Dallas Colleges: Curry Sexton

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 10

November, 2, 2014
Nov 2
9:00
AM CT
Trevor Knight was a nightmare to defend, Kevin White (TCU version) gave Kevin White (West Virginia version) everything he wanted, and a pair of Longhorns gave Texas' offense plenty of balance. Here's a look at the top performers in the Big 12 on Saturday.

Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight: Clearly Knight is tired of people pointing to him as the reason for OU’s occasional struggles offensively. The sophomore accounted for six touchdowns in a 59-14 win over Iowa State, with three touchdown passes and three touchdown runs. He was 22 of 35 for 230 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, while adding 16 carries for 146 yards and three scores. He was the definition of a dual-threat quarterback against the Cyclones.

TCU kicker Jaden Oberkrom: He buried a 37-yard field goal as time expired to help TCU survive West Virginia’s upset bid, 31-30. Enough said.

TCU cornerback Kevin White: He shut down Kevin White (West Virginia version) and added seven tackles, including two tackles for loss and one pass breakup. The TCU cornerback blanketed the West Virginia receiver throughout the game, limiting his impact on the outcome.

TCU safety Derrick Kindred: People constantly talk about his running mates in the secondary, from Sam Carter to Chris Hackett to Kevin White, but Kindred tends to show up whenever the Horned Frogs hit the field. He had 11 tackles (10 solo), including one tackle for loss, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

Baylor running back Devin Chafin: The sophomore had 14 carries for 112 yards, eight yards per carry and two touchdowns in the Bears 60-14 win over Kansas. His longest carry of 18 yards is a sign he was consistently carving out yardage as opposed to riding one big run past the 100-yard rushing mark.

Oklahoma’s offensive line: The Sooners finished with 59 carries for 510 rushing yards, 8.64 yards per carry and five touchdowns. Three different Sooners (Knight, Alex Ross, Samaje Perine) had over 100 rushing yards. Starters Tyrus Thompson, Adam Shead, Ty Darlington, Dionte Savage and Daryl Williams were the foundation of the running game with guard Nila Kasitati, tight end Blake Bell and fullbacks Aaron Ripkowski and Dimitri Flowers also helping to pave the way for a huge game on the ground for OU’s offense.

Texas running back Malcolm Brown: It was a workmanlike day for Brown, who had 22 carries for 116 yards and two touchdowns in the Longhorns’ 34-13 win over Texas Tech. He had four different runs of 10 yards or more.

Texas receiver John Harris: The senior didn’t get into the end zone, but he made a major impact. He had five receptions for 165 yards, averaging 33 yards per catch, as he helped keep the Red Raider defense honest and opened lanes for Brown.

Kansas State defensive back Morgan Burns: His 86-yard kick return for a touchdown got the crowd at Bill Snyder Family Stadium right back in the game after Oklahoma State’s game-opening scoring drive to silence the crowd. It capped it off with six tackles from his cornerback spot in KSU’s 48-14 win.

Kansas State receiver Curry Sexton: The Big 12’s best No. 2 receiving option had nine receptions for 159 yards and one touchdown against the Cowboys. Three of his nine receptions went for 15 yards or more, including 64- and 28-yard receptions early in the fourth quarter.

What we learned in the Big 12: Week 10

November, 2, 2014
Nov 2
12:30
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Here's what we learned about the Big 12 in Week 10:

1. TCU doesn't fold in fourth: Trailing by nine, road game, rough weather, an inconsistent Trevone Boykin, countless missed opportunities -- it was all lining up for another TCU fourth-quarter flop. But these Horned Frogs, three weeks after their debacle at Baylor, showed resolve and toughness under pressure. In a 31-30 comeback win that will boost their College Football Playoff résumé, the Frogs weren't as explosive as usual (for all those aforementioned factors) but did find a way to play clutch in all three phases late. Good timing, too, because Gary Patterson's gang might need some four-quarter heroics to survive against No. 9 Kansas State next week.

[+] EnlargeB.J. Catalon
Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY SportsTCU escaped with a win in Morgantown but faces a red-hot Kansas State team next week.
2. Sugar Bowl Trevor is back: We've seen a young, developing version of Trevor Knight a few times this season. In a 59-14 win over Iowa State, we once again got to see the one who shredded Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Knight racked up 376 yards of total offense and six touchdowns (three rushing), despite getting just one play out of Sterling Shepard. When Knight is bringing that confidence and dual-threat efficiency, this offense can do it all -- he was one of three 100-yard rushers -- and blow a game wide open. The Oklahoma offense we saw Saturday can definitely hang with and challenge Baylor next week, but Sugar Bowl Trevor has to show up again.

