Dallas Colleges: TCU Horned Frogs

In today's Big 12 Twitter mailbag, we talk plenty about 2015, including changes to the conference format and quarterback battles.

On to the 'bag:

@Jake_Trotter: My top five, as of December 19, would be 1) TCU, 2) Baylor, 3) Oklahoma, 4) Texas, 5) Oklahoma State. But a lot can and will change between now and the preseason that could shake up this top five.

Trotter: Closer? Maybe. Close? No. The only change I see happening is the league clarifying its goofy One True Champion rule, and actually declaring a single champion for playoff purposes. There is a chance the conference could apply for a waiver to hold a championship game with 10 teams. But in talking to people around the league, I don't envision the Big 12 adding such a game, at least for next season.

Trotter: No time soon. The Big 12 still has no plans to expand. If it did, BYU would obviously be in the picture. But again, the Big 12 is not adding teams right now.

Trotter: The decision remains up in the air, but if I had to bet, I would put my money on Dorial Green-Beckham going to the NFL. The decision to transfer to Oklahoma was always about playing this season, not sitting out and playing in 2015. That could still happen. But as a likely Day 1 or Day 2 pick, I see him declaring for the draft.

Trotter: I could see Rushel Shell breaking the 1,000-yard barrier. With a new quarterback, the Mountaineers could pound the ball a little more next season. As for who the quarterback will be, Skyler Howard has generated momentum with the way he performed the last two games, but I still favor William Crest. There was a reason Crest was the No. 2 quarterback as a true freshman coming out of fall camp. Assuming he is healthy and can go through spring ball, Crest would still be my pick to win the job for 2015.

Trotter: The Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Baylor beating Michigan State and TCU handling Ole Miss would do the most for the Big 12's national perception. It certainly wouldn't hurt if the other Big 12 teams win, too. But a sweep in the two New Year's Six bowls is what will count most toward 2015 perception of the conference.

Trotter: Chad President has indicated that he's sticking with Baylor. President also has the ability to play other positions, too, if he gets beat out by Jarrett Stidham. So I would guess he stays pledged to Baylor. By the way, not many better surnames out there than "President."

Trotter: I think it's Seth Russell, at least to start out. Russell has the experience edge both on the field and with reps operating the Baylor offense. Russell struggled a bit in the Texas Tech game, which gives me pause. But he has also had a bunch of good moments as Bryce Petty's backup the past two years.

Trotter: No. Kansas State has first dibs on any Lockett from now until the end of time.

Trotter: This is probably the most random question in this mailbag's history. But I believe the answer is Paul Rhoads. Someone also provided photographic evidence:

Trotter: Thanks for all the questions, guys. Sorry I couldn't include all of them. I hope everyone has a great weekend..

Big 12 bowl predictions

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
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AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Why West Virginia will win: Quarterback Clint Trickett has been cleared for the bowl. Trickett struggled a bit late in the season but was a still a major factor in the Mountaineers' midseason run. He and Kevin White should have their way against an Aggies defense that got lit multiple times this season. West Virginia 38, Texas A&M 29 -- Trotter

Why Texas A&M will win: The Aggies will get their house in order after shaking up their coaching staff and give West Virginia all it can handle. Clint Trickett's status can swing this game, of course, but doesn't a showdown between Kevin Sumlin and Dana Holgorsen have to be decided by who scores last? Texas A&M 35, West Virginia 28 Olson

Russell Athletic Bowl

Why Oklahoma will win: While Clemson will be without dynamic freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson for the game, OU welcomes Trevor Knight back under center. Combined with Samaje Perine in the backfield, that should be enough for OU to eke out a win. Oklahoma 28, Clemson 21 -- Chatmon

Why Clemson will win: The Oklahoma passing game was a mess the last month of the season. Trevor Knight returning will help, but even when Knight was healthy, the passing attack was uneven. Former Sooners coordinator Brent Venables directs Clemson's pass defense, which is No. 3 nationally. That means the pressure will be on Samaje Perine (coming off an ankle injury) to shoulder the offensive load. Clemson is not great offensively, but I'm not confident the Sooners will be able to score enough in this one. Clemson 21, Oklahoma 17 -- Trotter

AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl

Why Texas will win: The Longhorns' defensive line is full of talent and will be ready and well-equipped to handle the physical nature of the Razorbacks' offense. Texas 27, Arkansas 17 -- Chatmon

Why Arkansas will win: Strength on strength will be on display in this matchup, with the big boys on the Arkansas offensive line squaring off against Malcom Brown and Texas' menacing front. But I have a little more confidence in the Hogs to score points than the Longhorns, who were wildly inconsistent at times with young Tyrone Swoopes at QB. Arkansas 20, Texas 14 -- Trotter

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

Why TCU will win: You don't get the sense there will be a letdown factor with this team after it missed the College Football Playoff. Gary Patterson has worked too hard on building TCU's mentality to allow a slipup now. The Horned Frogs swing this with a fourth-quarter turnover from Bo Wallace. TCU 35, Ole Miss 31 -- Olson

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

Why Baylor will win: The Bears are bummed they didn't make the playoff, but they also realize this is an opportunity to atone for last season's Fiesta Bowl fiasco. Michigan State has a great defense with a good quarterback. But the Spartans couldn't hang against all of Oregon's offensive firepower early in the season and will succumb to Bryce Petty & Co., too. Baylor 42, Michigan State 34 -- Trotter

Valero Alamo Bowl

Why Kansas State will win: This is a sneaky great matchup, though I still can't figure out why Stanford made it look so easy against the Bruins in the regular-season finale. The last hurrah for Jake Waters, and Tyler Lockett will be as deadly efficient and effective as usual. Kansas State 31, UCLA 27 -- Olson

Why UCLA will win: Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley entered the season as a Heisman candidate but stumbled in UCLA’s final game. He should rebound and cause all kinds of problems for K-State’s defense with his feet and his arm. UCLA 31, Kansas State 27 -- Chatmon

TicketCity Cactus Bowl

Why Oklahoma State will win: There was no reason to believe the Cowboys could win Bedlam, yet they did and became bowl eligible. Mason Rudolph looks like the real deal, and this young Cowboys team has plenty of momentum. Oklahoma State 31, Washington 30Chatmon

Why Washington will win: The Huskies lost to every ranked team they faced in Pac-12 play. Until Bedlam, the same was true of OSU in the Big 12. I'm a Mason Rudolph believer, but I like the UW defense a bit more. Washington 28, Oklahoma State 17 -- Olson

Season records: Trotter 67-8, Chatmon 66-9, Olson 64-11.

