Big 12 stat check: Week 6

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1
2:30
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A closer look at one statistic worth keeping an eye on for each Big 12 team entering Week 6:

Baylor: Since defeating BCS No. 1 Kansas State at home on Nov. 17, 2012, Baylor's record of 19-2 is second-best in FBS behind Florida State (21-1). The Bears lead the nation in scoring offense, total offense, plays per game, first downs and yards per passing attempt during that 21-game stretch.

Iowa State: Tight end E.J. Bibbs' numbers seem way down, but they're relatively on pace with what he did last season. Bibbs has 11 receptions for 88 yards. and a TD today, and had 11 receptions for 105 yards and a TD through four games last season. Meniscus surgery during fall camp is the reason why the preseason All-Big 12 selection hasn't been a bigger factor. We should start seeing much more from him soon.

Kansas: One small reason for hope for new Kansas interim coach Clint Bowen: Of KU's 18 conference losses under Charlie Weis, the Jayhawks did hold a lead at some point in nine of those Big 12 games (including a 13-0 start vs. Oklahoma last season). But KU held a fourth-quarter lead in just one of those games, a 21-17 loss to Texas in 2012.

Kansas State: One thing K-State's defense is doing really well: Attacking the run game. The Wildcats are allowing 2.69 yards per carry this season, a rate that ranks 10th-best in FBS, and its total run defense (90.2 ypg) ranks 13th. Considering they faced an Auburn offense that's averaged 304.7 rushing yards in its other three games of 2014, that's pretty solid. Baylor and TCU are also in the top 10 for yards/rush defense.

Oklahoma: When the Sooners get close, they're getting the job done. Oklahoma has scored touchdowns on 100 percent of its goal-to-go situations this season and 79 percent of its trips to the red zone. Inside the red zone, Trevor Knight has turned the ball over just once (an interception vs. Louisiana Tech) and has taken one sack.

Oklahoma State: Through three games, Daxx Garman ranks No. 3 nationally in passing yards per completion at a whopping 18.96 yards. He's also ranked No. 7 in FBS in passing yards per attempt at 10.68. That's about as good a start as OSU could've asked for after losing J.W. Walsh.

TCU: The Horned Frogs outscored their non-conference opponents 73-7 in the first half this season. This team averaged 8.8 points per game in the first half last season but has scored 24 or more before halftime in all three of its games in 2014. None of those three foes were on Oklahoma's level, but it does appear TCU's new Air Raid is making this team better-equipped to put up points early.

Texas: The Longhorn defense has been stingy once opponents cross midfield. Its 3.38 yards per play allowed in those situations ranks No. 9 in FBS. Texas has nearly as many turnovers forced (six) as touchdowns allowed (seven) when opposing offenses have entered their territory.

Texas Tech: A few notes on the Red Raiders' problem with penalties: Tech has been flagged 150 times for 1,400 yards since the start of the 2013 season. No team has more penalty yards and only Baylor (154) has more penalties during that span. Texas Tech's 86 offensive penalties since Kliff Kingsbury took over is tied with Baylor for most in the country.

West Virginia: If the season ended today, WVU receiver Kevin White would have a legit case in the All-America discussion. He's the nation's second-leading receiver in yards per game (158.2) and ranks No. 3 in receptions per game (10.5). He's been so successful because he's caught 73.7 percent percent of passes thrown his way, a rate bested by only Alabama's Amari Cooper among wideouts with 500-plus receiving yards.
With a third of the season behind the majority of the Big 12, we’re starting to see which quarterbacks have improved since a year ago and which quarterbacks’ play is leaving much to be desired.

Baylor’s Bryce Petty has carried last season’s excellence into this season while West Virginia’s Clint Trickett and Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight are among the conference’s most improved players. With the help of ESPN Stats & Information, here’s a closer look at the Adjusted QBR (0-100, with 50 being average) rankings for each starting quarterback in the league as conference play starts to heat up heading into October.

