Big 12 bowl projections: Preseason

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
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The College Football Playoff isn’t the only thing new for the Big 12 this year. The league will welcome new bowl tie-ins, as well as old bowl tie-ins with new names. The playoff is obviously new. The Russell Athletic Bowl and AutoZone Liberty Bowl are new to the league, as well. The Cactus Bowl is the old Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (which before that was the Insight Bowl). Next year, the Champions Bowl, which will pit top teams from the Big 12 and SEC, will jump into the rotation as well.

But, without further ado, here are our preseason bowl projections for the Big 12, which, like the bowl tie-ins themselves, are sure to change before long:

Allstate Sugar Bowl, New Orleans (Jan. 1): Oklahoma vs. College Football Playoff semifinal
Cotton Bowl, Arlington, Texas (Jan. 1): Baylor vs. at-large
Valero Alamo Bowl, San Antonio (Jan. 2): Kansas State vs. Pac-12 No. 2
Russell Athletic Bowl, Orlando, Fla. (Dec. 29): Texas vs. ACC No. 2
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl, Houston (Dec. 29): Texas Tech vs. SEC
AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tenn. (Dec. 29): TCU vs. SEC
Cactus Bowl, Tempe, Ariz. (Jan. 2): Oklahoma State vs. Pac-12 No. 7

Eventful Midnight Yell for A&M in Columbia

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
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Texas A&M's "Midnight Yell" is one of the Aggies' longest-running traditions, and on the eve of the team's season opener at South Carolina, thousands of Texas A&M faithful gathered at the South Carolina State House for yell practice.

Not all South Carolina fans were so welcoming.

As evidenced by reports via social media, A&M's yell practice became rather eventful and testy at times as South Carolina fans came to shout the Aggies down. The Aggies hold Midnight Yell at Kyle Field before home games, and for road games they choose a spot in or near the opponent's hometown. In this case, it happened to be roughly a couple miles from Williams-Brice Stadium.

Here's video from the scene last night, via TheState.com:

 

And here are a few tweets from last night's scene:

 

Poll: Team most on upset alert?

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
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Last year, North Dakota State marched into Manhattan, Kansas and then marched down Bill Snyder Family Stadium in the fourth quarter with a game-winning touchdown drive to stun Kansas State.

The good news for the Wildcats is they open with a far less frightening opponent this weekend in Stephen F. Austin. While North Dakota State was capturing a third consecutive FCS national title, Stephen F. Austin was going 3-9 in the Southland Standings.

SportsNation

Which Big 12 team should be on upset alert Saturday?

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    65%
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    8%
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    4%
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    19%
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    4%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,087)

 Who in the Big 12 should most be on upset watch Saturday?

Iowa State is certainly a candidate. The Cyclones play the same Bison team that toppled K-State last fall. Sure, North Dakota State lost its head coach to Wyoming and the quarterback who engineered the game-winning drive to beat the Wildcats. The Bison, however, have reloaded before. And just last season, Iowa State fell in the opener to FCS opponent Northern Iowa.

North Dakota State, however, isn’t the only capable FCS team coming to Big 12 country this weekend. Central Arkansas, which travels to Texas Tech, received votes in the FCS Top 25 after winning seven games in 2013. So did TCU’s opponent, Samford, which finished in a tie for first with Chattanooga and Furman in the Southern standings. The Horned Frogs, meanwhile, will be debuting a new offense without a clear-cut starting quarterback. Texas Tech has the clear-cut starter at quarterback in Davis Webb, but it will be starting four underclassmen in its secondary.

The two traditional powers in the Big 12 both have curious games, as well. North Texas, which will head to Austin, went 9-4 last season. The Longhorns are still big favorites, but this will be just the fourth start quarterback David Ash has made since the 2012 season.

Oklahoma too is a heavy favorite to dispose of Louisiana Tech. The Sooners are riding high after taking down Alabama their last time out. But Oklahoma has a tradition under Bob Stoops of sputtering at times in openers. And while the Bulldogs struggled last season, they are only two years removed from going 9-3 and taking Texas A&M to the wire in a 59-57 shootout.

Now, we put it to you in our weekly Big 12 poll: Of these five teams, pick one to put on upset alert for this weekend.