3. Mountaineers play not to lose and lose: West Virginia turned the ball over five times yet still had every opportunity to upset TCU. Its efforts to nurse a lead and run out the clock were totally fruitless in the fourth: Three drives, nine plays, a net gain of minus-7 yards, three punts. When West Virginia got the ball back up 30-28 with 3:46 left, a monumental win was only a couple first downs away. No dice. Why so conservative with the playcalling? Clint Trickett threw just one pass (an incompletion) in the quarter, and Dana Holgorsen admitted afterward that's because Trickett was rattled. Regaining confidence is a must this week after such a disastrous finish.

4. K-State firing on all cylinders: The Wildcats couldn't be any more ready to take on TCU and the rest of the Big 12's best. They reminded us of that again Saturday with their 48-14 destruction of Oklahoma State. KSU scored 45 straight points after falling behind 7-0. Jake Waters and his receiving duo of Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton were masterful, as usual. The defense gave up 48 yards in the second half, even while using backups. This was start-to-finish domination for a second straight week, and three of KSU's five Big 12 wins have come by double-digit margins. You do not want to play these guys right now.

5. Texas' bowl dream isn't dead: The Longhorns overcame an ugly start and rolled in Lubbock 34-13, with 24 unanswered points, to improve to 4-5. All of those points came after Quandre Diggs knocked Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes out of the game with a vicious hit. Some reasons for encouragement? The Longhorns' run game finally got moving with 240 yards, and the starting D allowed just seven points. They have to go 2-of-3 against West Virginia, Oklahoma State and TCU to hit six wins. The odds of pulling that off aren’t great, but Texas at least took care of business on Saturday.

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Kansas State clocked the Cowboys 48-14 on Saturday night at Bill Snyder Family Stadium to remain in the thick of the Big 12 title and College Football Playoff chases. Here’s what happened:

How the game was won: Oklahoma State scored a touchdown on its opening drive, but K-State dominated the rest of the way. The Wildcats picked off Cowboys QB Daxx Garman twice, and wideouts Curry Sexton and Tyler Lockett combined to finish with 253 yards receiving to propel the K-State offense.

Game ball goes to: K-State cornerback Morgan Burns. After the Cowboys opened with a score, Burns returned the ensuing kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown, and the Wildcats never relinquished momentum. Burns also was stout in coverage and had six tackles.

What it means: The Wildcats needed to take care of business to stick in the Big 12 title and playoff hunts, and they did just that. K-State has a brutal November schedule coming up, but the Wildcats also have plenty of momentum. Oklahoma State, which started the season 5-1, has now lost three in a row and is in danger of missing out on a bowl appearance.

Playoff implication: The Wildcats will have a prime opportunity to state their case for inclusion in the final four when they travel to TCU next weekend. The Horned Frogs’ win at West Virginia earlier Saturday set up the clash with K-State as a de facto playoff elimination game.

Best play: Curry has been a human highlight reel all year, and he added to his film collection with this acrobatic 17-yard grab to give K-State a 21-7 lead early in the second quarter.

video What's next: The Wildcats go to TCU for a showdown that will carry major Big 12 title and playoff implications. Oklahoma State will get a much-needed week off and then will host Texas. With road trips to Baylor and Oklahoma following, the Cowboys will probably have to beat the Longhorns to qualify for a bowl.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 6

October, 6, 2014
Oct 6
10:00
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Taking stock of Week 6 in the Big 12:

Team of the week: The Horned Frogs landed their biggest win since joining the Big 12, with a 37-33 victory over then fourth-ranked Oklahoma. TCU’s revamped attack moved the ball up and down on Oklahoma’s vaunted defense.Then in the fourth quarter, the Horned Frogs locked up the Oklahoma offense, which had the ball three times on the TCU side of the field in the final 7 minutes and failed to score a point. With the preseason favorite Sooners vanquished, TCU can take command of the Big 12 race this weekend with a win over the defending Big 12 champs in Baylor.

Disappointment of the week: On a weekend in which Oregon, Alabama, Texas A&M and UCLA all loss, the Sooners had an opportunity to cement their status as a playoff team. Instead, Oklahoma fell victim to the upset, as well. The Sooners had their chances. But two Trevor Knight interceptions in the fourth quarter helped seal the TCU win late. The Sooners aren’t out of the playoff race yet. But their chances took a hit.

