Dallas Colleges: TCU Horned Frogs

Q&A: TCU safety Sam Carter

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
Sam Carter is one of the Big 12's top defenders. The TCU safety has started 25 straight games and has earned second-team All-Big 12 honors twice for the Horned Frogs heading into his senior season. One of the leaders on Gary Patterson's defense, Carter took some time during Big 12 media days to chat about last season, the Horned Frogs' defense and Kevin White trying to fill the void left by Jason Verrett.

[+] EnlargeSam Carter
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsSenior safety Sam Carter is looking to help turn around TCU after a 4-8 season in 2013.
How do you look at last year? You were close in so many games then let them get away, what did you learn so those games won’t get away this year?

Sam Carter: You learn from all of your losses, you learn from all of your wins. It’s just understanding that, at the end of the day, they made one more play than you did and understand it’s in the past. I forgive all those teams that beat us but never forget. I have not forgot about those games, it’s not winning games that make you a better team, it’s losing games. Sometimes when you win, some guys think, ‘I did this, I did that.’ When you lose, you can’t point fingers because you lost as a team. I’m excited to go into the season and know those mistakes are behind us. We went 4-8 last season, it's in the past.

Do you think people overlook your defense?

SC: I don’t really know, they might. I’m not a big stats guy but I know my coach [Patterson] is one of the top coaches in the nation. He has a lot of wins. Folks say, ‘Well, that was the Mountain West,’ but I’ve seen Mountain West teams beat all these other big programs. You just have to not worry about what people say and just play football.

When you look at your defense, I know you won’t put it on your offense, but there were situations where the defense was actually was real solid.

SC: It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that we wish our offense had played better, but that’s in the past. I forgive them but haven’t forgot, either, with our offense. We know if you live in the past you might think, the offense just went three-and-out then we go out there and let them score because we’re worried about what the offense did. Just play, let the chips fall where they fall. We need to give them the ball back so they get another opportunity to score. That’s all we can control.

Tell me more about Kevin White.

SC: He’s like a brother to me, we came in the same year. We call him “Squirrel.” Kevin started off rough, just like Jason did, first few games were rough. He has the confidence now, he’s the guy. Last year, Jason was the guy. Now Kevin is the guy and all the young corners look up to him. I believe the experience that he has and the leadership he brings knowing what it takes to play in Division I and in the Big 12 is going to help the young cornerbacks. I’m excited to see what he does. To be able to say I left with this guy after coming in with this guy, I’m excited.

Do you think he has a chip on his shoulder? He’s been overshadowed by Jason.

SC: I tell people all the time, sometimes it’s your time, sometimes it’s not. I feel I’ve been overlooked for the longest, not just on my team but in the nation. When it’s not your time, you have to wait. God does things for a reason. Patience is the key to success. If you feel you’ve been overlooked, the only way to stop people from overlooking you is to do something they remember. And that’s how I look at every year, I try to come out and do something to make people say, ‘Wow, that’s the kid we should watch.’ When the light is shining on someone, you never want to be the guy to say, 'Give me that.' No, be happy for them and let God bless you later. I’m happy for Jason. If [Kevin] feels overshadowed, the only way to stop that is do something you’ve never done before.

Do you have a much better feel for the conference now than when you came in?

SC: I don’t know. There are still things all these Big 12 schools do that you get there and say, 'Wow, I didn’t see that on tape.' Every snap I’m learning something new about the Big 12.

Position battle update: TCU QB

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
TCU will soon have an answer to its offseason-long question of who will replace Casey Pachall. Here's what we know:

Contenders: Senior Matt Joeckel, junior Trevone Boykin

Not contenders: Freshmen Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein are both expected to redshirt this fall, according to TCU coach Gary Patterson.

What they replace: While Pachall's final two seasons at TCU might best be described as rocky, he did leave Fort Worth as one of the school's top three all-time passers in completions, passing yards and passing TDs while ranking first in completion percentage. Between his suspension in 2012 and his injuries in 2013, Pachall was at times unreliable for this Horned Frog offense. Still, he started 23 career games and isn't easy to replace.

What they offer: Now that's what makes this competition so interesting, because each one brings a different kind of experience to the table.

Joeckel has the experience of operating an Air Raid offense with confidence, and that's crucial as TCU makes its transition to an offense that should resemble what we've seen from Oklahoma State and Texas Tech in recent years. He's had great mentors in Kevin Sumlin, Jake Spavital and Kliff Kingsbury. He has prototypical size and, after four years on the bench in College Station, he's hungry.

The downside is Joeckel showed up in June. He had a ton of catching up to do and he's done an admirable job so far, but not enough to lock down the job from Day 1.

Boykin brings a different kind of experience: He knows this team. The players know him. He's won a few games with them. He dropped 15 pounds this offseason and is in the best shape of his life. The OCs are new to him, but otherwise, this is Boykin's fourth year in the program. He says working with Sonny Cumbie has raised his game. And he happens to be one of the best athletes on the team.

