Dallas Colleges: K.D. Cannon

Spring primer: Baylor Bears

March, 2, 2015
Mar 2
10:00
AM CT
Baylor became the first Big 12 school to kick off spring ball, holding its first practice last week. Below is a preview of what to look for from the Bears during the rest of spring practice:

Offensive returner ready to take next step: KD Cannon was a freshman All-American last season, and one of only seven Big 12 wide receivers to surpass the 1,000-yard threshold. But his best ball is ahead of him. Cannon was often the third wheel in Baylor's passing attack behind Corey Coleman and Antwan Goodley. With Goodley gone, and with a season of experience behind him, Cannon figures to play a more prominent role as a sophomore in the Baylor offensive machine.

Defensive returner ready to take the next step: To win a national title in 2015, the Bears need a difference-maker to emerge in their secondary. Rising junior free safety Orion Stewart has a chance to be that difference-maker. Stewart led the Bears last season with four interceptions, and finished third with 82 tackles and seven pass-breakups. The Baylor secondary struggled mightily at times last season. If Stewart can become an All-Big 12-caliber performer, that will go a long way in stabilizing Phil Bennett's defensive backfield.

Redshirt freshman to watch: As if the Bears needed more big-play wideouts, Chris Platt and Ishmael Zamora, both four-star parts of Baylor's sterling 2014 wide receiver class, have already been turning heads this spring. Platt, a three-time state track champion in the quarter mile, brings playmaking speed to the slot. Zamora, at 6-foot-4, has the size to win jump balls downfield (watch this catch). Baylor was already going to be loaded at receiver with Coleman, Cannon and veteran Jay Lee. But Zamora and Platt have the opportunity to be Baylor's next wave at the position.

Most significant position battle: After backing up Bryce Petty the past two seasons, fourth-year junior Seth Russell has been getting first-team reps at quarterback this spring. But he hasn't won the job yet. Russell first must fend off sophomore Chris Johnson and hotshot freshman Jarrett Stidham, who is with the squad this spring. Russell is a big-time athlete with loads of potential. Before he becomes Baylor's next great quarterback, he has to prove his competitive mettle this spring.

Key midterm enrollee: Whether he wins the starting job now or later, Stidham is a big-time talent. The top Big 12 quarterback signee didn't flip his commitment from Texas Tech to Baylor and still enroll early so that he could redshirt this season, either. Coach Art Briles has said that Russell will "have to be beat out." Though that won't be easy, Stidham has the skill set to do it.

Question that could be answered: Stidham is intriguing, but it's very possible Russell ends Baylor's quarterback battle before the end of the spring. The Bears have enjoyed enviable quarterback stability during the Briles era. Provided Russell performs up to his potential this spring, the Bears might end the suspense and name him the starter.

Question that won’t be answered until fall: Four times last season, the Bears gave up more than 40 points and more than 300 yards passing. For a team with playoff aspirations, that won't cut it. With basically the entire unit back, the Baylor secondary has a chance to be better than it was in 2014. But that won't be revealed until it's tested in the fall.

How the Baylor Bears were built

February, 16, 2015
Feb 16
11:00
AM CT
The Baylor Bears are amidst one of the great program turnarounds in college football history. After two decades of complete futility, the Bears were on the cusp of qualifying for the inaugural College Football Playoff last season. They joined Oklahoma as the only other program to capture back-to-back Big 12 titles. And with 17 starters returning, they'll be gunning for a third in 2015.

How have they done it?

Here's a look at how exactly Baylor became a powerhouse (also, coming Tuesday -- how TCU turned into a powerhouse):

[+] EnlargeArt Briles
AP Photo/Eric GayHow did Baylor emerge as one of the country's top football programs? Look no further than Art Briles.
1. Tapping Art Briles as coach

It seems crazy now, but Briles wasn't the automatic choice after Guy Morriss was fired in 2007. Many boosters clamored for athletic director Ian McCaw to hire former Baylor great Mike Singletary, who was coaching linebackers for the 49ers at the time.

McCaw, however, was intrigued with the revival jobs Briles had produced at Stephenville High School and at Houston. Briles also knew his way around Texas high school football like no one McCaw had ever met.

McCaw had the foresight to recognize that Briles' offensive ingenuity and recruiting connections would make him the perfect fit in Waco.

2. Signing RG III

By snagging Briles, Baylor also snagged Robert Griffin III, who had been committed to Briles at Houston. Coming out of high school, Griffin was viewed as a track star who could also play a little bit of football. But he became the transformational quarterback for Baylor in the same way Johnny Manziel more recently was for Texas A&M.

With RG III behind center, the Bears went from conference doormat to bowl qualifier.

As Briles has noted, RG III's success, both in college and initially in the NFL also gave Baylor "instant name recognition" with recruits who previously wouldn't have given the Bears a second thought.

The hiring of Briles and signing of RG III were the first two building blocks in Baylor's resurrection.

3. Surviving realignment

Conference realignment, however, nearly derailed Baylor's resurgence before it began. Had Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State bolted for the Pac-10, Baylor would have been left to find a new league, which would have severely damaged the football program.

Texas politics saved the Big 12 during the first round of realignment. During the second wave, Baylor reportedly threatened legal action as Texas A&M mulled its move to the SEC. Many called Baylor petulant at the time. But its proactive stance helped cultivate a sense of Big 12 unity among the remaining committed members, which ultimately helped preserve the league. And in turn, Baylor's standing in a major conference.

4. Building McLane Stadium

On the heels of RG III's magical Heisman-winning season in 2011, Baylor didn't rest on its laurels. Instead, it was able to capitalize on the momentum and secure funding for a new $264 million stadium.