Big (offensive) man on campus: Trevone Boykin went into the offseason not knowing if he would be a quarterback or a wide receiver on the TCU offense. But Boykin’s rededication to the finer points of being a quarterback culminated with a speculator effort against Oklahoma. Boykin accounted for a career-high 395 yards of offense, and two touchdowns. TCU is finally a contender in the Big 12, and Boykin's dramatic improvement as a quarterback is a major reason why.

Big (defensive) men on campus: The linebackers often get overshadowed by the rest of the TCU defense, but nobody played a bigger part in the Horned Frogs’ win over Oklahoma than Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet. Dawson picked off Knight at the beginning of the fourth quarter and raced 41 yards for the touchdown that would put TCU up for good. Then late in the fourth quarter on fourth-and-1 Mallet stuffed Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine short of the first down to help clinch the Horned Frogs’ victory. Together, the two combined for 21 tackles in a pair of Herculean efforts.

Special-teams players of the week: As Baylor’s offense sputtered, its special teams trio of Beau Blackshear, Terrell Burt and Spencer Roth was the difference in the Bears’ 28-7 win over Texas. Blackshear blocked Texas’ 52-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter, and Burt scooped it up and returned it for a score, which remained Baylor’s only touchdown until Roth sparked the next in the third quarter. The Baylor veteran punter called his own fake, and dashed 19 yards for a first down to midfield. Three plays later, Bryce Petty hit Antwan Goodley with a 29-yard touchdown pass, catapulting the Bears to the win in Austin.

video video Play of the week: Tyler Lockett is the man at wide receiver for Kansas State, but Curry Sexton has emerged as a dynamic wingman, highlighted by this one-handed touchdown grab in K-State’s 45-13 win over Texas Tech.

video Stat of the week: Kansas' Trevor Pardula punted 14 times in a 33-14 loss at West Virginia. The 14 punts were the most by an FBS team in one game since 2010. The Jayhawks punted on their first 10 possessions, and took only one snap in West Virginia territory until late in the third quarter.

Quote of the week: "I don’t know how things change, but it’s frustrating and it’s not fair." -- Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard, on Big 12 officiating

Quote of the week II: "Trevor Knight, call me!" -- Katy Perry, while hitting on the Oklahoma quarterback during her guest picker segment on "College GameDay"

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 4

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
9:00
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A true freshman made his case to become a household name, a pair of Jayhawks changed the game, another target emerged in Manhattan, Kansas, and the Big 12's most consistent receiving threat did it again. Here's a look at the best performances in the Big 12 this week:

RB Samaje Perine, Oklahoma: Even if you didn't watch the game you probably already know how dominant the Sooners true freshman running back was in OU's 45-33 win over West Virginia. He finished with 34 carries for 242 yards and four touchdowns. And he got better as the game went on. Keith Ford better hurry back.

Oklahoma's offensive line: While Perine basks in all the headlines, the Sooners offensive line was the foundation of OU's ground-and-pound victory in Morgantown, West Virginia. Perine and Alex Ross (eight rushes for 56 yards) each averaged at least 7 yards per carry. Tackles Daryl Williams and Tyrus Thompson, guards Nila Kasitati, Adam Shead and Dionte Savage along with center Ty Darlington deserve a ton of credit.

WR Justin McCay, Kansas: His numbers aren't staggering. His impact was. The Jayhawks receiver changed the game with his 60-yard catch and run for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. McCay finished with two receptions for 66 yards and the score but KU might not have defeated Central Michigan, 24-10, without McCay's big play.

LB Jake Love, Kansas: Fellow linebacker Ben Heeney was outstanding, as usual, but Love was very productive in his own right. He finished with five tackles including four tackles for loss and one sack. His back-to-back tackles for loss in the middle of the fourth quarter helped set up Corey Avery's touchdown on the Jayhawks next possession, which essentially sealed the win.

WR Curry Sexton, Kansas State: The Wildcats got the usual big plays from Tyler Lockett but Sexton provided a quality second option for K-State's offense. He had a career-high 11 receptions for 121 yards in the Wildcats' 20-14 loss to Auburn. Six of Sexton's 11 receptions came on third down and seven of his catches resulted in a first down. His previous career high was six receptions and 112 against West Virginia in 2013.