The only problem with that is, if this race is dead even, is TCU better off going with Joeckel knowing that Boykin can still be a dynamic receiver? Wouldn't you prefer to have both on the field? Boykin is playing QB throughout camp with every intention of winning that job, but no doubt that idea was crossed Patterson's mind.

Prediction: We all expected Joeckel to win this in the end, but I'm betting on Boykin. There seems to be real enthusiasm about how he responded to competition this summer. Realistically, though, TCU's best course of action might be to use both QBs in their opener against Samford and then re-evaluate during the two weeks they have to prep for Minnesota.

Big 12 true freshman power rankings

August, 15, 2014
Aug 15
Today, we debut our Big 12 true freshman power rankings, which we’ll update occasionally through August and the season. This list combines the factors of playing time and potential impact.

Without further ado, the Big 12 freshman power ranks:

1. Dravon Henry, FS, West Virginia: After just a few months in Morgantown, Henry is pushing to be the starting free safety for the opener against Alabama, another team that also recruited him hard. The ultra-athletic Henry could also be a factor in the return game. He and cornerback Daryl Worley give the Mountaineers potentially two of the best young defensive backs in the Big 12.

2. Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State: The gem of Iowa State’s recruiting class has not disappointed this preseason. He is already getting first-team reps alongside Quenton Bundrage and E.J. Bibbs. If he continues to progress, Lazard could round out a dynamic pass-catching trio.

3. K.D. Cannon, WR, Baylor: Cannon is behind Lazard, but only because the Bears are loaded at wide receiver. Cannon has been equally as impressive. Baylor coach Art Briles acknowledged that Cannon has proved to be even faster than he thought while recruiting him.

4. Armanti Foreman, WR, Texas: Foreman has taken full advantage of the injuries and dismissals Texas has endured at the wide receiving position this preseason. He might even have a chance to start the opener against North Texas.

5. Corey Avery, RB, Kansas: Avery could be heir in the Kansas backfield to departed All-Big 12 running back James Sims. Avery has wowed with his ability to make defenders miss and has recently begun to receive first-team snaps.

6. Dimitri Flowers, FB, Oklahoma: The Sooners raved about Flowers in the spring before he suffered an injury in the spring game. The 220-pound Flowers, who has drawn comparisons to former Oklahoma fullback Trey Millard, is healthy again and figures to be a big part of the Sooners’ pistol attack.

7. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State: Up until late in the recruiting process, this small-school Texas standout’s only other offer was from Texas State. But the Cowboys have apparently uncovered a diamond in the rough in Washington, who has been turning heads with his knack for catching any pass in his direction. Oklahoma State is deep at receiver, but Washington has played himself into a rotation role.

8. William Crest, QB, West Virginia: Clint Trickett was named the starter over the summer, but Crest is vying to become West Virginia’s second-team quarterback. That could be a critical role, considering Trickett’s injury history. Dana Holgorsen also has hinted at installing a special offensive package for his athletic quarterback.

9. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech: Davis Webb is the clear-cut starter in Lubbock, but Mahomes is showing he might be ready to be a reliable backup. Mahomes tossed five touchdown passes during a scrimmage over the weekend. That might also be an indictment of Tech’s second-team defense. But even against air, five touchdowns is impressive.

10. Emanuel Porter, WR, TCU: With Trevone Boykin still working at quarterback, the Horned Frogs need help at receiver. They’ve been getting it from Porter, who has impressed the coaching staff with his penchant for making big plays downfield.

On the radar: Dalvin Warmack, RB, Kansas State; Jeffery Mead, WR, Oklahoma; Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech

