Dallas Colleges: Bob Stoops
1. Baylor is the one and only champ: The last time Baylor won an outright conference championship, Mike Singletary was its middle linebacker. Until Saturday. With a little help from their friends from Norman, the Bears captured their first Big 12 title, and won’t have to share it with anybody. Baylor faces some adversity with the loss at Oklahoma State, but Art Briles’ bunch showed some gumption, bouncing back for a hard-fought win at TCU before closing out Floyd Casey Stadium in style.
3. The Mack Brown speculation is about to ramp up: It has been a storyline all season. Now it’s about to reach a fevered pitch. It would have been interesting to see what Texas would have done had the Longhorns upset Baylor, captured the outright Big 12 title and gone to the Fiesta Bowl. Instead, Texas finished with less than nine regular-season wins for the fourth straight season, which requires a thorough internal review from the burnt orange brass. Will Brown be forced to resign before the bowl game? Let the speculation commence.
4. Oklahoma owns Bedlam: The Cowboys have made great strides with their program under Mike Gundy. But one fact remains: They cannot beat the Sooners in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma really had no business winning this one. Oklahoma State was the heavy favorite. At home. With the superior quarterback. And a senior-laded defense. The Sooners didn’t even score an offensive touchdown through the first 59 minutes, 41 seconds of the game. But Oklahoma's defense hung tough, and the Sooners reeled off a pair of remarkable special teams plays to keep the score close. Then, like so many times before in this game, Oklahoma broke Oklahoma State’s back in the final two minutes. Even with all their recent success, the Cowboys have now lost 10 of 11 in Bedlam. And the Sooners still own their instate rivals.
5. Bob Stoops can still win big games: People often needle Stoops’ “Big-Game Bob” moniker. But Saturday, Stoops proved again he can still win the big games. Even the ones nobody expects him to win. Despite rotating three different quarterbacks and playing without the starting left side of his offensive line, Stoops manufactured a win in Stillwater with bold special teams calls and a defense that gave up yards but never broke. The Cowboys had the advantage over the Sooners in many different ways -- quarterback, experience, defense and home field -- but Stoops outcoached his Oklahoma State counterpart. And somehow, someway, added another big-game win to his resume.
And even though the ending was seismic, the result was not.
Another phenomenal Bedlam victory for the Sooners. Another catastrophic Bedlam loss for the Cowboys.
Despite shuffling through three quarterbacks and not scoring an offensive touchdown until the final 19 seconds, Oklahoma ruined Oklahoma State’s Big 12 title and BCS-bowl hopes with a 33-24 victory Saturday.
“The feeling in the locker room is a bad feeling right now,” Oklahoma State running back Desmond Roland said. “We had it right on the line, and we couldn’t finish it.”
This one, however, was most disastrous in a long line of Bedlam disappointments for the Cowboys.
Oklahoma State had everything on the line this time.
A chance for its second Big 12 title in three years.
A chance at a top-five finish and a Fiesta Bowl berth.
And, perhaps most important, as a double-digit Bedlam favorite for the first time since Vegas began keeping track, the most golden of opportunities at home to send a message that Oklahoma State was finally on equal ground with the Sooners.
Instead, Oklahoma downed the Cowboys in the final seconds for the third time in the past four years.
“A tough one to swallow,” Oklahoma State linebacker Caleb Lavey said.
Maybe the fact a magnitude-4.5 earthquake struck Boone Pickens Stadium just as the Cowboys were attempting a second-quarter field goal should have been a sign. Ben Grogan made the kick. But fate, yet again in this rivalry, would not be wearing orange.
With starting quarterback Trevor Knight out and backup Kendal Thompson erratic, Blake Bell returned from his sarcophagus to lead the Sooners on a game-winning touchdown drive in the final two minutes, capped by a 7-yard scoring strike to Jalen Saunders in the corner of the end zone with 19 seconds remaining.
It was Oklahoma’s first offensive touchdown of the game.
And it was the only one the Sooners would need, as linebacker Eric Striker delivered the exclamation point by scooping up a fumble and returning it for a touchdown as time expired.
“We like to have the pressure on us, the defense,” Lavey said. “That’s something you wish you could have back. But that’s not gonna happen.”
The Cowboys would like to have several plays back.
On their first from scrimmage, Roland broke free around the edge for an apparent 75-yard touchdown. But wideout Charlie Moore was flagged for holding, and the play was called back.
“We didn’t look like the normal Oklahoma State offense,” Roland said. “We moved the ball the whole game, but we couldn’t capitalize. I feel like we could have put up more points than we did.”
The Cowboys entered Bedlam red-hot offensively, especially quarterback Clint Chelf, who had the highest QBR of any signal-caller in the nation in the month of November. But in sub-10-degree temperatures, Chelf lost his rhythm. And he completed just 2 of 10 passes on third down without a conversion against Oklahoma, causing several promising drives to stall out.
“Our mental focus just wasn’t there,” Roland said.
Later in the first quarter, with Oklahoma State up 7-0 and seemingly in control, Saunders, who sparked Oklahoma’s fourth-quarter comeback last season with a punt-return touchdown, weaved through defenders before dashing right for a 64-yard punt-return score.
In the third quarter, Oklahoma State regained control. With Knight out with a separated non-throwing shoulder, the Sooners failed to get a first down their first four drives of the half. And when Chelf hit a wide-open Roland for a 15-yard wheel-route touchdown, it looked as if the Cowboys would finally put the game away.
Instead, the Sooners answered again with a 37-yard reverse from Saunders, who took the ball to the Oklahoma State 7. After the drive stalled, Bob Stoops called his first successful fake field goal in 11 years, and holder Grant Bothun flicked the ball on the run to place-kicker Michael Hunnicutt for a touchdown to again tie the game.
“Did Bob make some great calls? You bet,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said of his counterpart. “We lost the kicking game. When you do that, it’s always tough to win.”
The Cowboys, as they have five other times in Bedlam since 2000, lost the final two minutes, too. Ultimately dooming them again.
After going up 24-20 on Roland’s 1-yard touchdown plunge with 1:46 remaining, all the Big 12’s best defense had to do was keep Oklahoma’s third-string quarterback out of the end zone.
Instead, Bell came alive. He found Sterling Shepard for two big pass plays, then forced a defensive pass interference.
For a moment, it looked as if Oklahoma State had made the winning play that had eluded the program in Bedlam for so many years. Justin Gilbert appeared to come down with an interception, but the ball popped out at the last moment, and Gundy didn’t challenge the incompletion.
Five plays later, Oklahoma did what it’s usually done to the Cowboys.
“It hurts,” said Oklahoma State cornerback Kevin Peterson, who originally committed to the Sooners coming out of high school.
“Feels like a missed opportunity.”
Oklahoma State’s biggest Bedlam miss yet.
That is the past.
The present is a little different.
Nobody has had a closer view of the rise of the Cowboys than OU.
Earlier this week, Sooners head coach Bob Stoops was asked if he could appreciate what OSU has accomplished in recent years.
“No, I don’t appreciate it, I wish they hadn’t,” Bob Stoops said with a laugh.
His brother, Mike Stoops, has had a unique perspective as OSU has risen to the top of the Big 12. He was on the Sooners staff in the early 2000s then spent 2004 through 2011 at Arizona, watching the Cowboys rise from Pac-12 territory before returning to OU before the 2012 season.
He sees a clear difference at OSU. And it’s not just the change in uniforms.
“They are obviously more skilled across the board at every position,” Mike Stoops said. “Not just the skill players but the big athletes, the offense and defensive lines. They are very skilled at every position so they have changed a great deal.”