Big 12 unsung heroes

December, 18, 2014
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From record-setting freshman to Heisman contenders, the Big 12 had plenty of star power in 2014.

Yet each team had players who made a significant impact on their teams that went largely unnoticed as teammates grabbed the headlines. With the help of SIDs around the conference, here's a closer look at the Big 12's unsung heroes during the 2014 season:

Baylor LB/S Collin Brence: A former walk-on, Brence started every game for Baylor, finishing with 49 tackles and adding seven hurries, 3.5 tackles for loss and one interception. On a defense with stars like Shawn Oakman, Andrew Billings and Orion Stewart, Brence was quietly a key contributor as the Bears won a second-straight Big 12 title.

Iowa State WR D’Vario Montgomery: The sophomore transfer from South Florida emerged as the Cyclones’ best receiving threat during the home stretch of the season. Montgomery had 41 receptions for 564 yards and two touchdowns in ISU’s final seven games. His 605 receiving yards led the team and his 13.75 yards per catch average was tops among Cyclones with at least 10 receptions.

Kansas C Joe Gibson: The redshirt freshman took over starting center duties midway through the season and brought solidarity to the Jayhawks' interior line. Making QB Michael Cummings the starter and Eric Kiesau the playcaller were among the noted changes that paid off during Clint Bowen’s time as interim coach but Gibson’s role was just as important.

Kansas State DT Travis Britz: A valuable part of K-State’s defense, Britz was a key member of one of the Big 12’s top defenses before missing the final two games with an injury. The junior provided an anchor for Bill Snyder’s squad with 27 tackles including five tackles for loss and three sacks.

Oklahoma FB Aaron Ripkowski: Samaje Perine doesn’t become the Big 12’s best freshman without the help of the former walk-on fullback. Ripkowski was a driving force behind the Sooners’ running success as teams set out to stop the run yet still failed against the crimson and cream. Ripkowski’s aggressive nature, durability and stellar blocking helped OU rank No. 1 in the Big 12 in nearly every rushing category.

Oklahoma State DT Ofa Hautau: Emmanuel Ogbah grabbed Big 12 defensive lineman of the year honors but Hautau played a key role in OSU’s defensive line. His 28 tackles including 4.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks don’t speak to the value he brought to the table in the interior of the Pokes' defense.

Texas TE Geoff Swaim: The senior brought a consistent physical presence to the Longhorns' running game while the offensive line went through injuries, changes and uncertainty for much of the year. He also played a critical role on the Longhorns’ special-teams units.

TCU DT Davion Pierson: While Chucky Hunter got the headlines, Pierson was just as good along the Horned Frogs' defensive interior. The junior was disruptive with 6.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks for TCU while giving the Horned Frogs arguably the Big 12’s top defensive tackle duo.

Texas Tech HB DeAndre Washington: It’s unusual to consider Washington unsung but he was that good for the Red Raiders in 2014. There was a direct correlation between Washington’s production and Tech’s win total. He rushed for 100 yards in three of Tech’s four wins and he joined Perine and BU’s Shock Linwood as the only Big 12 running backs to surpass 1,000 rushing yards this season.

West Virginia LB Wes Tonkery: The senior brought stability to the Mountaineers defense, finishing with 62 tackles as WVU’s improved defense helped Dana Holgorsen’s squad return to a bowl game after a one-year hiatus. Tonkery also added eight tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

Poll: Big 12's next step?

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
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TCU and Baylor gave the Big 12 two deserving playoff teams, but the conference was on the outside looking in when the College Football Playoff committee handed out berths.

Now, we’re putting you in charge of the Big 12’s destiny.

SportsNation

What change should the Big 12 make after being left out of the CFB Playoff?

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    44%
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    20%
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    30%
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    6%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,753)

 With 10 teams and no championship game, the league finds itself at a disadvantage on Championship Saturday. The names of several schools have been thrown into the conversation as people debate which teams could help the Big 12’s cause in the future. Should the Big 12 consider expansion?

The Big 12 was left with the impression that a conference title game would have helped the case of Baylor or TCU, but expansion isn’t the only option. If the NCAA allows the Big 12 to play a conference championship game with just 10 teams, it could be a clear step toward solving the problem without adding additional schools with more mouths to feed at the money table.

Expansion and adding a championship game are significant changes. Yet, maybe significant change is not needed. The answer could be as simple as crowning a single champion. That’s right ... bye, bye co-champions. If there is one clear winner of the Big 12 Conference, it removes any doubt about a true champion in the eyes of the committee. And, by the way, actually fits the conference’s moniker of “One True Champion”.

Or is it all an overreaction? The Big 12 was one or two upsets away from having two teams in the top four, which would have been a best-case scenario for the conference. The option to stand pat and do nothing could be considered. Just because things didn’t work out in the Big 12’s favor during Year 1 of the College Football Playoff doesn’t necessarily mean the conference must react immediately and make changes.

Considering the current state of the conference, what would you do? What changes would you make? Vote in our poll and comment below.
Art Briles, Gary PattersonUSA TODAY SportsBaylor's Art Briles, left, and TCU's Gary Patterson can give the Big 12 a lift this bowl season.
When the inaugural College Football Playoff begins on New Year’s Day, the Big 12 will be the only Power 5 conference watching from home.

Though the Big 12 fell short in this season’s battle for the playoff, there will be another one to wage in 2015. The conference can take steps to ensure it doesn’t get left out again next season, notably by crafting a way to finally crown only One True Champion. But the Big 12 can also send a 2015 message to the playoff selection committee through a triumphant 2014 bowl season.