Big 12 morning links

August, 14, 2014
Aug 14
I had Peanut Butter Crunch while writing these morning links. What will you have while reading them?
  • I've always felt that Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel would eventually emerge as the starter in TCU's quarterback competition. Maybe that assertion was wrong. Coach Gary Patterson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Travis L. Brown that after TCU's second scrimmage Tuesday, Trevone Boykin holds a slight edge over Joeckel in the quarterback battle. I still contend it makes sense to start Joeckel at quarterback and Boykin at wide receiver. Joeckel has more experience in the offense TCU is attempting to install, and Boykin instantly would become one of TCU's best receivers. But if Boykin is clearly the better quarterback this preseason, Patterson will have to start him. By the way, kudos to TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte for adding California to the future schedule. The Horned Frogs now have home-and-homes coming up with Minnesota (2014-15), Arkansas (2016-17), Ohio State (2018-19) and Cal (2020-21). That's solid.
  • Several times we've written about the talent and potential of the Big 12's true freshman skill class. But one player we've overlooked is Kansas running back Corey Avery, who has been turning heads in Lawrence this preseason, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal's Jesse Newell. Avery has been getting carries with the first-team offense, and could be the instant successor to James Sims in the Kansas backfield. Maybe this shouldn't be so surprising. Avery was one of the gems of Charlie Weis' signing class in February, choosing the Jayhawks over Baylor, LSU and Ohio State.
  • Iowa State's already-thin defensive line has taken yet another hit. Junior college defensive end Gabe Luna might have to redshirt after injuring his back, the Ames Tribune's Bobby La Gesse reports. The Cyclones have already lost incoming defensive tackle Terry Ayeni to a torn ACL, as well as tackles David Irving and Rodney Coe, who were booted from the team in the spring. The Cyclones still have good players up front. End Cory Morrissey was an honorable mention All-Big 12 pick last year. Noseguard Brandon Jensen has started to come on again after rejoining the team after spring ball. But Iowa State's depth up front has been decimated. That's a scary way to begin the season for a unit that finished last in the league in 2013 in sacks and rushing yards allowed.
  • When it comes to his quarterbacks, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy likes to keep things mysterious. This year is no different, writes The Oklahoman's Kyle Fredrickson. Gundy has yet to name veteran J.W. Walsh his starter. And he curiously said at a booster event last week that former walk-on Daxx Garman would get 10-15 snaps in the Florida State game. Who knows what will happen with Oklahoma State's QB situation, given the track record of the last two seasons. But it's worth keeping an eye on Garman. Because of his leadership and experience, Walsh remains the front-runner to start the opener. But Garman's superior arm strength could ultimately be a better fit for this Oklahoma State offense, which is loaded with wide receivers that can make plays in the passing game downfield.
  • Kansas State's Tyler Lockett and Baylor's Antwan Goodley are the league's only returning 1,000-yard receivers. But don't sleep on West Virginia's Mario Alford being a contender to pass the 1,000-yard barrier in Dana Holgorsen's offense. As the Charleston Gazette's Dave Hickman points out, Alford really came on late last season with 450 receiving yards in the Mountaineers' final four games after being moved from the slot to the outside. With better quarterback continuity and a year of experience behind him, Alford could be in for a big season.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Preseason

August, 11, 2014
Aug 11

The Season: the best before 1960

August, 7, 2014
Aug 7
This week, we’ve been focusing the players who delivered the best individual seasons in college football history.

Today, Vince Young and Barry Sanders are squaring off in the finals of our greatest season bracket. (You can vote for either by clicking here).

 While some old-school stars like TCU QB Davey O’Brien made the list, the majority of players highlighted for delivering the best season at their school in ESPN.com’s The Season played after 1960.

But there were some big-time seasons that came before 1960. Here are a few of the best that came from Big 12 schools:

Bobby Layne, QB, Texas (1947): Layne notoriously liked to have a good time off the field, but he was lethal on it. He finished sixth in the Heisman voting in 1947 and was a consensus All-American after leading the Longhorns to a 10-1 record, including a win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

Tommy McDonald, HB, Oklahoma (1956): McDonald led the ’56 Sooners in passing, rushing and receiving and might have won the Heisman had teammate Jerry Tubbs not split the vote with him. With McDonald leading the way, the Sooners won the national championship as part of their famed 47-game winning streak.

Sammy Baugh, QB, TCU (1936): Baugh finished fourth in the Heisman voting after completing 50 percent of his passes and throwing 12 touchdowns. He would go on to have one of the most decorated careers in NFL history with the Washington Redskins.

Jerry Tubbs, C/LB, Oklahoma (1956): Tubbs became the first Sooner to win the prestigious Walter Camp Award. Despite playing center and linebacker, he also finished fourth in the Heisman voting.

Bob Fenimore, RB, Oklahoma A&M (1945): Before Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas, there was Bob Fenimore. The “Blonde Bomber” led the nation in rushing in 194, and finished third in the Heisman voting behind only Army’s “Mr. Inside” (Doc Blanchard) and “Mr. Outside” (Glenn Davis).

Billy Vessels, RB, Oklahoma (1952): Vessels became the first Sooner to capture the Heisman Trophy. He scored 18 touchdowns and rushed for 1,000 yards at the advent of Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma dynasty.

Ray Evans, HB, Kansas (1942): Evans led the nation in passing in 1942 and once owned the NCAA record of 60 passes attempted without an interception. After the war, he came back to Kansas to star for the Jayhawks again in football and basketball.

Jack Crain, RB/DB, Texas (1940): Crain helped resurrect the Texas program under coach Dana X. Bible. The “Nocona Nugget” was the first Longhorn to show up in the top 10 of the Heisman voting.

Larry Isbell, QB, Baylor (1951): Isbell was an All-American in football and in baseball. He led the Bears to the Orange Bowl and placed seventh in the Heisman voting.

Dwight Nichols, QB, Iowa State (1959): Nichols became the first Cyclone to place in the top 10 of the Heisman voting. He finished his career as the all-time Big Seven leading rusher.

Fields' second chance at SFA could be last

August, 7, 2014
Aug 7
Devonte Fields is running out of second chances. He needs to recognize that as he leaves for Stephen F. Austin.

A story that began with incredible promise ended Wednesday with a Twitter post and a quiet exit. Fields, the Big 12's preseason Defensive Player of the Year, is leaving TCU and the trouble he created there behind to start over at the FCS level.

