Dallas Colleges: Davion Pierson
Phil Steele released his recent rankings of the nation's top 15 quarterback units, and the Big 12 didn't make a single appearance. (Even the WAC had a team in the rankings, with San Jose State.)
It has to be the first time in a long while the Big 12 hasn't made an appearance on the list, but one, it makes sense from Steele's perspective. The amount of returning talent in the Big 12 is pretty dire. TCU's Casey Pachall missed the last nine games of last season and didn't throw a ball or work out from October to January and Texas' David Ash is an above average passer but not a top 15 guy nationally.
Ultimately, I wouldn't fret too much about the Big 12's absence. It's about returning talent, but this time next year, the Big 12's likely to have plenty of solid, productive passers. We've written about that a lot this offseason, and Baylor's Bryce Petty was Steele's pick for the Big 12's first-team QB. I'd probably agree, but you can't put a guy with 14 career passes on your top 15 national rankings in the preseason.
The lack of experience across the league is the only reason you're seeing names like Petty's and Michael Brewer on Big 12 top five lists.
Steele also released his list of the top 15 defensive line units, where the Big 12 fared much better. With Jackson Jeffcoat and Malcom Brown, as well as the addition of Houston transfer Zeke Riser, it's no surprise to see the Longhorns at No. 5.
TCU is the only other Big 12 team on the list, checking in at No. 10. Devonte Fields is the obvious headliner there, but Steele makes a nice catch in giving a shoutout to two very underrated tackles in Chucky Hunter and Davion Pierson. Those two guys will make Fields' job a whole lot easier this season, and helped land TCU on the list, proving the Frogs are more than a one-man show up front on defense.
We're back with financial terms that make little sense out of context, but some Big 12 trends that make plenty of sense in context.
Let's get to it. Here's what's rising and falling this week:
Rising: Electrifying punt returns
The Big 12 hadn't had a punt returned for a touchdown in conference play all season, but Justin Brown changed that pretty quickly on Saturday, taking a punt back 90 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. It was the Sooners' first punt returned for a score since Ryan Broyles did the deed in Bedlam back in 2009, and Brown wasn't the only one with a big play in the special teams. Brown, a Penn State transfer, is averaging 19 yards a return this year, the best mark in the Big 12.
Falling: Penalties drawn by Big 12 teams
What a weird, weird stat this is. Iowa State has the most penalties committed against them in the Big 12 this season, with 45 flags for 397 yards, an average of 6.4 yards a penalty. The weird part? That's 44th nationally. Not a single Big 12 team has drawn enough penalties this season to make the national top 40. Another odd part of that stat? Arizona leads the nation in penalties drawn, with 69 for 688 yards. Oklahoma State accounted for 15 of those and 167 yards of penalties, but the Wildcats have had three games since in which an opponent committed double-digit penalties. Last year, four Big 12 teams were in the top 20 of penalties drawn, led by Kansas State, at No. 10.
Rising: Kansas State's turnover margin
The Wildcats are this year's Oklahoma State, apparently. K-State is +13 in turnover margin this year, with a six-turnover gap between themselves and the next-best team in the Big 12. That number ranks seventh nationally, but K-State is one of five undefeated teams that rank in the top seven in turnover margin.
Falling: West Virginia's offense
Your guess is as good as mine for why WVU's offense is struggling. Part of it is the inability to run the ball, but it's hard to not look past Geno Smith's inability to hit the deep ball the past two games. In his first five games, he was 22-of-33 on throws longer than 15 yards, but he was just 2-of-18 against Texas Tech. Last week, he was 0-5 with the first two interceptions of his season. Very alarming.
Rising: TCU's pass rush
True freshman Devonte Fields leads the Big 12 with 7.5 sacks, but he's not the only one making an impact. Sam Carter has three sacks and Davion Pierson has 2.5. The best sign for TCU's future there? All three players are freshmen or sophomores, and the Frogs are the only team in the Big 12 with three players in the top 10 in sacks.
Falling: Defenses vs. Oklahoma in the red zone
The Belldozer is taking care of business, but the Sooners have been unbelievable in the red zone this season, converting 32-of-33 trips for points, including 25 touchdowns. That scoring percentage (96.97) is tied with Clemson for the highest in college football, and will face a big test this week against Notre Dame, who is the nation's only team who has yet to surrender a rushing touchdown. What's most haunting about the red-zone stat? Blake Bell's fumble on a snap that hit him in the belly is the lone failure all season. That came in a loss to Kansas State, a game Oklahoma lost by five points.
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