On to the 'bag:
Trotter: The K-State game should make Oklahoma fans a little queasy. The week before meeting the Wildcats on Oct. 18, the Sooners play Texas. The same weekend, the Wildcats will be off. We saw Thursday night how good Bill Snyder is at drawing up a game plan with an extra week to prepare. And this time, his opponent won't have the extra week as well.
@Jake_Trotter what are the chances kansas state beats one of baylor or Oklahoma? Or somehow both of them?— Seth Meadows (@meadows1115) September 19, 2014
Trotter: The good news for Tech is that Oklahoma State's offensive line hasn't exactly dominated, either. But the Cowboys have good backs and they create creases by spreading the field. Though Daxx Garman can't run like J.W. Walsh, he can stretch the field to open up the running game with his arm. That said, if Tech gets steamrolled up front by an Oklahoma State offensive line that even Mike Gundy has termed as "very below average," the Red Raiders might very well get steamrolled by all comers the rest of the way.
@Jake_Trotter If Tech doesn't get it's run defense together, how do you think they'll do against Oklahoma State?— James Alexander (@KingJamesofMars) September 19, 2014
Trotter: You're not going to like this answer, but I think it comes down to recruiting better players more than anything else, especially along the defensive line. There isn't a scheme out there that can account for a team's defensive front getting blown off the ball the way Tech's did against Arkansas. The Red Raiders can be better defensively than they were against the Hogs. But ultimately, you either have the horses or you don't.
@Jake_Trotter exact same question as last week, any solution in sight for Tech's porous defense?— Andy Dobbins (@adobbins29) September 19, 2014
Trotter: Brandon got the plum assignment of covering the stadium unveiling against SMU. At the moment, I'm not sure yet when exactly I'll be assigned to go down to Waco. But when I do, I'm going to see if I can find a spot in the Baylor Armada.
@Jake_Trotter when are you coming down to McLane to join us for some sailgating?— Baylor Bearmada (@BaylorBearmada) September 19, 2014
Trotter: It's a big loss, no doubt. Ford has been OU's best all-around back. But the Sooners are better equipped to deal with the loss of Ford than West Virginia is the loss of standout cornerback Daryl Worley.
@Jake_Trotter what's your prediction for the OU WV game? I think fans are taking this game lightly. Keith Ford bigger loss than we thought?— Ben Luton (@Lutotime) September 19, 2014
Trotter: The fact that Kansas State, Oklahoma State and West Virginia hung tough against Auburn, Florida State and Alabama will do nothing but strengthen the perception of the Big 12 in the eyes of the playoff selection committee. I don't think the committee will get overly focused on scoring differentials. But Oklahoma (or Baylor) beating the Wildcats, Cowboys and Mountaineers would be viewed as quality wins, based on how those three opponents performed in their nonconference schedules.
@Jake_Trotter say Ou beats KSU and WVU by more than Bama and Auburn did. How much will the committee look into scoring differentials?— Travis Guidry (@TGuidry25) September 19, 2014
Trotter: Did you not see the Duke score? I guess anything is possible. But there's reason why Kansas is 1-29 in its last 30 Big 12 games.
@Jake_Trotter what do you think are texas' chances of losing to Kansas before the red river game?— Matt Peacock (@Mpeacock5) September 19, 2014
Trotter: Why would I trade away the league's best basketball program? And why would you want to trade away an automatic win for whatever team you pull for?
@Jake_Trotter if you could trade Kansas for a fellow bottom dweller in a P5 conference, who would it be and why?— Brad Gibson (@BradWGibson) September 19, 2014
Matt H. writes:Is there a chance for Clint Trickett or Kevin White to be mentioned in the Heisman race if they keep performing at the high level they are playing at right now?
Trotter: White has no shot, if only because receivers don't win Heisman Trophies. But if Trickett lights up a really good Oklahoma defense Saturday, he might begin to generate a little buzz as a possible darkhorse contender.