[+] EnlargeDevonte Fields
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsTroubled former TCU defensive end Devonte Fields is looking for a new start at FCS Stephen F. Austin.
He'll be able to play right away for the Lumberjacks. He'll move to Nacogdoches, Texas, a small East Texas town 200 miles from home, and perhaps that'll help him stay out of trouble. But Fields is bringing with him a reputation badly in need of repair.

Gary Patterson deserves credit for trying to make this work. Fields put the first strike on his record just two weeks after signing with TCU in 2012 after being arrested for marijuana possession. When he violated team rules after his freshman season, Patterson handed down a two-game suspension.

The Horned Frogs stood by Fields in January, too, when he was attacked, robbed and threatened at gunpoint at his home. When he got back on the field this spring for the first time since a foot injury ended his sophomore season early, TCU coaches didn't take it easy on him. They downplayed the hype and even listed him as a backup on the post-spring depth chart in the hopes of further motivating him.

And until a few weeks ago, it seemed like this story was positioned to end happily. The local kid makes good, learns from his mistakes and becomes a star again. Big 12 reporters weren't dumb to gives Fields the league's top preseason defensive honor. As his 10-sack rookie year proved, he's a special talent.

But Fields allegedly did something no amount of talent can overcome. He can escape to SFA, but he can't run away from the misdemeanor assault charges he was arrested for on July 24.

Fields denies he assaulted ex-girlfriend Haley Brown, and she has recanted her claim that a handgun was involved. The legal process over whether Fields punched her in the face still isn't over. Still, TCU was right to sever ties by calling Fields "separated" from the program.

He'd been given more than enough chances and warnings. He broke the trust he'd attempted to rebuild this spring.

What Patterson is left with now is a defense that still could be one of the Big 12's best. There are quality players at every level of the unit, led by defensive tackle Chucky Hunter, safety Sam Carter and cornerback Kevin White. Terrell Lathan, TCU's returning sacks leader with five in 2013, can take over Fields' spot.

The Frogs fielded the No. 2 total defense and No. 1 run defense in the league last season without Fields. But he did bring star power and playmaking ability to this group that's impossible to match.

Now Fields will seek a new beginning with the Lumberjacks. He'll have to convince first-year coach Clint Conque he's committed and focused on keeping his slate clean. If Fields does gets his act together, he'll face a familiar foe in his first career game at SFA: Kansas State.

That's the first of 12 opportunities for the 6-foot-6, 250-pound lineman to prove he's still one of the nation's most dominant pass rushers. He is eligible to enter the NFL draft after the season, but whether the league will want him depends on how Fields utilizes these next 10 months.

The abrupt end of his TCU career is a sad ordeal for all involved. But now is the time for Fields to take responsibility. He's getting a do-over, and you hope he's learned some lessons.

Fields has at least learned one thing over and over again: He's one slip-up away from squandering it all. If his stint in Nacogdoches ends the way his TCU career did Wednesday, he'll have no one to blame but himself. His next chance just might be his last.

Big 12 weekend takeaways

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
Over the weekend, six of the Big 12 schools opened fall camps and opened up their coaches and players to the media.

Here are some of my takeaways from the weekend:

Texas Tech could have its run-stuffer

Due to injuries and a lack of depth, Texas Tech struggled to stop the run all last season and finished ninth in the league in run defense. With defensive interior linemen Dartwan Bush and Kerry Hyder gone from last year’s club, Texas Tech desperately needed to add an impact player up front during the offseason to stabilize its porous run defense.

The Red Raiders, however, might have found such a player in mammoth junior college noseguard Rika Levi, whose size and strength has been generating plenty of buzz in Lubbock this summer. Levi was also the talk of Tech’s media day on Sunday.

“He’s a guy that the strength staff really, really likes,” defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt said. “He’s a voice in the weight room, he’s a voice in the locker room and he’s a voice on the field pushing guys.”

According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Levi arrived on campus weighing 362, but he has since slimmed down 14 pounds, which could be crucial to keeping him on the field.

“I think in his career, he’s been maybe as high as 390,” Wallerstedt told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “If we can get him into the low-340 range, you may have a guy that can play not just first and second down, but could help us all three downs.”

One of Tech’s biggest needs going into this season was a three-down run stuffer. The Red Raiders just might have found their man.

Boykin not giving up QB job without a fight

It remains unclear whether Trevone Boykin will be at quarterback or wide receiver this season. But Boykin, who is in the best shape of his life according to coach Gary Patterson, has done everything within his power to prove he should be TCU’s starting quarterback.

“From just working out, eating right, living right, watching film, staying out of trouble, leading guys on and off the field, being in front of the summer workouts -- stuff that quarterbacks are supposed to do, but that not necessarily all of them do,” he said during TCU’s media day on Sunday, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Some people lead by example, and some are more vocal. I’ve tried to become both.”

Co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie said the Horned Frogs would like to settle in on one quarterback. And Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel has more experience operating the offense Cumbie and co-coordinator Doug Meacham are installing.

Joeckel, however, has a fight on his hands.