WR Kevin White, West Virginia: The Mountaineers' senior continues to prove Lockett and Baylor's Antwan Goodley have competition for the honor of Big 12's best receiver. White had 10 receptions for 173 yards and one touchdown. It was his fourth straight 100-yard game to start the season and third game with at least 140 receiving yards.
Kansas State will have one less weapon at its disposal this fall.

[+] EnlargeDaniel Sams
Ed Zurga/Getty ImagesDaniel Sams accounted for 1,261 total yards and 15 scores last season.
Daniel Sams decision to leave KSU is a clear step backward for the Wildcats offense as the former quarterback turned receiver was one of the Big 12’s most explosive players. In 2013, he was a useful and versatile weapon, leading all Big 12 quarterbacks with 807 rushing yards, ranking No. 3 in the conference in Total QBR (83.4 on a scale of 100 with 50 being average) and tied for fifth in the Big 12 with 11 touchdowns.

This spring, Sams moved to receiver and failed to make a mark in the offense, likely sparking his plan to transfer. He had two receptions for 9 yards in the spring game.

Sams' transfer takes away options for Bill Snyder’s offense, a group searching for playmakers after the departures of running back John Hubert and receiver Tramaine Thompson. Even if Sams never found his footing at receiver this fall, he still could have been a valuable weapon as a Wildcat quarterback in short yardage situations and provided a quality safety net behind starting quarterback Jake Waters.

Redshirt freshman Jesse Ertz and sophomore Joe Hubener are battling to be Waters’ backup, leaving the Wildcats with inexperienced signal-callers behind their senior starter. Hubener played in one game last season with no pass attempts, while Ertz redshirted.

The Wildcats should be fine at receiver with Tyler Lockett, arguably the conference’s top receiver, and Curry Sexton, who brings veteran experience to the group. Deante Burton, Andre Davis and Judah Jones also could help fill the playmaking void in KSU’s passing game.

On the surface, Sams’ departure doesn’t look like a major setback as he saw limited action for KSU in the home stretch of the 2013 season, with just one pass attempt and nine carries for 23 yards in the final three games of the year.

But, make no mistake: Sams was one of KSU’s top 11 players on the offensive side of the ball. Snyder would have found a way to use him, even in special situations, to help the Wildcats create problems for defenses. Even though they have done it before, Sams’ big-play ability will be tough to replace and creates one more obstacle between the Wildcats and their hopes of winning their second Big 12 title in three seasons.

Big 12 post-spring breakdown: WRs

April, 30, 2014
Apr 30
3:00
PM CT
With spring ball done, we’re reexamining and re-ranking the positional situations of every Big 12 team, continuing Wednesday with receivers (and tight ends). These outlooks could look different in August. But here’s how we see them post-spring:

1. Baylor (pre-spring ranking: 1): The Bears maintained their commanding advantage over any other receiving corps in the league. Antwan Goodley remains an All-American candidate, and Corey Coleman looks primed to become Baylor’s next great wideout following a spectacular spring. Levi Norwood, Jay Lee and Clay Fuller are proven performers. And more talent is about to arrive, including blue-chip freshman K.D. Cannon. The Baylor receivers are as formidable as any position grouping in the league.

2. Texas Tech (3): The Red Raiders lost their two best pass-catchers from last year in tight end Jace Amaro and Eric Ward, but this group is overflowing with dynamic young talent. After reeling in two touchdowns in the bowl and dominating Texas Tech’s spring game, Jakeem Grant looks like he’s on the verge of becoming a star in the league. Bradley Marquez should be even sharper after giving up baseball to focus on football this offseason. And the speedy Reginald Davis is a potential big-play threat on the perimeter. All three players can fly, and they have a quarterback in Davis Webb who can deliver the ball to them down field. The unit goes deep in the rotation, too, with D.J. Polite-Bray, Devin Lauderdale, Jordan Davis and Derreck Edwards all poised to be factors.

3. Oklahoma State (4): The Cowboys don’t have a Justin Blackmon or Dez Bryant. But they have a deep rotation and a budding All-Big 12 candidate in Jhajuan Seales, who is ready to take over as the offense’s go-to receiver. Marcell Ateman, David Glidden and Brandon Sheperd were all significant parts of the corps last year, as well, and Blake Webb and Austin Hays, who both made starts two years ago as true freshmen, bounced back from injury-plagued 2013 seasons to impress in the spring. Track star/running back Tyreek Hill also will line up in the slot at times and will be a home-run threat any time he touches the ball. Considering none of the projected eight in the two-deep will be a senior, this group should only continue to get better, too.