[+] EnlargePetty
AP Photo/LM OteroBryce Petty has picked up where he left off last season, leading the Big 12 in Total QBR.
1. Bryce Petty, Baylor: 86. It’s no surprise to see the Big 12’s reigning offensive player of the year atop the list. He’s dropped dimes over the shoulders of defenders and even hurdled opponents on his way to the end zone. He’s passed for 913 yards and seven touchdowns with one interception while adding four touchdowns on the ground.

2. Clint Trickett, West Virginia: 82.5. The surprise of the early season, Trickett has held up his end of the bargain against the best competition any Big 12 quarterback has faced through four games. He leads the Big 12 in passing yards (1,600, 4th in FBS) and completion percentage (72 percent, 5th in FBS).

3. Trevor Knight, Oklahoma: 76.4. The sophomore has built upon his Allstate Sugar Bowl performance with the most consistent stretch of his young career. His 86.7 raw QBR on play-action plays is a terrific fit with the Sooners’ ground-and-pound approach.

4. Daxx Garman, Oklahoma State: 75.7. He’s not playing like a guy who seeing his first consistent action since 2009. Garman leads the Big 12 in raw QBR on third down plays (93.8) and against the blitz (99.3). His 18.96 yards per completion shows his willingness to look deep and trust the Cowboys’ receivers in one-on-one situations downfield.

5. Davis Webb, Texas Tech: 71.7. One of Webb’s strengths is his movement in the pocket. His 0.5 sack percentage ranks second in the Big 12 behind Petty as he’s been sacked once in 182 pass attempts. If he's unable to play against Kansas State, it will be interesting to see if freshman Patrick Mahomes can mimic his low sack total.

6. Trevone Boykin, TCU: 71.3. The Horned Frogs quarterback is third in the Big 12 in total offense at 347 yards per game. Boykin’s 0.8 interceptions per attempt is easily the most encouraging stat for TCU. He has one interception in 123 attempts through three games.

7. Jake Waters, Kansas State: 63.2. The senior has been solid in all areas while excelling with the ball tucked under his arm. He leads Big 12 quarterbacks with 215 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

8. Sam B. Richardson, Iowa State: 53.2. The Cyclones have had their problems this season but Richardson has been solid through four games. His completion percentage (68 percent) ranks second in the conference behind Trickett but there are plenty of areas for improvement for the Cyclones' signal-caller.

9. Tyrone Swoopes, Texas: 46.3. The sophomore is growing as a quarterback but still has a long way to go. His 33.2 raw QBR on third down is the worst in the Big 12 as UT has converted just 25 percent of his third-down throws into first downs, ranking last in the conference.

10. Montell Cozart, Kansas: 27.4. It feels like now or never for the sophomore who is talented but simply hasn’t gotten the job done. He’s the only quarterback in the conference who has thrown more interceptions (7) than touchdowns (5) and his 50.4 completion percentage is the Big 12’s worst.
WACO, Texas -- Goliath wasn't the one slinging stones. Nor had he much need for trash talk.

That's what makes the blossoming feud between Baylor and Texas so bemusing. Who would've ever thought the once-powerless Bears could someday provoke contempt from these once-gigantic Longhorns?

Their relationship has never felt more different than in 2014. David is faster and more confident than ever, his arsenal of weapons expanded well beyond the slingshot. Goliath, well, he's working through some issues right now.

Baylor players got heated in April when Texas linebacker Steve Edmond, in relatively unprovoked fashion, declared: "I really don't like Baylor. I still think they're trash." This week, when Texas receiver John Harris made a similarly dismissive comment, those players couldn't help but laugh.

"It's a sign of something…I just can't put my finger on it," Baylor lineman Pat Colbert said.

It's mostly disrespect. Texas players see no reason to bow down to the Big 12 champions in advance of their rematch on Saturday in Austin. No. 7 Baylor has beat the Longhorns three of the last four years, but can't quite seem to humble them.

If the Bears expect deference, they're looking in the wrong place.

"They're still Baylor," Harris said Monday. "Just because they started playing better in this era, that's good for them. We're still Texas."