OSU has always had talent. Antonio Smith, Kevin Williams and Charlie Johnson are just a few of the former Cowboys currently in the NFL who donned an OSU uniform before the program had cemented itself among the Big 12’s best.
It’s the overall depth within the program, from top to bottom, that has continued to improve, particularly in the past few seasons.
“Growing up in Tulsa, I always watched Oklahoma State,” said cornerback Aaron Colvin, who signed with the Sooners out of Owasso (Okla.) High School, roughly 15 miles north of Tulsa, Okla.
“They always had talent. Now, they’re getting those type of guys everywhere, at every position. They’re definitely on the rise, starting to win a lot of games.”
That depth has been one reason the Cowboys were able to overcome a very limited contribution from two of its most explosive players, receiver Josh Stewart and cornerback Justin Gilbert, in their 48-17 win over Baylor to grab control of the conference. Several Big 12 squads have decimated by injuries this season and the Cowboys are one of them, including having to replace arguably their best offensive lineman, left tackle Devin Davis, before the season even began.
It’s one reason the Cowboys control their own destiny in the Big 12 title race on Saturday, a position every team in the Big 12 envies.
“You can win some games with 10 to 12 good players,” Mike Stoops said. “But now, when you have 22 or 24 of them lining up everywhere, you have a chance to win every time you step on the field. That’s really been the case with them over the last several years. I had a chance to play them a few times three and four years ago when I was at Arizona, you could see those guys evolving in their skill.”
That skill has combined with consistent production to place OSU among the conference's elite, alongside the Sooners.
“I think just the consistency [with which] they play," Mike Stoops said. "I think it’s really a difference. At Oklahoma we were always there, but now Oklahoma State is always showing up too, so they’ve become very significant in this conference. Their players play very consistently every time they step on the field, so what you get is a more consistent opponent and a better opponent.”
His list of accomplishments reveal the standard of success Stoops has set in Norman, Okla. since he took over in 1999. He has reached all four BCS games and the BCS national title game with 14 bowl appearances, eight Big 12 titles, eight BCS bowls, four BCS title game appearances, one BCS national title.
With the help of the OU SID department and ESPN Stats & Information, a closer look at five key stats during the Stoops era points to the priorities of a program run by the 15-year coach and the foundation of his 158-39 record.
Third-down conversions: OU has 1,283 total third down conversions under Stoops, which is tied for first among FBS teams. OU consistently has a solid plan on third down attempts and secures the players -- like Heisman winners Sam Bradford and Jason White — to execute that plan consistently. Since 2004, the Sooners have converted 44.9 percent of their third down conversion attempts. The national average during that span is 39.8 percent.
Forced turnovers: Stoops knows the value of turnovers and he instills that belief into his teams. Since 1999, OU has forced 428 turnovers which is tied for third among FBS teams. That’s an average of 28.5 per season. OU has forced at least one turnover in 170 of 197 games (86.3 percent) in the last 15 years. Games between two evenly matched teams are often decided by turnovers but Stoops’ crew also uses them to dominate lesser opponents. A combination of talented defenders and aggressive schemes have put opponents into positions to make mistakes and OU tends to take advantage.
Defensive touchdowns: OU has scored 46 defensive touchdowns and has scored at least one defensive TD in each of Stoops’ 15 seasons. Thus, not only do the Sooners make a concerted effort to take the ball away, they have the ability to turn it into points. Cornerback Zack Sanchez did it last weekend with his 74-yard interception return against Kansas State. He joined defensive end Geneo Grissom and linebacker Corey Nelson as Sooners with a defensive touchdown this season. The Sooners’ 28 defensive touchdowns since 2004 are tied for eighth among FBS teams.
Points per drive: While Stoops is a defensive-minded coach, the offenses have placed among the nation’s scoring leaders throughout his tenure. Since 2004, the Sooners have averaged 2.56 points per drive, ranking No. 8 among FBS teams. It’s a sign OU’s offenses under Stoops not only move the ball with success but also finish drives with points. The Sooners have brought in stars like Bradford, running back Adrian Peterson and receiver Ryan Broyles to help them become one of the most explosive offenses in college football during the past 15 years. Their 2.56-point per drive average is a full 0.5 point more than the national average of 2.02 during that span.
In the 15 seasons with Stoops in charge, his teams rank among the nation’s best in key moments on third down, finish offensive drives with points and force game-changing turnovers.
Sounds like a winning combination.
I do not know how you pulled off that Kansas pick, but you better believe I will be launching an all-out investigation to see if there was any foul play involved. Seriously, though, well done! You were probably one of five people in the known universe who picked Kansas to beat West Virginia. Props where props are due.
I cannot confirm or deny whether foul play was involved. But Charlie is right about one thing -- props are due.
Like Clint Chelf in his return as Oklahoma State’s quarterback, I’m back with a vengeance in the picks following a sparkling 5-0 week. Sources have told ESPN that KU officials are planning to erect statues of both me and Charlie Weis outside Memorial Stadium to commemorate the West Virginia victory.
Can I keep the train rolling against this week’s guest picker, Wichita, Kan., resident Drew Hays?
Hey, I’m currently wrapping up my masters in sports management at Wichita State, however I graduated undergrad at Oklahoma State in 2012. I currently work in baseball, for an American Association Independent Baseball team called the Wichita Wingnuts (#GoNuts)! Currently, we are in our offseason, which means I get to sit around the house all-day on Saturday's doing nothing but watching football. You were one of two people that had the Jayhawks winning last weekend (very impressive pick I might add) -- my girlfriend was the other one. As a big Jayhawks fan, she likes to constantly remind me that her team beat the team that beat my team. So pick this Wingnut as your guest picker, so I can silence my girlfriend (until Marcus Smart does backflips again in Allen Fieldhouse).
Good luck silencing your girlfriend, Drew. Hope you have better luck than me with my wife (don’t worry, I got permission before writing that).
This weekend, Brandon and I will be in Stillwater manning the game of the week in college football. It should be a good one.
To the Week 12 picks:
Trotter last week: 5-0 (1.000)
Guest picker (Charlie “Bear”) last week: 4-1 (.800)
Trotter overall: 52-15 (.776)
Guest picker overall: 38-12 (.760)
Kansas State 31, Oklahoma 24: An early start with a freshman quarterback (Trevor Knight) with two more key offensive players (RB Damien Williams and WR Lacoltan Bester) out against a well-coached team? This is a tough spot for the Sooners. K-State is on a roll and playing with confidence, while 13 weeks into the season, Oklahoma is still trying to find its footing offensively. Even if QB Trevor Knight shines again, which he does, the Sooners lack the adequate firepower around him to keep up. Instead, K-State drops off 30 for the fifth straight week to thwart Bob Stoops’ attempt to break the Oklahoma record for coaching victories. With a road trip to Stillwater and the bowl game (Holiday Bowl?) all that’s remaining, it could be awhile before Stoops breaks that record, too.
Drew’s pick: Did anyone honestly think I would pick the dark side? The Cats are hot right now, and while the Sooners won’t make this easy, Jack Cantele nails another fourth-quarter field goal to start the party in Aggieville. K-State, 30-27
Kansas 28, Iowa State 24: Usually this time of year, the Jayhawks are the only ones in full basketball mode. But last week, Iowa State fans stormed the court after a home victory over Michigan (come on, guys, it’s November). Then again, given how south this season has gone in Ames, it’s understandable. Meanwhile, James Sims shows again why he’s one of the best running backs in the Big 12, while QB Montell Cozart makes enough plays with his feet to give Kansas -- that’s right -- the third-longest winning streak in the Big 12.
