Five things: No. 25 Texas Longhorns
1. Be the more physical team: This was the most important reason why Texas upset Oklahoma. It wasn’t scheme, it was attitude. That’s applicable to both sides of the ball, but it’s especially important up front with an offensive line that must get rolling to power Texas’ essential run game. As Major Applewhite put it after OU, the key was “playing you’re a** off.” The Longhorns did that against Texas Tech and need more of the same on Saturday.
2. Limit big plays: In the blowout loss at Oklahoma State, Baylor put up 453 yards on 83 plays. Half of those yards came on seven plays. The Bears gained 30-plus on just two. That’s about as good as you could’ve asked for, defensively, if you’re the Pokes. A strong defensive showing can fall apart with just a few busts, like permitting an easy 50-yarder for Antwan Goodley or joining the many who have let Lache Seastrunk dash 80 yards. Weather permitting, Texas must get a few big plays of its own from speedsters Mike Davis, Marcus Johnson and/or Daje Johnson.
3. Turnover battle: Texas is 96-6 in the Mack Brown era when it wins the turnover battle, including 5-1 this season. TCU could’ve pulled off a huge upset in Fort Worth last week if not for the fact that Baylor’s defense created three touchdowns, two on pick-sixes. The Bears were minus-3 against Oklahoma State. Considering the weather expected for this game, there’s a good chance turnovers decide this game.
4. Challenge Petty: Baylor QB Bryce Petty has been sacked 10 times in his last four games. Texas notched nine sacks in its last game. But it’s not just about takedowns. When a defense gets physical with Baylor’s receivers, Petty’s timing in the pocket can get thrown off and he starts overthrowing. If Jackson Jeffcoat plays his “spinner” role again, can he and the Texas defensive line cause problems for the All-Big 12 quarterback?
Five things: No. 9 Baylor Bears
1. Establish run game: Baylor leaned heavily on a now-healthy Seastrunk early last week, giving him 19 first-half carries and a career-high 24. Seastrunk, Glasco Martin and Shock Linwood need to pound the middle of a Texas front that, from an experience standpoint, is basically down to two linebackers and two defensive tackles. Keep an eye on the QB run game, too. It remains Texas’ greatest weakness as a defense, and Petty has rushed for 161 yards (excluding sacks) in his last four games.
2. Scoring explosion: In six games this season, the Bears scored at least 21 points in the first quarter. This Texas offense needs to control the tempo and would have a hard time keeping up if Baylor comes out firing and lights up the scoreboard early. But remember: Against Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU, Baylor scored a combined 20 first-quarter points. The good defenses haven’t made it easy.
3. Make McCoy beat you: It’s a phrase that has probably been uttered by every Big 12 defensive coordinator Texas has faced. And yet, the Longhorns are 7-1 in the league. McCoy has a 10-9 TD-INT ratio, which hasn’t burned him much, with the exception of a three-interception day against OSU. McCoy has had some big moments in 2013 and vows he’s a different quarterback than the gunslinger that threw four picks in Waco two years ago. Still, if Baylor can stop the run consistently and force McCoy to win the game with his arm, the Bears will like their chances.
4. Second-and-long, 3-and-out: No Big 12 team has forced more 3-and-outs than Baylor this season. Texas’ offense has the second-fewest in Big 12 play. Something’s got to give. With how heavily Texas relies on the run, getting into second-and-long and third-and-long will mean lots of advantageous situations for a banged-up Bear defense.
5. Depth needed: We talked the depth up plenty when Baylor was rolling. The injuries that have piled up and finally took a toll against Oklahoma State. The Bears gritted out a close one with TCU despite missing several starters, but once again, the second-stringers will need to step up big when called upon.
- Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf has sparked the Cowboys offense. In Chelf’s last five starts, the Cowboys have averaged 47.8 points per game and have outscored opponents by 28.4 points per game.
- Chelf completed 9-of-13 passes thrown 15 yards or longer against Baylor. His nine completions and 278 yards on such passes were the most by a Big 12 player this season.
- Chelf has had an FBS-high 94.4 opponent-adjusted QBR since Nov. 1. During that time, Oklahoma State defeated three opponents ranked in the top 25 of the BCS standings and Chelf has been responsible for 15 touchdowns and 305.8 total yards per game.
- Oklahoma State has scored a touchdown on 92 percent of its red-zone drives in the last five games, third best in the FBS since the start of Week 9. From Weeks 1-8, the Cowboys scored a touchdown on 64.5 percent of their red-zone opportunities, 51st among FBS teams.
- Oklahoma State has nine interceptions on passes thrown 15 yards or longer, tied with Kansas State for most in the Big 12.
- On Saturday, Oklahoma State is looking to win its 51st game in five years.
- OSU can finish undefeated at home for just the 12th time in school history and improve to 18-1 in its last 19 games at Boone Pickens Stadium.
- OSU has scored 20 or more points in 50 straight games, a streak that started at the beginning of the 2010 season. It’s the longest active streak in the country.