Baylor coach Art Briles didn't quite know how to respond to that statement on Monday.

"I mean, what am I supposed to say?" Briles said. "We're still Baylor, TCU is still TCU, Oklahoma is still Oklahoma. I'm not sure what it means."

Why'd Harris say it? He was asked if Baylor was snatching control of the state of Texas away from his program. Briles says he doesn't look at things that way, that this is a "week-to-week business."

But anyone suggesting Baylor is still Baylor hasn't been paying too much attention, including to the scoreboard, over these past few seasons.

"We're a completely different team than we were five years ago," Bears linebacker Bryce Hager said. "We're a nationally contending team. Eventually, people are just going to have to accept it."

When Edmond's comments hit Twitter, Colbert was one of the first to react, vowing that the Bears would "kick our feet straight through his teeth AGAIN!!" Fellow lineman Troy Baker posted a photo of their Big 12 title trophy with the caption, "I love this trash too."

When asked Tuesday how he'd respond to being called trash, Colbert paused before offering: "You're trash for saying that."

Edmond has spoken to reporters just once since his post-spring game smack talk. When asked if he wanted to say anything more on the subject, he quickly said no. Teammate Quandre Diggs joked this summer that Edmond's comments weren't surprising because, simply put, he's gonna say what's on his mind.

"Steve is country. That's just how it is," Diggs said. "When you're raised in the country, you don't really care. You don't care about hurting people's feelings."

What made Edmond's diss so silly is the fact he didn't even play against Baylor last season while recovering from a lacerated liver. He'll get a chance to back up (or pay for) his words on Saturday.

"We'll keep an eye out for him," Colbert said.

Baylor receiver KD Cannon said he considers Texas' disrespect a sign of weakness. The freshman star, who did turn down an offer from UT, noticed Monday that Diggs said he'd never heard Baylor considers itself "Wide Receiver U."

"Texas is going to be Texas," Cannon said. "They have a good program. It's just trash talk. It's just something we've got to shut up."

There's a little more to the "trash" talk, too: Remember, Texas and Baylor were tied 3-3 at halftime last December. The Big 12 trophy and a Fiesta Bowl trip were on the line. And Texas flopped in the second half, getting outscored 27-7 and walking off the Floyd Casey Stadium field in silence as Baylor fans filled the field.

"It still haunts us that we were 30 minutes away from winning a Big 12 championship," Texas defensive end Cedric Reed said.

That heartbreak was the true source of Edmond's negativity and the reason why this bickering began. But if Texas can't appreciate the all-time high Baylor is riding right now, that's just fine with the Bears. They'd rather come down to Texas' house on Saturday and prove their point there.

"Of course they're not going to like us," Colbert said. "We're winning. They're down. We're up. We'll get ‘em back."

Big 12 morning links

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1
8:00
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Come on LeBron. Is it that serious?
  • Texas players didn't hesitate to speak their minds about Baylor but the Bears' players refused to bite when asked about the comments of John Harris and Quandre Diggs on Monday, reports John Werner of the Waco Tribune. I'm sure the Bears had conversations about not feeding into the comments but somehow I think we will be looking at a different story on Saturday. I'd be shocked if the Bears are as quiet on Saturday as they were this week, there should be plenty of trash talk in Austin, Texas, this weekend. On the field and in the stands.
  • Can Iowa State mimic Baylor? Bobby La Gesse of the Ames Tribune thinks the Cyclones can follow BU's blueprint. It makes sense on a bunch of different levels since the Bears were once cemented on the bottom of the Big 12 standings. But BU has a much bigger talent base to tap into, even though they have to hold off nationwide suitors for the top players in their state. The Cyclones just don't have the pool of talent to recruit from like Baylor does, so evaluation and finding hidden gems becomes even more important in Ames, Iowa. That said, ISU does have plenty of assets to offer so a Baylor-like rise is not impossible, it would just have to be done differently.
  • The poor quarterback play at Kansas is now Clint Bowen's problem, writes Tom Keegan of the Lawrence Journal-World. Montell Cozart has been bad early this season and the fact the Jayhawks haven't turned to Michael Cummings speaks volumes about the state of the quarterback position in Lawrence. Cozart looked like the quarterback of the future but if he doesn't turn things around immediately the future may never come.
  • This was a classy move from Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs. He took the time to write a letter to the editor at Kansas State's student newspaper to thank K-State and its fans for the hospitality when the Tigers visited Manhattan, Kansas, on Sept. 18.
  • Oklahoma confirmed the NCAA's denial of Baker Mayfield's eligibility on Tuesday, reports Eric Bailey of the Tulsa World. Mayfield will be allowed to be placed on scholarship. Of all the uncertainty surrounding the Sooners program in the offseason, Mayfield's ineligibility could be the biggest blow. Quarterback Trevor Knight has remained healthy through four games but if anything happens to Knight, OU could be forced to turn to Blake Bell under center or rely on a redshirt freshman Cody Thomas. Bell has moved to tight end and Thomas has only played one game in his career. If Mayfield had been cleared to play, it would have brought peace of mind to the program.