Big 12 Week 1 predictions

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
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Why Alabama will win: The Crimson Tide don't have a quarterback with a career start, but that seems to be the only question with this team. The losses to Auburn and Oklahoma are fresh on everyone's mind, but before those two games, Alabama had allowed an FBS-low 9.3 points per game last season. Coach Nick Saban's defense will be formidable again. Though the Mountaineers feature several intriguing skill players, it's unlikely they will be able to move the ball the way the Tigers and Sooners did. -- Jake Trotter

Why Florida State will win: Last week, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy called Florida State the best team he had ever faced as a player or a coach. The Seminoles are loaded, headlined by the return of Heisman winner Jameis Winston. The Cowboys, meanwhile, will be fielding almost a completely new squad after losing 28 seniors and returning the fewest starters among any program in a Power 5 conference. Those factors do not equal a recipe for an upset. -- Jake Trotter

More consensus picks: Iowa State over North Dakota State; TCU over Samford; Texas Tech over Central Arkansas; Oklahoma over Louisiana Tech; Kansas State over Stephen F. Austin; Texas over North Texas; Baylor over SMU.

SEC Week 1 predictions

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
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Football season is finally here. When South Carolina and Texas A&M kick it off tonight (6 ET, SEC Network), the SEC will be back in full swing.

With that in mind, it's time to make some game picks. Each week during the season, our SEC reporters will pick each game on the slate, and we'll highlight the biggest battles and the ones that generated the most disagreement.


Why South Carolina will win: The Gamecocks have a lot of firepower and experience coming back on offense, while the Aggies still have a lot of questions on defense. Texas A&M should put some points up with its own potent group of playmakers, but South Carolina's defense will force QB Kenny Hill into some late mistakes. Feeding RB Mike Davis the ball in the fourth should help put this one away. -- Edward Aschoff


Why Alabama will win: Despite the attention on Alabama's quarterbacks, nearly the only thing that makes this one interesting is how the Crimson Tide's retooled pass rush and secondary will fare against QB Clint Trickett and the West Virginia offense. Whether it's Jake Coker or Blake Sims under center for Alabama, expect him to hand it off plenty and for the Tide to have their way against a Mountaineers defense that finished 101st nationally in total defense last season by allowing 455 yards per game. -- David Ching


Why Georgia will win: Hey, the Bulldogs might make fans nervous with their defense, especially with that incredibly unproven secondary, but the offense shouldn't miss much of a beat with QB Hutson Mason taking over. Clemson's defense has improved, but there are just too many good working parts on Georgia's offense. I have a feeling that some pounding from RB Todd Gurley and a major play from LB Leonard Floyd will get the job done for Georgia on Saturday.
-- Edward Aschoff


Why LSU will win: The Tigers are 9-0 in season openers under coach Les Miles, including four games against ranked opponents and six away from Tiger Stadium. Wisconsin is good in season openers, too (16 straight to LSU's 11), but Houston's proximity to Louisiana and the large number of Tigers fans expected at NRG Stadium should give LSU a slight boost. These teams are similar, but LSU's experienced offensive line against Wisconsin's inexperienced defensive front gives the Tigers a slight edge. -- Sam Khan Jr.

Why Wisconsin will win: If this game were in November, LSU would be in better position. But given that the Tigers lost every key piece on offense (QB, RB, both WRs), it may be too much to ask them to go on the road this early against a top-25 team. Wisconsin may not have experience at QB, but it has one of the best tailbacks in the country in Melvin Gordon and an offensive line that could be special with four returning starters. -- Alex Scarborough


Why Tennessee will win: Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton can't beat the Vols by himself, can he? Even with UT linebackers A.J. Johnson spying and Curt Maggitt providing some pass rush, Keeton won't be stopped, but he will be contained. Coach Butch Jones says the Volunteers will play as many as 30 freshmen in this one, so there are sure to be mistakes. Tennessee has just enough talent to win a squeaker at home. -- Jeff Barlis

Why Utah State will win: This isn't your typical mid-major opponent. The Aggies won nine games last season despite not having Keeton for the second half of the season. Keeton is back, and this is the perfect game to jump-start his Heisman campaign. Tennessee is still a program on the rise, but with no returning starters up front and up to 30 freshmen expected to play, there are just too many question marks. -- Greg Ostendorf

More consensus picks: Ole Miss over Boise State, Vanderbilt over Temple, Florida over Idaho, Auburn over Arkansas, Kentucky over UT Martin, Missouri over South Dakota State, Mississippi State over Southern Miss.

Texas DC Bedford makes plea for sellout

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Three days before Charlie Strong and his staff make their official Texas debut, defensive coordinator Vance Bedford sent a clear message to the fan base: Buy a ticket.