Drew’s pick: As an OSU fan, seeing anyone play a night game at Jack Trice Stadium makes me feel queasy. I don’t expect a repeat performance from Sims from last week, and Iowa State holds on for its first Big 12 win. This pick ensures I will be in the doghouse with my girlfriend for at least a week, but probably longer. Iowa State, 24-17
Baylor 49, Oklahoma State 45: Baylor coach Art Briles said this week that the Bears have played in comparable road environments this season. In actuality, Baylor has only played at Kansas State during the day and Kansas at night. A sold-out Stillwater, with “College GameDay” in town, will be a completely different animal. Especially against these Cowboys, who seem to be improving with every passing week. Especially against this veteran Oklahoma State defense, which is the class of the Big 12. This Baylor offense, however, is the class of college football. And with Levi Norwood emerging at wideout and Lache Seastrunk back to flank Shock Linwood in the backfield, the Bears outgun Oklahoma State in a Big 12 thriller to solidify their No. 3 ranking ahead of Ohio State in the BCS standings.
Drew’s pick: First, I would like to thank the Baylor faithful for returning almost your entire ticket allotment back to OSU. This will only make Boone Pickens Stadium louder. Behind the home crowd, "Choo-Choo" Chelf and Desmond Roland establish the run game early and the Oklahoma State defense keeps forcing turnovers, as the Cowboys prevail in another wild Stillwater shootout. OSU, 45-42
Back again with more stats and tidbits courtesy of SID departments across the league and ESPN stats and information. Did you know …
- TCU coach Gary Patterson returns to his alma mater for the first time as a head coach when he visits Kansas State on Saturday. He played linebacker and safety for the Wildcats before graduating in 1983. He was born in Larned, Kan., and lived in Rozel, Kan.
- TCU's Trevone Boykin is the only player in the nation with a 100-yard rushing, 100-yard receiving and 200-yard passing game this season.
- TCU leads the Big 12 with 70.4 percent (2,379 of 3,380 yards) of its scrimmage yards from underclassmen.
- Deante' Gray, who started two games at receiver this season, started at cornerback for TCU against Iowa State last Saturday and had two tackles and a pass breakup. He also leads the squad in special teams tackles.
- Iowa State's DeVondrick Nealy's 98-yard kick return for a touchdown snapped TCU's 135-game streak without allowing a kick return for a score, which was the nation's longest.
- TCU is tied for the conference lead and sixth in the nation with 25 forced turnovers this season.
- TCU holds the nation's third longest streak of games without being shut out at 265, dating back to a 32-0 shutout loss to Texas in 1991.
- Kansas State coach Bill Snyder earned victory No. 175 overall and No. 100 in conference play with the Wildcats' 49-26 win over Texas Tech last Saturday. He's the 46th coach to reach the 175-win mark and just the 11th reach that standard at one school. He joins Tom Osborne of Nebraska and Barry Switzer of Oklahoma as the only Big 8/12 coaches with at least 100 wins at one school.
- K-State has turned it on in the fourth quarter of recent games, outscoring opponents 56-14 during its three-game win streak.
- The Wildcats are 49-17 in November under Snyder since 1991.
- KSU is looking to become the fourth Big 12 team to start 2-4 or worse yet still make a bowl game. 2001 K-State, 2002 Oklahoma State and 2004 Iowa State are the only teams to achieve that feat thus far.
- Since 1999, K-State ranks No. 1 nationally in non-offensive touchdowns with 91.
- John Hubert is averaging 109.5 rushing yards per game and one touchdown in KSU's last four games after averaging 53.6 rushing yards in the Wildcats' first five contests.
- KSU sophomore defensive lineman Travis Britz has blocked four kicks this season, which leads the nation.
- Texas is 6-0 in the Big 12 for the fifth time under Mack Brown (1999, 2005, 2006, 2009).
- The Longhorns has scored 30 points or more in their last six games, matching their longest streak since 2009.
- UT is No. 5 nationally in sacks in its last six games. The Longhorns have gotten to the quarterback 24 times during their last six contests.
- Longhorns' guard Mason Walters has started 47 straight games, the second-longest streak in the nation among offensive linemen (Mississippi State's Gabe Jackson owns the longest streak).
- Texas has scored 11 touchdowns on plays of 45 yards or more this season. Eight different Longhorns have achieved that feat.
- UT receiver Jaxon Shipley is clutch with 30 of his 46 receptions resulting in a first down this season, including three on fourth down. His fourth-down catch kept hope alive in the Longhorns' 47-40 overtime win over West Virginia last Saturday.
- UT defensive end Cedric Reed is the lone FBS defender with at least six sacks, four pass breakups and four forced fumbles. The junior has seven sacks, four pass breakups and four forced fumbles.
- Oklahoma State has won 10 of its last 11 games in the state of Texas.
- An OSU win over Texas would be the Cowboys third-straight victory in Austin and make the Cowboys the first team to do it since Colorado in 1990, 1994 and 1997.
- OSU has scored 20 or more points in 48 straight games dating back to the start of the 2010 season. It's the longest streak in the nation.
- OSU has forced a turnover in 17 straight games.
- Cowboys cornerback Justin Gilbert leads all active players with six kickoff returns for touchdown in his career after his kickoff return for a score to open the game against Kansas.
- OSU is one of seven teams ranking in the nation's top 20 in both scoring offense (40.7 points per game) and scoring defense (19.7 ppg). Alabama, Baylor, Florida State, Oregon, Ohio State and Louisville join the Pokes in that category.
- The Cowboys are averaging 6.11 three-and-outs forced per game this season.
- OSU ranks No. 9 nationally in yards per play allowed at 4.67 yards per play. Michigan State leads the nation at 3.47 followed by Baylor's 4.08.
- The Cowboys lead the Big 12 in third down conversion percentage at 29.6 percent which ranks sixth nationally.
- The Cowboys could feature the league's most balanced offense. OSU has 343 rushing attempts and 343 passing attempts heading into its battle with Texas.
- Texas Tech's series with Baylor is the longest in school history. The Red Raiders hold a 36-34-1 lead in the series.
- The Red Raiders have scored 20 points or more in 25 straight games, dating back to 2011.
- Linebacker Will Smith has either led or tied for the team lead in tackles in six of TTU's last eight games. He has 72 tackles in 10 games, including 50 solo stops.
- TTU had its nation-leading streak of 257 straight PATs snapped when KSU blocked Ryan Bustin's attempt last Saturday. It also snapped Bustin's personal streak of 101 consecutive PATs.
- TTU tight end Jace Amaro had nine receptions for 67 yards against Kansas State to make it nine straight games with at least eight receptions for the junior, tying Michael Crabtree for the school record. He also moved to 10th on Tech's single season receptions list with 88 catches this season.
- Baylor head coach Art Briles is a 1979 Texas Tech graduate and was an assistant coach on Mike Leach's staff from 2000-02.
- It's been a full year since Baylor lost a game and the Bears 12-game winning streak is a school record. Oklahoma was the last team to defeat Baylor on Nov. 10, 2012.
- The Bears' 8-0 start is the best in Baylor's history.
- Baylor is hoping to win three straight games against TTU for the first time since 1984-87.
- Baylor leads the nation in total offense (686 ypg), scoring (61 ppg), pass efficiency (201.5), yards per play (8.64) and passing yards per completion (19.29).
- The Bears defense has more interceptions (11) than passing touchdowns allowed (8).