1. K.D. Cannon, WR, Baylor (previous rank: 2): Cannon has been nothing short of spectacular while temporarily taking over the role as Baylor’s No. 1 receiver with Levi Norwood, Clay Fuller, Corey Coleman and Antwan Goodley all out with injuries. In three games, Cannon leads the nation with 471 receiving yards, while averaging 33.6 yards per catch. No other Big 12 receiver is averaging more than 25 yards per catch. This is a future star in the making.
2. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma (3): Perine has been stout as Oklahoma’s power back, but will only see his role expand after the leg injury to Keith Ford. While splitting carries with Ford and Alex Ross, Perine has still rushed for 177 yards while averaging 5.5 yards a carry. Ross is expected to get the start at West Virginia, but don’t be surprised if Perine gets the most work.
3. Dravon Henry, FS, West Virginia (1): Henry has kept his starting job, though has been rather quiet since shining in West Virginia’s opener against Alabama. He’ll face another huge challenge this weekend against the balanced Sooners.
4. Dimitri Flowers, FB, Oklahoma (5): Flowers continues to be an instrumental part of Oklahoma’s powerful rushing attack. He hasn’t seen the ball much. But he has paved the way with his lead blocks for Ford, Perine and Ross and an Oklahoma ground game that averaging 5.6 yards per rushing attempt.
5. Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State (7): Lazard led the Cyclones in receiving in their 20-17 victory over the Hawkeyes. He also hauled in a key pass on Iowa State’s game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter. With Quenton Bundrage out for the season, Lazard has taken over as Iowa State’s go-to receiver on the outside.
6. Davion Hall, WR, Baylor (4): Like Cannon, Hall has made the most of his opportunities as the rest of the Baylor receiving corps recovers from injuries. He’s currently 10th in the league with 192 receiving yards.
7. Elijah Lee, LB, Kansas State (9): Lee didn't have much of an impact Thursday night against Auburn, but he still ranks fifth in the league with 2.5 sacks. Bill Snyder leans against playing true freshmen, but Lee has earned his trust.
8. Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech (10): Along with the rest of the Red Raiders, Stockton struggled against Arkansas with only seven yards rushing on six carries. But the week before against UTEP, he was outstanding with 135 yards rushing, including a 75-yard touchdown dash.
9. Corey Avery, RB, Kansas (8): While the rest of the Kansas offense did little, Avery was the lone bright spot in the loss at Duke. He led the Jayhawks with 87 yards rushing, after rushing for 91 the week before in his debut.
10. Jason Hall, S, Texas (NR): Hall had a sack and a couple of big hits against UCLA after entering the game in the second quarter. His aggression figures to warrant him more playing time after Texas returns from the open weekend.
On the radar: Tevin Madison, CB, Texas Tech; Colin Downing, P, Iowa State; Cameron Batson, PR/WR, Texas Tech; Matthew Boateng, CB, Kansas; Steven Parker II, Oklahoma
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Gainesville native Blake Sims leads Alabama into Saturday’s game against Florida.
The games ranked highest in matchup quality will be competitive games between two highly ranked teams in ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI). Based on this metric, here are the top four games for Week 4.
Florida at Alabama: 91.6 pregame matchup quality
In a meeting of schools that have won four of the past seven SEC titles, third-ranked Alabama is a 73 percent favorite to beat Florida, according to FPI.
These teams will again play a big role in the conference race, as the Gators have the best chance to win the SEC East at 37 percent.
Alabama has a with a 25 percent chance to win the division and a 16 percent chance to win the conference, both best in the SEC.
This game is the only meeting of units ranked in the top 10 of ESPN's efficiency rankings this week, as Florida's ninth-ranked defense will try to slow Alabama's seventh-ranked offense.
Clemson at Florida State: 90.5 pregame matchup quality
This is the only remaining game between ranked teams this week, and the top-ranked Seminoles are a 77 percent favorite over No. 22 Clemson, according to FPI, even without QB Jameis Winston for the first half.
It's only Week 4, but the ACC title may be on the line, as Florida State (61 percent) and Clemson (14 percent) are FPI's favorites to win the conference.
Strength will battle strength, as Clemson ranks fifth in defensive efficiency and will try to slow a Seminoles offense that gained 565 yards of total offense against the Tigers last year.
