Dallas Colleges: Baylor Bears

Big 12 media days live: Day 2

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
The Big 12 media days continue on Tuesday in Dallas, as Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and new Texas coach Charlie Strong each take the stage. Keep this page open throughout the day's proceedings as we bring you the latest from our reporters, who will cover all 10 teams at the event.

BRISTOL, Conn. -- Baylor was one of college football’s biggest stories last season after finishing 11-2, winning the Big 12, playing in a BCS bowl game and scoring points at a record pace.

The Bears were featured on national TV and became a social media phenomenon because of their myriad flashy uniforms and fast-break spread offense.

But Bears coach Art Briles takes more pride in being featured on the cover of this year’s issue of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, which has been called the “Bible” of football in the state.

[+] EnlargeArt Briles
Courtesy of Dave Campbell's Texas FootballArt Briles finally made the cover of Dave Campbell's Texas Football, a highlight for the Texas native.
Briles was born and raised in Rule, Texas (population 636, according to the 2010 census) and has never worked outside the state. In fact, the most time he ever spent outside the Lone Star State was for last season’s Fiesta Bowl, when he spent more than a week in Tempe, Ariz. The Bears were upset by Central Florida 52-42.

“Maybe that’s what went wrong,” Briles said. “Next time I’m going to take some soil and food with me.”

Because of Briles' state pride, it's no surprise he said the Texas Football appearance is bigger than being featured on the cover of some national publication.

“It’s a huge deal. That’s without question the Bible of football in the southwest part of the country,” Briles said. “Not everybody in Texas reads Sports Illustrated,” Briles said. “But if you like football in our state, you’re reading Dave Campbell’s.”

Campbell, a longtime sportswriter and sports editor at the Waco Tribune-Herald, first started publishing his magazine in 1960. For many years, Campbell published it out of his kitchen. It was sold to a media company in recent years.

How coveted is Dave Campbell’s cover? Even after Briles won four Class 4A state titles at Stephenville (Texas) High School, he wasn’t featured on the cover.

“I’d been in there one time,” Briles said. “In 1977, when I was a player at Houston, they had my photo in there. That tells you how big of a deal it is because I remembered it.”

Big 12's lunch links

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19
Tweet of the day.
With the playoff era coming to college football this fall, we’ve been spent time looking back on the Big 12 in the BCS era.

To keep with that theme, we’ve selected what we think were the biggest regular season wins for every Big 12 program during the BCS years (postseason victories were not eligible for this, since they would be too obvious).

Every school had multiple wins to choose from. But the ones we picked were based on the following criteria: how they helped shape each program; what the wins meant in the context of a particular season (or stretch of seasons); who the wins were over (a rival or a highly ranked team?); and, finally, the wins each respective fanbase seems to discuss the most still to this day.

Here is the list:


Nov. 19, 2011 (45-38 vs. No. 5 Oklahoma): The 2013 victories over Oklahoma and Texas, which clinched the program’s first Big 12 championship, were strongly considered here. But Robert Griffin III's stunning, 34-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams in the waning seconds not only landed the Bears a historical win, it changed the way the media, the fans and budding recruits perceived Baylor. The win catapulted RG III to the Heisman and basically became the spark that ignited the funding for the school’s new $260 million McLane Stadium.


Nov. 18, 2011 (37-31 vs. No. 2 Oklahoma State): Paul Rhoads had delivered some signature wins his first three seasons at Iowa State. But the Cyclones were 0-56-2 against teams ranked sixth or higher in The Associated Press poll all-time. That changed on this night, as Iowa State pulled off the upset of the college football season. The victory helped galvanize fan support for Iowa State, which has sold out Jack Trice Stadium the last two years despite 6-7 and 3-9 seasons.


Nov. 3, 2007 (76-39 vs. Nebraska): For many years, Nebraska kicked the Jayhawks when they were down. In 2007, the tables were squarely turned. The 8-0 Jayhawks went into that game holding BCS bowl and national title aspirations, but they had yet to deliver a signature win. But the first week of November, Kansas delivered exactly that, humiliating the Cornhuskers. It was just Kansas’ second victory over Nebraska in 39 years, but it couldn’t have come in finer fashion for the Jayhawks. In the long, storied history of Nebraska football, the Huskers had never given up 48 points in a half or 76 points in a game -- both of which Kansas accomplished. The Jayhawks went on to win 12 games and beat Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.


Nov. 14, 1998 (40-30 vs. No. 11 Nebraska): The final building block to the Manhattan Miracle was overcoming rival and Big 12 North power Nebraska. Going into the season, the Wildcats had lost 29 straight to Cornhuskers, including a 30-point loss the year before that essentially knocked 11-1 K-State out of the Big 12 and national title picture. But in ’98, the Wildcats finally got over the hump, dispatching Nebraska on their way to capturing the Big 12 North title, the program’s first title of any kind in 64 years.


Oct. 28, 2000 (31-14 vs. No. 1 Nebraska): Bob Stoops has delivered many memorable victories over Texas and Oklahoma State. But ask him, and he’ll tell you this victory over Nebraska remains his most memorable. The Sooners had defeated No. 11 Texas and No. 2 Kansas State their previous two games, but there was still skepticism as to whether Oklahoma was really back -- especially after the Huskers jumped to an early 14-0 lead. But that skepticism was replaced with belief during a furious second-quarter rally. This is still the only game of the Stoops era where the fans rushed the field.


Dec. 3, 2011 (44-10 vs. No. 13 Oklahoma): The Bedlam rivalry historically had been one of the most lopsided in-state rivalries in the country. But to secure the school’s first Big 12 championship and BCS bowl appearance, the Cowboys had to topple their longtime nightmare nemesis. They did that and more, completely obliterating the Sooners to come within a hair of advancing to the national championship game despite the loss to Iowa State two weeks before.