Bedford, the first-year DC who played at Texas from 1977-81, was told during a post-practice interview session Wednesday that about 9,000 tickets are still available for the season opener against North Texas.

He was then asked if he had a message for fans thinking about staying home on Saturday. Here's what he had to say:
Staying at home? What do you mean staying at home? I hear that the state of Texas is all about what? Football. Friday Night Lights. The University of Texas. What do you mean you have 8 or 9,000 tickets left? People out there: Get off your duff and go buy these tickets! It should be standing room only! If not, don't complain, don't say anything. Get in the stands right now and cheer us on to victory. North Texas, when they're on offense, should not hear a thing. They should not be able to check. Why? It's standing room only. There should be 105,000, the fire marshal's outside saying get out. Thank you.
Here's the video of Bedford's impassioned plea, courtesy of UT, in case you're curious about the context. Based on the instant reaction on Twitter, it's safe to say Bedford got Texas' fans attention.

Texas senior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson offered up a similar declaration during his post-practice comments.

"Hey, whoever ain't got their ticket yet, make sure you get your ticket!" Jackson said. "That's all I'm saying. Make sure you get your ticket. It's going to be a nice show out there."
When thinking of Baylor and Oklahoma State, defense is rarely the first thing that comes to mind.

Yet those two teams featured the Big 12’s top defenses in 2013, a main reason they combined for 21 victories and found themselves atop the conference standings heading into the final day of the regular season a year ago.

But neither the Cowboys nor Bears found themselves among the nation’s top 15 defenses in points allowed or yards allowed, and only Oklahoma State's 21.6 points allowed per game, which ranked No. 19 nationally, was among the nation’s top 25 in either category.

[+] EnlargeShawn Oakman
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezShawn Oakman and Baylor's defense give up yards, but measure up well in the most important statistics.
“I think people are getting educated a little bit about what is good defense and what is good defense against spread offenses when having to defend 18, 19 series a game,” Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. “It’s not yardage, it’s the winning game. Saying you’re the best defense in the nation because you gave up 375 yards per game? That’s ridiculous. That has no bearing on what the best defense in the nation is; that’s the most ridiculous stat ever.”

Recognizing good defense in the Big 12 is a little different.

“How are you going to win the game? How many points per possession?” Spencer asks. “We have a lot more possessions to defend than a lot of teams in the nation.”

So with the new season on the horizon, here are other ways to define good defense in the Big 12.

Yards per play: More important than total yards allowed, yards per play is a better representation for a defense’s success. For example, Oklahoma led the Big 12 in total yards allowed at 305.2, yet the Sooners were sixth in yards per play at 5.38. Why? The Sooners offense played a major role in OU’s strong overall yardage numbers by controlling the clock with its running game. Oklahoma's defense faced 65.1 plays per game, five plays fewer than any other Big 12 team. By comparison, Baylor allowed 4.77 yards per play, which led the conference, while facing 75.8 plays per game. The Bears allowed more yards than the Sooners, but BU’s defense clearly had more success stopping opponents than OU on a play-by-play basis.

Points per possession: Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Kansas State finished 1-2-3 in points allowed in 2013, but only the Cowboys finished in the top three in points per possession. Oklahoma State led the conference with 1.22 points per possession, followed by Baylor (1.38), TCU (1.5) and Oklahoma (1.6). Those four teams combined to win 36 games, including the Horned Frogs' disappointing four-win season. It’s also a meaningful stat nationally, with Florida State leading the nation in the category (0.9) followed by Michigan State (0.99), Louisville (1.05) and Alabama (1.09). Those four teams combined to go 50-4 in 2013.

Third down conversion defense: Getting off the field on third down is critical in any conference. The conference’s three teams that had double-digit wins finished 1-2-3 in third-down conversion defense. Oklahoma State led the Big 12 at 31.4 percent, followed by Oklahoma (33.7) and Baylor (33.9). Excellence on third down is one reason the Sooners still had one of the Big 12’s top defenses a year ago, even though they faced fewer plays. Oklahoma's offense controlling games wasn’t the only reason the Sooners faced fewer plays, as their defense consistently got off the field on key third downs.

“[In the Big 12] you have to defend the whole full of playmakers and you are going to give up some yardage,” Spencer said. “But you have to get off the field.”