Though out of the playoff, the Big 12 is hardly devoid of high-profile matchups against name teams this bowl season. And a successful bowl record would cement national perception of the strength and depth of the Big 12 while setting the conference up for a run at the playoff next season.

"It won’t help us this year," said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy. "But it would help for next year."

That starts with conference co-champs Baylor and TCU, which play in the prestigious New Year’s Six bowls against opponents that were ranked in the top 10 for most of the season.

The Bears will face Michigan State in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. The defensive-minded Spartans went 10-2, with their only two losses coming against playoff teams Oregon and Ohio State. Michigan State won the Big Ten last season, and boasts the nation’s seventh-ranked defense.

"There's a statement to be made just for us nationwide," said Baylor safety Orion Stewart. "To show (the nation) that we really have one of the best programs in the country."

The same way the Bears’ loss to Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl last season hurt Baylor’s standing, a win against Michigan State would solidify the Bears as a title contender again in 2015, even without quarterback Bryce Petty. Especially if the Bears can light up the scoreboard against Michigan State, which surrendered more than 31 points just twice all season (to the Ducks and Buckeyes).

"We're playing one of the greatest teams in America, Michigan State," said Baylor coach Art Briles. "There have been four football programs that have played in back-to-back BCS (level) games; you're talking to one of them (Baylor) and Michigan State is one of them, (along with) Florida State and Alabama. That's pretty good company in my book."

TCU will also be in good company in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. The playoff committee had Ole Miss in the top four in its first two playoff rankings before the Rebels stumbled against LSU and Auburn in back-to-back weeks. Still, Ole Miss bounced back to hammer fourth-ranked Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl to claim a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl. Like Michigan State, Ole Miss features one of the best defenses in the country, with a unit that leads the nation in scoring defense with an average allowance of just 13.8 points per game. The Rebels flashed how dynamic they can be when they downed Alabama early in the season.

"(Our team) wanted to play somebody that was a caliber of a top-five team," said TCU coach Patterson, "and we feel like Ole Miss is that team."

In 2015, TCU will bring back quarterback Trevone Boykin and nine other offensive starters, meaning the Horned Frogs could be primed for another run at the playoff next season. A victory against a quality SEC West opponent would position TCU well for the start of 2015. And a Big 12 sweep in the Cotton and Peach bowls against top-10 competition would reaffirm that the best of the Big 12 can play with anyone in the country.

"Ole Miss is a team that was as high as third in the nation, that played at a very high level, that could have been in the playoffs, lost a couple heartbreakers," Patterson said. "We feel like this is a playoff game."

The two New Year's Six bowls, however, aren’t the only opportunities for the Big 12 to deliver statements.

In the Valero Alamo Bowl, Kansas State meets UCLA, a team that was in playoff contention until late in the season. Oklahoma takes on ACC power Clemson and college football's No. 1-ranked total defense in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

In the Autozone Liberty Bowl and Advocare V100 Texas Bowl, West Virginia and Texas have a chance to land wins against SEC West opponents Texas A&M and Arkansas, respectively.

Even Oklahoma State takes on a talented Washington team in the TicketCity Cactus Bowl.

Sure, there are no easy bowl games for the Big 12. But every win will count toward forging the league’s reputation for 2015.

"I was shocked (the Big 12 was left out of the playoff) based on the strength of this league from top to bottom," Gundy said. "We can’t have this many good football teams in this league and not get one in the top four. We can’t allow that to happen again."

The Big 12 can take steps off the field to ensure it doesn’t happen.

But in the meantime, the Big 12 can take some big steps on the field this bowl season, too.

Big 12 top running games: Part I

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
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It's the perfect time to look back on the regular season before the bowl season is upon us.

The Big 12 used to be a quarterback's league. Now most teams lean on their running games to carry them to success. With the help of ESPN Stats & Information, let's take a closer look at the Big 12's best running games in several unique categories.

Rushing yards before contact

[+] EnlargeSamaje Perine
Brett Deering/Getty ImagesOklahoma running back Samaje Perine excelled at gaining yards after contact this season.
1. Oklahoma, 1,993: It’s easy to see why the Sooners had three different offensive linemen on the Big 12 coaches first or second team (Daryl Williams, Adam Shead, Tyrus Thompson). OU rushed for nearly 2,000 yards before contact thanks to a veteran offensive line along with fullback Aaron Ripkowski, another All-Big 12 honoree.

2. TCU, 1,808: The offensive line was easily the most overlooked contributors to the Horned Frogs' 11-1 season. Trevone Boykin, Aaron Green and B.J. Catalon proved to be among the Big 12’s top playmakers but they wouldn’t have had that space to show their talents without the offensive line. For example, 720 of Green’s 854 rushing yards came before contact.

3. Baylor, 1,751: Much like TCU, the threat of a deep passing game helped create holes for Bears running backs along with their offensive line. Tackle Spencer Drango was exceptional and BU was able to overcome injuries to its offensive front to secure a place among the Big 12’s best in yards before contact.

Rushing yards after contact

1. Oklahoma, 1,236: Thank you, Samaje Perine. OU’s freshman running back played a significant role in the Sooners landing atop the list in this category with a Big 12-best 636 rushing yards after contact.

2. Baylor, 1,071: Shock Linwood isn’t thought of as a physical runner in the mold of Perine, yet Linwood was the only other Big 12 running back with more than 400 rushing yards after contact. Linwood’s 446 RYAC are a clear sign the sophomore has the ability to shrug off defenders and brings a tough running style at 5-foot-8, 200 pounds.

3. West Virginia, 961: Dana Holgorsen’s teams aren’t renowned for their run-game excellence, but his best offenses have usually had the ability to punish defenses on the ground if needed. Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood had solid years in the backfield with Smallwood finishing fifth in the Big 12 with 296 rushing yards after contact.

Between the tackles

1. Oklahoma, 276 carries for 1,908 yards, 20 touchdowns: OU didn’t think twice about running the ball right at you behind its veteran offensive line. Perine led the Big 12 with 1,148 rushing yards between the tackles as the only Big 12 running back to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark.