Nov. 6, 2010 (47-7 at No. 6 Utah): In arguably the biggest game in Mountain West history, TCU traveled to Utah with a possible BCS bowl berth and second consecutive undefeated regular season on the line. With College GameDay in the house, the Horned Frogs flexed their muscles, routing the Utes to secure a trip to the Rose Bowl. There, the Horned Frogs defeated Big Ten champ Wisconsin to finish the season 13-0 while proving to the Big 12 they were worthy of inclusion in the league after the second round of conference realignment.


Oct. 8, 2005 (45-12 vs. Oklahoma): In just a couple of years, Mack Brown turned the Texas program around, restoring the Longhorns to a perennial double-digit win team. But the one crimson stain on Brown’s tenure was his series of debacles suffered against Red River rival Oklahoma, which had won five in a row against the Longhorns by an average margin of almost four touchdowns. But behind All-American QB Vince Young, Brown and the Longhorns conquered those demons with a convincing 45-12 rout of the Sooners. With Oklahoma finally vanquished, the Longhorns went on to seize the school’s first national championship in 35 years.


Nov. 1, 2008 (39-33 vs. No. 1 Texas): With the final seconds ticking away and Texas Tech trailing by a point, quarterback Graham Harrell heaved a pass toward the boundary. At the other end, wideout Michael Crabtree snagged Harrell’s throw, shook off a defender, and tiptoed down the sidelines for a stunning, game-winning 28-yard touchdown with one second remaining. The victory catapulted the Red Raiders to second in the polls, and ultimately assured them a three-way split of the South Division title with Texas and Oklahoma. Current Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, who had just started his coaching career at Houston and was at that game, has a painting commemorating the Texas win hanging in his office.


Oct. 22, 2003 (28-7 vs. No. 3 Virginia Tech): In 2003, the jury was still out on coach Rich Rodriguez, who had replaced the legendary Don Nehlen two years before. The Mountaineers had gone 3-8 in Rich-Rod’s first year, and were off to a terrible 2-4 start in 2003. Next up was rival Virginia Tech, which was ranked third in the country and held national championship expectations. The Mountaineers quashed those by the end of the third quarter with a dominating effort in Morgantown for the program’s firs-ever win over an opponent ranked in the top three of the polls. The game also turned around West Virginia’s season, as the Mountaineers reeled off seven straight wins to make the Gator Bowl. The stunning upset also set the tone for the Rich-Rod era, as West Virginia won 11 games apiece in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Position U: Kicker

June, 18, 2014
Jun 18
Who really deserves to claim the title of “Kicker U” for the 2000s?

1. Ohio State (80 points): The Buckeyes placed first among place-kickers and tied for ninth at punter thanks to an award winner in each category. The high-point man who helped Ohio State win the “Kicker U” label was Mike Nugent, who won the Lou Groza Award, was a two-time All-American and All-Big Ten pick and was picked in the second round of the 2005 draft. Punter B.J. Sander won the Ray Guy Award and was drafted in the third round before enjoying a short career with the Green Bay Packers.

Award winners: B.J. Sander, Guy (2003); Mike Nugent, Groza (2004).
Consensus All-Americans: Mike Nugent (2002, 2004).
First-team all-conference: Dan Stultz (2000), Adam Groom (2002), Mike Nugent (2002, 2004), B.J. Sander (2003), Josh Huston (2005).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: B.J. Sander (Round 3, 2004), Mike Nugent (Round 2, 2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.

2. UCLA (72 points): A pair of consensus All-Americans (Justin Medlock and Kai Forbath) and a Lou Groza Award (which Forbath won in 2009) helped UCLA push toward the top of the rankings. Medlock was also drafted in 2007 and has spent portions of several seasons on NFL rosters, while also kicking at times in the CFL.

Award winners: Kai Forbath, Groza (2009).
Consensus All-Americans: Justin Medlock (2006), Kai Forbath (2009).
First-team all-conference: Nate Fikse (2001, 2002), Justin Medlock (2004, 2006), Aaron Perez (2008), Kai Forbath (2009), Jeff Locke (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Justin Medlock (Round 5, 2007), Jeff Locke (Round 5, 2013).

3. Colorado (64 points): Three-time all-conference pick Mason Crosby -- also a consensus All-American in 2005 -- accounted for nearly all of Colorado’s point production at place-kicker. He went on to become a sixth-round draft pick and has set several franchise records as a member of the Green Bay Packers. Mark Mariscal also added some points by winning the Ray Guy Award and becoming an All-American and all-conference selection in 2002.

Award winners: Mark Mariscal, Guy (2002).
Consensus All-Americans: Mark Mariscal (2002), Mason Crosby (2005).
First-team all-conference: Jeremy Flores (2001), Mark Mariscal (2002), Mason Crosby (2004, 2005, 2006), John Torp (2005).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Mason Crosby (Round 6, 2007).

4. Michigan State (62 points): With six first-team All-Big Ten selections -- including three-time honoree Brandon Fields, who was also a consensus All-American in 2004 -- Michigan State takes the No. 3 spot. The Spartans have also had two punters drafted since 2001, which is a rare feat for a college program, as well as kickers Dave Rayner and Craig Jarrett.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Brandon Fields (2004).
First-team all-conference: Brandon Fields (2003, 2004, 2006), Brett Swenson (2009), Aaron Bates (2010), Dan Conroy (2010), Mike Sadler (2012, 2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Craig Jarrett (Round 6, 2002), Dave Rayner (Round 6, 2005), Brandon Fields (Round 7, 2007).

T-5. Baylor (56 points): Baylor places almost solely because of one player: mid-2000s standout Daniel Sepulveda. The two-time Ray Guy Award winner scored 44 points by himself, which is greater than the score for every other program in the punter rankings except one (No. 2 Michigan State, which had 48).

Award winners: Daniel Sepulveda, Guy (2004, 2006).
Consensus All-Americans: Daniel Sepulveda (2006).
First-team all-conference: Daniel Sepulveda (2004, 2006), Derek Epperson (2009), Spencer Roth (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Daniel Sepulveda (Round 3, 2007).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.

T-5. Oklahoma State (56 points): Between Quinn Sharp’s three all-conference selections at punter and two at place-kicker, Dan Bailey's 2010 Groza Award and Matt Fodge’s 2008 Guy Award, Oklahoma State fared well at both kicking positions.