Florida State won that game 51-14 after leading 27-7 at halftime, with a 93 percent win probability at the break.
Mississippi State at LSU: 90.1 pregame matchup quality
LSU has dominated the series, winning 14 straight and 21 of the last 22 meetings. Mississippi State last beat the Tigers in 1999, a one-point home win.
LSU's pass defense has been its strength this year. The Tigers have allowed the lowest Total QBR in the nation (11.2) and are one of three teams yet to concede a completion on a pass thrown at least 15 yards downfield.
FPI gives the Tigers a 61 percent chance to beat the Bulldogs.
Oklahoma at West Virginia: 87.2 pregame matchup quality
West Virginia has been one of the biggest surprises in the FBS this season. The Mountaineers have jumped 24 spots from their preseason rankings, the third-largest increase of any Power Five school.
FPI gives Oklahoma 77 percent odds to win, and this is one of three remaining games in which the Sooners have a predicted win percentage below 80 (at TCU and vs. Baylor are the others).
That relatively easy schedule means the Sooners have 18 percent odds to win all their remaining games, behind only BYU's 21 percent chances.
Miami (FL) heads to Lincoln to take on No. 24 Nebraska (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2). The two teams have met in five January bowl games, but their most recent meeting was the Hurricanes’ 23-point win in the 2002 Rose Bowl. Are you buying that this game is still relevant?
The winner usually wins it all. In four out of the last five matchups between these teams, the winner won the national championship. The one game in which the winner did not win the national championship was the 1989 Orange Bowl when Miami (FL) finished second to Notre Dame.
Two great running backs. Since the start of last season, Ameer Abdullah ranks second in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game (130.4), while Duke Johnson ranks second in the ACC (108.8). Johnson has eight runs of 50 yards or longer since his freshman season, tied for the most in the FBS.
The teams cannot even win their conferences. Since Miami (FL) moved to the ACC in 2004 and Nebraska moved to the Big Ten in 2011, neither school has won its conference.
No longer top-tier programs. The last time Miami (FL) finished in the top 10 of the AP poll was the 2003 season. Nebraska has not finished in the top 10 since the 2001 season.
Is Kenny Hill the best QB in the SEC?
Texas A&M's Kenny Hill is 3-0 as a starter and became the first player in school history to throw for 1,000 yards in the first three games of a season. Is Hill already the best quarterback in the SEC?
Total QBR sees all. Total QBR accounts for all of a quarterback’s contributions, and Hill ranks third in the FBS and first in the SEC with a 92.9 Total QBR.
Hill is a TD machine. Hill has thrown 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in 117 passes. Every other SEC quarterback with at least 50 passes has thrown at least one interception. Hill’s plus-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio leads the FBS.
Three games is a small sample. Hill may lead the SEC in Total QBR through three games, but dating back to last October, Nick Marshall leads the nation in Total QBR.
His receivers deserve some credit. Texas A&M has gained 585 yards after the catch, the most of any team in the SEC. On three of Hill’s touchdown passes, Texas A&M’s receiver gained at least 20 yards after the catch.
Will the Big Ten rebound this weekend?
The Big Ten has won 63 percent of its games this season, the lowest winning percentage for any Power Five conference. With one weekend left before we get into the heart of the Big Ten schedule, are you buying that this is the weekend the Big Ten rebounds?
There is a chance. According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Big Ten has more than a 50 percent chance to win in three of its five matchups against other Power Five schools this weekend.
Did you see the Big Ten last week?. The Big Ten lost all five of its games against other Power Five schools last week. In fact, since Rutgers defeated Washington State on Thursday, Aug. 28, the Big Ten has lost 10 straight games to other Power Five schools.
They still have not beaten anyone good. The Big Ten is 0-9 against non-conference opponents currently ranked in the top 50 of the Football Power Index.
The only conference with a worse record in non-conference games against Power Five opponents is Conference USA, which is 0-16 in such games.
Should Oklahoma be on upset alert in West Virginia?
