publicly taken the high road throughout this ordeal. The Mayfields are entitled to their disappointment, but it's the NCAA that rejected their waiver and it's the NCAA that empowers coaches to dictate transfer stipulations.
  • Is TCU ready to win the big one? That's the argument that Mac Engel of the Fort Worth-Star Telegram makes in this column, which offers reasons why the Horned Frogs have a chance to at least go 1-1 in their back-to-back games with Oklahoma and Baylor. TCU has never led against OU the past two years but has lost by a combined 10 points. Gary Patterson knew it'd take three to five years to build up TCU's roster into Big 12-caliber. This is year three, and he's got the big fellas up front now to compete.
  • What's Texas Tech going to do at quarterback this week? Davis Webb remains a game-time decision with his left shoulder injury, and don't expect Kingsbury to tip his hand until the end of the week or game day against Kansas State. Bill Snyder says he'll prepare for the possibility of facing Webb and freshman Patrick Mahomes. If the rookie has to make his first start, Tech will be able to add more QB run wrinkles to its offense. Just getting Mahomes some confidence and a lot of reps this week should be beneficial no matter who starts.
  • What should Dana Holgorsen and West Virginia expect from a Kansas team with a new coach this weekend? Good question. Hogorsen says he'll prepare assuming that KU is trying to maintain status quo, which is probably wise. The coordinators are still intact, and trying to overhaul much this week would probably be fruitless after what these coaches and players have already been through. Still, for what it's worth, I think you'll see a different energy from KU on Saturday and a team with renewed motivation.
  • Paul Rhoads' biggest concern about his Iowa State team through four games: The Cyclones haven't been able to run the ball as they'd expected. ISU ranks 110th nationally in rushing at 102.2 yards per game and its backs combined for 28 yards against Baylor. The blame is being placed on the blocking, but that's on everyone. Sam B. Richardson has been effective as a run threat, but Iowa State can't hang with most teams in this league if it can't pound the rock.
Auburn hasn’t been given too much of a chance to land coveted receiver Christian Kirk, but the Tigers’ chances are better than most think. Plus, Michigan lost a key defensive recruit, and don’t be surprised if more are to follow.

It's a 'new day' at Oklahoma

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
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The headlines have gone to the guys with the ball in their hands as running backs Keith Ford, Samaje Perine and Alex Ross have each displayed their big-play ability at various times for Oklahoma.

But the Sooners' offensive line has been a foundation of Oklahoma's success on offense, paving the way for a balanced offensive attack that averages 6.92 yards per play, ranking second in the Big 12 behind Baylor. Oklahoma is averaging 222.8 rushing yards and 272.3 passing yards in four games this season.

At the heart of the Sooners’ success is second-year offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh, who has helped transform the offensive line into one of the top units in the Big 12. Bedenbaugh left West Virginia after the 2012 season to take over Oklahoma's offensive line and instilled his mindset immediately.

"You can feel the intensity when he walks in the room and he demanded that out of us," guard Adam Shead said. "It [his hiring] was a pretty big deal, you knew he was serious about being physical. When he walked in he said, 'You may not play with the best technique, you might mess up some plays, but you’re going to play hard, you’re going to play physical.' And that’s something he’s always demanded of us."

Playing physical was nothing new in Norman, Oklahoma -- the Sooners have always aimed to be physical under Bob Stoops.

"There’s a difference, but Oklahoma football is Oklahoma football," Shead said.

Nonetheless, Bedenbaugh brought a different focus to the table. He wanted his group to be physical technicians, to combine their physical dominance with technical efficiency.

"It started with the technique," tackle Daryl Williams said. "We were already physical, we just didn’t know, technique-wise, how to block them. He really helped us with that.”

The results have been clear. The Sooners 5.9 yards per carry average leads the Big 12 and ranks No. 16 in the nation. In its first four contests, 522 of Oklahoma's 891 rushing yards have come before contact, ranking second in the Big 12.

Since Bedenbaugh arrived in 2013, Oklahoma sits atop the Big 12 in yards per carry (5.35), rushing yards before contact (2,517) and rushing yards per carry before contact (3.5). The yards before contact per carry is particularly impressive, as the conference average is nearly a full yard less (2.57) during the past two seasons.

"It’s a new day and age," Shead said. "We want to play smash mouth football."

Baker Mayfield has appeal denied

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
1:47
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Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield's appeal to be eligible for the 2014 season has been denied by the NCAA, a source told ESPN.com.

Mayfield, who transferred to Oklahoma from Texas Tech, was seeking a waiver on the grounds that he was a walk-on for the Red Raiders and shouldn't be subject to the same transfer rules as a scholarship player.