West Virginia’s freshman trio impressing

While they’ve struggled on the field their first two years in the Big 12, the Mountaineers have been rolling on the recruiting trail. In its most recent signing class, West Virginia landed three elite prospects in defensive back Dravon Henry, quarterback William Crest and running back Donte Thomas-Williams who have all impressed since arriving in Morgantown.

Henry figures to push for a starting role at free safety, just like cornerback Daryl Worley did as a true freshman last year.

“He's ahead of the curve for a true freshman, that's for sure,” Dana Holgorsen said during West Virginia’s camp-opening news conference.

The backfield is crowded for Thomas-Williams, but the “sky is the limit” for him, position coach JaJuan Seider noted after getting a glimpse of him in practice.

Crest is still adjusting to the speed of the college game, but the talent is undeniable.

“He's big, he's fast, he's strong, and he's got a good arm,” Holgorsen said. “There's a reason we recruited him for three years.”

All three freshmen have the potential to emerge into cornerstone pieces for the Mountaineers in time.

Oklahoma embracing defensive status

With the return of tackle Jordan Phillips from injury and the addition of promising redshirt freshmen Matt Romar and Charles Walker to the rotation, the Sooners should be deep and athletic up front. The entire linebacking corps returns, headlined by pass-rushing menace Eric Striker. And while the secondary has questions, Zack Sanchez is one of the top returning corners in the league.

Coach Bob Stoops said the returning experience has made a huge difference in how the Sooners have approached this preseason defensively.

"There's no comparison. A year ago on these first three days we were just implementing a basic 3-4 defense,” he said. “Now our guys have had a whole year in it and they understand with each play how we want to play against that particular play. We have our different wrinkles to blitz one way or another to try and screw up blocking schemes. All that together is a big deal. A year ago you're just figuring out all that. We've had a long time to study and work it, and our players now are comfortable with it and we're comfortable with if somebody's doing a certain thing, here are our wrinkles to take care of it and all the kids know how we want to handle it as opposed to a year ago figuring all that out."

"We have a chance to be pretty good, yeah.”

Senior transfer could boost Cowboys

The Oklahoma State defense got a boost last year from senior transfer cornerback Tyler Patmon. The Cowboys are banking on getting another boost from another senior transfer in safety Josh Furman, who arrived in Stillwater by way of Michigan.

“He’s a bigger safety and we’ll play him at our star linebacker position,” defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said Saturday. “We brought him in, that was the goal, to get him ready to play that position.”

The “star” is essentially Oklahoma State’s nickelback spot, where the Cowboys have a giant void due to Shaun Lewis’ graduation.

"He's going to fit in perfectly,” safety Tre Flowers said. “He's going to keep working and he's going to help the team out."

Strong will be relying on freshmen

Texas coach Charlie Strong confirmed on Sunday the dismissal of five players and the suspension of three others. That will leave the Longhorns with 10 fewer scholarship players than the NCAA’s 85-man limit. And will leave Strong reliant on incoming freshmen to replenish some of the depth.

Two spots freshmen will have the opportunity to earn time will be at running back and receiver. Through the dismissals and suspensions, the Longhorns lost five players from those offensive skill spots.

“A freshman can handle the skill positions,” Strong countered. “It’s all about speed and athletic ability. You can get those guys out there and they can get up to speed.”

The Longhorns still have veteran cogs at the offensive skill positions in Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Jaxon Shipley. But it appears the depth at running back and receiver will be supplied by freshmen this season.
Oklahoma was the lone Big 12 team to receive a first-place vote in the preseason Amway Coaches Poll, which was released on Thursday. The Sooners are the conference’s highest ranked team at No. 3 with Baylor, Kansas State and Texas joining OU as Big 12 representatives in the poll. Florida State, the defending national champion, is ranked No. 1.

Here’s the actual rank for each Big 12 team and a couple of quick thoughts on the ranking:

No. 3 Oklahoma (1382 points, 3 first-place votes): The momentum from OU’s Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Alabama continues but the Sooners still find themselves looking up at No. 2 Alabama in this preseason ranking. If OU, particularly quarterback Trevor Knight, plays like it did against the Crimson Tide, there’s no reason to think the Sooners can’t fulfill this ranking or higher. If not, they’ll likely find themselves outside of the top 10 at some point this season.

No. 10 Baylor (965 points): The Bears could be ranked even higher after a stellar 2013 campaign but memories of Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles making big plays against BU’s defense have cast a shadow that’s made people forget the Bears' 11-1 regular season and first Big 12 title. With Bryce Petty at the helm, Baylor has the ability to rise to the top of this poll. But it won’t happen until some untested players step up on defense.

No. 21: Kansas State (257 points): The Wildcats enter the season with plenty of respect after a strong end to the 2013 season and their first bowl win in 11 years. Quarterback Jake Waters and receiver Tyler Lockett are one of college football’s top quarterback-receiver duos and defensive end Ryan Mueller is disruptive and productive. A playmaker emerging at running back could be the key to K-State rising higher than No. 21 this season.