Award winners: Matt Fodge, Guy (2008); Dan Bailey, Groza (2010).
Consensus All-Americans: None.
First-team all-conference: Dan Bailey (2010), Quinn Sharp (2010, 2011, 2012 at punter; 2011, 2012 at place-kicker).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.

7. Florida State (54 points): A pair of Groza Award wins (by Graham Gano and last season by Roberto Aguayo) helped Florida State place third solely among place-kickers and sixth overall. Aguayo helped extend the Seminoles’ streak of first-team All-ACC place-kickers to three consecutive years after Dustin Hopkins earned the honor in 2011 and 2012. Since Aguayo was only a redshirt freshman last fall, there is a good chance the streak will continue. Punter Shawn Powell was the Seminoles' only All-American during this stretch.

Award winners: Graham Gano, Groza (2008); Roberto Aguayo, Groza (2013).
Consensus All-Americans: Shawn Powell (2011).
First-team all-conference: Dustin Hopkins (2011, 2012), Shawn Powell (2011), Roberto Aguayo (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Dustin Hopkins (Round 6, 2013).

8. Georgia (52 points): Give Mark Richt credit: In his 13-plus seasons as Georgia’s coach, he has rarely been without a consistent place-kicker. Players like Blair Walsh, Brandon Coutu, Billy Bennett and most recently Marshall Morgan have given Georgia a consistent scoring threat in the kicking game. And Drew Butler had one of the best seasons by any punter in SEC history when he won the Ray Guy Award in 2009.

Award winners: Drew Butler, Guy (2009).
Consensus All-Americans: Drew Butler (2009).
First-team all-conference: Billy Bennett (2002), Brandon Coutu (2005), Drew Butler (2009), Blair Walsh (2010), Marshall Morgan (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Brandon Coutu (Round 7, 2008), Blair Walsh (Round 6, 2012).

8. Miami (52 points): Another program with two punters who were drafted (Matt Bosher and Pat O’Donnell, both in the sixth round), Miami hasn’t had a punter win the Ray Guy Award or earn an All-America nod, but the Hurricanes do boast four all-conference punters since the turn of the century. Bosher was also an all-conference place-kicker in 2010.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: None.
First-team all-conference: Freddie Capshaw (2000, 2001), Todd Sievers (2001, 2002), Jon Peattie (2003), Matt Bosher (2009 at place-kicker, 2010 at punter), Pat O’Donnell (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Matt Bosher (Round 6, 2011), Pat O’Donnell (Round 6, 2014).

10. Florida (48 points): Chas Henry, who won the Ray Guy Award and was a consensus All-American and first-team All-SEC pick in 2010, accounted for 24 of Florida’s 30 points at punter. The Gators also had a pair of place-kickers (Jeff Chandler and Caleb Sturgis, a two-time all-conference pick) drafted.

Award winners: Chas Henry, Guy (2010).
Consensus All-Americans: Chas Henry (2010).
First-team all-conference: Chas Henry (2010), Caleb Sturgis (2011, 2012), Kyle Christy (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Jeff Chandler (Round 4, 2002).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Caleb Sturgis (Round 5, 2013).

46 – California; 44 – Auburn, Nebraska, Utah, Wake Forest; 42 – Georgia Tech; 40 – Purdue; 38 – Pittsburgh, Tennessee; 34 – Iowa, Louisville, Maryland; 32 – BYU, Texas A&M, TCU, Wisconsin; 28 – LSU, Michigan, Oregon State; 26 – USC, Virginia Tech; 22 – Arizona State; 16 – Ole Miss; 14 – Arizona, Penn State, Texas; 12 – Alabama, Duke, Illinois, Kansas State, Kentucky, Missouri, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Syracuse, Washington State; 8 – Virginia, West Virginia, Boston College; 6 – Indiana, Oregon, Rutgers, Stanford; 2 – Arkansas, South Carolina, Vanderbilt; 0 – Clemson, Iowa State, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi State, North Carolina, NC State, Notre Dame, Texas Tech, Washington.

Stat crunch: Returning lettermen

June, 13, 2014
Jun 13
As part of his in-depth look at returning experience, college football guru and ESPN Insider Phil Steele calculated the percentage of lettermen returning for every team in the country.

You can view the entire list here.

As for the Big 12 teams, they rank like this:

11. West Virginia (78.33 percent)

29. OU (73.85 percent)

30. Texas (73.77 percent)

39. TCU (72.31 percent)

53. Texas Tech (70.42 percent)

61. Baylor (69.86 percent)

116. Iowa State (60.61 percent)

119. Kansas State (60.0 percent)

126. Kansas (56.14 percent)

128. Oklahoma State (54.29 percent)

Couple thoughts:
  • Calculating the percentage of lettermen returning only tells the small part of the story when examining experience. And in many cases, what story it tells can reveal very little. A reserve that only plays in mop-up time might letter, but whether he returns might make no difference on the outlook of a team.
  • That said, this chart bodes well for West Virginia, which has had issues with its depth since joining the Big 12. Dana Holgorsen has said this will be his deepest and most complete team yet, and this chart certainly supports that notion.
  • Conversely, this is yet another chart that suggests Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and his staff have their work cut out this fall. The Cowboys have the fewest returning starters, least percentage of tackles coming back, and now the fewest returning letterman. If the Cowboys are competitive this season, they could be an absolute load in 2015 with the number of players they’ll have coming back.

Big 12 teams as World Cup squads

June, 13, 2014
Jun 13
Finally, football is back. Well, fútbol, actually.

The World Cup will consume sports fan across the globe for the next month, taking us right up to the outskirts of the college football season.

Many in Big 12 country know little about the World Cup, or what team to pull for outside the United States. So to give you soccer novices a rooting choice, we’ve come up with the fútbol counterparts for every team in the Big 12 (thanks to soccer aficionados Royce and Russ for their help in putting this list together):


Belgium: Baylor has been the up-and-coming squad in the Big 12, winning its first conference title last year. The Belgians are the up-and-comers of this World Cup, and a popular sleeper pick to win it all. Both have lethal offensive attacks, but still must prove their staying power this year.