- Baylor leads the nation in fewest three-and-outs per game (1.02) and is No. 2 in three-and-outs forced (7).
- Baylor is on track to set NCAA records in points per game (61) and yards per game (686). Army averaged 56 points per game in 1944 while Houston averaged 624.9 yards per game in 1989.
- BU's starting offense has 85 drives resulting in 52 touchdowns, getting into the end zone on 61.1 percent of its drives.
- Baylor has won a school-record eight straight conference games. The previous high was five in 2010.
- The Bears lead the Big 12 in tackles for loss with 8.9 per game. That ranks No. 2 in the FBS.
- Baylor has converted 52.7 percent of its third down attempts, which leads the Big 12 and ranks No. 8 in the nation.
- Baylor leads the Big 12 in sacks at 3 per game. That number ties the Bears for 14th nationally.
- BU quarterback Bryce Petty leads the nation in pass efficiency (210.6) and yards per completion (19.68).
- BU running back Lache Seastrunk has 10 games of 100 rushing yards or more in Baylor's last 12 games. He's averaging 8.7 yards per carry, which ranks No. 2 nationally.
- Seastrunk leads the league with 111 rushing yards per game and 11 touchdowns.
- Teammate Shock Linwood, a redshirt freshman running back, is second in the Big 12 with 89.3 rushing yards per game.
- BU receiver Antwan Goodley leads the Big 12 with 121.8 receiving yards per game, which is No. 4 nationally.
- Baylor is 12-1 in November and December since 2011, which is tops in the FBS. That record includes a 5-1 mark against Top 25 teams.
- Iowa State's loss to TCU was the fifth time this season the Cyclones lost a game by eight points or less, including losses to Big 12 foes Texas, Texas Tech and TCU by a combined 12 points.
- ISU and Rutgers are the only two teams with two different players who have returned a kickoff 95 yards or more for a touchdown.
- Nealy has scored in four straight games in three different ways for the Cyclones.
- ISU has used eight different starting offensive lines in nine games. With injuries ravaging its offensive front, 10 different Cyclones have starting along the offensive line.
- Receiver Quenton Bundrage is the only Cyclone to start every game on offense.
- ISU linebacker Jeremiah George has recorded double digit tackles in seven of nine games. He leads the Big 12 with 11.3 tackles per game, ranking fourth nationally.
- Even with ISU's struggles on the field, the Cyclones have had three sellouts this season (Oklahoma State, Iowa, Northern Iowa) and are averaging the highest attendance average (55,617) in program history.
- ISU has converted 23 of 24 red zone possessions into points (18 touchdowns, five field goals) to lead the Big 12 and rank No. 4 nationally at 95.8 percent.
- West Virginia is making its first trip to Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kan.
- Two of the top-20, single-game rushing performances in KU history have occurred on Nov. 16. June Henley rushed for 209 yards against Texas in 1996 (15th best) and John Riggins rushed for 189 yards against K-State in 1968 (19th best).
- Mountaineers running back Dreamuis Smith played at Wichita (Kan.) Heights and was committed to the Jayhawks before spending two seasons at Butler County Community College.
- KU's Michael Reynolds has 5.5 sacks this season, the most by a KU defender since 2009. He has a sack in four of KU's last five games.
- KU punter Trevor Pardula has punted for 3,044 yards this season, nearly 1.73 miles. He leads the nation at 338.2 yards per game.
- West Virginia has scored 30 points or more in 24 games, 40 points of more in 12 games, 50 points or more in six games and 60 points or more in three games during Dana Holgorsen's tenure.
- WVU running back Charles Sims leads the Big 12 in all-purpose yardage, averaging 124.2 yards per game.
- WVU has forced a turnover in 16 straight games and 28 of its last 29 contests.
- WVU's is looking to extend its streak of making bowl appearances to 12 with wins over Kansas and Iowa State to close the season.
- WVU is 3-1 on the road in November under Holgorsen
- Oklahoma has won 14 straight games against Iowa State and is 8-0 under Bob Stoops.
- The Sooners are 13-1 on Senior Day under Stoops.
- Stoops has 156 career victories and will be looking to tie Barry Switzer at 157 with a win on Saturday.
- OU will honor 17 seniors on Senior Day. This class is 39-10 during their time in Norman.
- The Sooners are seeking a perfect home record for the 11th time in 15 seasons under Stoops and the first time since 2010.
- The Sooners-Cyclones contest will feature a battle of brothers. Tom Farniok is ISU's starting center while Derek Farniok is a backup tackle at OU.
1. Can Oklahoma State make this a race? The stakes for Oklahoma State this weekend are obvious: Beat Texas and we're looking at a three-team Big 12 title race. Lose, and the Cowboys join Oklahoma on the outside looking in, making the Dec. 7 Bedlam game irrelevant to the conference-title picture. We haven't said that in a long time, have we? The Cowboys have won five straight and face a Texas team missing several key cogs. They've won their last two games in Austin. Do it again and they just might sneak into the top 10.
2. Texas Tech goes for the big upset: The Red Raiders have plenty of motivation this week as the 27-point David to the conference's undefeated green-and-gold Goliath. The team that was once as hyped as any in college football at 7-0 is now staring down the real possibility of ending the season 7-5. Maybe being backed into a corner and underestimated is just what coach Kliff Kingsbury's squad needs this week to end a three-game slide and stun Baylor.
3. Texas offense without Johnathan Gray: One of the best running backs in the Big 12 is done for the season. How will the Longhorns' offense regroup? Expect a heavy workload for the junior duo of Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, and perhaps a few more creative ways to put the ball in the hands of the speedy Daje Johnson. If OSU loads the box to stop the Gray-less run game, can Case McCoy make the throws to beat the Pokes' talented secondary?
4. Baylor's defense tries to do it again: Shutting down Oklahoma in a 41-12 victory last Thursday might've done wonders for the national perception of Baylor's much-improved defense. But there will always be detractors who say Oklahoma was flat-out inept in Waco and that the Bears' performance wasn't conclusive enough. Maybe shutting down Jace Amaro and the rest of the Tech attack in front of a national primetime audience at AT&T Stadium would quiet a few of those remaining doubters.
5. K-State goes for four in a row: Winners of three straight, all by convincing or impressive margins, the Wildcats are enjoying the fruits of their weekly improvement after a tough 2-4 start to the season. A win over TCU makes Kansas State bowl eligible, a feat that seemed unlikely one month ago. Don't sleep on this KSU team -- it might be the Big 12's fourth- or fifth-best squad by year's end.
6. Does West Virginia have gas left in the tank? The Mountaineers have gone to overtime in each of the past two weeks, one a win at TCU and the other a shootout home loss to Texas in which they came up just short. This West Virginia defense is as beat up from an injury standpoint as any in the league. Can the Mountaineers get up for a road game against a Kansas team that plays most foes close? Knowing they need to win out to reach a bowl should be sufficient motivation.
7. Oklahoma offense must answer criticism: As usual, Bob Stoops faced another week full of criticism and second-guessing following a Sooners loss. This time, the public's focus was on quarterback Blake Bell, play-caller Josh Heupel and the sputtering offense that duo is held responsible for, fair or not. This might be a good week to pound the rock and rediscover the run game that was less than impactful against Baylor.
8. TCU trying to keep its bowl hopes alive: If there are two teams nobody in this conference wants to play right now, it might be Kansas State and Baylor. That's all the Horned Frogs have left in 2013, and all they have to play for right now at 4-6 is a puncher's chance at bowl eligibility. The only time Gary Patterson hasn't taken his team bowling was 2004.