Instead, he will have to sit out the rest of the season.

After the NCAA denied Mayfield's appeal, Oklahoma officials went back to Texas Tech to see whether the school would certify his immediate eligibility, according to a source, as a last resort. But Texas Tech officials still declined to certify the waiver.

Mayfield, who threw for 2,315 yards after winning the Red Raiders starting job in the preseason as a walk-on true freshman, was the 2013 Big 12 Freshman of the Year.


(Read full post)


Big 12 recruiting scoreboard

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
1:30
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Below is our weekly update on the Big 12 recruiting trail:

BAYLOR

Total commits: 12
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Bears didn't land a recruit this past week, but plenty of Lone Star State prospects will be paying attention to Baylor’s trip to Austin. The Bears have been winning recruiting battles for the state top’s talent, and they have a chance to make another statement on the field.

IOWA STATE

Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones landed a commitment for the first time in more than a month in Kissimmee, Florida, cornerback Stephon Brown, who had offers from NC State, Hawaii, Marshall, South Florida and Southern Miss.

KANSAS

Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The first order of business for interim coach Clint Bowen was calling all of Kansas’ commitments Sunday and telling them they are still wanted in Lawrence. Despite his troubles on the field, Charlie Weis had put together another decent recruiting class that Bowen needs to hold together.

KANSAS STATE

Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats have been quiet on the trail lately, after landing seven commitments from June to August. More will be on the way once Bill Snyder figures out which junior-college players he wants to target in this class.

OKLAHOMA

Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Sooners landed their third commitment in the month of September in McAlester, Oklahoma, tight end Dalton Wood, who jones Midwest City safety Will Sunderland and Jenks defensive tackle Marquise Overton as Oklahoma's three in-state commitments.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 4
The latest: The Pokes pulled off one of the better recruiting steals of the year last week in convincing ESPN 300 safety Kevin Henry to flip from LSU to OSU. Henry had been committed to the Tigers, where he projected as a safety/linebacker since January but started reconsidering his other options in July. Henry joins WR Jalen McCleskey as the second Louisiana recruit in OSU's class.

TCU

Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: No new pledges for the Horned Frogs this week, but they get a chance to impress visitors this Saturday when Oklahoma comes to Fort Worth. One TCU commit worth keeping an eye on is WR J.F. Thomas, the Frogs' highest-rated pledge. He received an offer from Texas recently, and two of his Dallas South Oak Cliff teammates -- Jamile Johnson and Jordan Stevenson -- are already committed to UT.

TEXAS

Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 8
The latest: Texas picked up a pledge from Austin Westlake LB Breckyn Hager, a three-star recruit who was committed to Baylor. The previous staff passed on Baylor's Bryce Hager in 2010, even though he's the son of Texas all-time leading tackler Britt Hager. Stevenson, who committed nearly a year ago, took an official visit to Wisconsin this weekend but remains solid with Texas.

TEXAS TECH

Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Red Raiders' staff made an intriguing find in East Texas last week. Longview's Broderick Washington committed soon after he received his Texas Tech offer. He's playing offensive tackle right now for Longview, but Tech loves his toughness and mean style of play and plans to develop him as a nose guard at the next level.

WEST VIRGINIA

Total commits: 19
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: West Virginia locked up a huge commitment last Monday when ESPN 300 CB Tyrek Cole flipped from Florida State. You don't see that too often. WVU defensive line coach Damon Cogdell coached Cole at Miramar High School in Florida last year. The Mountaineers also received a commitment from three-star ILB David Long on Sunday. This 2015 class is in terrific shape so far.

Big 12 FPI rankings: Week 5

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
11:30
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ESPN's Football Power Index is a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of a team's performance going forward for the rest of the season. Every week, ESPN will be updating its FPI to compile a ranking based on 10,000 simulations of the rest of the season using FPI, results to date and the remaining schedule.

Oklahoma didn't play this weekend but still climbed into the top four of the FPI rankings this week. The Sooners took over the No. 4 spot that Georgia held last week after the Bulldogs dropped to eighth. The top three ranked ahead of OU -- Alabama, Texas A&M and Auburn -- did not change.

Following their wins in Week 5, TCU and Texas both made noticeable jumps in the national ranks. The Horned Frogs moved ahead of Oklahoma State and up seven spots to No. 22 with their 56-0 win at SMU. Their chances of winning the Big 12 nearly tripled from 3.3 percent to 9.8 percent. The computers have enough respect for TCU's start that the Frogs' wins projection went up nearly one full win to 8.9.