South Korea: On its home soil in 2002, South Korea pulled off three of the bigger upsets in World Cup history, knocking off Portugal, Italy and Spain to reach the quarterfinals. The Cyclones under coach Paul Rhoads have also been a giant killer at home, most recently upsetting second-ranked Oklahoma State to bounce the Cowboys from the 2011 national title race. With 21-year-old forward Son Heung-min leading the charge, South Korea boasts a potentially formidable offensive attack. And with nine offensive starters back this year, Iowa State has the chance to feature its best offense in a long time.


Australia: Both had their finest moments around the same time -- the Aussies advancing out of its World Cup group in 2006; the Jayhawks winning the Orange Bowl in 2007 -- but the hearts of both fan bases lie in another sport (basketball for Kansas, rugby for Australia).


Greece: Greece is not flashy. But emulating the Bill Snyder playbook to success, the Greeks grind out victories (and ties) with stout defense, fundamental play and by avoiding mistakes. Like K-State, the Greeks have been defined by their coach (Otto Graham/Fernando Santos) more than any star player. And Greece’s improbable 2004 Euro Cup title run might be the soccer equivalent of K-State’s Manhattan Miracle.


Germany: The Germans have been the epitome of consistent success, advancing to the semifinals in eight of the last 11 World Cups. The Sooners have matched that level of consistency during the Bob Stoops era, with eight conference titles and a dozen double-digit win seasons over the last 14 years.


Portugal: In recent years, both have piled up the wins and have featured plenty of star power. But they have failed to breakthrough when the spotlight has been the brightest. Portugal’s “golden generation” flopped in the 2002 World Cup, losing to the U.S. in the opener before failing to advance out of the group stage. Oklahoma State could have clinched the 2010 and 2013 Big 12 titles, but slipped at home against rival Oklahoma. The Cowboys and the Portuguese have also had to exist in the shadow of two preeminent powers in their sports (Sooners/Spain). Still they have become two clubs nobody wants to play, and have reached enviable levels of year-to-year success.


Uruguay: Uruguay is a small country surrounded by some of the giants in World Cup soccer. The same goes for TCU, which doesn’t have the enrollments or resources of the likes of Oklahoma or Texas. But just like Uruguay, TCU has carved out success with a hardnosed style of play. Furthermore, Uruguay won the first World Cup ever played in 1930, while both of TCU’s national championships came in the same decade (1935, 1938).


England: All the tradition, history and resources. And yet in recent years, these two have been massive underachievers. In South Africa in 2010, the English surrendered the top seed in its group to the Yanks, then got obliterated 4-1 by Germany in the first game of the knockout round. The Longhorns, meanwhile, have failed to win more than eight regular-season games the last four seasons. Because of these struggles, both squads are flying somewhat under the radar, and the talent is still there for either to ignite a run. But first, someone -- anyone -- has to light the fuse.


Mexico: After an emotional roller-coaster ride through the qualifying stages, Mexico is feeling optimistic following a manageable World Cup draw and cleaner play of late. Texas Tech rode the roller coaster of a five-game losing streak last season, but is feeling confident these days coming off its dominating bowl performance against Arizona State.


Ivory Coast: Les Éléphants bring the fireworks with Didier Drogba and Yaya Touré the same way the Mountaineers have through the Pat White and Geno Smith eras. But while West Virginia dominated the Big East the way Ivory Coast has Africa, neither has been able to take that next step against the big boys. In its first two appearances in the World Cup in 2006 and 2010, Ivory Coast failed to advance out of its group. Likewise, the Mountaineers have struggled their first two years in the Big 12. Both have the individual talents of a championship-caliber club, but neither will contend until the depth improves.
In this week's mailbag we discuss scheduling, Charlie Strong tempering expectations and quarterbacks David Ash, Trevor Knight and Jake Waters.

Remember, to submit a mailbag entry, simply go here.

Without further ado, to the ‘bag we go:

Justin in Dallas writes: Sure, Kliff Kingsbury has gotten some studs, and West Virginia is off to a hot start, but are you really going to talk about recruiting in the Big 12 and not mention Baylor? I think the blinders might be on, and you could be forgetting where Baylor’s recruiting was just a few years ago. This class, though inherently small, could be one of the best ever in Waco.

Trotter: I have no idea what makes you feel slighted, but we’ve mentioned Baylor’s impressive recruiting haul multiple times. Think about this -- Baylor has six of the league’s 22 ESPN 300 commitments. That’s better than 27 percent. And the Bears aren’t done, either. This could wind up being a top-15 class.

Steve in Phoenix writes: Does the loss of Daniel Sams at K-State help Jake Waters’ chance of a standout season? Now, he can bomb away every game if he (or rather coach Bill Snyder) wants. I know I am reaching here but there has to be a bright side to this thing.

Trotter: Sorry, you’re reaching, Steve. Waters was going to be the unequivocal starter whether Sams had stayed or not. Waters was never going to be looking over his shoulder, especially considering Sams had changed positions during the spring. The bottom line is, the Wildcats lost a big-time playmaker, who is going to be making those plays now for McNeese State.

James in El Paso, Texas, writes: Jake, Texas' backfield is going to good again this year, and maybe even great. Do you see the Longhorns winning 10 games this year if David Ash can return as the starter, and stay healthy for the entire year?

Trotter: If Ash is healthy for the entire season, that changes Texas’ outlook substantially. The Longhorns have the most experienced offense and defense returning in the Big 12, and there’s not a weak unit on the team other than quarterback and possibly placekicker. If Ash stays healthy and finally realizes his potential, Texas could be formidable. But that’s a Texas-sized if.

J.J. in Tumalo, Ore., writes: Jake, good article on Big 12 scheduling last week. But if Baylor goes 12-0 playing three complete stiffs out of conference and Oregon goes 12-1 with an out of conference win against Michigan State, why would the committee select Baylor over the Ducks? Thanks for the great blog.

