Speaking of the Big 12 title race, we’ll be at all three Big 12 games this weekend.
I’m on my way to Manhattan, Kansas, for K-State’s clash with Texas. Brandon will be at West Virginia-Oklahoma State. And Max will be manning Texas Tech-TCU.
Even with only three games, it should be a compelling weekend in the league.
Now, on to the ‘bag:
@Jake_Trotter What do you feel is the likelihood a Big Xii team makes the playoff? - Aaron Wilson (@AJ97Wildcat) October 23, 2014Trotter: I'm starting to wonder if the Big 12 is going to cannibalize itself out of the playoff. In terms of depth, this is the best this league has been in awhile. But in turn, I'm not sure anyone is going to be able to get through it without two losses. In part because of schedule, TCU is probably the league's best chance. Even then the Horned Frogs would still have to go win in West Virginia next weekend. That won't be easy.
@Jake_Trotter Shouldn't Boykin be getting some Heisman love? - Michael McCain (@MMcCainTCU) October 23, 2014Trotter: He probably already would be appearing on straw polls had TCU held on to beat Baylor. All the Big 12 Heisman love went to Bryce Petty after that game. Now, it's going to West Virginia wideout Kevin White. But if the Horned Frogs beat Tech on Saturday, West Virginia next weekend then K-State on Nov. 8, I think you'll see Boykin surge into the Heisman conversation. He has had an amazing season.
@Jake_Trotter as of right now, where do you Rank the Big XII among other conferences? - Dane Hernandez (@Dane4theGospel) October 23, 2014Trotter: I rank it second, behind the SEC (really, behind the SEC West, because the SEC East stinks outside Georgia). I've caught flak from West Coasters for writing earlier in the week that the Big 12 was second. But other than Oregon, does anyone in the Pac-12 finish in the top four of the Big 12?
@Jake_Trotter if Oklahoma wins out and gets the necessary losses (Mississippis, B10s, Oregon) would they have a shot at the playoff? - Kyle (@iamky13) October 23, 2014Trotter: While it would take a minor miracle, Oklahoma is not completely eliminated from the playoff mix yet. If you went back in time with the playoff, there would be teams that would have been selected with two losses. But the Sooners would need an awful lot of help. And quite frankly, Oklahoma will have to play better than it has the last three weeks to run the table anyway.
@Jake_Trotter Order from 1-10 how would you rate the big 12 fanbases. - Ben Lilly (@wvufaninmd) October 23, 2014Trotter: This is an impossible question to answer, because it fluctuates based on how each team is doing. And the word "fanbase" could mean many different things. I will say the best game I've been to this year in terms of crowd was the K-State-Auburn game last month. The K-State crowd was awesome for that game, especially the student section.
@Jake_Trotter What % chance would you give WVU to win the conference? - D. E. White (@d_e_white) October 23, 2014Trotter: FPI gives West Virginia about a 10-percent chance of winning the league. I'd actually peg it a little higher. If the Mountaineers can escape Stillwater this weekend, they have a favorable schedule the rest of the way, with both TCU and K-State having to travel to Morgantown. The Mountaineers would also have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Baylor. So no doubt, at the moment West Virginia has to be considered a contender.
@Jake_Trotter is there a more underrated player in the Big 12 than Curry Sexton? Plays his best in big games and rarely makes mistakes. - Chris Sourk (@chrissourk) October 23, 2014Trotter: I'm a huge Curry Sexton fan. Honestly, if he and I walked into a room together, you might have a hard time determining which of us was a college football player -- and that's no compliment to me. But Sexton is a ballplayer. He has incredible hands, deceiving speed and a knack for coming up with big plays in key moments. Sexton is also one of the sharpest guys I've interviewed in the Big 12. And he has filled a major need on the Wildcats as the primary wingman for Tyler Lockett. Sexton is having a tremendous season.
@Jake_Trotter WVU has a surprising -11 TO margin. Even if we play stout D could that be our Achilles heel to winning the conf? #Big12Mailbag - Colin Murray (@cease311) October 23, 2014Trotter: It's a troubling stat. Eventually it's going to cost the Mountaineers, if they don't clean it up offensively. It was stunning how it didn't doom them early in that game against Baylor. But West Virginia also needs to be more opportunistic on defense. Only Michigan has forced fewer turnovers than the Mountaineers, who have only four takeaways. Turnovers are a big part in determining the outcome of a game. It's hard to see West Virginia overcoming that trend the rest of the season.