- OSU has won or tied the turnover battle in 19 of its last 22 games and has forced at least one turnover in its last 19 contests.
- OSU’s undefeated November was its first since 1945 when the Cowboys went 9-0 and won the Sugar Bowl.
- OSU outscored opponents 181-70 in November, earning wins over three ranked teams in the process (Texas Tech, Texas, Baylor).
- Oklahoma has a Big 12-low 60 missed tackles this season, 11 fewer than any other Big 12 team.
- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is 7-1 in head-to-head meetings with Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy.
- OU is looking to score 40 points for three straight games for the first time this season. The Sooners averaging 31.7 points per game after averaging 38.2 points per game in 2012.
- OU’s defense has allowed 10 points and 33 rushing yards in its last two games combined (wins over Iowa State and Kansas State).
- OU is 4-0 when senior running back Brennan Clay rushes for 100 yards or more.
- With a win the Sooners would join Alabama, Oregon and Stanford as teams from BCS conferences with four straight seasons with at least 10 wins.
- OU is 11-3 in December under Stoops.
- The Sooners are 12-8 on the road against ranked opponents under Stoops.
- OU is 38-7-5 all-time against OSU in Stillwater.
- OU and OSU are the Big 12’s winningest teams in conference play since 2008. OU is 38-12 while OSU is 37-13.
- The Texas-Baylor series dates back to 1901 and Saturday’s meeting will be the 103rd battle between the two teams.
- Texas coach Mack Brown is 13-2 against Baylor.
- UT has allowed 3.4 yards per carry in its last eight games after allowing seven yards per carry to BYU and Ole Miss earlier this season.
- UT has 14 seasons of eight or more wins during 15 seasons under Brown. The Longhorns had six seasons of eight or more wins in the previous 15 years.
- UT has scored 30 or more points in seven of its last eight games.
- This year’s UT-BU matchup is the first time both teams are ranked since 1990.
- UT has held Baylor to 14 points or fewer in 9 of 15 meetings under Brown.
- Baylor has 26 touchdowns on drives that lasted 1 minute or less, six more than any other team. However, the Bears only have one such touchdown in their past two games.
- Even with its recent struggles, Baylor’s offense leads the nation in total offense (635.1 yards per game), scoring (55.4 points per game) and passing yards per completion (17.81).
- Baylor will wear Nike retro uniforms to honor the first team to play in Floyd Casey Stadium against Texas. It is the final game at Floyd Casey, where the Bears are 190-146-5 all-time.
- Baylor leads the FBS in plays (53) and touchdowns (28) of 30 yards or longer.
- BU running back Lache Seastrunk has made it at least 5 yards past the line of scrimmage before first contact on 36 percent of his rushes, the highest percentage among AQ running backs with at least 75 carries.
- Bryce Petty has 25 completions on passes thrown 25 yards or longer, five more than any other AQ quarterback. He also leads all AQ quarterbacks with 13 touchdowns on such passes.
- In conference play, Texas’ opponents have had a 35.9 Total QBR, tied for second best in the Big 12. In nonconference games, Texas’ opponents have had a 78.0 Total QBR, worst in the Big 12.
- BU is looking to close Floyd Casey with a 10th straight win at home, a school record.
- BU is 14-2 in November and December since 2011.
- The Bears are looking to win their third game in four seasons against UT for the first time since 1988-91.
- Baylor’s starting defense has allowed 26 touchdowns in 11 games.
- Baylor is fifth in the FBS and second in the Big 12 with 8.1 tackles for loss per game.
- BU has converted 79 of 165 third down conversion attempts (47.9 percent), ranking No. 16 nationally and No. 1 in the Big 12.
- Petty set a program record with 229 pass attempts without an interception until throwing one against TCU. Robert Griffin III was the previous record holder with 209.
- Petty needs one game of 200 passing yards or more to break Griffin’s single season record of 12 set in 2011.
- BU receiver Antawn Goodley needs one more touchdown catch to move into sole possession of second place on the single season list. He’ll tie Kendall Wright’s 14 with two more touchdown catches.
- AP Top 25 teams are 0-5 at Floyd Casey Stadium during the past three seasons.
- Baylor has the longest home win streak in the conference, having won nine straight in Waco.
Oklahoma visits Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., to take on Oklahoma State on Saturday (Noon ET, ABC). Here are some storylines, interesting stats, players to watch and a prediction:
Can Trevor Knight match his performance at Kansas State? The Sooners redshirt freshman quarterback was outstanding against the Wildcats. He used his quickness and speed to create havoc as a runner while being accurate and decisive as a passer. If he plays that way against the Cowboys, he will create problems for their defense.
Will OSU continue to dominate at home? The Cowboys have outscored opponents by 28.4 points per game while going 5-0 at Boone Pickens Stadium. OSU is 18-1 at home in its past 19 games, so winning in Stillwater is harder than many people realize.
Who wins the turnover battle? Whoever wins the turnover battle probably will win the game, particularly if the chilly weather makes everything harder on the offenses. OSU has forced 22 turnovers during its seven-game win streak, while OU has forced 16 turnovers in its nine wins.