4. Texas (5): Don’t fault the Texas receivers for not making a bigger impact in the spring game. For three quarters, reserve quarterback Tyrone Swoopes struggled to get them the ball. While the Longhorns probably lack an All-Big 12-caliber performer, they boast an experienced, reliable trio in three-year starter Jaxon Shipley and juniors Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson. Daje Johnson, who caught a Hail Mary from Swoopes in the spring game, brings even more playmaking to the group as a full-time receiver. Texas obviously has QB issues. But if the Horns can find the right player there, that QB will have reliable weapons to operate within the passing game.

5. Kansas State (2): K-State still has one of the best receivers in the country in Tyler Lockett, who is deserving of preseason All-American consideration. But the rest of the unit didn’t round out during the spring as well as the Wildcats would have hoped. Curry Sexton (eight catches for 88 yards) and Deante Burton (six catches for 48 yards) were both solid in the spring game. So was freshman Judah Jones, who hauled in a 51-yard scoring grab. But converted QB Daniel Sams still has a ways to go before making a huge impact, and highly touted juco transfer Andre Davis failed to make a big spring splash. Any receiving corps featuring Lockett is going to be a handful. But the supporting cast still needs work.

6. Iowa State (7): The Cyclones have the top returning pass-catching tight end in the league in E.J. Bibbs, who coach Paul Rhoads believes could vie for All-American honors. Quenton Bundrage has all-league potential, though he disappeared too many times last season, and did so again in the spring game. Jarvis West has proven he can make plays out of the slot, and the Cyclones have depth on the perimeter in P.J. Harris, Brett Medders and D'Vario Montgomery, who all developed rapidly during the spring. With highly touted signee Allen Lazard set to join the rotation, the Cyclones could boast their best receiving corps in several years.

7. Oklahoma (6): The Sooners feature a bona-fide No. 1 receiver in Sterling Shepard, who has 96 career catches his first two seasons. But the position is the Sooners' biggest question mark. With 12 catches last year, Durron Neal is the team's second-leading returning receiver. Austin Bennett, Jordan Smallwood and Derrick Woods all had moments in the spring game, but the competition for snaps will carry over into the fall. Talented four-star incoming freshman Michiah Quick could be a factor in the slot once he gets to Norman.

8. West Virginia (8): Starters Mario Alford, Kevin White and Daikiel Shorts are all back, but, collectively, must produce more consistently than they did last season. Alford seems to be the key. He had 215 receiving yards in West Virginia’s final game of 2013, and he has the talent and speed to give the Mountaineers a dangerous No. 1 wideout. Cody Clay is a valuable tight end, though does most of his damage with his blocking. Shelton Gibson, who was ineligible last year and this spring as a partial qualifier, is a former four-star recruit and could give West Virginia a boost.

9. TCU (9): The Horned Frogs actually had two positive developments at this position during the spring. Jordan Moore made a seamless transition from running back to receiver and is in line to give TCU a physical and fast presence on the outside. Then, former Texas A&M QB Matt Joeckel transferred in, potentially clearing the way for Trevone Boykin to swing back to receiver. This group has depth, with Ty Slanina, Josh Doctson, David Porter and Cameron Echols-Luper returning. But the future of the most talented receiver on the roster -- Brandon Carter -- remains in doubt after he was recently arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession, after sitting out spring ball to focus on academics.

10: Kansas (10): The Jayhawks might be at the bottom here, but they seem primed to field their best one-two punch at receiver since Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe roamed Lawrence five years ago. Miami (Ohio) transfer Nick Harwell has taken on a much-needed vocal leadership role among this group and brings a track record of production, having finished second nationally in receiving in 2011. Flanking Harwell will be former running back Tony Pierson, who made the full-time move to receiver this offseason. While he’s raw as a receiver, Pierson is capable of the big play. Rodriguez Coleman also emerged this spring as potential viable third option. The dark days of the Jayhawk receivers posing no threat in the passing game appear to be over.

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: WRs

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20
3:30
PM CT
As we wait for the start of spring ball, we’ll be examining and ranking the positional situations of every team, continuing Thursday with receivers (and tight ends). Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how we see them at the moment:

[+] EnlargeTyler Lockett
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesTyler Lockett had seven games with more than 100 yards receiving and two games with more than 200.
1. Baylor: Antwan Goodley hauled in a Big 12-best 1,339 receiving yards and is back for his senior campaign. Levi Norwood filled in well as a second option after Tevin Reese’s injury, and, like Goodley, can also fly. The Bears are also about to enjoy the fruits of back-to-back monster recruiting classes in the position, including five ESPN 300 players in the last two years. The best of those, incoming freshman K.D. Cannon, has the talent to be Baylor’s next great receiver.