Oklahoma is 3-0 and is winning by an average margin of 33.7 points. The Sooners are facing a West Virginia team that put up a good fight against Alabama. Are you buying that West Virginia has a good chance to upset the Sooners?
West Virginia’s done it before. According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Sooners have a 77 percent chance to win at West Virginia, its third-lowest likelihood of winning of the season. Last season the Mountaineers pulled a similar upset by defeating No. 11 Oklahoma State at home.
Clint Trickett is a different QB. Clint Trickett may be the most improved quarterback in the nation. He ranks third in the FBS with 1,224 passing yards and has raised his Total QBR rank from 85th in 2013 to 15th in 2014.
Oklahoma has been dominant. The Sooners have had the fifth-highest average in-game win probability in the FBS. They have led by an average of 24 points by halftime.
The Sooners’ defense is for real. Oklahoma ranks third in ESPN’s defensive efficiency ratings and has allowed the third-lowest Total QBR in the nation. The Sooners have been a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks, leading the Big 12 with 40 total pressures (hurries + knockdowns + sacks).
How slow? Only three games were on tap this week, and one of those -- Kansas State hosting Auburn -- was played on Thursday.
Weeks like these are rare, but it gives both West Virginia and Kansas the opportunity to put on a show -- for the recruits in attendance and for those who will be watching on TV. West Virginia gets a huge test in a home game and conference opener against Oklahoma. Additionally, Kansas will look to improve to 2-1 as it hosts Central Michigan.
It was just like Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops envisioned.
“He’s a great athlete,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “Geneo’s a big guy, he has great range, he can run, he’s got great hands. If our 120 players on our team had a pickup basketball game, he’d be one of the first couple picked. That’s the kind of athlete he is, even with that size.”
Cornerback Zack Sanchez probably puts it best.
“He’s a freak of nature, the way he can get to the ball and make plays,” Sanchez said. “Geneo is a freak athlete, he’s a ball player.”
In many ways, Grissom is too good an athlete for his own good as the Sooners kept tinkering to find the best way to put his skills to use. His athletic prowess resulted in stops at defensive end as a freshman, tight end as a sophomore and defensive end again as a junior before finally finding a home at linebacker this fall.
In Saturday’s Big 12 opener against West Virginia, Grissom’s versatility and talent will be in the spotlight. WVU coach Dana Holgorsen excels at finding ways to create mismatches and exploit defenses with the run or pass, but that task gets harder with Grissom on the field.
Last time these two teams met in 2012, the versatility of Tavon Austin gave the Sooners fits. This time around it could be the versatility of Grissom that creates chaos for WVU’s offense. He has the size and strength to handle the run and the athleticism to be comfortable in coverage against the pass. No matter what approach the Mountaineers’ offense takes, run or pass, Grissom can remain on the field and impact the game.
“For me personally, this is going to be a good game for me to test where I’m at and where I need to get better,” Grissom said. “I’ll measure myself and the things I need to work on.”
Don’t be surprised if Grissom and Striker excel against the Mountaineers, as their ability to rush the passer or drop in coverage is one of the reasons the Sooners made the change to a 3-4 defense after the 2012 season.
“Every game is like that with those two guys, they give us a lot of versatility,” Mike Stoops said. “That’s what we like about this defense, and it will be put to the test again.”
Grissom has started all three games for the Sooners, contributing 12 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss, along with his interception.
“If he hasn’t shown it already, this [game] will add on to what he’s capable of doing,” Sanchez said. “Playing tight end a couple years ago helps him go up and get the ball and make crazy plays like that. He’s so athletic, he’s smart, he knows where to be, he just flies around the field.”
While Striker creates havoc all over the field from his position as “field” linebacker, Grissom has more than held his own as the “boundary” linebacker. He finally got comfortable at his new position near the end of two-a-days in August and has performed like a veteran during nonconference action.
“He’s one of those guys who’s always watching film,” Sanchez said. “He’s always watching film and if he makes a mistake, he’s fixing it. He’s not one of those guys that makes the same mistake twice. He’s real tenacious in everything he does.”