Key stats, courtesy ESPN Stats & Information
Clint Chelf's running: OSU quarterback Clint Chelf isn't known for his running ability, but the Cowboys have used his mobility to terrorize defenses. Chelf is averaging 5.4 rushing yards before contact and has gained 258 total rushing yards before contact, ranking second on the team. OSU will look to continue to pick and choose the times to unleash Chelf, while OU likely will have a plan to stop his running.
Players to watch
OSU linebacker Caleb Lavey: The senior is making a strong case for Big 12 defensive player of the year. He has done it all for the Pokes this season, from tackles to interceptions to tackles for loss. He has 82 tackles this season and can cap off his player-of-the-year campaign with a strong game against an OU rushing offense that is one of the conference's best.
OU linebacker Dominique Alexander: The true freshman has played remarkably well in his first season in crimson and cream. He has 25 tackles in OU's past three games and will need to play well if the Sooners hope to force the Cowboys to throw by taking their running game out of the equation.
OSU quarterback Chelf: He has played as well as any quarterback in the nation during the past four weeks, accounting for 15 touchdowns and 305.8 yards per game. If he continues to operate the Cowboys' attack that efficiently, it might not matter what OU does.
OU receiver Jalen Saunders: The Sooners are going to need Saunders and his running mates at the receiver spot to create opportunities to make big plays. OSU will come out to stop OU's running game, likely leaving one-on-one opportunities on the outside. If OU hopes to win, the Sooners' receivers must win the majority of those battles.
Prediction: OSU 34, OU 24. Both running games will have success, but the Cowboys' ability to keep OU's defense honest through the air without turning the ball over will be the difference.
In this week's Big 12 Conference Call, Jake Trotter looks how Oklahoma's running game has been the key to the Sooners' late-season success, but they now face one of the most daunting tasks in Oklahoma State's defense.
Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty is coming back for his senior season, ensuring the Bears can take another step and compete for a Big 12 title again in 2014.
During an interview in late October, Petty told me he’d never given much thought to entering the NFL draft early. He was just trying to enjoy his junior season, one in which he’d waited for after three years on the bench. If the Heisman Trophy was a possibility for him, that would have been great. But it wasn’t his goal.
The goal was Pasadena. He wanted to lead Baylor to the national championship game. Once the Bears were knocked out of the top 5 after a loss to Oklahoma State, Petty seemed a lock to return. Why turn down another chance to make a run at a Big 12 title?
With Petty set to stick around, the big unanswered question is Lache Seastrunk’s decision. If the Bears get both their All-Big 12 quarterback and running back to return for their senior seasons, they may be the league’s preseason favorite.
While it’s possible that as many as seven or eight NFL teams could draft a QB in the first round next April, Petty made a smart move here. Like Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, who also elected to return, he can raise his stock as a first-rounder with another big season in 2014.
At one point this season, before Baylor began its tough five-game regular-season finish against Oklahoma on Nov. 7, Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Petty as the No. 6 quarterback in the draft.
All that matters to Petty, though, is being the No. 1 team in the Big 12. A loss to Oklahoma State cost Baylor that spot. Even if it does sneak into the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl with a win this weekend against Texas, there remains unfinished business. Petty now has another year to get the job done.
Even with the lofty goals unmet, Johnny Football still gave the country plenty to talk about this season.
It began with Manziel under a microscope, dealing with a level of scrutiny that perhaps no college football player has ever experienced. Everyone seemed to have an opinion about Manziel, what he did on the field, off the field, whether he was good for the game or bad or what his future held. The questions and comments ranged from valid and insightful to bewildering and off-the-wall.
How long ago that seems now.
Despite the pressure of an NCAA investigation into allegations that he accepted money for autographs (the investigation found no evidence that Manziel accepted money, but he was suspended for a half for an "inadvertent" violation) and the constant spotlight that followed him around from coast to coast, whether it was a talk-show appearance or a fraternity party, Manziel began the season playing at a level even higher than that of his first season. All his passing numbers went up, his interception count -- at least initially -- was down and soon, all anyone was left to talk about was his play on the field.
Perhaps that was Manziel's most astonishing accomplishment this season. He didn't get swallowed by the tidal wave of sudden fame. He was able to cast it all aside, focus on football and raise his level of play.
"The scrutiny he was under in the offseason was probably unlike anybody else in the country, or ever has been in college football," Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said last month. "But he's back to just playing football and doing what he likes to do."
And football was the reason people began talking about him in the first place. His captivating 2012, in which he became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, was the reason everyone was so enthralled with him in the first place.
He also became virtually absent from social media. After his infamous "why I can't wait to leave college station" tweet in mid-June (which has since been deleted), Manziel stopped posting on his Twitter page until SEC media days in July. He picked it back up for a couple weeks, but once preseason training camp began, Manziel stopped posting, period. He hasn't tweeted from his account since Aug. 1. He has posted photos to his Instagram account, but it's been sporadic throughout the season.