Trotter: We really don’t know yet how the committee is going to select the four playoff teams. I would think that any Power-5 team that goes undefeated would be a virtual lock. Where Baylor is going to run into trouble with its scheduling is if it goes 11-1. Nonconference scheduling is likely going to carry a lot of weight in differentiating one-loss teams for the playoff. Given its nonconference slate, that wouldn't bode well for Baylor.

Trevor Collins in Burleson, Texas, writes: Even as an avid Longhorn fan, I recognized Trevor Knight’s brilliant performance in the bowl game. But I don’t really think he’s fully proven himself for a whole season. Looking back at last season, he really didn’t play a significant role in most of the Sooners’ games, and when he did his stats weren’t that great. I just feel OU is being a little overrated right now, and I’m not just saying this because I’m a UT fan. What happens if Knight doesn’t work out?

Trotter: There’s no doubt that Knight has much to prove, considering he’s only started and finished three games so far in his career (Louisiana-Monroe, Kansas State, Alabama). But there’s also no denying the talent Knight showcased in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Don’t forget about the return of nine defensive starters, which is another big reason why the Sooners are getting so much preseason love. I agree, after the inconsistency last season, there’s still much for this team to prove. But there’s a lot to like, too, especially if Knight plays anywhere near the level he did in the Sugar Bowl.

Ben in Dallas writes: Do you think it was a smart or dumb move for Charlie Strong to temper fan expectations during his tour? On one hand fans might be happier with moderate improvement. On the other hand isn't fan enthusiasm during games a problem? Telling the Texas faithful they have a shot at the playoffs might solve that.

Trotter: I liked it. For too long Texas has been playing against expectations that didn’t really reflect where the team actually was. Mack Brown told everyone he ran into that the 2013 team was going to be the one that was going to take Texas back to the top. That looked utterly ridiculous after BYU obliterated the Longhorns in Week 2. Anyone who watched the Texas spring game knows the Longhorns are still a ways off from contending for a playoff spot. They could always surprise. But Strong tempering expectations will help alleviate the pressure that has enveloped the program.
Ask any coach before a game about the key to winning, and one of the canned answers almost always will be, “turnovers.”

Of course, just because the answer is canned doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Turnovers are one of the biggest differences between winning a game and losing it.

Delving further into the data, I analyzed fumbles lost and gained, interceptions lost and gained and turnover margin over the last three seasons to determine which Big 12 teams have best used turnovers to their advantage. And, conversely, which teams have used it to their disadvantage.

View the results of my research on the right:

What the data revealed:
  • Wonder why Oklahoma State is one of college football’s winningest teams over the last five years? The Cowboys force turnovers in bundles. And offensively they hold onto the ball. Sure, the 2011 season, when Oklahoma State led the country in turnover margin, might be a bit of an outlier. But the Cowboys led the conference in turnover margin again last season, and they also forced the most in the league in 2010, which was not included in the data. This is no coincidence. Mike Gundy’s team emphasizes the turnover battle in practice. Last offseason, all-conference linebackers Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey actually practiced catching the ball, which is a major reason why they combined for seven picks last season. Oklahoma State’s ball carriers have also been phenomenal holding on to the ball, which is why they’ve only lost 21 fumbles -- and also improved their ball security each of the last three years. The Cowboys might not have many starters coming back this season. But if their turnover margin rate holds steady, they will be tough to beat yet again.
  • Like Oklahoma State, Kansas State has made a living off its turnover rate. The Wildcats struggled early last season, in large part because they deviated from the Bill Snyder playbook to winning, and turned the ball over 25 times during a 2-4 start. But while reeling off wins in six of seven final games, K-State actually led the Big 12 with a plus-9 turnover margin over that stretch. Decisively winning the turnover margin again will be the recipe to K-State becoming a legitimate Big 12 title contender this season.
  • On the flip side, one of the major hindrances that has kept Texas Tech from getting over the hump has been its disastrous turnover margin. The Red Raiders have been dreadful at forcing turnovers, which, as Oklahoma State's defense has proven, is one of the best ways to stopping the up-tempo attacks of the Big 12. Texas Tech hasn’t been much better at holding onto the ball, either. During their five-game losing streak to cap the regular season, the Red Raiders were a minus-8, and the only time they actually won the turnover battle in an individual game last season came in a 54-16 win at Kansas. In fact, Texas Tech’s turnover margin in the dreaded month of November the last three years is minus-18. With Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma all on the November slate, the only chance the Red Raiders have of reversing that trend of late-season collapses is by cleaning up the turnovers. Having a semi-experienced quarterback in Davis Webb should help. But Texas Tech will not sniff a double-digit winning season -- like it did in 2008 when the team was plus-8 -- until it improves in the turnover margin department.
  • Baylor absolutely crushed its opponents off turnovers last season, ranking fourth nationally with 135 points off turnovers. Only Florida State, Arizona State and Houston had more. The TCU game was a great example of how Baylor capitalized off turnovers. Despite struggling offensively, the Bears scored three touchdowns off three turnovers (including two pick-sixes and a fumble recovery at the TCU 1-yard line) to win the game, 41-38. Baylor will be replacing several key players off its secondary, but with a swarming defensive line led by end Shawn Oakman, the Bears could set their explosive offense up with numerous short fields again in 2014.
  • Oklahoma has had rather pedestrian turnover numbers defensively the last three years. But it's difficult to see that not jumping up in 2014, especially if the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Alabama when the Sooners forced five turnovers is any indication. Oklahoma has several defenders coming back capable of getting to the quarterback, headlined by menacing outside linebacker Eric Striker.
  • The overall numbers for TCU and West Virginia included a season (2011) in the Mountain West and Big East conferences, respectively. The turnovers forced, however, have actually gone up for both teams since joining the Big 12. But so have the turnovers lost. Only Texas Tech gave up more turnovers than the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers last season. Inconsistent quarterbacking has been a big part of that increase. To bounce back from bowl-less seasons, both teams need their QBs -- whoever they turn out to be -- to take better care of the ball.