2. Kansas State: The Wildcats have the Big 12’s finest receiver in Tyler Lockett, which warrants them a high ranking even if the supporting cast isn’t tantalizing. Lockett was basically uncoverable downfield last season, and exploded once QB Jake Waters got more comfortable. Curry Sexton has turned into a reliable possession target. The Wildcats also welcome one of the best juco receivers in the country in Andre Davis. If Davis pans out, this has a chance to be among the best receiving corps Bill Snyder has ever had.

3. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders lose an ultra-productive player in Eric Ward and a superstar in tight end Jace Amaro, but this position remains stocked with talent. Jitterbug slot man Jakeem Grant was sixth in the league last year in receiving, and showed in the Holiday Bowl how dangerous he can be when 100 percent focused. Bradley Marquez and Jordan Davis are reliable pass-catchers, but the player to watch here is Reginald Davis. A former high school quarterback, Davis has gradually picked up the nuances of playing receiver. But as he flashed in a kickoff return touchdown against Arizona State, Davis is a playmaker with the ball in his hands, and could be a major factor.

4. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys lose their top three receivers, but outside Baylor, no team in the Big 12 has more WRs ready to contribute in 2014 than Oklahoma State. Jhajuan Seales and Marcell Ateman combined for 61 receptions as freshmen, and will give the Cowboys a physical presence on the perimeter. Brandon Shepard and David Glidden were also part of the regular rotation, and Austin Hayes, who started nine games in 2012, would have been had he not missed virtually the entire season with injury. The two to watch here, though, have yet to play a down, but will bring major speed. Former ESPN 300 recruit Ra’Shaad Samples redshirted last year, but reportedly ran a 4.3-second 40 last summer. That might seem slow compared to Tyreek Hill, the nation’s No. 4 juco recruit, who doubles as a track phenom.

5. Texas: Jaxon Shipley isn’t his brother Jordan, but he’s still a quality college receiver. Even with all of Texas’ QB issues, Shipley already has 159 career receptions. The Longhorns have speed and playmaking elsewhere in downfield burner Marcus Johnson, Kendall Sanders and the versatile Daje Johnson. The Longhorns also signed one of three best incoming WRs in the Big 12 in Armanti Foreman. This group could really thrive with an uptick in QB play.

[+] EnlargeJordan Thompson
AP Photo/Chris BernacchiJordan Thompson showed near the end of the season the type of weapon he can be in West Virginia's offense.
6. Oklahoma: The Sooners graduate Jalen Saunders, who was “Mr. Everything” for the OU offense. But Sterling Shepard seems primed to take over the No. 1 role after hauling in 51 passes and seven touchdowns. But who will surround him? Durron Neal is the only other player on the roster with much experience. The good news for the Sooners is they’ve recruited superbly at the position. Among many options, the player to keep an eye on is freshman Jordan Smallwood, who was turning heads last summer, until a foot fracture forced him to redshirt.

7. Iowa State: Quenton Bundrage is one of the more underrated receivers in the league despite ranking third in the league. With Amaro gone, E.J. Bibbs becomes the best receiving tight end in the league after hauling in 39 passes last year. Iowa State’s standing here, though, is contingent on incoming freshman Allen Lazard, one the most highly touted WRs Iowa State has ever signed. If Lazard can make an immediate impact, like the Iowa State coaching staff is banking on, this could become one of the better units in the league.

8. West Virginia: There’s no corps in the Big 12 that could move up more spots than West Virginia’s. The Mountaineers didn’t have a receiver rank in the top 15 in the Big 12 last year, but Kevin White, Mario Alford and Daikiel Shorts all ranked in the top 20. All three are back, too, as is the diminutive Jordan Thompson, who finally came alive the second half of the season. Former ESPN 300 recruit Shelton Gibson, who redshirted, will also join the rotation. The Mountaineers rank eighth for now, but they are closer to Kansas State than to Kansas.