Back at SEC media days, when asked about his initial month-long absence, he said "No more talking off the field. All the talking's done on the field," and that he'd have a better game plan for his social media participation. He's lived up to both promises.
Which again, brings the conversation back to his play. The adversity he faced this season was mostly of the on-the-field type and in the second half of the season, it became about his health. After a terrific start, Manziel suffered a right shoulder injury against Auburn, a throwing hand injury against Mississippi State, and he seemingly hurt his ankle against Missouri (or perhaps aggravated an earlier injury to it). By season's end, the nation's most electrifying player began to look human.
Still, the numbers are staggering. He ranks in the top 10 in passing yards per game (311), passing touchdowns (33), completion percentage (69.1), yards per pass attempt (9.55), passer rating (170.4), total offensive yards per game (368.2), yards per play and points responsible for per game (3.41). He's the only quarterback in the FBS to rank in the top 10 of all eight of those categories. He also reduced the number of times he ran the football, in order to show that he could be a pocket passer and perhaps minimize the number of hits he took.
He has raised his passing yard total (3,732), and his completion percentage and passing touchdown total are all up. His play gave the Aggies a chance to win virtually every game except the LSU contest, a 34-10 defeat that is A&M's only double-digit setback in the Sumlin era. Even in losses to Alabama and Auburn, Manziel put up eye-popping numbers and made highlight-worthy plays, but as coaches often say, this is a team sport and one man can't do it all.
As the injuries piled up toward the end of the season, the effect it had on his play became evident. Sumlin and Texas A&M don't often go into details about injuries so it's difficult to know how badly he was beat up at season's end. But there's no questioning his toughness; he played whenever he was physically able or found a way to get on the field.
And for all the scrutiny he took this offseason, Manziel's heartfelt side was revealed in a few under-the-radar instances, whether it was spending time on the sideline with 6-year-old cancer survivor Charlie Dina, a Houstonian who suffers from rare form of cancer known as Neuroblastoma and who has formed a bond with Manziel, or making the day of Joel Fitch, the uncle of Manziel's friend Nate Fitch (known as "Uncle Nate"). According to TexAgs.com, Joel is 43 and has cerebral palsy but was able to share a few moments with the quarterback the day the Aggies lost to Auburn.
With the regular season over, questions about his future abound. Manziel hasn't publicly indicated on whether he's going to declare for early entry into the 2014 NFL draft, though many seem to think he will. If this was his last season in Aggieland, it was quite the ride. He helped Texas A&M make some history and a true splash upon its entry into the SEC.
There might never be another player like him in the sport again.
- Here's an excellent story from Jenni Carlson about where Oklahoma State WR Tracy Moore finds his inspiration. Efficiency ratings suggest Oklahoma State's offense is better than its defense. DT Calvin Barnett is looking forward to a trench battle.
- Oklahoma will be prepped for cold weather on Saturday. A win over OSU would help ease Charles Tapper's pain of losing his dreadlocks.
- Baylor has dedicated its full attention to Texas, not its bowl future. Can the Bears survive the first-half suspension of "nice guy" Ahmad Dixon?
- The Washington Post profiles Art Briles' career.
- Mack Brown says his coaching future should be "unimportant" to his players entering the finale. New AD Steve Patterson says he's "working on" resuming the Texas A&M rivalry.
- Iowa State needs to find a "quarterback whisperer" in its next OC, writes Bobby La Gessa of the Ames Tribune. ISU landed another junior college safety, Qujuan Floyd.
- Kansas State is in for a big-time matchup against a Pac-12 power in the Holiday Bowl. K-State makes some schedule changes for 2014.
- Texas Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield had the most memorable debut of this Big 12 season. Could the Red Raiders face Minnesota in a bowl again?
- Reviewing West Virginia's troubles on the road two years into joining the Big 12. A WVU cornerback was charged with DUI.
- What's in store for Charlie Weis' coaching staff during Kansas' offseason?
- A closer look at new TCU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham's resume.
Clint Chelf has stepped in for Walsh and played as well as any quarterback in the nation in the last four games. Trevor Knight is coming off back-to-back games in which he has given OU fans a glimpse of the talents that helped him earn the starting quarterback role to start the season. Both quarterbacks began the season as the opening day starter then were replaced for a stretch during the middle of the season before regaining their starting spot.
Their road has been similar but their journey has been much different.
Chelf had plenty of success in 2012, starting the final six games and throwing 14 touchdown passes. He appeared poised to be the man in the Pokes backfield heading into the season. But he lost his starting job within minutes of the opening kickoff against Mississippi State and was left wondering what happened as Walsh started the next five games. Even as OSU played its worst game of the season in a 30-21 loss to West Virginia, Chelf remained on the sidelines helplessly watching. The time on the bench, however, did not change Chelf’s approach.
“He was the same Clint from when he was starting to when he wasn’t starting.” OSU safety Daytawion Lowe said. “Same Clint. Practiced hard, kept the same work ethic. Didn’t slack off any.”