No. 24: Texas (143 points): The Longhorns are an interesting case. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Charlie Strong’s team rise into the top 10, but it also wouldn’t be a surprise to see UT fall out of the rankings altogether. UCLA provides a tough early-season test but also an opportunity for the Longhorns to send a Strong message to the nation.

NR/RV Oklahoma State (56 points): It wouldn’t be the first time the Cowboys entered the season with muted expectations then rose up the Big 12 standings and national polls. A date with No. 1 Florida State to start the season will be the first opportunity for Mike Gundy’s squad to show the world they’re being underestimated yet again.

NR/RV TCU (54 points): Gary Patterson’s squad is nipping at the heels of OSU despite a 4-8 season a year ago. We can always count on the Horned Frogs to play good defense, so TCU’s new offense would likely be the key reason if it finds itself as a consistent member of this Top 25 this season.

NR/RV Texas Tech (8 points): The Red Raiders’ National University Holiday Bowl win was an impressive finish to the 2013 season. The Sooners got all the attention but Tech and Davis Webb had a performance second to none in the Red Raiders' win over Arizona State. Webb will have to carry that stellar display into this season and get some help from a defense which is replacing several key playmakers if Tech expects to break into the Top 25 in Kliff Kingsbury's second season.
Visions of long touchdown passes, big plays and head coach Gary Patterson drinking Gatorade during blowouts has TCU fans excited about the potential of the Horned Frogs' new offense.

Patterson brought in co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie to jump-start TCU's offensive attack this season after its offense struggled for a large portion of 2013.

[+] EnlargeSam Carter
LM Otero/AP PhotoSenior safety Sam Carter says the Horned Frogs' defense should benefit from playing against TCU's up-tempo offense in practice.
Yet an overlooked aspect of TCU's new offense is the potential impact on the Horned Frogs' defense. It could have a major impact or it may not affect anything on the defensive side at all. The only certainty is that TCU's defense will, generally speaking, get a better sense of the type of offenses it will face in the Big 12 with the Horned Frogs' new spread attack.

"It should help us get better as a defense, because we're going to be seeing that every day," defensive tackle Chucky Hunter said. "We're going to be in better condition, we're going to be more knowledgable of the plays we're going to see."

Safety Sam Carter loves the potential upside of practicing against Meacham's attack.

"I think it's going to help," Carter said. "I don't think it can hinder us in any way. To have it every day in practice, I'm excited to go against it."

While Carter doesn't envision a scenario that includes a downside, a negative impact appears possible. With TCU installing an up-tempo system of its own, it's a fair assumption to think its offensive plays per game average -- 72.2 during the past two seasons -- will increase in 2014, which could also increase the number of plays the defense will see. Those additional plays would be sure to test the depth and overall conditioning of the defensive unit in ways it has not been tested during TCU's first two seasons in the Big 12.

The defenses at Oklahoma State, Baylor, Iowa State, West Virginia, Texas Tech averaged at least 75 opponent plays per game in conference games during the past two seasons. Of that group, only the Cyclones lack a high-tempo offensive attack.

During the same span, TCU's defense faced 70.6 plays per game as Oklahoma was the lone defense to face fewer average plays per game in conference games. The Horned Frogs understand their average number of plays per game could jump significantly this fall but don't consider it a major concern.

It could end up being a bigger deal than anticipated.

During the past two seasons, the Horned Frogs' defense has allowed more points when facing 75 plays or more on defense. In conference games only, TCU allowed 29.1 points per game in the five games it faced 75 plays or more. In the 13 games TCU's defense faced 75 plays or less, the Horned Frogs allowed 25.8 points per game. Obviously a lot of different elements go into the actual number of plays an opponent runs, but these numbers are a clear sign more plays on the field could be a bad scenario for TCU's defense.

Even though their jobs just potentially got much harder, Hunter and Carter each stressed it was the defense's responsibility to stop opponents from scoring, regardless of the circumstances, and they are hopeful their defense is improved this season.

"We talked about it [playing more plays] but we can't control what the offense does," Carter said. "If the offense scores or not, your job is to stop other teams from scoring."

Big 12 lunchtime links

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
Texas coach Charlie Strong spent some time with the Numbers Never Lie crew on Wednesday.
The media voted Oklahoma as the clear preseason favorite to win the Big 12.

But the league’s players give the slight edge to Baylor as the team to beat in the Big 12 this season.

This week, the Big 12 blog team anonymously polled 30 of the 39 players that attended Big 12 media days.

Oklahoma received 47 of 56 first-place media votes in the Big 12’s preseason poll, which was released last week. But 43 percent of the players polled said the defending Big 12 champion Bears were actually the team to beat in the league, narrowly topping the Sooners.

The players were asked several other questions about the league, including its most impressive coach, its most obnoxious team, and its most underrated player.

The results of the poll:

(Note: players were not allowed to answer their own school or any teammate in any of the questions)

Who is the team to beat this year in the Big 12?

Baylor: 43%

Oklahoma: 40%

Kansas State: 6%

Oklahoma State: 6%

Texas: 3%

Who is the league’s most impressive coach?