9. Is this the week Kansas finally wins? You might've noticed my colleague Jake Trotter boldly went out on a limb and predicted Kansas would pull off a victory over West Virginia on Saturday. The Jayhawks, you might have heard, have lost 27 consecutive Big 12 games and are 0-15 in conference games under Charlie Weis. Will KU reward the bravery of Trotter and its remaining fans and finally notch that elusive victory? If this isn't the week, don't worry, there’s still a game against Iowa State left.
10. Bring it on, Grant Rohach: We're trying to find reason to get excited about an Iowa State offense that just hasn't been able to figure things out this season. Quarterback Sam B. Richardson is still dealing with a thumb injury, so Rohach will get a chance to shake off the jitters from his first career start and give it a go on the road against Oklahoma. Not an ideal situation by any means, but perhaps he can give ISU a spark.
After starting out 4-for-4 in the picks, I had the Mountaineers in the nightcap edging out Texas in an upset special.
But at the end, neither I nor West Virginia could stop Case Magic.
Instead, it was Claire Hashtag who went undefeated with the picks, handing me a second consecutive loss to the guest picker. Suddenly, I have losing streak rivaling that of the Kansas Jayhawks.
But this week, I vow to get back on track against Charlie “Bear” Boyd, a Big 12 fan who’s been fighting the good fight in the Florida panhandle:
I have been battling hard in the trenches for the Big 12 deep in SEC/ACC territory. On my daily drive to and from work I face a barrage of Alabama bumper stickers with quips of the impending “Roll Tide Dynasty” apocalypse. I dastardly maneuver my way through neighborhoods riddled with land mines in the form of Florida State and Florida flags (along with a vast and clever assortment of other lawn décor paraphernalia). Daily, I undergo intense psychological torment from my “friends,” all trying to convince me of the superiority of their conferences to the Big 12, and the error of my ways. Somehow, in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds, I stand strong. A lone beacon of Big 12 pride. My Baylor flag waving proudly in the smoke of warfare. A steadfast reminder to all who gaze upon it that though we may be shaken, the Big 12 will never fall.
Good luck with the picks, Charlie. Just don’t give me another loss. I’m not sure I can handle it.
To be next week’s guest picker, contact me here and sell me on why you deserve a shot. And, as always, creativity counts.
To the Week 12 picks:
Trotter last week: 4-1 (.800)
Guest picker (Claire Hashtag) last week: 5-0 (1.000)
Trotter overall: 47-15 (.758)
Guest picker overall: 34-11 (.756)
Oklahoma 29, Iowa State 7: The Sooners go into this game with major uncertainty at quarterback. Coach Bob Stoops said this week Blake Bell would remain his starter, but the clamor for OU to try out Trevor Knight or Kendal Thompson has reached piercing levels in Norman. The truth is, it won’t matter who the quarterback is this week. Iowa State continues to play hard but, once again, fails to generate enough offense.
Charlie’s pick: While I would love to make a crack at OU here, I just can’t bring myself to do it. I have too much respect for their program and their players. Iowa State has seen signs of life as of lately -- mostly of special teams -- and they come out looking hungry to prove they have not slipped into Big 12 irrelevance. But finding a road win proves too big a task. OU, 34-17.
Kansas 20, West Virginia 17: It will be interesting to see how the Mountaineers respond after the deflating overtime loss to Texas. They still have plenty to play for, needing to win these last two games to qualify for a bowl. And they have plenty to build from off last week’s offensive outbreak. Then again, this is a prime spot for a West Virginia letdown. Led by linebacker Ben Heeney, the Jayhawks continue to play solid defense, and they have seemingly uncovered something at quarterback in true freshman Montell Cozart. Kansas played OU tough at home last month and trailed Texas only 14-6 deep into the third quarter two weeks ago. The 27-game conference losing streak has to end at some point. The combination of a West Virginia hangover and Cozart at quarterback finally ends it.
Charlie’s pick: West Virginia comes out flat, but quickly finds pace and clinches a key road win in their quest for bowl eligibility. West Virginia, 33-17.
Kansas State 55, TCU 21: If the season started over today, where would you pick the Wildcats to finish in the conference? Second? Third? No worse than fourth. Outside Baylor, K-State is playing as well as anyone in the league and has the look of a team poised to close out the regular season with a six-game winning streak. TCU had a nice reprieve from a miserable year with a gutty fourth-quarter victory at Iowa State last week. But the hobbled Horned Frogs are headed straight into a Bill Snyder buzz saw.
Charlie’s pick: Snyder is a miracle worker. A turnaround specialist extraordinaire. A wizard. He continues to inspire his players, and they put another solid win in the books. K-State, 48-20.
Oklahoma State 31, Texas 27: The Cowboys and Longhorns have faced each other four times as BCS-ranked teams. And the Longhorns have all won all four. But never in those games have the Cowboys held the advantage defensively. Texas will be without its best offensive player, injured tailback Johnathan Gray, too. QB Case McCoy has been clutch for the Longhorns. But without Gray, against what might be the Big 12's best defense, that isn't quite enough this time.
Charlie’s pick: This pick had me spinning circles. Both great teams. Both playing their best ball at this point in the season. I think this game ends up being more of a defensive battle than people expect. This one to go into overtime, but this time Texas loses by a field goal. I will be glued to this one. OSU, 34-31.
Baylor 49, Texas Tech 31: A month ago, this game looked like it might be for the Big 12 title. Now, Baylor is a four-touchdown favorite. The Red Raiders have fallen apart defensively due in part to injuries, while their true freshman quarterbacks have been turning the ball over in droves. Baylor, however, has bigger games looming, and could get caught looking ahead. The Bears will also be adjusting to the absence of star wideout Tevin Reese, as well as a banged up backfield. The Red Raiders come out fired up to halt their late-season slide, and with receivers Eric Ward and Jakeem Grant delivering big plays in the passing game, Tech hangs tough for three quarters. Baylor’s talent, however, is too much in the fourth.
Charlie’s pick: Tech’s air-raid offense finds limited success against Baylor’s hyped-up defense, but ultimately their struggling run game limits their offensive output. Baylor puts this game away early in the fourth quarter. Baylor, 55-30.
Redshirt freshman Trevor Knight got the first shot, starting the Sooners' first two games of the season, then Blake Bell got the nod against Tulsa on Sept. 14 and has been the starter ever since.
Meanwhile, there was another competitor in OU's quarterback derby throughout the spring and summer. Sophomore Kendal Thompson was part of the three-quarterback race to replace Landry Jones until a broken foot on the first day of fall camp derailed his hopes of winning the job.
With the Sooners still searching for consistency at quarterback it would seem natural for the now-healthy Thompson to get a shot to quarterback the squad, as the lone one of the three who hasn’t gotten the chance to show what he can do in a game. Yet coach Bob Stoops doesn’t see it that way.
“I’m not going to sit here and make wholesale changes in the ninth game of the year when we’ve done some good things through the year,” Stoops said. “Kendal has done an awesome job. We love what he’s doing. He’s got a bright future. It’s hard to overcome the initial way that he started.”
Thompson missed the month of August and part of September while recovering from the foot injury, creating a hole that the coaching staff believes has been too deep to dig out of. Asked what Thompson would have to do to get an opportunity to lead the Sooners offense in a game, co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell preached patience.
“Kendal has to do what he has continued to do, practice hard and continue to prepare,” Norvell said. “He will ready when his opportunity comes. It is unfortunate; he got hurt at a very critical time in training camp when people were competing for the spot and it just hard to get an opportunity once the season starts.”