2. Baylor, 355 carries for 1,773 yards, 23 touchdowns: The Bears' philosophy of making defenders account for the entire field includes the area between the tackles. While their speed and receivers force defenses to account for the perimeter, they won’t hesitate to run the ball right at the defense.

3. West Virginia, 342 carries for 1,637 yards, 12 touchdowns: We knew the Mountaineers had a strong interior offensive line and a bevy of running backs before the season began. Shell proved to be a physical runner with 505 of his 766 rushing yards between the tackles.

Outside the tackles

1. Oklahoma, 242 carries for 1,362 yards, 19 touchdowns: The Sooners had success outside of tackles as well, with Perine ranking as the Big 12’s best in this category. The true freshman had 431 rushing yards outside of the tackles, joining four Big 12 players with at least 300 rushing yards outside of the tackles this season.

2. Baylor, 213 carries for 1,154 yards, 18 touchdowns: Linwood was second in the Big 12 in this category as well but much closer to Perine in the other categories with 401 rushing yards outside of the tackles in 2014.

3. TCU, 192 carries for 1,048 yards, 16 touchdowns: The Horned Frogs tested defenses with their speed and open-field playmaking ability in a bunch of different ways from Boykin’s ability to scramble to Green’s exceptional quickness.

Zone-read plays

1. Oklahoma, 160 carries for 963 yards, nine touchdowns: Quarterbacks Trevor Knight and Cody Thomas used the zone-read to keep defenses honest with Perine in the backfield.

2. Baylor, 141 carries for 700 yards, nine touchdowns: Bryce Petty and Seth Russell combined for 102 carries this season as the Bears used the zone-read as another way to challenge defensive coordinators.

3. Kansas, 134 carries for 630 yards, six touchdowns: The Jayhawks had a pair of quarterbacks in Michael Cummings and Montell Cozart with the ability to keep defenses honest but neither guy changed games with their legs.

Big 12 Tuesday mailbag: Bob Bowlsby's risk

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
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Bob Bowlsby's gamble, Bob Stoops' future and the conference's future highlight Tuesday's mailbag. As always, thanks for your questions. To submit questions for next week's mailbag, click here.

Jerry in Waco writes: I think a championship game at the end of a round-robin schedule is idiotic, redundant and unfair. Do you think the NCAA might allow the addition of a single school (eg, BYU) to the BIG 12 (BIG 11) while allowing retention of the round-robin format plus 3 nonconference games resulting in a 13-game schedule that the CFP committee seems to value?

BC: That seems unlikely Jerry. First I doubt the Big 12 will overreact and expand. Second, I don’t see what a 13-game regular season schedule gets the Big 12. Third, I’m not sure I’d be making major changes to satisfy the committee. I just keep coming back to the fact Baylor beat a top-10 team by double digits on the final day of the season and it didn’t seem to matter. So why would a conference title game change that scenario? I really don't see the need for any major overreaction, to be honest. But, an overall reassessment of the tiebreaker and different marketing plan is a must.

Rick in Grapevine, Texas, writes: What bothers me about the whole "Fire Bowlsby" campaign is this: If both Florida State and Ohio State had lost their championship games then both Baylor and TCU get into the College Football Playoff. BUT, if the Big 12 had named a conference champ instead of co-champs then TCU could well have been left out at 11-1 in favor of a non-champion from the SEC or elsewhere. The choice to present co-champions was a gamble, one that might still in the long-run work out more often than not (only time will tell). You don't fire people for taking calculated risks - unless of course you're the type of person who only puts their life's savings in the mattress because stocks, bonds and CDs are too risky!

BC: A great point by Rick and one that has been overlooked by many people. Since it didn’t work out, people were quick to turn on Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. But, as Rick says, the conference was fairly close to sneaking two teams into the top four. Yet since it didn’t work out, Bowlsby took the hit for it. I can see his thinking and can’t fault him for it in hindsight even though I might not have handled it that way myself. It is something people need to take into account though, Bowlsby had a plan and took a risk. It simply didn't work out.

Marshall in Santa Clara, California, writes: Am I the only one who thinks Marshall University would be a good fit for conference expansion along with BYU? WVU would get a natural rival in the conference and the football team would be decent. Revenue might be an issue, however.

BC: You might not be the only one but you won’t have many friends on that boat with you trying to paddle it upstream. I don’t see what Marshall would bring to the table that would put the Thundering Herd atop the priority list if/when the Big 12 decides to expand as regional ties with WVU simply are not enough.

Brandon in Pickens, West Virginia, writes: With the familiarity between the West Virginia and Texas A&M staffs, what are the chances that this is a lower-scoring game than expected?

BC: First off, great name. I’d say there is a decent chance because I’m expecting a lot of points and when I've expected plenty of points this season I’ve been wrong on several occasions. The question is, what is a lower-scoring game? I could see both teams scoring in the 30s and considering that a low-scoring contest. But I still lean toward a good chance of at least one team getting into the 50s during the AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis.

Pat Jones in Johnson City, Tennessee, writes: Do you think there is any way Bob Stoops is going to make changes in his coaching staff after Oklahoma’s poor performance this year (on both sides of the ball) and if not, do you feel it is time for a change at Oklahoma? I feel Bob Stoops has lost his desire and now is just drawing a paycheck.

Brandon Chatmon: I don’t see any major changes coming on the Sooners staff nor do I think Bob Stoops is going anywhere unless he wants to. I understand the angst and disappointment among Sooner Nation, but I don’t think Stoops is the problem. There are some things the Sooners can do to change things but major change is not needed, silly mistakes led to OU’s losses, even their blowout loss to Baylor. OU is close to returning to national prominence if it plays its cards right, but they need to take the steps to ensure another underachieving season is not in the cards.

Jason A. in Le Mars, Iowa, writes: In response to Chris J. from Houston's question in last Thursday's mailbag. Since Texas "tragically" lost in the national championship game after the 2009 season here are their records: 5-7, 8-5, 9-4, 8-5, 6-6. And then here are Nebraska's: 10-4, 9-4, 10-4, 9-4, 9-3. Becoming a team "like Nebraska" just might be an improvement over the last few seasons.