Kliff Kingsbury: 24%

Bill Snyder: 21%

Art Briles: 17%

Bob Stoops: 14%

If you could draft an opposing Big 12 player and put him on your team, who would it be?

Baylor QB Bryce Petty: 27%

Baylor WR Antwan Goodley: 15%

Kansas State WR Tyler Lockett: 12%

Kansas State QB Jake Waters: 12%

Who is the league’s most underrated player?

Waters: 10%

TCU DT Davion Pierson: 10%

Iowa State TE E.J. Bibbs: 10%

Other answers: Kansas State DE Ryan Mueller, Texas Tech LB Sam Eguavoen, Oklahoma WR Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma State LB Ryan Simmons, Baylor DE Shawn Oakman, Kansas State C BJ Finney, TCU CB Kevin White, Baylor RB Devin Chafin, Baylor RB Johnny Jefferson, Kansas State CB Randall Evans, Oklahoma State DT James Castleman

Who is the team you’re most fired up to play?

Texas: 24%

Kansas State: 21%

Oklahoma: 21%

Baylor: 10%

Who is the most obnoxious team in the league?

TCU: 21%

Baylor: 18%

Texas: 14%

Texas Tech: 14%

What program has the best pregame intro?

Oklahoma: 27%

Oklahoma State: 19%

Texas: 15%

Who do you predict will make the inaugural playoff?

(Note: Players were allowed to include Big 12 teams here)

Florida State: 20%

Oregon: 16%

Alabama: 15%

Other top vote-getters: Auburn, Baylor, LSU, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Stanford

Predicting the 2014 season: Week 12

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
Our series of preseason picks for every single Big 12 game of 2014 continues today with Week 12. Not a good week to be the home team, evidently.

More Big 12 predictions for 2014.

Texas 28, at Oklahoma State 27: Even with the Pokes in the bottom half of the Big 12 standings, you knew this game was going to be a tricky one for Texas. The Longhorns find the end zone with 2 minutes left -- no controversial fumble this time, either -- and Charlie Strong's defense clamps down once J.W. Walsh crosses the 50, securing victory with a fourth-down sack off the edge on a risky blitz from Quandre Diggs.

TCU 35, at Kansas 15: TCU lets the Jayhawks into the red zone too many times early on, but keeps forcing field goals and rallies in the third on some big-time playmaking from Trevone Boykin, who notches a touchdown reception and a long touchdown run as a Wildcat quarterback. The missed opportunities in the first half cost KU a chance to capitalize off its win over ISU the week before.

Oklahoma 38, at Texas Tech 34: The Trevor Knight vs. Davis Webb duel, with the crown for the Big 12's second-best QB on the line, does not disappoint. Tech takes a double-digit lead into the start of the fourth quarter, but Knight flips the switch with heroics that can only be described as Sugar Bowl-caliber and connects with Taylor McNamara on third-and-goal for the go-ahead score in the final minute to clinch victory in a downright brawl.

Current Big 12 standings

1. Oklahoma -- 9-1, 6-1
2. Kansas State -- 7-2, 5-1
3. Baylor -- 7-2, 4-2
4. Texas -- 7-4, 5-3
5. TCU -- 7-3, 4-3
6. Texas Tech -- 6-4, 3-4
7. Oklahoma State -- 5-5, 3-4
8. West Virginia -- 4-6, 3-3
9. Kansas -- 3-7, 1-6
10. Iowa State -- 2-7, 0-6

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

July, 21, 2014
Jul 21
The Big 12's head coaches are in Dallas today for Big 12 media days, but that doesn't mean they aren't busy as usual recruiting like crazy. The latest on each Big 12 program's recruiting efforts:

Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Bears are capitalizing on their 2013 success in a big way for the future: Baylor might have the nation's top 2016 recruiting class at this point with six verbal pledges. Baylor landed one of its most impressive victories in a long time Friday when offensive tackle Patrick Hudson, a top-20 prospect for 2016, flipped to BU after being committed to Texas A&M for nearly four months. But that's not all. Art Briles and his staff also landed receiver Tren'Davian Dickson and local defensive back Eric Cuffee this weekend and locked up a big-time talent last week in ESPN Junior 300 running back Kameron Martin.

Total commits: 6
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: We mentioned him in last week's Big 12 scorecard, and the big week is finally here. Running back Devine Ozigbo is set to announce his commitment on Tuesday at 2 p.m., and trimmed his list of 20 offense down to three: Iowa, Iowa State and Boise State. The three-star back is a top-100 recruit in the state of Texas and would be an important get for the Cyclones who could play right away for them.

Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: When you're able to get a player as talented as receiver Kevin Thomas on campus, you've got to lock him up. The Jayhawks did just that last week, securing a commitment from the three-star wideout from Texas powerhouse DeSoto High School, during his unofficial visit. Thomas chose KU over offers from the likes of Wisconsin, Nebraska and Clemson and is now KU's highest-rated pledge.