@Jake_Trotter @ESPN_Big12 Are Tech's DeAndre Washington & Pete Robertson two of the best RB's & LB's in the Big 12? Numbers would agree. - Skyler Hopkins (@S_HOPkins17) October 23, 2014Trotter: Both have been second-team All-Big 12-caliber players. As I wrote earlier today, Washington is quietly having a terrific year, but Shock Linwood and Samaje Perine will be tough to topple for first-team all-conference honors. Robertson is having the best season on Tech's defense, but Tech's defense is arguably the worst in the league. Plus, linebacker is a loaded position this year. Still, both players have been bright spots in what has been a tough season so far for the Red Raiders.
@Jake_Trotter why isn't anybody talking about KSU making the playoffs? Their only loss was a nail biter vs Auburn. What're their chances? - Garrett Smith (@G_Smithers) October 23, 2014Trotter: The reason is the schedule is so brutal. K-State still has to go win at TCU, West Virginia and Baylor. As well as the Wildcats have played, the chances of them sweeping those three games aren't good. Then again, if the Wildcats did run the table, they would obviously be the Big 12's best - and only -- chance of putting a team in the playoff. Though the Auburn loss would be tricky -- what if the final playoff spot came down to K-State and Auburn? -- the Wildcats at 11-1, with four monster road wins, would be a formidable playoff contender.
- Oklahoma State's determination this week that last year's Sports Illustrated report was "fundamentally unfounded" is good news for Joe DeForest. John Helsley of The Oklahoman caught up with the former OSU assistant now at West Virginia, whose reputation and job were no doubt put on the line by SI's allegations against him. He described that yearlong process as a "dark cloud" hanging over his life that's now gone. Good job by Helsley to give DeForest an opportunity to share his side now that he gets to move on.
- Is it time to begin talking (or at least wondering) about Bill Snyder's eventual exit strategy? So says Topeka Capital-Journal columnist Kevin Haskin, who lays out a few reasons why the timing could be right in the not-too-distant future. Now that Snyder is a College Football Hall of Fame nominee and the program is fully back on track, maybe it's time.The experience of Snyder's first retirement, and just how unfulfilled he'd felt, will factor heavily into that final decision. Don't think KSU is frustrated that the wizard won't leave; far from it. But, rather, it is interesting to start talking about those other factors and their potential timing.
- Guys like Dylan Haines are a big reason why Texas' defense has flourished this season under Charlie Strong. Haines, a former walk-on, was one of the many players who got a fresh start under Strong's staff and has impressed ever since. Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News writes about Haines' push to enter the lineup and his impressive pick-six against E.J. Bibbs and Iowa State a week ago. He's a great story, and he's earning every snap he's getting right now.
- I must admit I had not been following this story closely, but its resolution on Thursday is worth mentioning. Oklahoma has replaced its band director, Justin Stolarik, after he resigned amid heavy criticism. The Pride of Oklahoma has new leadership now after band members put a full-page ad in three Oklahoma newspapers to roast Stolarik and the OU administration. Why it needed to get that far, I can't begin to understand, but Berry Tramel provides good analysis of what that shakeup means at OU.
- Score one -- a big one -- for Clint Bowen on the recruiting trail. Kansas' interim head coach secured a commitment on Thursday from 6-foot-5 tight end Josh Moore, a three-star prospect from Olathe (Kansas) North. Why does that one matter? Because Moore backed out of a commitment to Ohio State right before he made his pledge to KU. That's a heck of a coup considering Bowen and his coaches can't promise stability or even who's going to be the head coach next year. Getting a few more skins on the recruiting front should at least help Bowen's cause when he gets his shot to interview, right?
- Oklahoma State has sued Texas co-offensive coordinator Joe Wickline for breach of contract, alleging he misled his former employer about his new position at Texas, and the school is seeking more than $593,000 in damages. According to the suit filed in an Oklahoma district court on Oct. 17, Oklahoma State’s board of regents asserts that Wickline violated his contractual agreement to pay a buyout fee of $593,487 if he left OSU for an FBS offensive coordinator job that did not include play-calling duties. Wickline filed a countersuit this week and claims that he is indeed calling plays for Texas’ offense, according to an Austin American-Statesman report. This is a bizarre and unfortunate situation. Wickline was such a big part of the success Oklahoma State had in the Mike Gundy era. Now, the two sides are involved in litigation. Texas, by the way, travels to Stillwater on Nov. 15.
- Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth and Texas running back Ricky Williams are just a few of the Big 12 names that were nominated for the College Football Hall of Fame. I don't know how anyone couldn't vote for those three, and anyone that leaves Snyder off his or her ballot should have it stripped away for life.
- West Virginia's revamped 3-3-5 scheme is earning praise, writes Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. And deservedly so. The Mountaineers held Baylor’s offense, which was averaging 57.2 points and 623 total yards per game, to just 318 yards in West Virginia’s 41-27 upset victory. Much has rightfully been made of what TCU co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie have done at TCU. But West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson and assistant Tom Bradley have done a phenomenal job turning the Mountaineers into arguably the most improved defense in the Big 12. If West Virginia contends for the Big 12 title, it won't just be because of Clint Trickett and Kevin White. It will be because of that defensive unit, too.
- Speaking of TCU, the Dallas Morning News' Ryan Gerbosi wonders whether TCU QB Trevone Boykin is a legitimate candidate for the Heisman Trophy. It's a little strange that Boykin hasn't generated more Heisman buzz so far. He's been the pivotal piece in TCU going from having the nation's 106th best offense last year to the seventh-best one this season. With West Virginia and Kansas State coming up back-to-back to start the month of November, Boykin might begin to appear on Heisman straw polls if he can lead the Horned Frogs to a sweep of those two games.
- While TCU is flying high, Texas Tech is going the opposite way, writes Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Exactly one year ago, Tech was 7-0 and ranked No. 10 in the polls. That feels like a long time ago. The Red Raiders have exactly one Big 12 win since then -- over Kansas last weekend. It hasn't been a fluke, either. Of the 33 team categories tracked by Big 12 statisticians, Tech is last in the league in nine of them, according to Burch. That is a bad sign. Of course, the Red Raiders can always turn it around. Just look at what TCU has done.
Baylor: The problem with penalties is no one-week fluke. Yes, Baylor's 215 penalty yards against West Virginia were the most by any FBS team in the past decade. But the reality is, since 2010, Baylor leads the nation in penalties (8.05 per game), penalty yards (74.6) and offensive penalties (4.12).
Iowa State: E.J. Bibbs is establishing himself as one of the nation's top tight ends this season. After catching two more touchdowns against Texas on Saturday, he now ranks first nationally in TDs (six) and second in receptions (32) among tight ends. He's not putting up Jace Amaro-level numbers, but this year there simply aren't many like Bibbs in the Big 12 or elsewhere.
Kansas: The Jayhawks are showing signs they're going to win a Big 12 game this year. One factor that's helping their cause: stingy goal-line defense. Opponents are scoring touchdowns on just 54.5 percent of their goal-to-go situations. That rate ranks second-best in the Big 12 behind TCU. Kansas has allowed six TDs, forced teams to settle for 12 field goals and recorded one takeaway. For comparison's sake, that's a dozen fewer TDs than Iowa State has given up in those situations.
Kansas State: This one paid off big last week and has continued during Bill Snyder's return to K-State: Since 2009, the Wildcats are No. 1 in the Big 12 at blocking field goals (seven) and extra points (eight). Travis Britz got No. 8 last week on the point-after attempt that would've tied the game against Oklahoma.
Oklahoma: Michael Hunnicutt had a rough day Saturday, but he's still one of the most consistent kickers in Big 12 history. Hunnicutt's 84.5 percent career success rate on field goals ranks No. 3 among kickers in the past decade with more than 70 attempts.
Oklahoma State: Against TCU, the Cowboys had undeniably one of their worst offensive performances of the Mike Gundy era. For only the third time in his tenure, OSU produced zero touchdowns in any phase of the game. The minus-33 scoring margin was OSU's worst since a 56-20 loss to Texas Tech in 2008 and fourth-worst in Gundy's 10 seasons, and the Pokes' 4.03 yards per play ranked fifth-worst.
TCU: The Horned Frogs are now 91-3 under Gary Patterson when they hold a team to 17 points or fewer. After last Saturday's 42-9 win over Oklahoma State, the Frogs have now won their last 10 games against Big 12 teams when achieving that 17-or-under feat defensively.
Texas: Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson's efforts to script the first 15 to 25 plays of a game are paying dividends for quarterback Tyrone Swoopes. He's completing 77 percent of his passes in the first quarter this season, connecting on 40 of 52 attempts for 426 yards and 10.6 yards per completion. That's certainly helping him get into an early rhythm.