Big 12 Tuesday mailbag

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
4:00
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In Tuesday's mailbag we talk Charlie Strong, the futures of TCU, Oklahoma State and West Virginia and the College Football Playoff committee. Thanks for your questions this week, to submit a question for next Tuesday's mailbag, click here.

On to the mailbag:

[+] EnlargeBill Snyder
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesBill Snyder's Wildcats have a difficult remaining schedule, but it's one that would garner national attention should they negotiate it successfully.
Cain in Auckland writes: Hey guys, love the blog! Firstly, do you think Kansas State has found their answer at running back with Charles Jones? And also, with K-State's schedule (Auburn, at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, at TCU, at West Virginia, at Baylor) do you believe KSU as an 11-1 Big 12 champ makes the playoff over a 11-1 SEC West runner up or 11-1 Big 10 Champ?

Brandon Chatmon: I really like what Charles Jones is bringing to the table for the Wildcats. He’s not John Hubert, but he has the chance to be a very productive back and has proven his ability to find the end zone with eight touchdowns in four games. To answer your second question, I think an 11-1 K-State should get in over most one-loss Big Ten champions or most one-loss SEC West runners-up. Obviously a lot of that has to do with who those losses came against, but the Wildcats would have a strong case with road wins at Baylor and Oklahoma. Now, will they get in? That’s another question entirely and we don’t have a history to look back upon to know how the College Football Playoff committee will handle these situations.

Christian in Missoula, Montana, writes: Do you have week 8 circled on your calendars for a little more clarity in the Big 12 title race? The top six teams are on the field against one another. Also, even as an Oklahoma State grad I'm left wondering why so much love for WVU and so little for TCU? I personally would put TCU's wins over WVU losses, but who cares, right? We'll know what TCU has by next Saturday.

Chatmon: I think every week is a big week. We sometimes overlook the week ahead of us in anticipation of later matchups then something unexpected happens. Week 8 will be a big week but we could have some clarity before then. TCU hasn’t really been tested but can take care of business against the Sooners and plenty of love will be headed their way.

Matt in Fort Worth writes: The Playoff Committee had already publicly stated that they will not be looking at margin of victory. Now Barry Alvarez says he has been looking at just that (normalized for schedule strength). And, he made the statement just in time for some teams viewed as having little shot to make the playoffs to whip up on their final weak out-of-conference foe. This doesn't seem right. What do you think?

Chatmon: That’s why they have a playoff committee. Everyone has their own bias, expectations, etc., but I’m confident the committee will do a solid job. And I doubt any team would be running up the score based on what one committee member says. I can’t imagine winning by 44 instead of 24 over a weak opponent is going to be a deciding factor.

Louie in Pace, Florida, writes: What do you think WVU's chances are of going 9-3 this year? They played two of the top four teams in the country and pretty much competed with both of them. The toughest game left on their schedule are at home with the exception of Tech and Texas being on the road. If not 9-3 where do you think they will finish?