Turnovers: Much like third-down excellence, turnovers are critical in any conference. Oklahoma State (33) and Baylor (28) finished 1-2 in turnovers forced, and it’s not a coincidence. Both defensive coaching staffs make creating turnovers a top priority, even more than stopping the opponent. For the Cowboys and Bears, taking the ball away from the opposing offense is the primary goal.

Percentage of possible yards allowed per drive: This is another terrific stat to monitor the overall success of a Big 12 defense against opponents. BU led the conference at 32.4 percent followed by Oklahoma State (34.7), TCU (35.1) and Oklahoma (37.1). Those four teams could easily be considered the Big 12’s top four defenses in 2013.

Three-and-out percentage: The Bears led the Big 12 by forcing a three-and-out on 28.2 percent of opponent’s drives. Oklahoma State (26.8), TCU (26.7) and Texas (25.8) rounded out the top four. One of the reasons Bryce Petty and the Bears’ offense set scoring records was the ability of Baylor's defense to immediately put the ball back in the hands of the offense.

Summer work results in seasoned signees

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
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At some point this weekend, Dravon Henry will trot onto the field against SEC power Alabama. It will be baptism under fire for West Virginia's true freshman safety.

He's not alone.

More and more, true freshman skill position players are stepping on campus ready to take jobs and play immediately at schools across the Big 12.

Seven of the nine Big 12 schools that play this weekend had released their depth charts by Tuesday afternoon. Twenty-two true freshman find themselves on those depth charts at skill positions around the conference with every school featuring at least one true freshman on its depth chart.

TCU and Oklahoma lead the league with five apiece while ISU receiver Allen Lazard is the lone true freshman skill position player on the Cyclones depth chart. Coaches at Kansas, Oklahoma State and Texas — the other three schools — have already said they have true freshmen are in set to play for them at the skill positions in 2014.

The growth of pass-heavy spread offenses, increased summer and offseason football -- specifically 7-on-7 competitions -- and elite camps like The Opening are at the heart of the increased readiness of true freshman. Henry and Texas Tech cornerback Tevin Madison are the lone true freshman to earn a starting spot heading into the season but that duo is could be joined by other impressive freshmen -- like Lazard, Kansas running back Corey Avery or Kansas State safety Kaleb Prewitt -- in their squad's starting lineup at some point this season.

The additional offseason work's ability to help groom quarterbacks is well-documented but those extra reps are helping receivers, running backs and defensive backs as well.

"All the skill players, receivers, quarterbacks, tight ends, they all grow up throwing the football," Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "So they're much more developed at an early age. We're seeing that we can do things with freshman that we could never do before because a lot of them have been doing it in high school."

Recruits step on campus having been seasoned in competitive situations like never before. Their understanding of offensive concepts gained in high school makes transitions to similar systems in college easier than before.

"As much as anything it's the offenses they're growing up in," OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. "They're playing in those [offenses] 365 days of the year. You go to certain parts of the country and they're practicing every day. They're growing up in those systems."

The state of Texas is at the forefront of trend with everything from weather and strong high school coaching helping to prepare signees to play from Day 1 at Big 12 schools.

"With the 7-on-7 aspect and the level of high school coaching in the state of Texas helps us," Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "They're throwing the year round, they're catching the ball year round, quarterbacks go through reads year round, so by the time they get to us, they're college ready.

"As far as throwing, catching and seeing defenses, they're more prepared than ever."

The rise of elite national and regional football camps could also be helping to increase the readiness of true freshmen. Players like OU's Michiah Quick, a 2013 participant in The Opening who is listed as a backup slot receiver and punt returner for the Sooners, are stepping on campuses across the country having been tested in ways they had not been a decade ago.

"I think anytime you get to go against competition, you're going to come out more confident if you have a good showing," Kingsbury said. "The kids we have that have attended such camps come out of it knowing they belong and they fit in."