The Big 12 BCS-era 16-team playoff

June, 2, 2014
Jun 2
The BCS era is over. Next up, the College Football Playoff era.

But before we completely turn the page on the BCS here on the Big 12 blog, we’re going to have some fun -- with a playoff.

Through the month of June, we’re going to decide who the best Big 12 team of the BCS era really was.

Actually, you are going to decide.

Here’s how this will work. On Thursday morning, we’ll unveil the 16-team bracket, which will be seeded 1 through 16. Then beginning next Monday, you will vote each day to determine which team advances to the next round.

But first things first. We’d like your nominations of teams that should be included in the field of 16, with the following caveats:
  • The teams have to be from the BCS era (1998-2013).
  • Teams from programs (Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, Texas A&M) that have since departed the Big 12 are eligible for inclusion. However, any team from those programs that came after departure from the Big 12 is not eligible. (And don’t worry, we don’t think any Texas A&M team will make the cut anyway.)
  • Lastly, in the spirit of Big 12 unity, we’re making all TCU and West Virginia teams from the BCS era (1998-2013) eligible for this tournament.

Send us your Big 12 BCS-era team nominations here.

And check back Thursday morning for the bracket unveiling.

Big 12 mailbag: Playoffs discussion

May, 30, 2014
May 30
In this week's mailbag we discuss the College Football Playoff and other various topics.

To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. To submit a mailbag entry the traditional way, simply go here.

To the 'bag:

Jonathan in California writes: Hey, Jake, enjoy the blog. My question has to do with the unlikely but still probable dilemma when five conference champions all go undefeated? It has happened before and will likely happen again. What would the committee have to value the most then? What if it is the traditional powers that are undefeated, as in Oklahoma, Florida State, Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State? Would expansion occur or would conferences have to change so all are playing similar schedules then?

Trotter: Probable? The last time we had just three undefeated teams from the power conferences was in 2004 (Oklahoma, USC, Auburn). The more likely scenario would be five one-loss conference champs. In that event, the strength of the conference and the strength of individual nonconference schedules (you reading, Baylor fans?) would be the determining factor in picking the team to leave out.

Mark in Snyderville, USA, writes: Am I wrong for being skeptical of the new playoff system? Let's say a one-loss Texas team and a one-loss K-State team are in the mix for the final playoff spot. Isn't Texas more likely to get in based off name recognition alone? Am I just being paranoid or should schools with less recognizable brands just prepare to be left in the cold?

Trotter: Would that be any different than the system we had before? Does anyone really believe that Texas or Oklahoma would have been left out of the 2011 national championship game with Oklahoma State’s résumé that season? I have no idea how the playoff committee is going to select its teams. But the lesser brands can’t be at any more of a disadvantage than they were during the BCS era.

Lost Mountaineer in Nashville, Tenn., writes: How big of an impact can FCS All-American Shaquille Riddick have for West Virginia? I saw him as a projected second-round draft pick prior to the transfer.

Trotter: I did a Q&A with Riddick earlier this week. I’m starting to think this could be a big addition. Playmaking off the edge is where the Mountaineers need the most help defensively. That’s what Riddick brings. I have no idea how the transition to the higher classification will affect him. But he could be a factor.

Alex in Chicago writes: What are your thoughts on the rumors going around of replacing West Virginia with Tulane due to the geographical logistic headaches, and the league wanting to further strengthen inroads into the fertile recruiting grounds around New Orleans?

Trotter: My thought is you need to take a vacation from the message boards.

C.L. in Abilene, Texas, writes: Do ya'll know if any of the Big 12 coaches are good friends? I know it's tough being rivals and all, but I figure some of the guys must be known to hang out on occasion.

Trotter: Art Briles, Kliff Kingsbury and Dana Holgorsen all know each other very well, dating to their connections to Houston and/or Texas Tech. Mike Gundy gave Holgorsen his big break by bringing him into the Big 12 as a coordinator at Oklahoma State. New TCU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham was at Oklahoma State just two years ago and is close with Texas offensive line coach Joe Wickline from their days in Stillwater. TCU’s other offensive coordinator, Sonny Cumbie, played with several of the coaches at Texas Tech. New Iowa State offensive coordinator Mark Mangino has strong ties to Oklahoma and Kansas State. Oklahoma’s Stoops Brothers coached under Bill Snyder at K-State. Gundy’s brother Cale is an assistant at Oklahoma. I could go on and on.

Wallace Bever in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, writes: Jake, I think your observations on in-stadium beer sales are right on. A few beers is one thing. Going to the car at halftime for a load of heavier alcohol is different, and not in a good way. West Virginia may have gotten this one right.

Trotter: In case you missed it this week, this is what Wallace is referring to. If you know you can get beer inside the stadium, doesn’t that dissuade you from getting loaded before the game? I think it does. People are going to drink at college football games. At least inside the stadium, it can be managed.

Matt in Wamego, Kansas, writes: Jake, as Charlie Weis begins Year 3 in Lawrence, what do you think the Jayhawks have to do this year to keep him off the hot seat?

Trotter: Progress in the right direction would do the trick. The Jayhawks don’t have to go to a bowl game. But they need to show they’re better than they were last year. With a veteran defense and a much improved receiving corps, it would be a major disappointment if they took a step back this season, which would also warm up Weis’ seat.

Stat crunch: Big 12 returning tackles

May, 27, 2014
May 27
Last week, colleague Max Olson crunched the numbers on the total career starts each Big 12 team has coming back for next season.

What Max unearthed was that Texas (by far) leads the Big 12 in career starts returning, both offensively and defensively. TCU’s defense ranked second behind the Longhorns’ defense, while the Iowa State offense placed second. The Horned Frogs could have their most dominant defense yet in the Big 12, and the Cyclones could feature their best offensive attack in years, suggesting both teams could also be in for bounce-back 2014 campaigns.

Yet while revealing, compiling returning starts doesn’t tell the entire story when examining team experience, since the equation doesn’t account for those who played key roles as reserves. TCU safety Derrick Kindred, Texas Tech linebacker Micah Awe and Baylor end Shawn Oakman weren’t starters last year. But they were still valuable players on their respective teams.