Chelf’s second chance came against TCU, but he was very average while leading OSU to wins over the Horned Frogs and Iowa State. But he’s been a different quarterback in November, leading OSU to wins over Texas Tech, Kansas, Texas and Baylor.
“Whether playing or not, he was always the same,” OSU receiver Charlie Moore said. “Same as he was when he wasn't playing. Now he's making huge plays. That's just who he is. It's been cool to see him persevere, get his shot and do well at it.”
Chelf’s 94.4 adjusted QBR (on a scale of 0-100 with 50 being average) was the best in the nation in the month of November. The senior has proven he can play his best in the Cowboys’ biggest games while helping the offense become more explosive and balanced.
“He kept a positive mindset, and it all worked out for him,” OSU running back Desmond Roland said. “He's been a great role model and leader for our team. And he's taken the offense to another level.”
“It is tough preparing and knowing that you’re not going to, for sure, be in,” Knight said. “But you gotta have that strong mindset, that thick skin because you never know when your opportunity is going to arise. You have to find stuff to be competitive in when you do get those few reps in practice.”
Thus, the Sooners young quarterback was ready when Bell was knocked out of the game against ISU, stepping in and looking like a completely different player against the Cyclones and looking even better in his first road start, a 41-31 win over Kansas State in OU’s last game.
“You can tell when a player starts to see things clearer,” OU co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. “When you first get to play, you’re excited and everything goes so fast. I think we saw that slow down [against K-State], he was really focused, I think he saw the plays that were coming and had a good idea what he wanted to do against the defense he saw.”
Knight has played his best football in OU’s last two games, with an 86.4 adjusted QBR in wins over ISU and KSU. His QBR ranks second only to Chelf among Big 12 quarterbacks during that span.
Now the two quarterbacks meet in Bedlam playing their best football.
“I think all players, it’s just about getting into a groove,” OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “Once they are more comfortable in who they are, and you can tell by the way they play, they just seem to be more in a rhythm and very comfortable and seeing things very well.”
Charles Thompson remains relieved he wasn’t the Sooners quarterback who let the streak end.
And virtually everyone who saw Oklahoma survive Oklahoma State 31-28 in 1988 still marvels at Barry Sanders' Heisman-clinching performance 25 years later.
While overwhelmingly lopsided in favor of the Sooners, the Bedlam Rivalry, which will stage meeting No. 108 Saturday in Stillwater, has never been short on drama.
Just last season, Oklahoma mounted a thrilling fourth-quarter comeback before prevailing over the Pokes in overtime, 51-48. In the last 12 years, the series has been decided on the final possession five times.
“A heck of a ballgame,” said then Oklahoma State coach Pat Jones.
Going into the early-November showdown, Barry Switzer’s Sooners were ranked in the top 10 again.
But the No. 12-ranked Cowboys had their best offense in school history, led by All-American wideout Hart Lee Dykes, a quarterback named Mike Gundy who would become Oklahoma State’s head coach and a 5-foot-8 tailback who had begun to generate Heisman buzz.
Oklahoma State hadn’t defeated the Sooners in 11 years. But the Cowboys had never had a player like Sanders, either.
His first two seasons, Sanders backed up another future Pro Football Hall of Fame running back, Thurman Thomas. Switzer, however, was always more concerned about Sanders.
In 1986, Switzer and defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs were scouting the Cowboys on film. When Sanders subbed in for Thomas, each time the freshman carried the ball, Switzer asked Gibbs to run the play back.
“That guy is something special,” Switzer declared.
“We better hope Thurman doesn’t get hurt,” Gibbs replied.
Two years later, Sanders was still a relative unknown. But soon, the rest of the country would see what Switzer saw.
That edition of Bedlam was Oklahoma State’s first national telecast, with ESPN’s Lee Corso providing the color commentary.
Sanders entered the game with 1,141 rushing yards over his previous five games -- an NCAA record. Early on, though, it was another running back who stole the show.
On the first play from scrimmage, Oklahoma freshman Mike Gaddis reeled off a 50-yard run to set up the Sooners’ first score. Then, after the Cowboys were stuffed on fourth-and-short, Gaddis exploded up the middle untouched on the next play for a high-stepping, 44-yard touchdown. Less than five minutes into the game, the Sooners led 14-0. And Gaddis had 110 yards rushing.
“He was obviously a good player,” Jones said of Gaddis. “But the other guy, best to ever play the game.”
In the second quarter, that other guy delivered his Heisman moment to put the Cowboys back in the game.
On an option pitch from Gundy, Sanders finally found a seam. After juking Oklahoma safety Kevin Thompson, who crashed right past him, Sanders dashed 67 yards to set up a touchdown just before the half. Suddenly, the Sooners were in a dogfight.
In the fourth quarter, the Cowboys trailed just 24-21 on third-and-goal. Gundy pitched again to Sanders again, who slid his way in for another touchdown.
“We were a little bit in awe of him,” Charles Thompson said.
But while the Cowboys had Sanders, Oklahoma had Sooner Magic.