Big 12 morning links

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
7:00
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"Hot feet Hart?"
  • Sad news from Cyclone country as former Iowa State running back Hiawatha Rutland was found dead near Lake Erie on Monday. Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register reports that his death continues a unfortunate trend of former Cyclones losing their lives. ISU's leading rushers from 2000-2006 have all died, a total of three former Cyclones ball carriers (Ennis Haywood, Stevie Hicks).
  • Kansas State released its first depth chart of the season but it doesn't mean much writes Kellis Robinett of the Wichita Eagle. While Tyler Lockett, Jake Waters, Ryan Mueller and the rest of the Wildcats' stars would appear safe, the competition continues at several positions, most notably at running back. Charles Jones sits atop the depth chart but I'm betting DeMarcus Robinson and Jarvis Leverett will have their say before a bell cow is anointed in K-State's backfield. The most interesting part of the running back battle could be an expected redshirt for true freshman Dalvin Warmack. I was hoping to get a look at Warmack this season, particularly with an open competition to replace John Hubert.
  • KUsports.com's Matt Tait gives you a few percentage predictions for the Kansas' win total and seven Jayhawks to keep an eye on this fall. Tait puts KU's chances for four or five wins at 51 percent and while I'd imagine many people scoff at that percentage it made more and more sense the more I thought about it. KU has several experienced upperclassmen and seems to be upgrading the overall talent on the roster under Charlie Weis. I've had my reservations about the Jayhawks but I'm starting to agree with Tait and think Weis' squad could be better than people expect this fall.
  • Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy can't seem to commit to quarterback J.W. Walsh, despite the fact all signs point to the junior being the Cowboys' starting quarterback against Florida State on Saturday writes John Helsley of The Oklahoman. As the season gets closer and closer it becomes clearer that the Pokes could have two different offenses this fall with a run-heavy approach with J.W. Walsh and an approach that leans more toward the pass when Daxx Garman or Mason Rudolph get their chance behind center. It's not unlike what the Pokes did to knock off Mississippi State in last season's opener, when Walsh entered the game for Clint Chelf and the Pokes used the read-option to confuse and exploit the Bulldogs defense. I'm expecting more of the same against the Seminoles on Saturday.
  • Good news for Texas fans as receiver Jaxon Shipley has been deemed "ready to roll" by passing game coordinator Shawn Watson and is expected to play against North Texas, reports Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News. A healthy Shipley could be a critical asset for the Longhorns this season as the senior receiver led the Big 12 with 23 third-down receptions in 2013. He is a quarterback's best friend and proven clutch performer for the Longhorns.

Big 12 morning links

August, 26, 2014
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Congrats to "Breaking Bad" on all of its well-deserved Emmys. So happy to see Landry Clarke finally win the big one. On to the links:
  • Kansas State won't release their depth chart until Tuesday, but Bill Snyder did address his intriguing running back situation Monday. Charles Jones will start, but you'll see DeMarcus Robinson, Jarvis Leverett and Judah Jones get in on the action, too. Touted freshman Dalvin Warmack seems to be behind that group at the moment. Even if Jones is listed No. 1 to start the season, you have to think the Wildcats' first two games will provide a true audition in which anyone can rise up and win the job.
  • Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News got the tour of Charlie Strong's now-decorated office -- complete with photos of Muhammad Ali and Jimmy Buffett -- in this glimpse into how Strong has already changed Texas' program. Pay attention to the ending. Linebacker Jordan Hicks puts into words what everyone else has noticed: When the defense isn't thriving, that's a bad day in Strong's book. That's the mindset he brings to Texas as a defense-first guy, and a reminder why this Texas D's highs and lows should be compelling to watch in 2014.
  • Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal offers a closer look at the critical role junior college transfers will have to play for Texas Tech this season. Rika Levi gets lots of hype, but there are a handful of fellow juco guys who will need to get the hang of big-time football quickly. Keep an eye on receiver Devin Lauderdale, a touted 2013 signee who needed one juco year to qualify. He cracked the two-deep and could play a bunch in the opener against Central Arkansas.
  • Paul Rhoads addressed the 6-foot-5 young elephant in the room Monday: How much is freshman wide receiver Allen Lazard really going to play? He's listed as the backup at 'X' receiver behind Quenton Bundrage on Iowa State's initial depth chart, but Rhoads assured reporters Lazard will be on the field plenty. "I'm sure he'll get the ball tossed in his direction," Rhoads said. No doubt the four-star stud's targets are going to be a popular topic of discussion this season in Ames. Can expectations be any higher for him?
  • Speaking of expectations, you won't find a more hyped-up guy in the Big 12 than Oklahoma State's Tyreek Hill. John Helsley of The Oklahoman wonders just how big of a game-changer the junior college transfer can be. Teammates such as David Glidden say his talent level is indescribable and that, "You’re just going to have to wait and see." He'll put stress on opposing defenses, and he isn't just track-speed fast -- it all translates on the field, per the folks who's seen Hill in action. Oklahoma State OC Mike Yurcich says he's constantly working up new ways to pencil him into a play. Florida State is absolutely going to account for him on every play. If he goes wild against the Seminoles, the legend of "Tyreek The Freek" will surely spread nationally.