Chatmon: I’m not ready to lock them in at 9-3 but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Mountaineers finish with 9 or 10 wins with a bowl game. I’d add Oklahoma State to your list of tough road games making WVU’s tough stretch of Baylor, at OSU, TCU, at Texas the main reason I’m looking at 7 or 8 wins for WVU as of right now.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong
AP Photo/Michael ThomasTexas coach Charlie Strong is still trying to gain a foothold in his first season.
John McKay in Louisville writes: Why in the world is Charlie Strong getting any criticism at all? He has coached four games, not four seasons! He did not turn around Louisville in four games, it took his third season to have a really good one, and beat a perceived powerhouse program. Everyone needs to calm down and give him at least 3-4 complete seasons to see what his effect is on the program. A third of a season does not a career make.

Chatmon: I agree John, but we live in a "win now" world. Strong should get a pass this season as he tries to lay a quality foundation but if we don’t see clear signs of progress early next year, that’s when I would understand the heat starting to turn up under his seat.

Nicholas in Houston writes: OSU has a brutal stretch in the back half of the season. Apart from OU and Baylor, which of our remaining opponents should scare us the most? As of this moment, my vote is WVU.

Chatmon: I’d also keep on eye on the Pokes visit to TCU on Oct. 18. The Horned Frogs will play good defense and will be the best defense Daxx Garman has faced since he took over as OSU starting signal-caller. How will he respond?

Taylor Cook in Houston writes: After watching OK State vs. Texas Tech play with alternate uniforms on Thursday I wonder what happens first with a Bill Snyder-coached team: A CFB Playoff appearance or a game with alternate KSU uniforms? Even some "iconic" teams have gone with slight tweaks to the uniform or helmet, but K-State has been the same for a long time.

Chatmon: That’s easy Taylor, a College Football Playoff berth.

Mike in Goldsby, Oklahoma, writes: You said, "If the polls affect the College Football Playoff committee then we have bigger problems". Do you think there's any chance of the opposite happening? The CFP committee rankings affecting the polls?

Chatmon: I would hope so. I expect the College Football Playoff committee to invest more time in their rankings than the average voter.

Roundtable: Keys for TCU, Texas

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
1:00
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In our weekly Big 12 roundtable, we examine the keys to Texas and TCU knocking off Big 12 co-favorites Baylor and Oklahoma this weekend, and whether Kansas will notch another win under interim coach Clint Bowen:

What is the key to Texas pulling off the upset over Baylor?

Brandon Chatmon: If Texas actually decides to walk the walk. The Longhorns players haven’t been bashful in sharing their thoughts on Baylor’s rise. UT hung with Baylor for a while a year ago before the Bears finally pulled away, but that Longhorns squad had rebounded after a horrible start to the season and entered the 2013 meeting with some confidence. That’s not the scenario this time around. Are the Longhorns are trying to talk themselves into believing they can win?

Max Olson: Charlie Strong is the kind of coach who'll tell you Texas just needs to score one more point than Baylor. Well, how many points is that going to take? His track record suggests Strong and his staff will draw up a game plan that gives Texas' defense a chance to slow down Bryce Petty and his infinite weapons. But Tyrone Swoopes and this slow-moving Longhorn offense must find easier ways to run the ball and score and, more important, they must answer whenever Baylor does strike. It's going to take resilience, but Texas can't win unless its offense rises to the challenge in a way we've yet to witness in 2014.

Jake Trotter: The only way Texas will have a chance is if it runs the ball. Swoopes isn’t Blake Bortles or even Clint Chelf, so the Longhorns aren’t going to be able to simply outscore the Bears. That means Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown will have to move the chains to keep Petty and Co. off the field. The Longhorns actually are talented enough defensively to create issues for the Baylor offense. Defensive tackle Malcom Brown has been a beast in the middle, and the back seven is creating turnovers. But they can hold the finger in the dam for only so long. Eventually, the Bears will hit Texas up for big plays. Which is why it’s imperative the Horns grind out some drives and limit Petty’s opportunities to gouge them.