BC: No question here, just sheer facts from Jason A. And I like it. Nebraska is 57-23 since 2009, while Texas is 49-28. The dislike between the Huskers and the Longhorns will never get old, or less entertaining …

Roundtable: Big 12 team with most to gain in bowl

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
1:00
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In this week's Big 12 roundtable, we examine the most intriguing bowls, which team has the most to gain in the bowl season and the players we'll be focused on the most during the bowls:

[+] EnlargeKevin White
Scott Clarke/ESPN ImagesMountaineers receiver Kevin White finished his senior regular season with 1,318 yards and nine TDs.
Other than the Goodyear Cotton and Chick-Fil-A Peach bowls, which Big 12 bowl are you most intrigued by?

Chatmon: It has to be the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, when West Virginia and Texas A&M battle on Dec. 29. Lots of points, lots of fun, lots of Red Bull. Mentor Dana Holgorsen against understudy Jake Spavital in a battle of offensive gurus. And considering this is a meaningless bowl game, I'm not interested in seeing much defense. I'm also looking forward to seeing what Kevin White has in store for his final game in a West Virginia uniform, after his breakout senior season.

Olson: There will be points in the Liberty Bowl, and I'm excited to see what a healthier West Virginia team is capable of against Texas A&M. But for me, the choice is the Valero Alamo Bowl. The Big 12 vs. Pac-12 matchup is typically a nice one in terms of style, and K-State taking on a UCLA team that Texas almost defeated in September, in the final starts for both Brett Hundley and Jake Waters, will be a lot of fun to watch.

Trotter: I'm intrigued by the Russell Athletic Bowl, and the matchup of Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables going up against his former boss at Oklahoma in Bob Stoops. Remember, Stoops brought in his brother to coach the defense in 2011, which ultimately prompted Venables to leave Oklahoma for Clemson. If Venables' Tigers shut down the Sooners, and Clemson runs the score up on Mike Stoops, it will serve as an indictment of where Oklahoma is as a program three years after that move was made.

With no one playing for a national championship, which Big 12 team has the most to gain in bowl season?

Chatmon: It has to be Baylor against Michigan State in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl. As good as the Bears have been during the past two seasons, some people still point to their Fiesta Bowl loss to Central Florida as a reason to doubt what Art Briles has built in Waco. Add the intrigue of proving the committee wrong and BU has plenty of motivation. It's also a chance for an impressive win against a quality Big Ten team in the race for conference bragging rights.

Olson: I agree with Brandon here. Some Baylor coaches I talked to before the season say their Fiesta Bowl loss to UCF was arguably the most frustrating of their time in Waco. A 12th win and ending a dream season with a BCS bowl win would've meant an awful lot to this program. They get a meaningful chance for a redo against a much better opponent in Michigan State.

Trotter: Baylor and TCU have the most to gain, because they have the chance to show they deserved to be in the playoff. But I'll throw another team into the discussion here in Texas. After finishing the season with a 48-10 home loss to TCU on Thanksgiving night, the Longhorns really need to bounce back against Arkansas in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl to set the tone for 2015. Next season is going to be a critical one for Charlie Strong and the Texas program. A win over a former rival like Arkansas would give the Longhorns the momentum they'll need heading into next season.

Who is the one Big 12 player you'll be focused during the bowls?

Chatmon: I can't wait to see what Trevone Boykin has in store for an Ole Miss defense full of playmakers in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. Boykin creates all kinds of problems for every defense with his ability to slither through open lanes like a running back yet frustrate defensive backs with his deep throws. The Rebels have held opposing quarterbacks to a 17.3 Adjusted QBR, ranking No. 2 among FBS teams behind Louisville, making this the best matchup of individual brilliance against team strength during the bowl season.

Olson: Giving Mason Rudolph a month of extra practice and all that post-Bedlam momentum is going to make for a fascinating performance in the TicketCity Cactus Bowl. Oklahoma State's rookie quarterback takes on Washington and a pass defense that ranked last in the Pac-12. I'll be a little surprised if he doesn't pick apart the Huskies on Jan. 2 and continue to build up hype for 2015. The confidence boost this team got from beating Oklahoma can't get squandered.

Trotter: Boykin and Rudolph are definitely players to watch. But I think I'll be most focused on Bryce Petty in his Baylor swan song facing one of the best defenses in the country in Michigan State. Quarterbacks the caliber of Petty -- on and off the field -- don't come along very often. I'll be curious to see how he goes out in a tough matchup in his final college game for the Bears.

Top sleeper commits: Big 12 

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
12:00
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Five-star and ESPN 300 prospects create the most buzz, but with more than 100 FBS programs competing for talent, it takes more than just those top-rated prospects. Rosters are built with mainly prospects who enter college with little fanfare, but their development and contributions are key to a program’s success. Every year we see prospects who flew under the radar in recruiting but developed into some of their conference's top players.

Throughout our evaluations we come across many players who show promise and based off their upside for development or scheme fit are great additions to their college programs. Here are five headed to the Big 12:

Play that changed the Big 12 race

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
10:30
AM CT
TCU and Baylor combined for 198 offensive plays on Oct. 11. This one mattered a great deal.

A back-and-forth, four-hour slugfest was tied at 58-58 with only 1:17 left. If Trevone Boykin completes his fourth-down fade to Josh Doctson, game over.

If he doesn’t, well, game over.

No way could TCU stop the streaking Bears after they’d rallied back with 21 unanswered points in a matter of 10 minutes. So this was it. Convert here, set up the game-winning kick, take control of the Big 12.

But it wasn’t that simple. With 1:20 to go, TCU had rushed its punt team onto the field and booted a kick, catching Baylor mid-substitution with 12 on the field. The ensuing penalty trimmed the Frogs’ fourth-down distance from 8 yards to 3.

Gary Patterson had a decision to make with the ball now at the Baylor 45. He sent out Boykin and his offense to finish the job. Then Patterson called a timeout. Both his offense and his special teams unit huddled on the field. What now?

He chose the punt team, which lined up with wide splits and unclear intentions. The Horned Frogs looked to the sideline. Another timeout.

“We were going to try a punt fake,” Patterson said after the game. “Even if we kicked it to the 5-yard line, I didn't know if we could have stopped them.”