Strong's debut will feature fresh faces

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Charlie Strong and his coaches won't be the only new guy running out the tunnel for the Texas Longhorns on Saturday night. There are many more fresh faces Longhorn fans will soon get to know. Get ready for some surprises.

Strong did not release a depth chart Monday -- he'll do so later this week -- but based on what he and his players have said throughout fall camp, it's clear Texas will be relying on some players that even the recruiting junkies don't know much about. A primer on 10 players to watch as Texas opens the Strong era on Saturday against North Texas:

Safety Jason Hall: The freshman safety from South Grand Prairie High in Dallas was a three-star recruit who's exceeded all expectations for both his talent and age. He has ideal size at 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds and has earned rave reviews from Strong and his fellow DBs in recent weeks. "Jason understands the game," linebacker Jordan Hicks said Monday. "You can see his confidence. He's one of those young guys who you can expect to play well in games. He's going to be a great player." Hall is still battling for a starting safety job and Strong wants a decision mid-week on who will start.

Receiver Ty Templin: Not your typical walk-on. "He's always kind of stood out in everybody's mind for a while," quarterback David Ash said. "Every conversation I remember, going back for years, was, 'You know, that Ty Templin kid, he's good somehow.'" Ash says the 6-foot, 180-pound sophomore is a reliable pass-catcher who isn't afraid to go over the middle. With Jaxon Shipley (hamstring) day-to-day and Daje Johnson suspended, Templin has a real chance to break into the starting lineup for the opener.

Safety Dylan Haines: We profiled Haines during fall camp, and the walk-on hasn't lost any momentum after wowing his coaches and teammates with a spring-game interception and a strong showing in summer workouts. "Dylan was probably the biggest shock of the spring," Hicks said. "He came on and he came on strong." While he and Hall will continue to battle, the safe bet is that both will see plenty of action in the opener and beyond.

Receiver Jacorey Warrick: After playing mop-up minutes last season as a true freshman, "Petey" Warrick has consistently been talked up as a receiver on the rise. "He's a little guy, but he's really quick, really fast, nice hands, got stronger," cornerback Quandre Diggs said. "He's made some strides." He's a 5-foot-11 speedster in the slot who should see the field a lot, especially if Shipley is unavailable.

Defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway: The sophomore who Strong calls "The Green Mile" will be Texas' top defensive tackle off the bench and is finally buying in. Defensive end Cedric Reed says the big man put on 50 pounds last year and "all he could do was sleep." Not true this fall. "He looks good, physically. He looks like a monster," Reed said. "He's really taking the game serious, eating right, in the playbook, really dedicated himself to this defense. I think he'll be a breakout player this year."

Offensive tackle Marcus Hutchins: The fourth-year player has yet to achieve much at Texas and has moved around between the offensive and defensive line. But he seems to be getting offensive line coach Joe Wickline's attention as a potential left tackle. The 6-foot-5, 278-pound lineman might get the call Saturday to fill in for Desmond Harrison, who's suspended for at least one game. You could also see redshirt freshman Darius James in this role, too.

Receivers Armanti Foreman, Lorenzo Joe: Of the five members of Texas' true freshman receiver class, these two put themselves in the best position to play immediately. Foreman has the explosiveness and quickness to turn a short pass into a big play. He's a game-breaker if Texas can get him in space. Joe is more of a possession receiver at 6-foot-2, but he provides sneaky athleticism and is surprisingly polished for a guy who played QB in high school last year. They'll get thrown in the mix on Saturday at some point.

Punter William Russ: The big question mark that not enough people talk about. Strong praised the fifth-year senior for having done "an unbelievable job" in fall practice. "He's one of those guys, he has a strong leg now. He may boom one 60 and the next one may go 20," Strong said. "He's got to get a little more consistency." There will be just as much scrutiny on Nick Rose, who gets his first shot at place-kicking duties after being the kickoff specialist for two years.

Ex-Texas OL Hammad transferring to Baylor

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
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Former Texas offensive guard Rami Hammad is transferring to Baylor after visiting the school on Monday morning.

Hammad, a redshirt freshman who left the Texas program last week, told ESPN.com he will sit out the 2014 season and have three years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot-5, 315-pound lineman told ESPN.com he chose Baylor over Alabama and UCLA after receiving interest from more than 40 programs at the FBS and junior college level.