It’s tough to spread the practice reps to three different quarterbacks, Norvell contended, particularly with the Sooners trying to do everything they can to work on the improvements needed if their passing attack expects to click consistently as the season comes to a close.
The OU quarterbacks rank ninth in the Big 12 at 195.3 passing yards per game with Kansas as the only other conference squad averaging less than 200 passing yards per game. It's an ugly realization considering the league is full of sub-par and unsettled quarterback play.
OU coaches consistently say their players must prove themselves in practice to get an opportunity in games but even Stoops admitted things can be different when the lights turn on.
“It’s always a different feel,” Stoops said. “Practice to games can be drastically different.”
It doesn’t sound like the Sooners are going to stray away from their commitment to Bell anytime soon. Even though Norvell and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said Thompson has continued to develop since returning to full health, Stoops reaffirmed his commitment to Bell earlier this week.
“Are we going to go and experiment now?” Stoops asked. “I don’t think that’s the case. [Kendal]’s doing everything. He’s a wonderful young man with a bright future, and he’s a talented guy.”
Will we ever see Thompson's talent on full display on the Oklahoma Memorial Stadium turf? That question remains unanswered.
1. Baylor (8-0, 5-0 Big 12, last week 1): We’re 11 weeks into the season, and Baylor still leads the Big 12 in total defense, scoring defense and red zone defense. Those numbers aren’t a fluke, as Oklahoma found out the hard way. Ahmad Dixon is one of the best safeties in the conference; Eddie Lackey and Bryce Hager are a stout one-two punch at linebacker; and the defensive line has size and speed. The Sooners might not be very good offensively this year. But Baylor made them look downright ridiculous. This is a complete team.
2. Oklahoma State (8-1, 5-1, LW 2): This will be just the fifth time Oklahoma State has played Texas when both teams have been ranked in the BCS. The Longhorns have won all four such previous meetings. As a program still aspiring to greater heights, this is the kind of game the Cowboys need to win. Texas is banged up. Oklahoma State has the better defense. And as a result of both, the Cowboys are favored in Austin. Some of the more haunting moments in Oklahoma State history have occurred at the hands of the Longhorns. This is a prime opportunity for the Pokes to produce a memorable one.
3. Texas (7-2, 6-0, LW 3): The Longhorns have depth at running back and defensive tackle. But they no longer have all-conference players at those positions. That’s what tailback Johnathan Gray and defensive tackle Chris Whaley are. Can Texas overcome these additional hits against one of the hotter teams in the Big 12 in Oklahoma State this weekend? If the Horns do, Mack Brown should get votes for Big 12 Coach of the Year.
4. Kansas State (5-4, 3-3, LW 6): More and more, K-State is beginning to resemble the Baylor of last year. Maybe not in style, but most certainly in efficiency. The Wildcats scored touchdowns on their first five possessions to basically put then-No. 25 Texas Tech away on its home field by the second quarter. Think about this: From the third quarter of the West Virginia game three weeks ago to halftime at Texas Tech, K-State has scored touchdowns on 14 of 22 possessions (not counting kneel downs). That level of touchdown efficiency would even impress Baylor coach Art Briles. Like the Bears last year, K-State could finish this season with a flourish to set up a run back at the Big 12 title in 2014.
5. Oklahoma (7-2, 4-2, LW 4): The Sooners’ quarterback situations have been the envy of the Big 12 dating back to the advent of the Bob Stoops era. No more. OU has major problems at the position, not only for the rest of this season, but beyond. It’s difficult to see the Sooners winning a Big 12 championship with Blake Bell at quarterback next season. But the fact the Sooners won’t let Trevor Knight attempt a pass or Kendal Thompson step on the field raises red flags, too. OU had no shot of coming back on Baylor with Bell behind center, yet the Sooners still refused to give either one of the other quarterbacks a chance. Stoops is not one to make drastic changes. But if the Sooners don’t shake things up offensively, they could easily finish this regular season a disappointing 8-4.
6. Texas Tech (7-3, 4-3, LW 5): After three straight losses, the unranked Red Raiders find themselves four-touchdown underdogs to Baylor at a neutral site. A month ago, this game looked like it might be for the Big 12 crown. Instead, Tech will be playing to avoid going 1-11 in the month of November over the past three years.
7. West Virginia (4-6, 2-5, LW 7): The Mountaineers just missed out on landing another marquee home win, falling 47-40 to Texas in overtime. They have to put that behind them. By snagging these next two winnable games against Kansas and Iowa State, West Virginia will go to a bowl. Considering all the pieces the Mountaineers had to replace from last year, that would constitute a solid season for a team in rebuilding mode.
8. TCU (4-6, 2-5, LW 8): Credit TCU for not throwing in the towel after dropping three straight for the first time in the Gary Patterson era. The Horned Frogs continued to struggle offensively. But despite missing several key players, they gutted out a game-winning, fourth-quarter touchdown drive at Iowa State to keep their slim bowl hopes alive.
9. Iowa State (1-8, 0-6, LW 9): The Cyclones had yet to win a Big 12 game and were facing an opponent riding a three-game losing streak in a late-morning kickoff. And yet, Jack Trice Stadium was just about full. Cyclone Nation brought it this weekend, even if their team came up another goal-line stand short. Tweeted Iowa State defensive back Deon Broomfield: “Best fans in nation. Even through a season like this we have a packed stadium. Sorry for the letdown.” It’s been a rough year to be an Iowa State fan. You can bet the players will fight to reward that loyalty in the form of a Big 12 win before the end of the season.
10. Kansas (2-7, 0-6, LW 10): The Jayhawks are 118th in scoring offense, 119th in total offense and 120th in 10-plus-yard plays. Kansas' offense is going nowhere as it’s currently constructed. It’s time for coach Charlie Weis to give freshman quarterback Montell Cozart the keys to the offense. Even though the Jayhawks failed to reach the end zone at Oklahoma State, Cozart flashed promise, leading Kansas to 202 yards on the ground and 13 of its 15 first downs.
WACO, Texas -- The Phil Bennett who held court with reporters late Thursday night was telling stories and laughing and glad-handing anyone who approached.
He looked like a proud papa, and not just because of his bright yellow V-neck sweater.
"I told the kids today: This is a validating game," Bennett said. "Validation of who we are and who we want to be."
The only thing that shocked the veteran defensive coordinator about his Baylor defense on Thursday night, in a 41-12 victory over No. 10 Oklahoma, might've been the ice-cold bath safety Ahmad Dixon and his teammates dumped on Bennett's head in the game's final minute.
He reacted with stunned, wide-eyed silence as Dixon and the rest of the Bears defenders jumped and screamed. But Bennett at least can appreciate their affection.
"After the way I work 'em, it's amazing they even speak to me," he joked later.
But he has people talking about his defense. The Bears aced their first serious test of this 8-0 season.
The game could've swung in the opposite direction quickly on this night. Baylor's offense got off to an uncharacteristically slow start, and its defense was put in some tough spots early.
They got another opportunity for six points minutes later, with first and 10 at the 12, and settled for a field goal.
And on their next possession, the Sooners got three plays from the Baylor 31. Three incompletions and another field-goal attempt, this one missed.
When this Baylor team gives an opponent those kinds of chances, especially at home, touchdowns are a must. Oklahoma could've gone up 17-3 midway through the second quarter, putting real pressure on a team that doesn't have much experience playing from behind.
"You're not going to come here, get one touchdown and think you're going to win," OU coach Bob Stoops said.