Texas, meanwhile, moved ahead of West Virginia and Kansas State and into the No. 30 spot nationally after its 23-0 shutout of Kansas. The Longhorns are still projected to finish 6-6. Oklahoma State's win over Texas Tech did not result in any movement in the FPI ranks, while the Red Raiders moved up two spots.

Here's how they and the rest of the Big 12 stack up entering Week 6.

Big 12 morning links

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
8:00
AM ET
Jerry Jones apparently has plans of taking over the world.
  • After winning just one Big 12 game as coach of the Jayhawks, Charlie Weis was fired over the weekend on the heels of a 23-0 loss to Texas. Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger told the Lawrence Journal-World's Matt Tait that the "program had lost support at all levels." Though it was a tad surprising that Zenger pulled the trigger after just one Big 12 game, you can hardly blame him. Kansas had showed no signs of improvement this season, scoring a combined three points in losses to Duke and Texas. Attendance was plummeting again this season, even after an 8 percent drop the year before. Under Weis, there was just no excitement surrounding Kansas football whatsoever.
  • After two disastrous hires, the pressure is on Zenger and the Jayhawks to get this next hire right. Zenger, remember, fired Turner Gill after just two seasons; Weis, the man Zenger hired to clean up Gill's mess, lasted 33 months. CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd throws out some possible candidates that Zenger might look at, including Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. The Jayhawks had success previously hiring an Oklahoma offensive coordinator, as Mark Mangino took Kansas to the 2007 Orange Bowl. The Lawrence Journal-World's Tom Keegan, meanwhile, writes that interim coach and Kansas alum Clint Bowen brings some much-needed passion to the program. The Jayhawks are in some definite need of that.
  • Embattled NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent interestingly met with Texas coach Charlie Strong on Sunday to discuss the coach’s five core values and his approach to building the Longhorns. Vincent was very complimentary of Strong's disciplinary stances following their meeting, telling Yahoo Sports' Eric Adelson that "this is a model that should be emulated across the country in both amateur and professional football." Vincent gave Strong and his staff plenty of ammo to use when meeting with parents on the recruiting trail. If opposing coaches try to negatively recruit against Texas because of its suspensions and dismissals, the Longhorns will be able to counter with the ultimate trump card, as defensive coordinator Vance Bedford points out.
  • There were some actual games over the weekend, too, and Baylor got a huge boost from the returns of wideouts Antwan Goodley and Corey Coleman from injuries, as the Waco Tribune-Herald's John Werner details. Back from a hamstring injury he suffered in preseason camp, Coleman caught a career-high 12 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown in the 49-28 win at Iowa State. Goodley returned from a quadriceps injury suffered in the early minutes of the season opener against SMU to catch six passes for 114 yards. Clay Fuller also came back from a preseason collarbone injury and made two fourth-quarter catches. Levi Norwood could be back as soon as this weekend from a fractured wrist. After an injury plagued non-conference, the Baylor offense is operating at full strength again. Just in time for Texas, too.
  • The next two weeks will provide an opportunity for Oklahoma State to grow, writes The Oklahoman's John Helsley. The Cowboys get Iowa State at home this weekend, then travel to Kansas. In other words, Oklahoma State has a great chance to get off to a 5-1 start to the season after dispatching of Texas Tech last week. With so much inexperience coming into the season, coach Mike Gundy has to be pleased with the way the 2014 season has begun. At one point, Oklahoma State had five true freshmen on the field at once defensively in the Tech game. Those young players have a chance to develop even more over the next two weeks before the Cowboys hit the heart of their Big 12 schedule with an Oct. 18 road trip to TCU.
Michigan’s efforts on the recruiting trail aren’t going anywhere until something changes. Plus, whoever ends up getting the Kansas job must do whatever he can to keep quarterback Ryan Willis on board.


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Big 12 bowl projections: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
8:00
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Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma State got their Big 12 Conference schedules off to a good start while TCU and Kansas State cruised to easy wins.

This week provides TCU and Texas the opportunity to stake their claim in the conference race with games against Big 12 favorites OU and Baylor. If the Horned Frogs knock off the Sooners or the Longhorns shock the Bears, either team would skyrocket up our projections.

Allstate Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma
Cotton Bowl: Baylor
Valero Alamo Bowl: Kansas State
Russell Athletic Bowl: West Virginia
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Oklahoma State
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: TCU
Cactus Bowl: Texas

Florida State still No. 1 in AP poll

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
2:24
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video

Florida State stays at No. 1 in The Associated Press college football poll after a second straight comeback victory, but support for the Seminoles is waning.