To examine returning experience in another way, I’ve tallied up the percentage of tackles returning for every team in the Big 12:

With nine starters back, it’s not surprising the Sooners top this chart. But the number of returning starters isn’t the only reason why Oklahoma is optimistic about its 2014 defense. The Sooners also bring back several key defensive performers that weren’t full-time starters last season. End Geneo Grissom, who notched three sacks against Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, only started five games in 2013. Linebacker Jordan Evans thrived whenever his number got called as a freshman. And tackle Jordan Phillips only started four games but was playing at an All-Big 12-caliber level before suffering a season-ending back injury in early October.

On the flip side, Oklahoma State is at the cellar of this list, and not just because it graduated seven starters. The Cowboys also lost several defensive reserves that played a bunch, including linebacker Joe Mitchell, cornerback Tyler Patmon and safety Zack Craig.

Of course, like with returning starts, a high level of returning tackles doesn’t guarantee success. And it doesn’t necessarily preclude it, either.

Oklahoma ranked 119th nationally in returning tackles (40 percent) last season. But by the end of the season, the Sooners were wreaking havoc in the backfield of the two-time defending national champs.

The tackle equation can be an indicator of the defenses that might be formidable. Oklahoma State and Baylor both had 73 percent of their tackles returning from 2012 going into last season. Both wound up being formidable, ranking first and second in the league in both fewest yards per play and points per drive.

That bodes well for the defensive prospects of Oklahoma, Kansas, TCU, Texas and West Virginia, which all have like tackle rates coming back for 2014.

Poll: Big 12's best position unit

May, 22, 2014
May 22
On Wednesday, we ranked the Big 12 position-by-position from strongest to weakest.

Last season the strongest position of the league was defensive back, headlined by Justin Gilbert, Jason Verrett, Ahmad Dixon, Aaron Colvin and Ty Zimmerman, among others.

But those players are all gone. So what will be the strongest position in 2014?

With such players such as TCU’s Devonte Fields, Oklahoma’s Charles Tapper and Texas’ Cedric Reed returning, we believe it will be defensive line.


What will be the Big 12's strongest overall position in 2014?


Discuss (Total votes: 3,613)

But do you agree?

Maybe you think it will be another position such as receiver, which includes All-American hopefuls Antwan Goodley and Tyler Lockett, and a host of potential 1,000-yard threats such as Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant, Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard, Iowa State’s Quenton Bundrage, Oklahoma State’s Jhajuan Seales and Texas’ Jaxon Shipley.

Perhaps it’s your opinion that the strength of the Big 12 will be at linebacker, where Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Kansas and TCU bring their entire units back, and virtually everyone else has at least one proven performer returning.

Maybe the conference’s best unit is the offensive line, with experienced centers BJ Finney (Kansas State), Dominic Espinosa (Texas) and Tom Farniok (Iowa State); talented tackles Spencer Drango (Baylor), Le'Raven Clark (Texas Tech) and Daryl Williams (Oklahoma); and versatile stalwarts Cody Whitehair (Kansas State), Quinton Spain (West Virginia) and Daniel Koenig (Oklahoma State).

Or with Baylor’s Bryce Petty, Kansas State’s Jake Waters, Texas Tech’s Davis Webb and Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight, do you believe quarterback is on its way back to becoming the dominant position in a league that not long ago was the nation’s preeminent conference for that position?

Tell us by voting in the weekly Big 12 poll.
In this week's mailbag we discuss our imaginary Big 12 draft, Texas' disastrous 2014 draft class and who has impressed most on the recruiting trail.

To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. To do it the traditional way, go here.

Stephen in Houston writes: Which teams have impressed you so far in the 2015 recruiting class?

Trotter: Oklahoma State and Baylor have really impressed so far. The Cowboys already have three top-100 players on board, more than anyone else in the league. The Bears, meanwhile, have six ESPN 300 commitments, which ties Texas for the conference lead. Despite its struggles on the field, West Virginia, with 11 commitments, is off to a great start on its 2015 class. So is Texas Tech, with a pair of top-100 pledges, including Jarrett Stidham, the nation’s second-ranked dual-threat QB, who had offers from everyone.



Daniel C. in Bel Air, Md., writes: With all this draft analysis and way-too-early 2015 draft stuff, I'd like to offer this: Bryce Petty is a good college quarterback. He's accurate, but consistently has open receivers to throw to and he tends to stare them down. I don't see him in the NFL unless he can also improve his footwork and drive off of his back leg. Jake Waters actually faces some of the same issues with his plant foot, but his throwing motion is prettier. I find it strange to see this league, dominated by great quarterbacks and supposedly NFL prospects at the position for so long, without an elite signal-caller. Who has the best chance to rise from the rubble?

Trotter: Well, many people, me included, would disagree with you about Petty. His arm, mobility, size and intelligence make him a very good pro quarterback prospect. If he had a problem starting down receivers last year, he would have thrown more than three interceptions in 403 pass attempts. Will he go in the first round? That will depend on what he does this season. Sure, Petty has plenty to improve on, including his pocket awareness, which has been an emphasis for him this offseason. But he’s a potential first rounder.



Patrick in Abilene, Kan., writes: Twenty-two rounds by three people and no Jake Waters?

Trotter: Only three quarterbacks could get drafted, and Brandon went with Trevor Knight over Waters late. It was an interesting call. Waters was the safer pick, but Knight’s upside is tantalizing. Who would you guys have taken? Given the way Brandon constructed his offense with four receivers and a receiving running back in Wendell Smallwood, I probably would have gone with Waters.



Andy in Austin, Texas, writes: How does this draft shutout for the Longhorns affect Mack Brown’s legacy? And how does a player like Jackson Jeffcoat fall so far out of favor with scouts given the latter half of his season and the hardware he picked up along the way?