Oklahoma RB Samaje Perine: Now is the freshman's time to shine. Perine, a freakish 243-pound power back, will share the load with Alex Ross now that Keith Ford is sidelined and could have a big night in Morgantown. He's a hard dude to bring down and his speed is probably underrated. He should find the end zone a few times against West Virginia.
West Virginia CB Ishmael Banks: After missing West Virginia's first three games due to an academic suspension, "Icky" will be back on the field at a critical time, right as Daryl Worley is suspended indefinitely. A senior who started every game last season, Banks will have to be one of the DBs responsible for stopping Sterling Shepard and trying to make this explosive Oklahoma offense more one-dimensional.
Kansas QB Montell Cozart: It's a gut-check week for Cozart, who completed just 11 of 27 passes against Duke, couldn't get the ball to Nick Harwell and looked far too nervous under pressure. Charlie Weis' staff is committed to making this work with Cozart, but you can't get the yips in a big game like that. He needs this Central Michigan game to be his bounce-back performance.
Kansas State DE Ryan Mueller: Not just because Mueller is one of K-State's best, but because of this particular matchup. Playing against a team that has mastered the zone read, the pop pass and all sorts of option wrinkles creates a real challenge for any defensive end. K-State's front seven must maintain gap integrity, and Mueller in particular has to make responsible decisions and get tackles for losses at the mesh point when he's in position to make a play.
Texas A&M took a rare blow in recruiting Thursday when ESPN 300 wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge announced he has decommitted from the Aggies.
Lodge, No. 70 in the ESPN 300 and the nation’s No. 9 receiver, verbally committed to the Aggies on June 19.
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Why Kansas State will win: When Auburn agreed to a home-and-home with the Wildcats, Bill Snyder wasn’t the K-State coach. The Tigers also didn't know Snyder would have an extra week to prepare for this game. Manhattan, Kansas, will be rocking, Jake Waters is playing almost as well as any quarterback in the country and Tyler Lockett will be the best player on the field. The Wildcats have now won eight of their past nine games. Snyder's bunch will find a way to keep Marshall & Co. off the field, while finding a way to win this one, too. Kansas State 35, Auburn 31 --Trotter
Why Oklahoma will win: What are the Sooners' flaws? I'm hard-pressed to find many, even with Keith Ford sidelined. Their defense will be the difference, and Sterling Shepard is in for a big night with Daryl Worley suspended. WVU will score early, but Oklahoma can wear the Mountaineers out in the second half. Really wouldn't be surprised if OU plays them much tougher than Alabama did. Oklahoma 45, West Virginia 31 -- Olson
Why West Virginia will keep it close: I was tempted to pick the Mountaineers in this game. They are playing extremely well and Morgantown, West Virginia, is a tough place to play. But then the Mountaineers' best defensive player got suspended indefinitely for an altercation last week. Oklahoma will more easily replace Ford with its deep backfield than West Virginia will Worley. Even still, this won’t be an easy game for the Sooners, who barely survived a night game in Morgantown two years ago, and should consider themselves fortunate, should they survive again. Oklahoma 31, West Virginia 30 --Trotter
Why Kansas will win: The Jayhawks can’t play much worse than they played against Duke. Can they? KU knows a win over Central Michigan is a must or else things could start to get really bad in Lawrence, Kansas. Kansas 28, Central Michigan 20 --Chatmon
Why Central Michigan will keep it close: I thought I could talk myself into taking CMU in this game, but top running back Thomas Rawls, a Michigan transfer, is suspended indefinitely. Without him, the Chippewas have one brutal offense. Still think this will be close, though, because Duke exposed a bunch of issues and I'm just not sure how KU will respond. Kansas 17, Central Michigan 13 -- Olson
- Texas quarterback David Ash elected to give up football after struggling with concussion-related symptoms for the past year. Given the seriousness of head injuries, this was not a surprising decision. Max will have more on this later in the morning, but the move makes you wonder what could have been with Ash. He had moments of brilliance, notably in the 2012 Alamo Bowl win over Oregon State. That game seemed to be the turning point in Ash's career. As it turned out, Ash's career would basically be over not long into the following season.