What is the key to TCU pulling off the upset over Oklahoma?

Chatmon: Trevone Boykin. Nobody knows how Boykin will react against the chaos the Sooners defense will create nor do we know just how much Boykin has improved since last season. It could get ugly for the TCU signal-caller. Or he could be the biggest nightmare this Sooners defense will see all season. If he executes TCU’s new offense like a veteran quarterback, Boykin has the ability to stress a defense unlike any other quarterback in the Big 12 with his ability to run like a running back in the open field. A great game from Boykin could be the worst-case scenario for OU.

Olson: Brandon is right, it's Boykin and the way he responds to the pressure of this Oklahoma defense. But I'm curious about the other side of the ball, too: How will the Horned Frogs attack Trevor Knight, make him uncomfortable and force him to make difficult throws? Against Tennessee and West Virginia, Knight was efficient when passing against blitzes. TCU needs to get after him and throw off the timing of this offense. OU will take this game over if Knight gets off to a sharp start.

Trotter: The TCU offensive line has to hold up against Oklahoma’s swarming front seven. The Horned Frogs’ defense traditionally has fared well against the Sooners, but TCU has been unable to win in its two Big 12 meetings with the Sooners because of its inability to move the ball. The Horned Frogs opened last year’s game against Oklahoma with seven three-and-outs. TCU got dominated at the line of scrimmage and finished with only 44 yards rushing in that game. That didn’t cut it last year, and it won’t Saturday, either. Gary Patterson switched up his coordinators in the offseason to jump-start the offense. But it won’t amount to much if TCU gets obliterated up front again.

Under Bowen, will Kansas win another game?

Chatmon: Sure, why not? It only takes one team to slip up against the Jayhawks, and KU’s defense has actually been pretty good this season. But it has been overshadowed by the lackluster performance of its offense and sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart. The Jayhawks could find themselves hanging in a game thanks to their defense then getting one or two big plays to somehow pull out a win. I can’t say who should be on upset alert, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they pull off an win.

Olson: You would think that Texas Tech will have its house in order by the time KU plays in Lubbock on Oct. 18, though clearly at this point that's a team with some vulnerabilities. Realistically, though, Kansas' best chance comes at home against Iowa State on Nov. 8. And I think Bowen will treat the season finale at Kansas State like the Jayhawks' bowl game. That's going to be a throw-the-kitchen-sink game and a prime chance for Bowen to prove he deserves a shot at the job.

Trotter: I want to say yes, but look at the schedule and tell me who Kansas is going to beat? The Jayhawks have only three more home games. I don’t see Kansas being able to score against TCU on No. 15. I don’t see them being able to score with Oklahoma State on Oct. 11. That leaves Iowa State on Nov. 8. And if I had to pick that game today, I’d pick the Cyclones, who, by the way, slaughtered Kansas last year, 34-0. I think the Jayhawks will compete harder under Bown than they did under Charlie Weis. I’m just not sure this Kansas offense is competent enough for it to matter.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Charlie Strong knew his Texas team would be an underdog against No. 7 Baylor. He hadn't heard how badly Vegas is doubting his team this week.

"They're really good," Strong said of Baylor on Monday. "I don't know, what's the spread? How big is it?"

A couple touchdowns, he was told. In fact, the line has already moved from 13.5 to 16.

Strong looked down and raised his eyebrows. Then he had to grin and laugh.

"Wow, there's something," he said. "They deserve every bit of it!"

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
AP Photo/Bill WippertBryce Petty and the unbeaten Baylor Bears will play at Texas in a marquee Week 6 matchup.
If Baylor was looking for more good bulletin-board material, Strong did indeed disappoint on Monday. The Longhorns' first-year coach had nothing but praise for Baylor's No. 1-ranked offense during his weekly news conference. If anything, he offered admiration as a veteran defensive guru for what this prolific offense has put on tape.

"It's almost like watching a video game," Strong said.

Strong isn't one to cling to the underdog mentality -- he was a double-digit dog just four times as head coach at Louisville -- but he'll take anything he can get this week as he prepares his defense for the Bears' onslaught.