9. TCU: This week, TCU kicked receiver LaDarius Brown off the team. Considering Brown tied for the team lead in receptions last year, it’s a tough loss. This unit is obviously better with Trevone Boykin, but he might have to play QB, at least until someone else emerges there. The Horned Frogs desperately need Brandon Carter to become a No. 1 receiver. After a promising sophomore year, Carter was basically a non-factor, before showing signs of bouncing back the last month of the season. TCU needs him back in a big way in 2014.

10. Kansas: The Jayhawks didn’t have a receiver with more than 11 catches last year. Some of that was the quarterbacks. Some of it was, well, the receivers. The group had little overall impact, which put tremendous pressure on James Sims and the running game. With Sims gone, the receivers have to elevate their game significantly for Kansas to have a chance of taking a step forward. The Jayhawks do have a solid tight end in Jimmay Mundine, who had five TD catches. And Tony Pierson could play more receiver this year. But somebody else needs to emerge.

Tough bowl slate an opportunity for Big 12

December, 23, 2013
12/23/13
9:10
AM CT
Five underdogs.

Three by double digits.

And only two favorites.

With this bowl season comes a prime opportunity for the Big 12 to earn national respect. Yet also, an opportunity for calamity.

This year, even though Baylor remained undefeated until the final month and Oklahoma State had just one loss until the final game, the Big 12 was never a factor in the national championship race.

[+] EnlargeStoops
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsBob Stoops said his focus is on the Sooners playing in 2014, not the talented ones who are ineligible.
One reason why is no Big 12 team opened in the preseason top 10. And that was due in part to a lackluster bowl showing from the conference in 2012.

Big 12 co-champ Kansas State couldn’t hang with Oregon in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Johnny Manziel wiped out the Big 12’s other co-champ, Oklahoma in, the AT&T Cotton Bowl.

All told, the Big 12 went 4-5, with its only impressive victory coming courtesy of Baylor in the Holiday Bowl.

In the spring, despite the poor showings at the top, Sooners coach Bob Stoops championed the depth of the conference. But unable to fill out its quota this year with bowl-eligible teams, the Big 12’s depth argument has dissipated.

And another poor bowl showing from the conference will do nothing but widen the Big 12’s national perception gap with power conferences like the SEC.

Of course, with several premier matchups, the chance is also there to narrow the gap -- starting with a pair of matchups against top teams from the SEC.

Oklahoma gets defending national championship Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, and Oklahoma State faces SEC East Division champ Missouri in the Cotton.

Sweeping those would be a huge step forward for the Big 12, as college football transitions into next year’s College Football Playoff, where perception will play a major part.

But if the Bedlam schools get waxed the way K-State and Oklahoma did last year it would do major damage to the Big 12’s case for de facto annual inclusion into the four-team tournament.

“There’s always a lot of talk because there has to be because newspapers have to be filled and air time has to be filled,” said Stoops, when asked about carrying the Big 12 banner in New Orleans. “You have to talk about something, but we don’t concern ourselves with it.”

Yet whether Stoops cares to admit it, his Sooners will in fact be carrying the Big 12 banner as two-touchdown underdogs against college football’s preeminent program of the last five years.

“Being a competitor and going up against a team like this is going to be a challenge, but it’s going to be a lot of fun, as well,” Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin said. “We’re pretty anxious and we’re just excited to get out there and play.”

The Cowboys will be carrying the banner against the SEC, too. Even though they’ll be playing a team that was in the Big 12 just two years ago.

“We've always had a lot of respect for Missouri,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. ““It's interesting that they made the change of going into the SEC and having tremendous success right away.”

[+] EnlargeMike Gundy
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesMike Gundy and the Cowboys have drawn former Big 12 rival Missouri in the Cotton Bowl.
“It certainly makes us feel good about ourselves being in the Big 12.”

Missouri might be a former Big 12 team proving its chops in the SEC. But style points the Tigers rack up count for their current conference, not their previous one.

And as only one-point underdogs, Oklahoma State might have the best opportunity of any Big 12 school to land the conference a landmark bowl win.

“With as many games as they've won and their current ranking,” Gundy said, “they're talked about as a really good football team.”

The Big 12 has opportunity elsewhere to garner respect by toppling a pair of “name” teams.

Like fellow Big 12 flagship Oklahoma, Texas is a two-touchdown underdog to Oregon in the Valero Alamo Bowl, even though the Longhorns will be playing just 80 miles from their Austin campus.

Texas rallied to defeat Oregon State in the Alamo last year. But the challenge here will be far greater in coach Mack Brown’s final hurrah. The Ducks ranked second in the polls for much of the season, and despite some midseason struggles still boast one of the top offenses in college football.