Texas Tech: DeAndre Washington is quietly putting together one of the best seasons by a Tech running back in years. He's averaging 5.55 yards per carry (No. 2 in Big 12), 88.8 yards per game (No. 3) and is on pace to become Tech's first 1,000-yard rusher since 1998. Texas Tech is still passing on nearly 63 percent of its snaps, but Washington is making this run game go when he gets his touches.
West Virginia: There are a ton of numbers we can throw around for Kevin White, the nation's leading receiver, but here's an impressive one: If he surpasses 100 receiving yards against Oklahoma State, he'll become just the second FBS receiver in the last decade to start a season with eight straight 100-yard games. The other guy? Another Dana Holgorsen prodigy, Justin Blackmon. He put up 100-plus in every game of his 2010 season.
IRVING, Texas -- Kansas State coach Bill Snyder is among the 81 coaches and players up for election to the College Football Hall of Fame.
The National Football Foundation on Wednesday released the ballot for the class that will be announced Jan. 9. Former Heisman Trophy winners Rashaan Salaam of Colorado, Ricky Williams of Texas and Eric Crouch of Nebraska are among the 75 players from the Football Bowl Subdivision on the ballot.
Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth and Southern California receiver Keyshawn Johnson are also up for election.
The NFF tweaked its rules for eligibility a few years ago to allow active coaches, such as Snyder, to be eligible for the election after they turn 75.
The 75-year-old Snyder is in his 23rd season at Kansas State. He has a record of 183-91-1.
Offenses are getting harder and harder to defend.
Big receivers are becoming common, slot receivers are as quick as ever and quarterbacks can use their arm or their feet to create nightmares for defensive coordinators. Add the creative game-planning from Big 12 offenses and it can leave opposing coordinators at a loss for words.
Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops is not at a loss for words but he is looking for answers, sounding off against the rule that allows offensive linemen to block three yards downfield even when the ball is thrown.
Several teams have done a great job of putting defenses in lose-lose situations by utilizing the rule with creative schemes used by multiple offensive systems from “Air Raid” offenses to run-based spread attacks. He never referenced any team specifically but Stoops clearly remains frustrated with how to defend teams that use run-pass plays that include offensive linemen past the line of scrimmage after OU’s 31-30 loss to Kansas State, a team that has used the rule to create chaos for opposing defenses during the past few years.
“The linemen running down the field and trying to throw a pass when they’re five yards down the field, to me is ridiculous,” Stoops said on Tuesday evening. “Football has gotten to where it is stupid, letting guys run [running] plays then throw the ball. I’m just not a big fan of it -- it’s lenient and all of a sudden it’s three, four, five yards.
“Once you get to a certain point it’s not even fair.”
OU’s disappointing loss to Kansas State included a Wildcats touchdown pass to Glenn Gronkowski (see below), so Stoops' words sound like sour grapes that lingered into OU’s bye week even though he never referenced the Wildcats or any specific team while expressing his frustration with how the rule has been interpreted in recent years.
Rule 7, article 10 in the NCAA rulebook states:
Ineligible Receiver Downfield
ARTICLE 10. No originally ineligible receiver shall be or have been more than three yards beyond the neutral zone until a legal forward pass that crosses the neutral zone has been thrown.
PENALTY—Five yards from the previous spot.
“We’re having a hard enough time [stopping it] and it just keeps expanding,” Stoops said. “It’s not supposed to be more than three yards but it seems like a very lax three yards.”
The architect of the Sooners’ defense is adamant about his hopes that the rule and issue will be revisited in the offseason as several different teams have been able to use the three-yard rule to their advantage in recent years, including Auburn in 2013, which ran a similar play to tie Alabama before the Tigers’ field goal return that shocked the Crimson Tide.
The run-pass option package that K-State and quarterback Jake Waters uses to stress defenses creates a lose-lose scenario for safeties and linebackers, who must choose to stop the run with Waters or cover the pass while Waters simply reads the defender and choses whatever option the defender leaves free.
Stoops admitted there’s not much any defense can do to stop the creative schemes like the ones KSU and Auburn built upon the rule and used with success.
"Complain … until they do something about it,” Stoops said when asked how to stop it. “What is the gray area? They’re allowed to be down there three yards but at three there should be a flag, that’s how I look at it. It can’t be gray, it’s black or white.”