Total commits: 8
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcat's newest commitment came from three-star defensive end Josh Little of Oklahoma City Millwood. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound lineman picked KSU over a handful of offers, including from Arizona State, Purdue, Washington State and Iowa State. Little hails from the same high school that produced All-Big 12 receiver Tyler Lockett and racked up 76 tackles and five sacks as a junior.

Total commits: 7
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: Former Sooners commit defensive tackle Du'Vonta Lampkin has set a decision date for Sept. 15, and he still has OU in his final three. The three-star recruit from Houston Cypress Falls is down to OU, Texas and LSU. While Texas is currently in the lead, Lampkin is planning to give the Sooners one last chance to sway him with his official visit for the Sept. 13 game against Tennessee.

Total commits: 8
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Three-star offensive tackle Joshua Jones released his top five this weekend and Oklahoma State made the list along with TCU, Texas Tech, Purdue and Wake Forest. The big 6-foot-6, 271-pound lineman hails from Bush High School in the Houston area, and it wouldn't be a surprise if this comes down to an OSU-TCU battle.

Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: TCU landed its first verbal commit for the class of 2016, from defensive end Jonathan Marshall, during its final summer camp. The Shepherd, Texas, standout is 6-foot-3 and 256 pounds and had early offers from Oklahoma State and North Texas. It's possible another commitment could come Monday from three-star DeSoto (Texas) defensive tackle Bryce English, a former Texas commit who is set to choose between TCU, Arkansas, Arizona State and UCLA.

Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: Texas did not land any new commitments off its inaugural "Under The Lights" camp on Friday, but ESPN Junior 300 offensive tackle J.P. Urquidez came close to announcing a decision Saturday and has Texas and Baylor at the top of his list. The Longhorns also hosted a critical unofficial visit from four-star QB Kai Locksley and his father, Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley. He's set to make a commitment to either UT, Florida State or Maryland during his season opener.

Total commits: 7
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: The Red Raiders got a big opportunity recently to ensure one of their top commits stays in the fold. Three-star running back Corey Dauphine, who has long been rumored to be considering a flip to Texas A&M or Baylor, took an unofficial visit to Lubbock and went home saying he felt 100-percent solid with his commitment. Dauphine could still take a trip to A&M in early August, but this was a big step in the right direction for Tech's chances.

Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: WVU's newest pledge should be a familiar name: Three-star QB David Sills. As a 13-year-old, he made a (very) early commitment to USC and then-coach Lane Kiffin. He went back on the market this year -- he didn't have much of a relationship with Steve Sarkisian -- and the Mountaineers won out for the standout from Eastern Christian Academy in Maryland. Stills is up to 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds and should be a fairly polished passer when he arrives in Morgantown after years of training with famed QB coach Steve Clarkson.
Our series of preseason picks for every single Big 12 game of 2014 continues today with Week 11. Oklahoma and Baylor, the preseason favorites in the Big 12, face off at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in one of the season's most anticipated games.

More Big 12 predictions for 2014.

at Kansas 35, Iowa State 34: One of the most entertaining games of the season goes largely unnoticed as the Jayhawks and Cyclones offenses go back-and-forth in the fourth quarter. A late Montell Cozart touchdown run followed by an interception by Ben Heeney cements the win for KU.

Kansas State 23, at TCU 20: Bill Snyder’s squad uses a Tyler Lockett kickoff return for a touchdown and a late TCU turnover to grab the road win over the Horned Frogs and further cement its place among Big 12 title contenders. Neither offense is stellar but K-State makes key plays and key conversions when they need them while TCU’s offense fails in those key moments, ultimately providing the difference as K-State improves to 5-1 in the Big 12.

at Texas 31, West Virginia 21: With UT treading water at .500 in Big 12 play, the Longhorns take on an “us against the world” mentality and begin what they hope will be late-season rally, starting with a home win over the Mountaineers. Longhorn running back Johnathan Gray finishes with 150 yards and two scores as WVU’s defense doesn’t have an answer for the Longhorns running game.

at Oklahoma 35, Baylor 24: The Sooners defense is stellar against Baylor’s offense, limiting the Bears to three touchdowns while forcing two turnovers that set up a pair of Sooners scores. OU's Trevor Knight outduels BU's Bryce Petty, throwing for two touchdowns and zero interceptions while Petty’s two touchdown tosses are offset by an interception and fumble. And four different OU defenders record sacks as OU harasses Petty into one of his worst games of the year. Ultimately, the hostile road environment at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium is too much for Art Briles' group to overcome as the Sooners cement themselves in the driver's seat in the Big 12 title race.

Current Big 12 standings

1. Oklahoma -- 8-1, 5-1
2. Kansas State -- 7-2, 5-1
3. Baylor -- 7-2, 4-2
4. Texas -- 6-4, 4-3
5. TCU -- 6-3, 3-3
6. Texas Tech -- 6-3, 3-3
7. Oklahoma State -- 5-4, 3-3
8. West Virginia -- 4-6, 3-3
9. Kansas -- 3-6, 1-5
10. Iowa State -- 2-7, 0-6