- Ash's retirement wasn't the only major Big 12 story of the day. West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley turned himself into police after a warrant was issued for his arrest on a misdemeanor battery charge. Worley is accused of choking a woman and shoving her to the floor during a nightclub altercation hours after West Virginia's win over Maryland last weekend. This is a huge blow for the Mountaineers on and off the field. Worley was arguably West Virginia's best defensive player, and would have been matched up against Oklahoma WR Sterling Shepard this weekend. But Worley, who was one of the three players coach Dana Holgorsen took to Big 12 media days, was also viewed as one of the leaders of the team. Whenever a player of that stature is suspended indefinitely, the ripple effect in the locker room can be significant.
- In case you forgot, there's also a pretty big game being played tonight. Auburn will be the highest-ranked nonconference team to visit Manhattan since second-ranked Penn State came to town 45 years ago. There are a bunch of good reads setting up this showdown. Coach Bill Snyder has a message for his fans, according to the Kansas City Star's Kellis Robinett. AL.com's Brandon Marcello has the scoop on Auburn QB Nick Marshall reuniting with Snyder. And the Chicago Sun-Times' Steve Greenberg has more on the intriguing coaching matchup between Gus Malzahn and Snyder. I arrived in Manhattan last night for this one, and can't wait for kickoff.
- Oklahoma will debut its alternate uniforms this weekend at West Virginia, Bob Stoops revealed. As I detailed in this Take Two over the summer, I wasn't a fan of the Sooners going in this direction. It was my opinion that Oklahoma's iconic brand was above the uniform craze. But I have to admit, I'm curious to see what they'll look like in an actual game.
- TCU coach Gary Patterson is doing everything he can to get his team's attention in an open week before the Horned Frogs play winless SMU next weekend. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Carlos Mendez, Patterson demoted both of his starting cornerbacks, senior Kevin White and redshirt freshman Ranthony Texada, for not playing up to Patterson's standard. It's understandable why Patterson is getting after his team. It's also understandable, with the open week and hapless SMU up next, why the Horned Frogs might be a bit sluggish in practice this week.
With a large number of recruits and a national television audience tuning in, there was speculation that the Sooners might debut the uniforms last weekend against Tennessee. Stoops, however, said there had been a delay and that the uniforms were not ready.
They'll apparently be ready for Morgantown.
Saturday. pic.twitter.com/qBBewinfm9— Oklahoma Football (@OU_Football) September 17, 2014
How does that change things when you hear an opponent will be missing a key player?
Shepard: You don’t want to change your game plan but you definitely have to, if you’re studying one-on-one film, you want to look at the guy and see what he likes to do. Everybody has a different game and it’s something you have to go back and look at some film because the guy hasn’t played.
Is it one of those things where you don’t have a reaction to it so you respect the guy that is going to come in for him?
Shepard: You go about it the same way.
What do you remember about your last trip to West Virginia?
Shepard: It was a rowdy place. I had heard about the burning couches and everything and I wasn’t familiar with that. Now I am. Fans will say anything to you there. It’s a rowdy place but a great environment. I love playing there.
How important is it to lead by example on the road?
Shepard: It’s just keeping it in their [young players'] head to stay focused on your job and if you do your job you’ll be all right. Don’t focus on the crowd. When you get into the game, stuff tends to block out and you’ll be all right. Especially the young guys, you’ll start off nervous but that will end up coming down throughout the game.
What grade out you give yourself after three games?
Shepard: I try not to grade myself. I just try to go out and help everybody else, help my team out in any way I can. Get open and do my job. It’s like I tell the young guys: Do your job and the ball will come your way. And play with speed.
How close attention do you pay to other receivers around the nation?
Shepard: Not too much. I have a lot of friends like Stefon Diggs, Cayleb Jones so I’ll see what they’re doing from time to time. That’s about as far as that goes but I’m not looking on the Internet every day trying to see what guys are doing.
I’m sure you dreamed of playing here growing up; has it been what you expected?
Shepard: Oh yeah, I love it here. I’ve known these coaches for dang near my whole life. I love being around them and it’s just as I imagined when I was a little kid.