Three crucial minutes passed between the substitution penalty and TCU’s eventual fourth-down pass -- more than enough time for Patterson, the eventual ESPN.com Coach of the Year, to weigh every option.

Going for it was the best one.

“If we get that play and we can go down and kick a field goal,” Patterson said this month, “we wouldn’t be talking about it.”

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To get that play, TCU sent out five receivers. Doctson lined up on the outside. Baylor corner Ryan Reid sneaked up to press him at the snap. It didn't matter. Boykin wasn’t making a read here. Snap, step, turn and lob. He threw it up and let his 6-foot-4 go-to receiver go get it.

Reid’s right arm was wrapped around him before the ball arrived, yet Doctson still got it in his mitts. If he’d snagged it right there, TCU is looking at first down near the 30. But the ball slipped off his left hand.

As Doctson was dragged to the ground, he still almost pulled the ball in with his outstretched right hand. Instead, it bounced off his fingertips and onto the turf.

Pass interference? They make a good case for it in Fort Worth. A smart no-call in which the refs let 'em play? You'll hear that argument in Waco. Art Briles says his defensive back did exactly what was expected.

“Our motto was keep it ugly,” Briles said. “We were going to play tough. We were going to play ugly, and whatever happens, happens.”

If a penalty happens, the Horned Frogs are set up perfectly for the game winner, maybe even a perfect regular season. Maybe that undefeated TCU team goes back to the Rose Bowl, takes care of business and plays for a national title in its own backyard.

Or maybe not. After all, it’s just one play.
Not long ago, the Heisman Trophy ran through Big 12 country.

From 1998 to 2011, the Big 12 produced five Heisman winners in Ricky Williams, Eric Crouch, Jason White, Sam Bradford and Robert Griffin III. Others, like Josh Heupel, Adrian Peterson and Vince Young, were worthy runners-up.

[+] EnlargeTrevone Boykin
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesAfter a breakout 2014 season, TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin could be even better in 2015.
Lately, though, the Big 12 has been in a Heisman drought.

No winners since 2011.

No finalists since 2012.

That, however, could change in big way next season.

The Big 12 figures to boast a pair of preseason Heisman heavyweights in TCU fleet-footed quarterback Trevone Boykin and Oklahoma bulldozing running back Samaje Perine.

As arguably the most improved player in college football this season, Boykin drove the Horned Frogs to an 11-1 record and the cusp of the College Football Playoff. He led the Big 12 with 3,714 passing yards and 30 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. Boykin also ran for 642 yards and eight scores.

The Horned Frogs will be loaded again offensively next season with 10 starters back. Despite splitting time with Casey Pachall his first two years, Boykin will be one of the most experienced quarterbacks in college football. And he will have a season under his belt operating the Doug Meacham/Sonny Cumbie spread offense.

Boykin’s top quarterback competition nationally should be out of the way as well. Marcus Mariota, this year’s Heisman winner, will likely be in the NFL. So likely will Jameis Winston and Baylor’s Bryce Petty.

Because he finished fourth in the voting over the weekend, Boykin will open his senior year on the radar of Heisman voters, which can be an important factor in generating enough traction. And Boykin will be the quarterback of a probable preseason top-10 team and playoff contender, another critical element to mounting a successful Heisman race.

Not since Davey O’Brien accomplished the feat in 1938 has TCU produced a Heisman winner. But with so many factors working in his favor, Boykin will be TCU's best shot to win the award since LaDainian Tomlinson.

However, Boykin won’t be the Big 12’s only shot.

A running back hasn’t won the Heisman since 2009, but Perine could have as good a chance as any running back in 2015 coming off his phenomenal true freshman campaign.

The 5-foot-11, 243-pound power runner led the Big 12 with 1,579 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns this season. One week after Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon set an FBS single-game rushing record with 408 yards, Perine eclipsed it with 427 yards against Kansas on Nov. 22. While splitting carries at times with Keith Ford and Alex Ross, Perine averaged 6.6 yards per carry.

Considering he will have his first full offseason with a college strength and conditioning program, Perine figures to get stronger and sharper, which is a scary thought for opposing Big 12 tacklers. He will be the clear focal point of the Oklahoma offense next season. And like Boykin, he will have Heisman buzz going into the season.

The Sooners will have to win for Perine to have a shot. But if they do, and Perine puts up even bigger numbers as a sophomore, he could join Boykin as a major factor in the Heisman race.

Boykin and Perine aren’t the only Big 12 players who could impact the Heisman race. Anyone quarterbacking the Baylor offense has a chance to make waves. Mason Rudolph and Pat Mahomes shined as true freshman quarterbacks for Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, respectively, and could turn into big-time players.

Few saw Boykin as a starting quarterback, much less a Heisman contender, before this season. Who knows who next year’s Boykin will be from the Big 12?

But after banner 2014 seasons, Boykin and Perine have prime opportunities to turn the Heisman race back through the place it once ran seemingly every year: Big 12 country.

Poll: All-Big 12 biggest snub?

December, 12, 2014
Dec 12
2:00
PM CT
It’s honors day on the Big 12 blog with our All-Big 12 first team being released earlier today.

There were plenty of no-brainers, some breakout stars and a couple surprises as Jake Trotter, Max Olson and I debated the Big 12’s best while putting together the team. Several tough decisions had to be made and quality players snubbed as we sought to honor the conference’s best players.

SportsNation

Who was the biggest snub on ESPN.com's All-Big 12 first team?

  •  
    22%
  •  
    37%
  •  
    13%
  •  
    21%
  •  
    7%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,102)

Now it’s your turn to get involved. Who was the biggest snub?

TCU receiver Josh Doctson emerged as a legitimate No. 1 target for Trevone Boykin, using his length and athleticism to create mismatches all over the field. He was a big-play machine, scoring nine touchdowns while averaging 16.3 yards per reception to help transform TCU's passing attack.

The linebacker spot was a tough debate with Texas linebacker Jordan Hicks finding himself left out in the cold. Hicks returned from a season-ending Achilles injury in 2013 to finish with 98 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss as a critical member of one of the Big 12's top defenses.