Those goal-line stops proved to be the game-changer. Baylor put up 21 points in the second quarter and was never tested the rest of the way.
"I feel like that really set the tone," Baylor cornerback K.J. Morton said. "I feel like we had our back against the wall. We went out there on third down and were like, 'Come on. Everybody come together and do their job.'
"We practice really hard on the goal line, so everything we saw we'd worked on in practice. We already knew what they were going to do before they did it."
That's the kind of confidence Bennett has instilled in this defense. The starters have given up only nine touchdowns in eight games. They stopped the Sooners run game from the start, allowing 87 yards on 34 rushes. Oklahoma went 4-for-17 on third downs.
And this was not another cupcake opponent for Baylor. It wasn't a top-50 offense entering the night, but it was one that had nearly two weeks to prepare an attack that would expose this much-improved unit. Didn't happen.
"I think we just showed we can play defense and compete with any team in this conference and the nation," BU defensive end Chris McAllister said.
Bennett believes his defense really bought into that belief after a 35-25 win at Kansas State, perhaps the unit's worst defensive showing of the season. A new standard was set for what his players were willing to accept.
"We're taking it one game at a time," Bennett said. "If you do that, every game gets better and bigger. I do believe we can play with anybody in the country. Time will tell."
This is his third year in Waco. The first two, he said, required some of the best coaching he's ever done in a career that began in 1979. And that was just to build a foundation, to build trust and experience and develop leaders.
Now eight of his starters are juniors or seniors, and the depth behind them has never been better. Now Baylor is really playing some defense.
"We're not a tradition," Bennett said, "but we're going to be here awhile, the way this thing is going."
They had the attention of the nation on Thursday night, of folks skeptical that their improvements would hold up against a top-10 team.
"Keep doubting us," Dixon said. "We'll earn your respect sooner or later."
They might not convince everyone else until later, but on Thursday they at least got the Sooners.
This Oklahoma offense just isn’t very good.
Facing the nation’s top-scoring offense, the Oklahoma defense gave the Sooners a chance in Waco.
Instead, the Baylor defense dominated, giving its offense time to find its footing. By that point, the game was over. The sixth-ranked Bears handed the Sooners the fourth-worst loss of the Bob Stoops era, destroying No. 10 Oklahoma 41-12.
“You’re not going to come here, get one touchdown and think you’re going to win,” Stoops said. “We didn’t execute near well enough to give ourselves a chance.”
Despite failing to generate a single first down the entire first quarter without the assistance of a penalty, Oklahoma somehow led 5-3.
With Baylor’s high-powered offense still trying to overcome some big-game nerves, the Sooners had an opportunity to put the Bears in a hole going into halftime.
Oklahoma had racked up 277 yards on the ground its last game against Texas Tech. But without fullback Trey Millard, offensive coordinator Josh Heupel seemed hesitant to lean on the power running game that had become the offense’s calling card.
With the ball at the Bears 31 after a Baylor personal foul, Heupel instead called another three pass plays. And all three of Blake Bell’s attempts fell incomplete. Michael Hunnicutt missed a 48-yard field goal, and Baylor was in the end zone the other way five plays later.
Then, an Oklahoma defense that had been on the field virtually the entire half finally capitulated. And the rout was on.
“You’re not going to go out there and keep putting your defense out again and again against Baylor and keep giving them opportunities and not have it affect you,” Stoops said. “[The offense] chipped away at our team’s performance. In the end, you have to stay on the field. I don’t know how many three-and-outs we had, but we had way too many.”
The Sooners finished with six three-and-outs. But of their other eight possessions, only two lasted more than seven plays.
Stoops said he was confident in the offensive game plan going in. But it’s difficult to see how. From the very beginning, the Sooners looked completely bemused about what they wanted to do.
On the second drive, they curiously put in backup quarterback Trevor Knight for two runs.
Then on third-and-1, even more curiously they brought Bell back in for a quarterback keeper off-tackle that fooled no one.
But most curiously, not until its third possession did Oklahoma even bother handing the ball off to a running back.
Stoops noted afterward the original goal was to keep the Baylor offense off the field. But in the first half, the Sooners attempted 16 passes, while handing the ball off to their running backs seven times.
A depleted Oklahoma defense could not have played any better the first quarter-and-a-half. But with Bell struggling to complete passes or move the chains, the defense was under constant assault.
“Obviously [the offensive game plan] wasn’t executed very well,” was all Stoops could say about it.
Bell completed just 15 of 35 passes for 150 yards and two interceptions. His raw QBR for the night was 5.9, on a scale of 0-to-100. (Scary side stat: Bell now has two of the four worst QBR game performances in the Big 12 this year.) Without any commitment to getting the running backs involved, the Sooners averaged just 2.6 yards on the ground. As a result, Oklahoma went just 4-of-17 on third down attempts, and was stuffed twice on fourth down. In all, the Sooners gained just 237 yards, the worst output from an OU offense since 2007 at Colorado.
Both Stoops and Heupel were vague about whether Bell would be the starting quarterback going forward. And Stoops was even more vague about whether Heupel would remain the primary play-caller.
“We’re going to assess Sunday when we get back from recruiting,” he said, “and we’ll see what we do from there.”
But without any serious changes to the offense, the Sooners could be in for one crash-and-burn November. Perhaps even with serious changes.
Oklahoma still has to go to Kansas State in two weeks. Then, the Sooners travel to Stillwater for the regular season finale against Oklahoma State.
While Oklahoma has lost its offensive stride, the Wildcats and Cowboys are hitting theirs.
No doubt Millard’s absence hurt. By refusing to even answer the question about it, Stoops indicated as much.
But it’s hard to believe a fullback averaging less than four touches a game is the singular difference between an offense being good and bad.
The Sooners could be without arguably their best receiver for a while, too.
Sterling Shepard was knocked out of the game in the first quarter with an apparent head injury and didn’t return. Shepard has a history with concussions going back to high school.
“It's not good,” Stoops said. “We'll find out. All the guys that went off the field were hurt. We'll see how that ends up.”
Thanks to Baylor, the Sooners are firmly out of the Big 12 title. Thanks to its offense, Oklahoma had no chance.
To no surprise, Alabama's Nick Saban tops the chart with a salary of $5,545,852 for 2012. Along with Arkansas’ Bret Bielema, the only other $5 million coach is Texas’ Mack Brown. Interestingly, the Associated Press reported this week that Saban’s agent told Texas officials that Texas was the only school he would consider leaving Alabama for. To get Saban, the Longhorns would probably have to pony up a lot more than the $5.39 million he is making.
Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops remain in the top five in coaching salary with an income of $4.74 million.
All told, the Big 12 has six coaches whose salaries rank in the Top 25.
Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy is at $3.45 million after getting close to a $200,000 raise during the summer. Gundy’s salary ranks 11th nationally.
The only other coach in the Big 12 above the $3 million barrier is Gary Patterson. The TCU coach makes $3,120,760.
Kansas State’s Bill Snyder ($2.80 million) and West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen ($2.63 million) are the other two Big 12 coaches whose salaries rank in the Top 25.
Wonder why Baylor coach Art Briles might consider leaving? According to USA TODAY, he gets paid less than Kansas coach Charlie Weis, who makes $2.50 million. Briles earns just $2,426,360, which ranks 34th nationally. The Bears will probably have to ante up again to keep Briles in Waco, especially if the Longhorns come calling down the line (USA TODAY didn’t list any bonuses Briles might be eligible for).