"We're going to have to play really well," he said. "We will have to play really well to be in the ballgame."

He's seen the numbers -- Baylor's nation-leading 56.8 points and 641 yards per game -- and he's seen the film. Texas has a top-20 defense thus far, both in scoring and yardage, but Strong admitted coming up with ways to slow down this particular offense is "going to keep us up at night." Especially when it comes to disrupting Bryce Petty.

"He's the leader of that team, he releases the ball and hasn't taken any sacks," Strong said. "He's just so heady and he knows exactly where to put it."

Strong said he's reminded of former Heisman Trophy winner Danny Weurffel when he watches Petty run the show, citing "just how smart he is and where he places the ball. He doesn't make mistakes with the football."

As for the loaded group of Baylor receivers, what impresses Strong isn't just their explosiveness and big-play capability. He's noticed strategies on tape that he'd never seen before.

"It's amazing to watch them," Strong said. "You can watch one side (of the field) and the receivers do nothing, they don't run off the ball and they stop. They'll work you to the front side. It's almost like, ‘Stop us. The ball is coming over here and we're just seeing if you're good enough to go cover us and stop us.'"

Though Strong has never faced Art Briles in his career, he's quick to recognize the system's intent: Exploit mismatches, cause confusion, blend inside power and outside speed and do it all as fast as possible.

And few defenses handled that attack in 2013 as well as Texas did, at least in the first half.

Baylor finished with 3 points through two quarters despite 232 total yards. The Longhorns forced three punts. The Bears had two missed field goals. They had a tied ballgame at the half. But Texas couldn't finish, and didn't have the firepower on offense to keep up despite holding Baylor to 30 points that night.

Strong doesn't know how many points it'll take to beat Baylor this time. He just knows his offense, averaging 21.3 points per game, isn't ready for a high-scoring affair.

"We can't get into a track meet, and we know that as a staff," Strong said. "There's no way. We can't generate the points to get into a track meet."

Charlie Strong: Character matters

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
4:17
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video

AUSTIN, Texas -- College football programs need to do a better job of molding players into responsible adults, Texas Longhorns coach Charlie Strong said Monday, a day after he visited with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Goodell and the NFL have been under fire for the league's handling of players involved in domestic abuse cases. Goodell spent three hours visiting a domestic violence hotline headquarters in Austin on Saturday, then met with Strong on Sunday.

The first-year Texas coach has dismissed nine players for rules violations or legal problems and has become renowned for his program's five core values: honesty, treating women with respect, no drugs, no guns and no stealing.

"(It) was not so much about our core values, but also we just talked about the character of athletes," Strong said of his discussion with Goodell. "I said to him what is happening in the NFL is we're sending you some players that have questionable character, and I said you're giving them a lot of money.

"You give somebody who has bad character a lot of money, that's a situation probably you want to avoid," Strong said. "We have to do a better job in college of just preparing young men and doing a better job with their character."

Strong hasn't been afraid to discipline some of the best players on his roster. He has dismissed and suspended several potential starters this season.

"When a young man knows you care about him and he can trust you, you can get a lot of things done with him," Strong said. "When you have 95 percent doing it right, and five percent who aren't, they're looking like what are you going to do about it?"

The NFL did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.


(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.

Texas, BYU, USF schedule series

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
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Texas and the University of South Florida have agreed to a three-game series, while BYU and USF have scheduled a home-and-home series, sources said.

USF will visit Texas in 2019 and 2024, while the Longhorns will play at USF in 2022. USF hosts BYU in 2021 and travels to BYU in 2022.

The series will be the first-ever meetings between Texas and USF as well as BYU and USF.

Texas' game in Tampa, Florida, will be only the Longhorns' fourth-ever game in the state of Florida. Texas played at UCF in 2007, Miami in 1973 and Florida in 1940.