After driving inside the Oklahoma State 35-yard line, Thompson pitched to halfback Anthony Stafford, who wasn’t looking. The ball bounced off Stafford’s chest but then right back into his hands.
The next play, Thompson floated a swing pass to Gaddis, who while charging upfield had the ball popped out. But with seven Cowboys surrounding the fumble, Oklahoma lineman Mark Van Keirsbilck slid through all of them to recover it, giving the Sooners a fourth-and-1.
“Looked like we were playing basketball,” Switzer said.
The next play, Thompson stepped back to hand off to Gaddis. Instead, he crashed into Stafford, yet somehow fell forward to just barely get the first down. Three plays later, Thompson swerved around the edge 18 yards on an option keeper for Oklahoma’s go-ahead touchdown with just 2:33 to go.
And the Sooner Magic wasn’t done.
With Gundy, Sanders and Dykes clicking away, Oklahoma State drove right back down the field. Switzer became so stressed he lit up a cigarette.
But at the Oklahoma 19, Cowboys fullback Garrett Limbrick was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after getting tangled up with Sooners linebacker Richard Dillon. Instead of fourth-and-1, the Cowboys faced fourth-and-16.
“A Barry Switzer call,” Dykes said.
Corso questioned the penalty, too.
“The official that made the call was a very good official,” Jones said. “But I thought you might not make that call.”
Jones could have sent Cary Blanchard out for a 51-yard field goal try. But the Cowboys needed the win to stay in the Big Eight title race.
On a rollout, Dykes was double covered. So Gundy heaved the ball downfield to Parker, who had snuck past the Oklahoma secondary into the end zone.
“I wouldn’t have thrown it if I didn’t think he could catch it,” Gundy said.
But as the ball sailed over Kevin Thompson’s hands, it bounced off Parker’s left bicep and to the turf.
“Mike made a great throw,” Parker said. “The safety from OU (Thompson) says he tipped it. I don’t know if he did. But nine times out of 10, I would have caught that ball.”
Instead, Oklahoma prevailed, extending its Bedlam winning streak to 12.
But Oklahoma State didn’t come away empty-handed, as Sanders’ 215 rushing yards captivated the nation.
“The game was still a giant step for us,” Jones said. “When you win the Heisman, that’s something that never goes away.”
Memories of Bedlam at its best don’t either.
1. Crowning a champion: The Big 12 didn’t need a big prime-time showdown at AT&T Stadium to end up with a marquee final weekend of conference play. The league’s schedule makers should get holiday bonuses for their work this year, pitting the Big 12’s four best teams against each other on championship weekend with a conference title on the line. Odds are Oklahoma State wraps it all up with a victory over Oklahoma, but if the Sooners pull the upset all eyes will be on Texas-Baylor to decide who gets the trophy.
3. Day of the underdog: Texas fans will be unabashedly rooting for Oklahoma on Saturday. Yep, seriously. They have to. Even Case McCoy admitted he’s pulling for a Sooners victory, even if it makes him “sick to my stomach.” The Sooners have a chance to play spoiler and knock OSU from atop the Big 12 standings. If they pull that off, can Texas notch an even more surprising victory in Waco? The Longhorns have embraced the underdog role ever since starting 1-2.
4. Finishing Baylor’s dream season: The loss to OSU knocked Baylor out of the national title hunt, damaged its hopes of playing in a BCS bowl and might’ve killed Bryce Petty’s chances of winning the Heisman. Yet the Bears still have a ton to play for this weekend. This can still go down as the best season in school history, especially if Baylor wins a share of the Big 12 title.
5. Who’s the DPOY? Good luck finding a consensus about who should win the Big 12’s Defensive Player of the Year honor this season, and this weekend might not change that much. Still, several candidates have a chance to make a strong final impression, including Oklahoma State linebacker Caleb Lavey and cornerback Justin Gilbert as well as Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat.
6. Oklahoma’s next BMOC: Trevor Knight is another guy who could definitely use a strong finale to help his reputation not only for 2013 but, more importantly, for the offseason and beyond. Knight is coming off nice performances against Iowa State and Kansas State. An upset win over OSU could do wonders for proving he is Oklahoma’s quarterback of the future.
7. Mack Brown: What’s on the line? Who knows what this Baylor game means for Brown’s future at Texas, other than this: If Texas wins, good luck firing a coach who brings a Big 12 trophy home after leading his team from 1-2 to 9-3. And if the Bears win a blowout, well, buckle up for another rumor-filled week in Austin.
8. December weather: Introducing the X factor in both of this weekend’s Big 12 games: Winter Storm Cleon. The high and low for Stillwater on Saturday are 28 and 17. Waco is expecting freezing rain and temperatures in the high 20s. We could be in for some very messy, conservative football.
9. Closing out The Case: It’s a historic weekend for Baylor, which plays its final home game at 63-year-old Floyd Casey Stadium on Saturday. The last time a current Big 12 school opened a brand-new stadium was 1980, when West Virginia built Milan Puskar Stadium. The Bears are breaking out retro uniforms and expect the largest crowd ever in stadium history.