Trotter: I think Jeffcoat’s injury history ultimately turned scouts off. If he can stay healthy in Seattle, though, he can be a productive player there. As for Brown, the draft shutout basically validated that Texas was justified in making the coaching change. It’s completely unacceptable for a program like Texas to be so depleted of talent that not a single player gets drafted. The 2014 draft cemented what we already knew: The Longhorns slipped in the waning years of Brown’s Texas career.



Michael in Austin, Texas, writes: Charlie Strong had three players go in the first round of the draft. What kind of impact could this have on the Longhorns recruiting going forward?

Trotter: That’s why the draft shutout will have little effect on the Longhorns going forward, in my opinion. But can you imagine the negative recruiting that would have stigmatized Texas had Brown returned?


Trotter: As you suggest, the Big 12 collectively will be facing some non-conference heavyweights this year. West Virginia-Alabama. Oklahoma State-Florida State. Texas-UCLA. The league’s best chance of springing an upset, though, will be Sept. 18, when Auburn will travel to Manhattan, Kan. Yes, the Tigers are the defending SEC champs and played for the national championship. But Bill Snyder Family Stadium on a Thursday night won’t be an easy place to play. Plus, K-State will enter this season with a ton of momentum after winning six of seven to finish out last year. This is the best opportunity for the Big 12 to land a marquee nonconference win.


Trotter: Their chances would improve dramatically. But playoff inclusion is going to also hinge on how the Bears perform in their other games. Their non-conference schedule is lousy, so the margin for error is slim. But if the Bears go to Norman and win, they at least will be well on their way to defending their Big 12 title.


Trotter: Right now, you’d have to say linebacker, since he’s sitting atop the depth chart there coming out of the spring. Williams could still help Tech at running back, but he’s going to be favoring one position over the other. Every indication of Lubbock is that position will be linebacker.
Though the 2014 NFL draft ended just last weekend, ESPN Insider Todd McShay posted his way-too-early 2015 mock draft Insider on Wednesday.

McShay had three Big 12 players going in his mock first round: Baylor QB Bryce Petty 15th overall to the Houston Texans, TCU DE Devonte Fields 25th overall to the San Francisco 49ers and Oklahoma LB Eric Striker 29th overall to the Green Bay Packers.

Though we have almost a full year to go, here are some of other top Big 12 prospects for the 2015 draft (in alphabetical order):

    • TE E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State: Three pass-catching tight ends went in the first two rounds last weekend, and that’s exactly what Bibbs is. He caught 39 passes last season and can far exceed that if QB Grant Rohach settles into new coordinator Mark Mangino’s offense.


  • DT Malcom Brown, Texas: Like his D-line teammate Cedric Reed, Brown has first-round talent. He was rated the second-best DT coming out of high school and began to realize that potential last season.
  • SS Sam Carter, TCU: Carter has manned strong safety at a high level in Fort Worth for the past two seasons and was the only underclassman defensive back to earn first- or second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2013. With teammate Jason Verrett gone, he won’t be as overshadowed next season.
  • OT Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech: After starting his first two seasons in college at left tackle, Clark could get moved to guard this season. Clark has the strength to be a devastating run-blocking guard, and the NFL loves players who can play multiple positions.
  • CB Quandre Diggs, Texas: Diggs has been a starter in Austin since his true freshman season. He is fast, and he’s a solid tackler against the run. Diggs has an NFL pedigree, too. His brother, Quentin Jammer, was a first-round pick in 2002 after starring for the Horns.
  • OT Spencer Drango, Baylor: Drango will get plenty of attention protecting Petty’s blindside. The back injury from last season is a concern, but it also underscored how dominant Drango actually was. Baylor’s pass protection was leaky without him the rest of the year. Like Clark, Drango will just be a junior next season.
  • C BJ Finney, Kansas State: The Big 12 has some other draft hopefuls at center in Iowa State’s Tom Farniok and Texas’ Dominic Espinosa, but Finney seems like the best bet of the three to get drafted. The former walk-on and high school state wrestling champ will be a four-year starter, and has 39 career starts, which is tied for the Big 12 active lead.
  • WR Antwan Goodley, Baylor: He might not be tall at only 5-foot-10, but Goodley is physical and fast. With another ultra-productive season like last fall, he could be one of the top receivers on next year’s board.
  • WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State: Lockett’s versatility both as an inside or outside receiver and in the return game only makes him a more attractive prospect. With Jake Waters now installed as the full-time QB, Lockett could have a monster statistical senior season.
  • DE Shawn Oakman, Baylor: At 6-9, 275 pounds, Oakman has intriguing size for an NFL defensive line. If he dominates in the fall the way Art Briles said he did in the spring, Oakman could quickly turn into a hot prospect even though he’ll only be a junior.
  • DE Cedric Reed, Texas: According to NFL.com, Reed was one of two players nationally in 2013 to record five sacks, five forced fumbles and four pass breakups. The other? Buffalo’s Khalil Mack, who was the fifth overall pick in last week’s draft. By coming back to school for another year, Reed could potentially become a first rounder, too.
  • DE Charles Tapper, Oklahoma: Tapper almost has the size of a defensive tackle and the athleticism of a linebacker. He didn’t have an overly huge statistical sophomore season but was the only underclassman defensive lineman voted All-Big 12 by the coaches. Tapper too will only be a junior.
  • OT Daryl Williams, Oklahoma: Even though Tyrus Thompson has manned the left side in Norman, Williams has the better pro outlook. Williams will be a three-year starter and has the athleticism to transition to the left side at the next level.


Others to watch: RB Malcolm Brown, Texas; DT James Castleman, Oklahoma State; C Dominic Espinosa, Texas; C Tom Farniok, Iowa State; ILB Bryce Hager, Baylor; FS Chris Hackett, TCU; LB Ben Heeney, Kansas; DT Chucky Hunter, TCU; FS Karl Joseph, West Virginia; DE Ryan Mueller, Kansas State; DT Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma; DT Davion Pierson, TCU; OG Quinton Spain, West Virginia; OT Tyrus Thompson, Oklahoma; CB Kevin White, TCU; OG Cody Whitehair, Kansas State