"It was the hardest decision for me to ever make in my life. I want to thank Texas and Mack Brown for giving me a chance to play there," Hammad said. "I wish it would've worked out. The staff changed and the coaches changed and I never knew this would happen. God works in mysterious ways. I wish nothing but the best for them and my teammates were my brothers. I never would've made this move if I didn't think it would work out. It was never about depth chart or playing time. It was simply a clash between me and [offensive coordinator Joe] Wickline and it couldn't be resolved."

During his recruiting process out of Irving (Texas) High School, Hammad initially committed to Oklahoma State and its offensive line coach Joe Wickline, who is now at Texas. He then committed to Baylor in November 2012, but reopened his recruitment two months later and chose Texas before signing day.

Hammad redshirted last season after suffering an injury and was a backup lineman in the Longhorn program during fall camp before he elected to transfer.

“He decided it was in his best interest to go ahead and transfer and we wish him nothing but the best," Texas coach Charlie Strong said last week.

Hammad would've provided depth and perhaps could've pushed left guard Sedrick Flowers for his starting spot during the season, but Texas is in relatively good shape at that position with Flowers on the left side and sophomore Kent Perkins at right guard.

Sooners moving on minus 'limbo' players

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma was hoping to have the talented quartet of wideout Dorial Green-Beckham, running back Joe Mixon, linebacker Frank Shannon and quarterback Baker Mayfield on the field this season.

Green-Beckham and Mixon have already been ruled out. Mayfield is still waiting to hear whether the NCAA will grant him an eligibility waiver. And Monday, Shannon wasn’t listed in Oklahoma’s Week 1 depth chart.

[+] EnlargeStoops
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsBob Stoops said his focus is on the Sooners playing in 2014, not the talented ones who are ineligible.
“I’ve got to proceed with players that I know are going to be available to me through the rest of the year,” coach Bob Stoops said during his first weekly news conference. “So at this point the depth chart is as it is.”

As the Sooners prepare for Saturday’s opener against Louisiana Tech, Stoops wanted to talk about the players that will be on the field this year.

But the dominant story line this preseason has been about the players that won’t be on the field. And it popped up again Monday.

Late last week, the NCAA ruled that Green-Beckham would not qualify for immediate eligibility under the run-off exception after transferring from Missouri.

Stoops said it “hasn’t been decided” whether Green-Beckham will be back with the Sooners in 2015, though Stoops added that “it seems like that he wants to do that and is heading that way.”

But this season, Green-Beckham would have supplied quarterback Trevor Knight with a dangerous receiving weapon on the outside. Instead, the Sooners will be relying on several inexperienced pass-catchers to fill the void at receiver alongside three-year starter Sterling Shepard.

“We’ve got 10 other guys or eight other [receivers] or whatever it is that we’re working with on a daily basis,” Stoops said. “So you work with what’s available to you.”

It doesn’t look like Shannon will be available to the Sooners, either. He’s appealed the university’s decision to suspend him for a year for allegedly violating the school’s code of conduct to a district court. But as long as Shannon remains tied up in legal issues, Oklahoma’s leading tackler last year won’t be part of the plans.

“That situation is still unresolved,” Stoops said.

As of Monday, Mayfield’s situation remains unresolved, as well, forcing the Sooners to move forward with making Cody Thomas their backup quarterback. Thomas redshirted last year, and has been dealing with a muscle strain. That has led former quarterback and current starting tight end Blake Bell to take snaps in practice, as a break-the-glass option, in case of an injury to Knight.

“You obviously want the best for those guys and it hurts to see it go on the opposite side of that line,” Knight said. “You want the best for them and whether or not it works out for them this year, you stay positive with them and hope things will work out in the future.”

As for the present, the Sooners will have to roll with the players currently eligible. That’s still enough to keep them the preseason favorite in the Big 12 and a legitimate contender for the inaugural College Football Playoff.

And while this preseason could have gone better, Stoops is still excited about the players that will be in the game.

“Our guys go to practice every day and the guys on the field have competed in a great way,” Stoops said. “I feel we’re in a great position, ready to start the season.”

Instant impact true freshmen: Texas A&M

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
1:00
PM CT
Texas A&M hauled in the nation’s fourth-ranked recruiting class in February. You don’t rank that high in the national recruiting rankings unless you’ve brought in some big-time freshmen, ones who are poised to make an early impact. As the Aggies’ season opener on Thursday approaches, let’s look at five true freshmen expected to contribute early and often:

LB Otaro Alaka: The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Alaka, the 12th-ranked outside linebacker nationally in the 2014 class, isn’t listed as the starter at strongside linebacker, but he’ll definitely see the field. Alaka pushed senior starter Donnie Baggs at the position in camp. When defensive coordinator Mark Snyder wants to get additional speed on the field, look for Alaka to be one of the guys out there.