While Texas is 2-1 all-time in the state of Florida, BYU is winless. The Cougars are 0-5 in Florida, but could get two chances for their first victory in the Sunshine State this year. On Oct. 9, BYU visits UCF, and the Cougars also will play in the Miami Beach Bowl on Dec. 22 if they are bowl-eligible and do not qualify for the College Football Playoff or one of the CFB playoffs New Year's six bowls.

BYU's only other Florida appearances have been losses to Florida State in Tallahassee in 2010 and Jacksonville in 2000, and at Miami in 1988. BYU also lost in Orlando to Ohio State in the 1985 Citrus Bowl and to Oklahoma State in the the 1976 Tangerine Bowl.

These series are the latest in a number of future home-and-home series recently announced by the schools, including Texas-Michigan, BYU-Washington, USF-Syracuse and USF-Northern Illinois.


(Read full post)


Big 12 FPI rankings: Week 5

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
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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.

ESPN 300 Player of the Week: Sept. 29 

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
10:00
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video
Each week, RecruitingNation's scouts will highlight great performances from the nation's top recruits.

This week's honoree is Texas Longhorns QB commit Zach Gentry, No. 87 in the ESPN 300, and the No. 5 pocket passer prospect in the country. Check out the highlights Video.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 5

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
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Taking stock of Week 5 in the Big 12:

Team of the week: Baylor. Any time you go to Iowa State and come up with a win, it’s a big deal -- even if three teams have already done it now this season. Ames traditionally has not been an easy place to play, and Baylor made it look easy with a four-touchdown halftime lead on the way to a 49-28 win. The Bears dominated with 32 first downs and 601 yards of offense.

Disappointment of the week: Kansas. The Jayhawks played Texas tough its last trip to Lawrence, and had every opportunity to give the offensively challenged Longhorns another tough fight. Instead, Montell Cozart threw four interceptions, and Kansas squandered away every scoring opportunity in a 23-0 defeat. The lackluster performance was the final straw in the Charlie Weis era.

Big (offensive) man on campus: Corey Coleman. Baylor insiders had been touting the sophomore as the next great Baylor wide receiver during the offseason. But when Coleman suffered a preseason hamstring injury, true freshman K.D. Cannon stole that hype. Coleman got it back in Ames with a monster debut to the season. He had 12 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown, leading the Baylor scoring barrage.

Big (defensive) man on campus: James McFarland. Sure, SMU might be inept offensively. Really inept, in fact. Still, the TCU defensive end had a huge afternoon in the Horned Frogs’ 56-0 stomping of the Mustangs. McFarland finished with three of TCU’s nine sacks. It was a career-high for McFarland, and the most sacks for the Horned Frogs in a game since 2002. McFarland also forced two fumbles, and produced a pass-breakup on a fourth down at the TCU 1-yard line to preserve the shutout.

Special-teams player of the week: Tyler Lockett. Another game, another big day for K-State’s do-it-all playmaker. In a 58-28 win against UTEP, Lockett finished with 143 yards on punt returns, the second-most in school history and 29 short of tying the school record of 172 set by David Allen in 1998. Lockett also caught four passes for 84 yards. He now leads the country in punt return yards per game.

Play of the week: It’s not easy to fumble and throw an interception on the same play. But that is what happened to backup Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes in relief of injured starter Davis Webb. Early in the fourth quarter, Mahomes had the ball stripped away. He then scooped it up and tossed it to his right wildly as he was falling down. The ball deflected off running back Quinton White and into the arms of Seth Jacobs for an interception. The Cowboys scored four plays later to go up 45-28 and put the game away.

Stat of the week: Texas Tech was flagged 16 times for 158 yards in the 45-35 loss to Oklahoma State. As a result, the Red Raiders now lead the nation with 105.5 penalty yards per game.

Quote of the week: "We have not made the on-the-field progress we believe we should." -- Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger, on why he fired coach Charlie Weis.

Big 12 morning links

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
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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.

Big 12 bowl projections: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
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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

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Goodell Meets With Charlie Strong
ESPN senior NFL writer John Clayton discusses why NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and league executive Troy Vincent met with Texas coach Charlie Strong.
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