The Longhorns averaged 31 points per game. Oregon scored that few only twice all season.

“They are someone you definitely have to keep up with or you'll get left behind quickly,” said Texas guard Trey Hopkins. “It will be a big challenge for us against a talented opponent.”

K-State is back in the desert for the postseason, this time the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Even though it’s not a BCS bowl, the Wildcats can also give the Big 12 a big win over a big name.

“As a kid growing up, Michigan is one of those poster programs that you see all over TV, you watch them growing up,” said K-State receiver Curry Sexton. “You kind of almost idolize them – one of those programs that every kid in the country likes to watch play.”

Arizona State might not be idolized the way Michigan is. But this season, the Sun Devils are more talented, and were a fringe top 10 team late in the season. That’s a difficult National University Holiday Bowl challenge for a Texas Tech team that closed out the season on a five-game losing streak and lost starting quarterback Baker Mayfield to transfer two weeks ago.

Which is why for the Big 12 it’s incumbent Baylor prevails as the conference’s only comfortable favorite in the Fiesta over Central Florida.

Tough matchups abound elsewhere. Which is an opportunity for the league to prove its playoff mettle. But also one to lose precious ground in college football’s perception wars.

“It always helps,” Stoops said of beating the likes of an Alabama. “It’s definitely something that could boost you.”

Big 12 unsung heroes: Week 9

October, 28, 2013
10/28/13
2:00
PM CT
Here are the unsung heroes in the Big 12 for Week 9.

Baylor receiver Levi Norwood: Nobody even mentions Norwood when the Bears come to mind. Yet he has been a solid contributor throughout the season and was one of five Bears to record at least 100 all-purpose yards (104), including six receptions for 66 yards, in their 59-14 win over Kansas. His returns and open-field ability provide yet another weapon for Art Briles’ squad.

Kansas linebacker Victor Simmons: Simmons has been consistently among the most productive defenders for the Jayhawks, recording at least five tackles in KU’s past five games. He continued his productive play with six tackles, two forced fumbles and one tackle for loss in KU’s 59-14 loss to Baylor.

Kansas State receiver Curry Sexton: The junior provided a quality No. 2 receiving option for the Wildcats against West Virginia with six receptions for 112 yards in KSU’s 35-12 win. He was starting to emerge with Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson sidelined in the Wildcats’ previous two games then continued his solid contribution to the offense on Saturday.

Iowa State receiver Quenton Bundrage: The Cyclones receiver made two superb touchdown catches against Oklahoma State, beating standout cornerback Justin Gilbert in one-on-one situations. He finished with four receptions for 50 yards in ISU’s 58-27 loss.

Oklahoma running back Damien Williams: The senior had a quiet but enormous impact on the Sooners’ 38-30 win over Texas Tech. A lot of the attention went to Blake Bell for his solid performance, but Williams had 19 carries for 97 yards and two touchdowns and added a 30-yard reception to finish with 127 all-purpose yards.

Oklahoma State offensive line: The Cowboys passed for 78 yards yet scored six offensive touchdowns. OSU’s offensive line has been much-maligned after the offense’s struggles this season, but they played their best game of the season on Saturday, paving the way for 342 rushing yards including 219 rushing yards and four touchdowns from Desmond Roland in OSU’s 58-27 win.

Texas defensive tackle Chris Whaley: With Jackson Jeffcoat earning Big 12 defensive player of the week honors alongside him, Whaley was almost as productive. He finished with three tackles including two tackles for loss and one sack against TCU. The Longhorns’ overall dominance up front played a key role in UT’s 30-7 win.

TCU receiver LaDarius Brown: The sophomore receiver finished with seven receptions for 87 yards and one touchdown in the Horned Frogs’ 30-7 loss. He’s a big, talented. target at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds but he needs to be more consistent and productive to provide a spark for TCU’s offense. in the final month of the season.

Texas Tech safety Tre' Porter: It was a rough day for the Red Raider defense but it would have been even worse without Porter. He had 13 tackles, including nine solo stops, and forced a fumble. He often ended up in one-on-one situations in the open field with OU’s talented playmakers and Porter won his share.

West Virginia safety Karl Joseph: The sophomore provided an early spark for the Mountaineers, forcing a fumble on Kansas State’s first possession. He finished with a team-high 12 tackles, all solo, including two tackles for loss, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

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