Jameis Winston returned from a one-game benching to lead Florida State past North Carolina State 56-41. The Seminoles trailed 24-7 in the first quarter.

Florida State received 27 first-place votes, seven fewer than last week, from the media panel Sunday. No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Alabama both had 13 first-place votes. No. 4 Oklahoma drew the remaining seven first-place votes.

"You're always concerned, but we can't control the polls," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said Monday. "All we gotta do is keep winning. Polls are for the polls and voters. If we keep winning and doing what we do, we'll be fine."

There was little movement throughout the rankings, with the first seven teams holding their spots. That could change next week when six games match ranked teams, including three SEC games.


(Read full post)


Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
2:00
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Drawing conclusions from Week 5

September, 27, 2014
Sep 27
11:30
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Florida State vs. NC StateChris Morris for ESPN

Each Sunday during the season, ESPN.com will highlight four storylines that had an impact on the College Football Playoff race.

No. 1 Florida State 56, NC State 41

Florida State survived a furious upset bid by NC State, as Jameis Winston threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns to help FSU rally from 17 points down.


No. 6 Texas A&M 35, Arkansas 28 (OT)

Kenny Hill rallied Texas A&M past the surging Razorbacks, throwing three touchdown passes during the fourth quarter and overtime before the Aggies made a game-ending defensive stop.


No. 11 UCLA 62, No. 15 Arizona State 27

Brett Hundley threw for 355 yards on Thursday night as UCLA had 582 yards of total offense and scored the most points in the 55-year history of Sun Devil Stadium.


Top-five teams watching, waiting


(Read full post)


In today's Twitter mailbag, we discuss Thursday night's game between Oklahoma State and Texas Tech and preview the games this weekend.

On to the 'bag:

@jake_trotter: Definitely. Look at last night alone. Forget the three turnovers, the Red Raiders left 10 points off the board directly because of penalties. Jakeem Grant's kickoff return touchdown. And the delay of game that pushed Tech out of field-goal range. Add those 10 points, and the game would have been tied. Tech is explosive enough offensively for this to be a bowl team. But when you shoot all the toes off your feet, it's hard to beat anyone. And Tech is going to have a hard time beating anyone as long as they lead the nation in penalties and lose the turnover battle.

@jake_trotter: I hear Garman Airlines will be taking plenty of flights this fall.

@jake_trotter: I would be deflated too if my team led the country in penalties. That said, everyone needs to show a little patience with Kingsbury, just like they need to show a little with Charlie Strong. Kingsbury has recruited well. He needs time for more of those prospects to make an impact. It hasn't been pretty so far this season, but it's way to early to judge Kingsbury.

@jake_trotter: Iowa State still has a chance to be a good, solid team in my opinion. But we're also talking about a squad that got run out of its own stadium by North Dakota State in the opener. So no, a win in Ames won't exactly quiet the doubters. But if the Bears win the following three games at Texas, TCU and at West Virginia, you won't hear a peep from the Baylor doubters.

@jake_trotter: If anyone deserves a break, it's West Virginia. In facing Alabama, Maryland and Oklahoma, the Mountaineers have played the toughest schedule in the country so far. So the open week comes at the perfect time. West Virginia can reset, heal and gear up for the final two-thirds of the season. If the Mountaineers play like they did the first third, they will win a bunch of games the rest of this season.

@jake_trotter: The player who has really impressed me so far this is Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown. He has been the most impressive defensive linemen in my opinion, despite the Longhorns' troubles elsewhere. Other guys who have caught my eye so far: Kansas State's Ryan Mueller and Travis Britz, Baylor's Shawn Oakman, Oklahoma State's Emmanuel Ogbah, Iowa State's Cory Morrissey, Oklahoma's Jordan Phillips and Charles Tapper, Kansas' Keon Stowers and TCU's Davion Pierson.

@jake_trotter: Well, yeah. If the Horned Frogs defeat Oklahoma, they have to be considered a legitimate Big 12 contender. That is going to be a huge game for the Frogs. Perhaps, in fact, the biggest of the TCU Big 12 era.

@jake_trotter: Anything is possible, but I have a hard time seeing K-State winning in Norman and Waco. That said, before the season, one of my bold predictions was that K-State would win one of those road games. I see no reason to back off that prediction just yet, either.

@jake_trotter: I asked my wife about this and she vetoed it. However, she said if Iowa State knocks off Baylor and Oklahoma in Ames, then I can do it. So we're on, provided you find me a barber familiar with the Cy logo..

Tweener LBs stop the spread

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
8:54
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Eric Striker's job description doesn't fit on a depth chart or a flip card.