10. The Sunday bowl shakeout: The bowl projections for the Big 12’s six bowl-eligible teams are somewhat obvious at this point but could be in for a big shakeup depending on how these final two games play out. You know the committees of the AT&T Cotton, Valero Alamo and Buffalo Wild Wings Bowls will be watching closely and could face difficult decisions if we see some upsets.
With 10 minutes to go in Morgantown, W.Va., I was sitting pretty for an undefeated week. Then Grant Rohach turned into Dan Marino, and the Cyclones rallied from 17 points down before eventually beating the Mountaineers in a third overtime.
Like Oliver Luck with Dana Holgorsen, ESPN management had to issue a vote-of-confidence statement on my behalf. But I’m feeling the heat. And time is running out.
This week’s guest picker is Jason Hanzel, a student at Oklahoma State. I actually selected Jason a couple of weeks ago. But when he didn’t respond immediately, I went with another picker. Turned out, Jason was in class all day. Because I respect education, I gave him another chance.
To the Week 15 picks:
Trotter last week: 2-1 (.667)
Guest picker (Red Raider Shelley) last week: 2-1 (.667)
Trotter overall: 54-19 (.740)
Guest picker overall: 42-14 (.750)
Baylor 35, Texas 31: The overwhelming consensus seems to be that Texas has no shot in this game. I disagree. If the Longhorns can do anything, it’s rush the passer, and since losing left tackle Spencer Drango, the Bears have not protected quarterback Bryce Petty all that well. Without Drango and speedy wideout Tevin Reese, "America's Top Offense" hasn't quite been the same. And if Texas can have success controlling the clock with Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron between the tackles, as I expect it will, the Longhorns are capable of making this a fourth-quarter game. That said, Baylor has Lache Seastrunk and its fourth-quarter closer, Glasco Martin, back at running back. As a result, the Bears are able to grind out enough first downs late to hold off Texas and send Floyd Casey Stadium out in style.
Jason’s pick: Baylor these past two weeks has not been the same Baylor, but I do believe this team is completely different at home. Jackson Jeffcoat will get to Petty, but Case McCoy will be in the Case, meaning I've got to go with the Bears in Waco. Baylor, 38-28
Oklahoma State 40, Oklahoma 23: The Sooners are coming off their most impressive conference performance of the season in a win over Kansas State, and the best game of freshman QB Trevor Knight's young career. But on Saturday they face the top defense in the Big 12, a defense that clobbered Texas and Baylor in dominating back-to-back performances. Even though OU has won nine of the past 10 in the series, the Sooners have usually had to win shootouts against the Cowboys, as Oklahoma State has put up at least 40 points in four of the last five Bedlam meetings. This run-oriented OU offense is hardly equipped to score in the 40s, especially in the cold, on the road, against a veteran OSU defense that has proven to be one of the toughest in the country.
Jason’s pick: This game has the feel of 2011. If I was a betting man, I'd be taking my scholarship money to Vegas. Pokes in a rout! OSU, 42-20
Nick (Texas) I still don't fully understand Mack Brown's decision to burn Tyrone Swoopes redshirt. Do you know why he made that move halfway through the season then barely used him? If not do you have a guess at why?
Brandon Chatmon I'm right there with you Nick, I don't get it either. It doesn't make much sense but if I had to guess it had everything to do with being prepared in case something bad happened to Case McCoy.
Jerry (Ames, Iowa) Hey Brandon, do you think Iowa State has potential with Grant Rohach next year?
Brandon Chatmon I do Jerry, I like what Rohach brought to the table at the end of the year. He just seemed to play with more confidence as his playing time increased and he finished the season extremely well. I think the Cyclones could return to a bowl in 2014.
Bob Stoops (Norman) Which top recruits do you think I have a chance at actually getting a commitment? Adoree' Jackson? Joe Mixon?
Brandon Chatmon I hate to break it to you Bob but I think the events of the past few days have made your efforts in Cali that much harder. (Meaning Sark to USC is a problem.)
Jake (Dallas) How do you think Baylor will do come next season. Will they stay productive offensively and be decent defensively? Or will they go down in production?
Brandon Chatmon I don't anticipate a big drop in production at Baylor. Why would they take a step backward? But keep in mind I'm talking in comparison to what they've done in recent years, not the crazy numbers they put up early. If you expect that, prepare yourself for disappointment.
Rob (Baltimore) Early prediction on West Virginia's record next season. Give it to me straight, what are we looking at?
Brandon Chatmon Who is the quarterback? That changes everything. WVU has some talented athletes. They find a consistent playmaking QB, everything changes.
Trevor Knight (Norman) Me, or Chelf? And why?
Brandon Chatmon Clint Chelf. Because he's playing as good as any quarterback in the nation in the past month. I love Knight's long-term upside though.
Grant Teaff (Waco, Tx) Let’s get your score prediction for both OU/OSU and BU/UT?