It’s hard to ignore the sheer production of Texas Tech linebacker/defensive end Pete Robertson, but we did. The lone bright spot on the Red Raiders’ defense, Robertson lead the Big 12 with 12 sacks and added 14.5 tackles for loss. Quite simply, Tech’s bowl-less campaign made it hard for Robertson to force himself into the first team.

Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez tied with TCU first-teamer Chris Hackett for the Big 12 lead with six interceptions. The feast or famine aspect to his game was readily apparent but he never stopped competing, constantly creating turnovers for the Sooners. Yet it’s hard to find a first-team spot for a defensive back on a defense that allowed 272.7 passing yards per game, finishing No. 115 among FBS teams.

Kansas cornerback JaCorey Shepherd was quietly excellent for Clint Bowen’s defense, leading the Big 12 with 18 passes defensed. Much like Sanchez, receivers knew they were in for a battle anytime they lined up opposite Shepherd, yet he went largely overshadowed thanks to the ridiculous production of teammate Ben Heeney.

Who do you think was the biggest snub? Or is there another snub?

Roundtable: All-Big 12 selections

December, 12, 2014
Dec 12
9:00
AM CT
In today's weekly Big 12 roundtable, we examine and explain our selections for the ESPN.com All-Big 12 team. Which players stood out and which ones made this process difficult?

Which choice was the toughest to make this year?

Brandon Chatmon: There were several tough choices but our decision to go with three safeties and one cornerback in the defensive backfield tops the list. It was a hard decision but there were so many corners that were right with Quandre Diggs and the three safeties that were selected all needed a spot. I normally prefer to stay true to positions but I couldn’t imagine leaving any of the three safeties out. Ultimately I think we made a good decision by going with four defensive backs regardless of position.

Jake Trotter: The biggest discussions centered on the third linebacker after Paul Dawson and Ben Heeney and the fourth defensive back after Chris Hackett, Karl Joseph and Dante Barnett. Eric Striker didn’t have the All-American-caliber season everyone anticipated, but he was still the player opposing offenses had to gameplan for when facing the Sooners. Kansas' JaCorey Shepherd, Oklahoma's Zack Sanchez and Oklahoma State's Kevin Peterson were options I would have considered as the fourth defensive back. But Diggs meant so much to Texas, so I was comfortable with that decision.

[+] EnlargeTrevone Boykin
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesExpected to play wide receiver, Trevone Boykin had such a great season at QB that he ousted Bryce Petty for first-team honors.
Max Olson: My biggest argument, which I did not win, was Striker vs. Jordan Hicks for our third linebacker spot. I tried to reason with these guys. Hicks only had 82 more tackles than Striker as a do-everything linebacker in a comeback season after losing two years to injury. The senior had just as many TFLs as Striker while playing a tougher role, plus two interceptions. Oh well. Hopefully Vance Bedford sees this and calls out their ignorance on Twitter.

What's the biggest surprise about this year's All-Big 12 team?

Trotter: What would the odds have been before the season on Trevone Boykin being the All-Big 12 QB? Boykin went into last offseason as a probable wide receiver and wound up one of the top QBs in the country. He was the surprise of the Big 12 this year.

Olson: Going along with that theme, Jake, I would've called the following predictions crazy back in July: Ryan Mueller and Cedric Reed don't make our All-Big 12 team, another Baylor receiver bumps Antwan Goodley out of first-team honors, no Texas running back makes the cut, TCU's first-team DB is Hackett, and somebody outperforms Bryce Petty.

Chatmon: The easy decisions for the offensive skill positions. From quarterback to running back to receivers, there were a bunch of no-brainers and not many guys on the outside looking in with legitimate beefs at any of the positions. Some people might balk at Corey Coleman being among the receivers but he had a special season when he finally got healthy. He also came up big against TCU and Oklahoma with 23 receptions, 368 receiving yards and four touchdowns in those two games.

What was the best or deepest position group in the league?

Chatmon: It’s easily the cornerback position. While we only selected one corner, Diggs, Shepherd, White, Sanchez and Peterson can each make a legit argument they should be on our first team. Diggs separated himself with his versatility and leadership but the margin between the rest was razor-thin. The Big 12 had a pretty solid crop of corners this season, making the defensive back position the strongest and most difficult to separate.

Trotter: Wide receiver and linebacker. The depth at receiver in this league was terrific. The fact somebody like Goodley didn’t even make the first team should tell you that. It also seemed like everyone in the Big 12 had at least one anchor at linebacker. We had to settle on just three, but there five or six others who had a case to be made.

Olson: For me, it's wide receiver. We clearly chose to bend the rules a little this year with our Big 12 team simply because there are too many legit wideouts worth honoring. We ended up putting four on each team, which is ridiculous, but it's also indicative of how many special pass-catchers we think the conference had in 2014. Agree with Jake on the linebackers, too. Along with Hicks, Pete Robertson probably should be a first-teamer.

College Football Awards preview: Big 12

December, 11, 2014
Dec 11
8:30
AM CT
As far as invites go, this one is pretty coveted. Four of the Big 12's best are in Orlando as nominees for The Home Depot College Football Awards on Thursday night (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET). Here's a closer look at each player, their competition and our take on why they could take home a trophy.

Fred Biletnikoff Award: WR Kevin White, West Virginia

[+] EnlargeKevin White
Scott Clarke/ESPN ImagesKevin White is among college football leaders in receptions and receiving yards.
Competition: Amari Cooper, Alabama; Rashard Higgins, Colorado State
Last Big 12 winner: Justin Blackmon, 2011

The case for White: Well, it’s hard to envision Cooper, one of three finalists for the Heisman Trophy, not taking home this honor. He’s the No. 1 player for the No. 1 team in the country. So that’s fair. But let’s not let that diminish what White achieved this season. A year after catching 35 passes, White was good for 102 receptions and 1,318 receiving yards this fall, and he still has a chance to break WVU’s single-season record. White was the first FBS receiver to reach 1,000 yards (needing just seven games) after surpassing 100 in all seven of those games. He found the end zone in eight games, recorded double-digit catch totals in five and made West Virginia’s offense move with big plays and reliability.