"I'm an outside linebacker or a Sam, a nickel, whatever you want to call it, and I rush," the Oklahoma junior said.

It's a mouthful, but outside linebackers such as Striker are proving to be a handful for opposing offenses. They should also show up more and more on college defenses.

As the sport becomes increasingly more of a space game, defensive coaches, especially those employing three-man fronts, are prioritizing speed over size at the outside linebacker position. The burly box linebacker is virtually extinct.

"The neck roll is dead," said Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, a former two-time national defensive player of the year who once sported an impressive neck roll. "The game is played more vertically and horizontally than it's ever been, as compared to 10-15 years ago."

Consequently, teams are using more versatile players such as Striker, who last season led Oklahoma in both sacks (6.5) and tackles for loss (10.5). He showed up to OU at barely 6-foot and 198 pounds. He played most of last season south of 220 and is now listed at 221.

"[Striker] broke the mold, being as dynamic as he was," Indiana defensive coordinator Brian Knorr said. "You don't have to be a 6-foot-5, 245-pound defensive end to rush the passer.

"We're searching for those guys, that kind of athlete."

Those guys are typically called "tweeners" in recruiting, and they can fall through the cracks. Striker knows. He was one of them despite recording a record 42 sacks at Armwood High School, a central Florida powerhouse.

"Coaches were like, 'I don't know where you fit,'" Striker said. "Some had me at safety, some had me at outside linebacker. I probably didn't get offers [because of it]."

But once coaches figure out how to best use tweeners, as Oklahoma did with Striker, the upshot is significant. They fill up box scores, providing both tackles for loss and takeaways.

And they rarely have to leave the field.

"He can cover wide receivers, he has great change of direction, he sees everything and he's very rarely wrong," Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "He's such a hybrid guy, but he has so many unique characteristics.

"You don't want him off the field. Ever."

Offensive coaches are also noticing the change.

"When you were 3 yards and a cloud of dust and you had two tight ends and these bigger fullbacks, the linebackers were 240 pounds and it was a fistfight," Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock said. "Now that things have become more spread out, defenses have had to adapt their personnel.

"The more athletic those outside linebackers are, the glorified strong safety types who can still pack a punch and be physical, those guys are at a premium."

Why is the tweener so valuable to today's defenses?


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So far, fourth-ranked Oklahoma and seventh-ranked Baylor have looked like the class of the Big 12. But is there a third team that could emerge as a threat? Earlier this week, we examined who that third team might be.

SportsNation

After the first month of the season, who has the best chance to challenge Oklahoma and Baylor for the Big 12 title?

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    39%
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    18%
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    11%
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    26%
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    6%

Discuss (Total votes: 9,167)

Brandon went with West Virginia, even though the Mountaineers already have a conference loss. Quarterback Clint Trickett and wideout Kevin White have been phenomenal, and West Virginia could be geared for a run with the scheduling easing up a bit. If the Mountaineers can knock off Baylor at home on Oct. 18, then they could definitely emerge as a contender, despite the loss to Oklahoma.

While Max and I like what we’ve seen from West Virginia, we both went with Kansas State. The Wildcats won the Big 12 title just two years ago and appear to have a team with similar strengths. The front seven appears to be formidable, after snapping Auburn’s 13-game streak of at least 200 rushing yards last week. Bill Snyder remains one of the best coaches in the country. And Tyler Lockett is as big of a playmaker as anyone player in the league. The Wildcats to do have to travel to Norman and Waco. But K-State won its last trip to Oklahoma, and will have an extra week to prepare for the Sooners. And the Wildcats played Baylor tough last year, even without Lockett.

Of course, West Virginia and Kansas State aren’t the only possible teams that could emerge as Big 12 contenders.

TCU is 2-0, and appears to have another top-flight defense. The Horned Frogs have a huge game with Oklahoma in two weeks, which could dictate whether they can finally challenge for the conference title in their third year in the Big 12.

Oklahoma State, meanwhile, looks better than its preseason prognostication. The Cowboys played No. 1 Florida State tough in the opener and have cruised in their last two games. Coordinator Glenn Spencer’s defense has been stout so far despite inexperience at several positions. The key will be whether backup quarterback Daxx Garman can get the Oklahoma State offensive attack humming to the level of previous seasons.

We’ve given you our thoughts. Now we put the question to you in our weekly Big 12 poll. Who is the biggest threat to Oklahoma and Baylor in the Big 12 race?

Is it West Virginia or Kansas State? TCU or Oklahoma State?

Or maybe even somebody else.

Let us know what you think by voting in our poll.

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