There’s a sizeable drop-off to the final two Big 12 coaches. Kliff Kingsbury gets paid $1.86 million, though that’s sure to go up soon enough with the energy he’s brought to Texas Tech’s football program. Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads is last in the league with a salary of $1.71 million. Rhoads is still the 59th-highest paid coach in college football, ahead of Big Ten coaches Tim Beckman (Illinois), Kevin Wilson (Indiana) and Jerry Kill (Minnesota).
But to win their first Big 12 title, the Bears will have to deal with the league’s old bully Thursday night, the one who, year after year, is waiting to tussle with the league’s next up-and-comer.
Almost as impressive, in the six years Oklahoma didn’t win the title, the Sooners were in the mix well into November in three of them.
Once more, Oklahoma has maneuvered its way into the Big 12 title picture this season past the end of daylight saving time. The Sooners could take command of the conference race -- yet again -- by taking out the budding Bears.
“It’s always been hard -- evidenced that there’s not a whole bunch of people that got a whole bunch of 'em,” Stoops said Monday, referring to Big 12 championships. “You just count up how many everybody has, and not everybody has a whole bunch.
“It’s never been easy.”
But Stoops and his Sooners have seemingly made it look so.
While they haven’t played for a national title in five years, their sustained model of consistent dominance remains the envy of college football.
Since 2000, nobody from a power conference has as many league titles as Oklahoma. The only schools that come close are Ohio State and USC, which both claim seven. The Trojans, however, had two of their conference titles vacated; the Buckeyes lost one.
No else has more than five.
How have the Sooners accomplished what no other program has managed to match?
“First, it’s about consistently having good players and schemes and good [assistant] coaches that put it all together,” Stoops said. “Two, it’s the methodical way in how we approach the spring, the summer and go through the season, how we try and build our team, how we prepare and work to make ourselves better as we go through the year.”
In the face of adversity, the resilient Sooners have almost always found a way to persevere and get better.
Last year, Oklahoma opened the Big 12 with a home loss to Kansas State. But the Sooners bounced back by running rest of the table in the league, including a pair of come-from-behind, fourth-quarter victories over West Virginia and Oklahoma State, to share the league title with K-State.
In 2010, Oklahoma debuted at No. 1 in the BCS standings but lost twice over the following three weeks, making them long shots to win the Big 12. Instead, the Sooners rallied and upset Oklahoma State 47-41 on the road in the regular-season finale to win the Big 12 South. Then they recovered from a 17-0 deficit to knock off Nebraska in the final Big 12 championship game.
Two years before that, Oklahoma and its record-setting offense came up short in a wild shootout with the Longhorns. But the Sooners rebounded by annihilating second-ranked Texas Tech a month later to ascend back up the BCS standings to edge out Texas in a three-way tiebreaker for the Big 12 South.
Oklahoma’s most improbable conference run came in 2006. On the day before the first preseason practice, Stoops booted starting quarterback Rhett Bomar from the team for receiving improper benefits from a local car dealership. With no other viable alternative, Oklahoma had to move wide receiver Paul Thompson back to quarterback. The Sooners struggled initially, losing two games early in the season, including a 28-10 defeat to Texas. But they rebounded, grinding out eight straight wins to secure another Big 12 crown.
Not everything has gone Oklahoma’s way this season either.
Last month, the Sooners fell apart as heavy favorites in a shocking defeat to Texas. They’ve also lost three of their best players -- fullback Trey Millard, defensive tackle Jordan Phillips and linebacker Corey Nelson -- to season-ending injuries.
This week, they head to Baylor, which features the nation’s highest-scoring offense and a pair of Heisman hopefuls in quarterback Bryce Petty and running back Lache Seastrunk. Dating back to last year, the Bears have reeled off 11 victories in a row, coming by an average margin of more than five touchdowns.
As a result, the Sooners are better than two-touchdown underdogs -- just the third time they’ve been a double-digit 'dog under Stoops.
“It'll be a big challenge for us,” Stoops said.
Then again, history has proved it’s never wise to count Oklahoma out.
Especially in a Big 12 race.
It’s rare that a win over a Top 10 team feels so bittersweet.
“My heart is just broken for him,” Ikard said. “He’s one of those guys who just loves the game, and for it to happen on something like getting rolled up on a kickoff, that’s tough to swallow for everyone on this team.”
It's heartbreaking because Millard returned for his senior season to finish his career with his teammates as a critical cog in the OU machine. His numbers --17 carries for 97 yards, 11 receptions for 78 yards and two touchdowns -- don’t come close to representing his value. Millard often paved the way for an OU rushing offense that averages 234 rushing yards per game, and he has been the Sooners’ top special teams player for the past three seasons, according to coach Bob Stoops.
“He’s the best player on our football team,” Ikard said. “He’s the most versatile person on our football team. He’s the heart and soul of this team, and he’s one of the leaders.”
Millard, who has played 48 career games for OU, had the ability to line up at fullback or tight end and excel during his four-year career.
“All you can say about Trey is he is the best in the country in doing what he does,” offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “It’s been that way for a long time. We’re going to miss him. Other guys are going to have to step up and play well.”
As the Sooners strive to play without Millard it will be like trying to hang a picture without a hammer. It’s still doable but you’ll have to get creative to find a way to get the job done and your task just got much more difficult.
One player won’t be able to replace Millard. Tight end Brannon Green and fullback Aaron Ripkowski will be asked to fill the void on offense, with several candidates likely to fill his role on special teams. A huge portion of Millard’s value was in his ability to do so many things, thus allowing the Sooners to adapt without changing personnel.
And, with Baylor looming next on OU’s schedule, Millard’s injury couldn’t come at a worst time. The Sooners will undoubtedly try to control the ball against the Bears, leaning on its running game to help stop Baylor’s high-powered attack by keeping Bryce Petty and Lache Seastrunk on the sidelines.
“We’re going to miss him a lot,” Ikard said. “We’re going to have to make some serious adjustments on the offensive side of the football without No. 33 out there.”
The Sooners have used two tight end formations, featuring Millard and Ripkowski, to have running success this season. After Millard was injured early in the fourth quarter, OU used Green and Ripkowski in those two tight end formations and had success with 16 fourth-quarter rushes for 81 yards (5.06 yards per carry) against the Red Raiders.
Even with that success, Stoops isn’t looking forward to the task of replacing Millard.
“That’s tough because Trey is so versatile,” Stoops said. “We don’t have anybody else like that nor does anybody else. He’s pretty unique.”
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Play Podcast Part 2 of the articles on OSU's involvment in academic fraud was released. Some claim the expose is unfounded. Ian and Richard warn that there are two sides to all stories.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mack Brown, Manny Diaz and all the latest with the Texas Longhorns.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett give you the latest on the Johnny Manziel story and Charles Barkley weighs in. You won't believe who the outspoken NBA Hall of Famer is disappointed in and what he thinks about the autograph allegations.
Play Podcast Kirk Herbstreit joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett for his weekly visit to preview the 2013 college football season.
Play Podcast Former TCU and current Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the expectations for the Bengals this season, give a prediction for the TCU-LSU game and talk about what it's like having the Hard Knocks cameras follow him.
Play Podcast Randy Galloway, Matt Mosley, and Mark Friedman react to Dez Bryant's comments regarding the NCAA's ongoing investigation of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Play Podcast Richard Durrett, Ian Fitzsimmons and Glenn "Stretch" Smith react to Dez Bryant sounding off yesterday after practice about Johnny Manziel and the shadiness of the NCAA.
Play Podcast Former NCAA investigator and Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to weigh in on the Johnny Manziel drama and give some insight as to what goes on during an NCAA investigation.