Lou Groza Award: K Josh Lambert, West Virginia

Competition: Roberto Aguayo, Florida State; Brad Craddock, Maryland
Last Big 12 winner: Dan Bailey, 2010

The case for Lambert: Aguayo is probably the odds-on favorite to win, which is no surprise. He won the Groza last year and hit 25 of 27 field goals this season for a Florida State team that constantly played in close games. Lambert has had a great season, too, and no FBS team needed their kicker more. With Lambert, WVU led the country in field goal makes (27) and attempts (36). He nailed two game-winning kicks on the road, a 47-yarder at Maryland and a 55-yarder to stun Texas Tech in Lubbock. No kicker in the nation had more makes from 40-plus (11) and 50-plus (four) than the Mountaineers’ trusty junior.

Davey O’Brien Award: QB Trevone Boykin, TCU

Competition: Marcus Mariota, Oregon; Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Last Big 12 winner: Robert Griffin III, 2011

The case for Boykin: The element of surprise. There isn’t a more improved quarterback in the country than TCU’s star junior. We expected Mariota to have a Heisman-caliber season, and he did just that. Prescott wasn’t an unknown on the national radar. Boykin was. He wasn’t supposed to finish No. 3 in the nation in total offense. He was supposed to play receiver. Mariota will be a lock for this one, but Boykin’s personal transformation and phenomenal numbers, to go along with the stunning success of 11-1 TCU, make him a more than worthy recipient. (Plus, you know, O'Brien was a Horned Frog, too.)

Outland Trophy: DT Malcom Brown, Texas

Competition: Brandon Scherff, Iowa; Reese Dismukes, Auburn
Last Big 12 winner: Ndamukong Suh, 2009

The case for Brown: He didn’t receive in-season acclaim on par with Suh, Aaron Donald, Glenn Dorsey or other defensive tackles who’ve won this award. But Brown is as good as it gets, an unstoppable three-tech defensive tackle who racked up 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks despite commanding near-constant double-teams. He’s the most important cog for a Texas team that finished No. 1 in the Big 12 in total defense, and what Brown consistently brings against the run and the pass make him a terrifying force. Of these four Big 12 nominees, Brown might have the best chance of taking home some hardware on Thursday night.

All-Big 12 honors, teams released

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10
3:00
PM CT
The Big 12 released its All-Big 12 honors on Wednesday with TCU sweeping the biggest individual honors, as voted on by the league's coaches.

Here’s the rundown of the individual honors and first team: (You can find the entire list including the second team and honorable mention here.)

Coach of the Year: Gary Patterson, TCU
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Trevone Boykin, TCU
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Paul Dawson, TCU
Special Teams Player of the Year: PR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
Offensive Freshman of the Year: RB Samaje Perine, Oklahoma
Defensive Freshman of the Year: S Kamari Cotton-Moya, Iowa State
Offensive Newcomer of the Year: ATH Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State
Defensive Newcomer of the Year: DE Shaq Riddick, West Virginia
Co-offensive Lineman of the Year: T Spencer Drango, Baylor and C B.J. Finney, Kansas State
Defensive Lineman of the Year: DE Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State

All-Big 12 First team
Offense
QB Trevone Boykin, TCU, Jr.
RB Samaje Perine, Oklahoma, Fr.
RB Shock Linwood, Baylor, Soph.
FB Glenn Gronkowski, Kansas State, Soph.
WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State, Sr.
WR Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma, Jr.
WR Kevin White, West Virginia, Sr.
TE E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State, Sr.
OL Spencer Drango, Baylor, Sr.
OL B.J. Finney, Kansas State, Sr.
OL Daryl Williams, Oklahoma, Sr.
OL Tyrus Thompson, Oklahoma, Sr.
OL Le’Raven Clark, Texas Tech, Jr.
K Jaden Oberkrom, TCU, Jr.
KR/PR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State, Sr.

Defense
DL Andrew Billings, Baylor, Soph.
DL Shawn Oakman, Baylor, Jr.
DL Ryan Mueller, Kansas State, Sr.
DL Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State, Soph.
DL Malcom Brown, Texas, Jr.
LB Ben Heeney, Kansas, Sr.
LB Eric Striker, Oklahoma, Jr.
LB Paul Dawson, TCU, Sr.
DB JaCorey Shepherd, Kansas, Sr.
DB Randall Evans, Kansas State, Sr.
DB Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma, Soph.
DB Chris Hackett, TCU, Jr.
DB Karl Joseph, West Virginia, Jr.
P Trevor Pardula, Kansas, Sr.

Thoughts and observations
  • Lockett, Drango and Mueller are the only back-to-back first-team selections.
  • TCU’s sweep of the Coach of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year was well-deserved. Patterson did an exceptional job, both in the offseason with his hires of Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie, as well as during the season with TCU's defense. Boykin is a no-brainer and would have won the most-improved award if there was one. Dawson had plenty of competitors for DPOY including Billings, Ogbah, Striker, Brown and Oakman. But it's hard to go wrong with Dawson, who consistently showed up big in TCU's biggest games.
  • The biggest surprise was Ogbah as defensive lineman of the year. I’ve been on the Ogbah bandwagon since before the season began but Texas’ Brown was the guy I expected to walk away with that honor.
  • If the OPOY is not Boykin who could it possibly be? Boykin’s honor joins Perine as the Offensive Freshman of the Year as the easiest picks.
  • Riddick is a good choice for Defensive Newcomer of the Year, although I felt like K-State's Danzel McDaniel deserved that honor. Both are quality options so no major beef with Riddick getting the nod.
  • It’s good to see Cotton-Moya get the recognition he deserved. He’s been good for Paul Rhoads' team all season. The redshirt freshman led the Cyclones with 77 tackles including 55 solo stops.
  • It was a bit of a surprise to see Mueller on the first team after his production dropped as a senior. He had 11.5 sacks in 2013 before recording 5.5 sacks this season.
  • Lastly, I'm not a fan of more than 11 first-teamers on offense or defense, make a decision and live with that decision. It cheapens the honor when you add spots to fit people into the team.

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