Brandon Chatmon OSU 31, OU 21 Baylor 34, Texas 27
Jake (Dallas) What are your thoughts on the whole ordeal with [Ahmad] Dixon? We all know the hit was targeting even I will admit that. Since it is a new rule everyone in CFB knows the rule but the details are still fresh. Should the coaches have escorted him to the locker room, or the officials since they were the ones who called the penalty.
Brandon Chatmon My biggest issue was his actions when leaving the field. But, I also always try to keep in mind these are college kids. I know we treat them like adults but they are still young adults who make mistakes, make poor choices. I think coaches should escort them, not officials.
Going into the final weekend, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas all remain alive for a Big 12 championship and the conference’s automatic BCS bowl berth. Oklahoma, however, was knocked out of the picture, with the Bears and Longhorns both winning last week.
Here’s a final look at the Big 12 race heading into the final weekend:
Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1 Big 12): For the Cowboys, it’s pretty simple. Beat Oklahoma, and the Fiesta Bowl is theirs. Lose Bedlam, and the outright Big 12 title goes to the winner of Baylor-Texas.
Baylor (10-1, 7-1): The Bears could capture their first outright conference title since 1980 with a win over Texas and an Oklahoma State loss to Oklahoma. If the Cowboys win Bedlam, Baylor could still share the title with Oklahoma State. But with the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Cowboys would go to the Fiesta Bowl.
Texas (8-3, 7-1): The Longhorns are in the same situation as Baylor. They need Oklahoma State to lose to have a chance at the outright title and Fiesta Bowl. Like Baylor, Texas could still share the title with the Cowboys by winning this weekend, though like with Baylor, Oklahoma State would hold the tiebreaker for the automatic BCS bowl bid over the Longhorns.
Oklahoma State, on the field, is one of the hottest teams in the country. From a recruiting standpoint, the Cowboys also have been making waves and this week managed to crack the top 25 of the RecruitingNation class rankings. Oklahoma State, with some assistance from the release of the ESPN Junior College 50, moved up to No. 24.
Aside from Oklahoma State, there wasn’t much movement from Big 12 schools. Texas held on to the No. 8 spot, and Baylor remained at No. 16. Oklahoma slipped a spot, from No. 22 to No. 23, and Texas Tech stayed at No. 36. Here's a look at the conference's rankings .
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In fact, since exploding for six touchdowns in just over 23 minutes in a 63-34 rout of Texas Tech last month, the Bears almost seem to be running on fumes.
At Oklahoma State, Baylor trailed 35-3 in the fourth quarter before finishing with a season-low 17 points.
At TCU, the Bears mustered a season-low 370 yards of offense while Spencer Roth punted a season-high eight times, as Baylor survived only after two defensive touchdowns and the fumble at the TCU 1.
"I feel like we may be looking around for too much and trying to see too many things,” said Baylor guard Cyril Richardson. “We just need to go out there and play. We need to go back to hard-nosed football, and that's basically it."
That will be easier with running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin back in the lineup.
Neither was available for the 32-point loss at Stillwater. And at TCU, both were easing their way back in after injuries.
“Those guys are warriors,” said coach Art Briles. “I don’t think either guy was 100 percent. They’ll both be a lot closer to 100 percent his week. But from a confidence standpoint, it made a big difference.”
Even at less than 100 percent, Seastrunk dashed his way to 94 yards on 24 carries. Martin was the closer, pounding out 69 yards on 17 carries, most coming in the fourth quarter when Baylor was attempting to move the chains and grind out the clock.
"I think it showed those guys provide a spark that not a lot of guys can,” said quarterback Bryce Petty. “Lache is that spark. Lache is that guy that can take a carry that shouldn't get anything and make yards out of it, which you've got to love. Glasco's the veteran guy. He's been there. He's done that. He's that thunder part of it so it's always fun to have him as far as closing out games. The guy that can make those tough yards for you so it's always fun watching him play."
Baylor, however, will continue to be without two key players to its passing game, left tackle Spencer Drango (back) and wideout Tevin Reese (wrist).
Through the first nine games with Drango protecting Petty’s blindside, the Bears gave up just 13 sacks. The last two games, they have given up five.
The loss of Reese and his downfield speed has been even more critical. One of the most lethal deep threats in college football, Reese was averaging 25 yards per catch, and 54 yards on his eight touchdown catches.
The Bears didn’t miss him at Tech. But they missed him dearly against Oklahoma State and TCU.
With TCU All-American cornerback Jason Verrett locking up leading receiver Antwan Goodley, Baylor’s patented vertical passing attack was almost non-existent. The Bears, which still lead the country in pass plays over 30 yards, had only one such completion against the Horned Frogs, while Goodley finished with just one reception for 12 yards.
“We’ve had to change a little bit to the personnel we’ve had or haven’t had on the field the last couple weeks,” Briles said.
The good news for the Bears is they’ll finally be back at Floyd Casey, for the stadium’s swan song. And even with the injuries, America’s Top Offense still has the personnel to put up big points.
“We didn’t have a lot going on offense,” Seastrunk said. “Missing key players hurts a lot.
“But we’ve got to get back to doing what Baylor does.”
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