DE Myles Garrett: The No. 4 overall prospect in last year’s ESPN 300, Garrett has been as advertised through summer workouts and preseason training camp. He arrived in Aggieland with a college-ready body (6-5, 255) and will figure into the rotation immediately at the Aggies’ rush end position. This summer, Kevin Sumlin said "I'll just say this: Our players have a lot of respect for Myles Garrett."

DT Zaycoven Henderson: This late steal from Texas appears to be one of the best finds the Aggies stumbled upon in the class. The East Texas product is strong has good quickness for his 6-1, 315-pound frame and will be a key part of the defensive tackle rotation, an area the Aggies need depth. The four-star prospect enrolled in January thus was able to participate in both spring football and August camp.

WR Speedy Noil: After a good spring and strong training camp, Noil landed a starting job at two positions -- receiver and punt returner [last year’s leading punt returner, De’Vante Harris, is injured]. The five-star prospect and No. 7 player in the ESPN 300 is nicknamed "Speedy" for a reason. He will see the ball in his hands plenty, and the Aggies are expecting him to do big things when that happens.

FS Armani Watts: After a rough 2013 at the safety positions, the Aggies could use an upgrade. Watts hopes to provide that, earning a starting job by showing impressive range, good tackling and earning the trust of Snyder in training camp. Strong safety and returning starter Howard Matthews will help Watts get lined up properly so the ESPN 300 recruit can focus on his job at free safety. Watts is a versatile talent.

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
12:15
PM CT
Here's the latest around the Big 12 on the recruiting trail:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Bears commitment Chad President appears ready to start his season for Temple (Texas) High School, throwing for four touchdowns in a scrimmage on Friday. President is an ESPN 300 receiver whom the Bears will give a shot to play quarterback when he arrives on campus in January after enrolling early.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Lawton (Oklahoma) athlete Darreyl Patterson will make his official visit to Iowa State this weekend. The three-star prospect has offers from ISU, Kansas State, Washington State and others.

KANSAS
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Junior college players represent the bulk of KU’s class with eight of its 13 current commitments from the juco level. The Jayhawks continue to do a terrific job in North Texas, with four of their five high school commitments from the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats added arguably their top commitment of the class with a verbal from Tucker (Georgia) cornerback Duke Shelley last week. The three-star prospect turned down Clemson, Tennessee, Wisconsin and others to commit to Bill Snyder’s program.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: The Sooners added more bulk to their recruiting class with a pledge from three-star guard Dru Samia of Danville, California/San Ramon. Samia, who turned down offers from Texas Tech, UCLA, Oregon State, Cal and Washington State, is the fourth offensive lineman on OU’s commit list.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 8
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Cowboys will get the chance to impress receiver offer Ryan Newsome of Aledo, Texas, who plans to attend OSU’s season-opening tilt with Florida State on Saturday. Newsome tweeted his plans to join Cowboys commit Ronald Jones at the game. Newsome also has plans to officially visit OU and Texas, with Oregon, Tennessee and UCLA rounding out his official visit list.

TCU
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: One name to keep an eye on for the Horned Frogs could be Euless (Texas) Trinity defensive end Tipa Galeai. He doesn’t have an offer but visited the school last week and could be a long-term, developmental prospect to keep an eye on at 6-foot-6, 206 pounds. The three-star prospect boasts offers from Utah, Utah State and Washington State.

TEXAS
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 7
The latest: Long Beach (California) Poly cornerback Iman Marshall, the No. 8 player in the ESPN300, started a buzz on Twitter last week by asking fans of OU and UT to help him decide where to go for his fifth official visit. He already plans to visit Florida State, LSU, Notre Dame and Michigan with his other officials.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Red Raiders reportedly offered Class of 2016 prospect Keith Corbin last week. The Beaumont (Texas) West Brook receiver also has an offer from Ole Miss. A big, athletic target at 6-2, 175 pounds, Corbin could see his offer list reach double digits.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: WVU quarterback commitment David Sills had a terrific weekend, accounting for seven touchdowns in his team’s 58-56 overtime win over Spartanburg, South Carolina.

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