The "Jewel on the Brazos" has given Baylor a home-field advantage and season-ticket base it never enjoyed at Floyd Casey. And, it has elevated Baylor to another level in the eyes of would-be recruits.

5. Nailing WR evaluations

In just the past five years, Baylor has been able to lay claim as Wide Receiver U., thanks to successful evaluations on receiving prospects, both high profile and under the radar. Future All-American Kendall Wright was part of Briles' first recruiting class, and was one of the high profile prospects. But in the same class, Baylor also landed two-star Terrance Williams, who would finish with 1,800 receiving yards in 2012. The following year, Baylor found another lightly recruited receiver in Tevin Reese, who also developed into a 1,000-yard wideout. Those early triumphs set the foundation and turned Baylor into an attractive destination for blue-chip receivers such as Corey Coleman and KD Cannon.

6. Finding other hidden gems

Baylor has made hay unearthing other diamonds in the rough that would become all-conference performers. Linebacker Eddie Lackey's only other offers out of junior college were from Hawaii and New Mexico State. Fellow linebacker Bryce Hager was down to Baylor and Air Force. Running back Shock Linwood's full offer list was Arkansas State, North Texas, UTSA and TCU. Linebacker Taylor Young's only other visit was to Louisiana Monroe. All four have become home run signings. Lackey received votes for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2013; Hager was a three-time second-team All-Big 12 selection. And this past season, Linwood was All-Big 12, while Young was the AP's Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year.

7. Hiring defensive coordinator Phil Bennett

After the 2010 season, the Bears added Bennett, who brought credibility to the other side of the ball. Bennett's tent of forcing turnovers and three-and-outs have been a perfect mesh with Briles' high-octane offenses. The last two years, Bennett's units have also ranked in the top four of the Big 12 in total defense, transforming Baylor from a program with merely an exciting offense to one capable of competing for conference titles.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThanks to QB Bryce Petty and his 29 touchdowns in 2014, the Bears finished 11-2 and 8-1 in the Big 12.
8. Bringing Lache Seastrunk back home

When the former ESPN 300 Temple, Texas, running back washed out at Oregon following a controversial recruitment, Baylor was able to funnel him to Waco. Seastrunk fueled Baylor's torrid finish in 2012, which set the stage for the Bears' Big 12 title run the following year during which he led the conference in rushing.

9. Jazzing up the uniforms

A big part of Baylor's emergence has been the establishment of an identity. That cutting edge persona has been enhanced with its brazen uniform combinations. Uniforms haven't won games. But they have contributed to Baylor's distinctiveness as the modern alternative for recruits to traditional powers like Texas and Oklahoma.

10. Developing quarterbacks

RG III has been gone from Baylor four years now. But the Bears have still maintained a level of quarterbacking excellence. Nick Florence led the league in passing in 2012, and Bryce Petty led it in 2013 and 2014. Both Florence and Petty had years in the system before becoming full-time starters, which allowed for such seamless transitions. Like them, the next heir apparent, Seth Russell, will be entering his fourth year on campus.

Big 12 pre-spring position rankings: WR

February, 11, 2015
Feb 11
11:00
AM CT
With spring ball a month away, we're ranking position groups in the Big 12. These evaluations are based on past performance, future potential and quality depth. Our outlooks will likely look different after the spring, but this is how we see them now. We continue this series with wide receivers (and tight ends):

1. Baylor: The Bears just keep reloading at wide receiver. All-Big 12 selection Corey Coleman and freshman All-American KD Cannon return from 1,000-yard seasons to give Baylor one of the most electrifying one-two punches in the country. Jay Lee and Davion Hall headline the rest of the group, which is loaded with up-and-coming prospects such as Ishmael Zamora, Chris Platt, Devontre Stricklin and Blake Lynch.

2. TCU: The Horned Frogs return their top three pass catchers in Josh Doctson, Kolby Listenbee and Deante' Gray, who all delivered big performances for the nation’s second-highest scoring offense in combining for 23 touchdown catches. Desmon White and Emanuel Porter also flashed potential as freshmen, and should offer even more help as sophomores.

3. Oklahoma State: Every single receiver that caught a pass for the Cowboys last season is back, including starters Brandon Sheperd, David Glidden and James Washington. Sheperd exploded once Mason Rudolph took over at quarterback; Glidden is one of the most experienced receivers in the league out of the slot; Washington was among the top true freshman receivers in the country. Jhajuan Seales, Marcell Ateman, Chris Lacy and Austin Hays, who all have starting experience, round out the deepest receiving corps in the league.

4. Oklahoma: The Sooners receiving unit fell apart last season after Sterling Shepard suffered a groin injury. The good news is that Shepard will be back -- and hopefully healthy -- for his senior year. He alone elevates this group into one of the better ones in the Big 12 when he’s on the field. Shepard should have more help next season, as Dede Westbrook was arguably the top junior-college receiver in the country and figures to be an instant starter in Norman.

5. Texas Tech: This group had a lackluster 2014 season, but the talent is still there. Jakeem Grant is an All-Big 12-caliber talent and should put up bigger numbers with more consistent quarterback play. After a slow start, Devin Lauderdale came on strong during the second half of the season on the outside. Ian Sadler, Reginald Davis and Dylan Cantrell all finished with at least 20 catches last season. The Red Raiders also signed a pair of four-star wideouts in Keke Coutee and J.F. Thomas, who was a late flip from TCU. There are concerns about Thomas qualifying, but if he makes it to campus, he could give the Red Raiders another playmaker on the perimeter.

6. Iowa State: The Cyclones have major concerns at running back and on defense, but one place they are not weak is at wide receiver. Like Cannon and Washington, Allen Lazard was terrific as a true freshman and should become an even bigger focal point of the offense next season. The Cyclones also will welcome back 2013 leading receiver Quenton Bundrage, who missed all of 2014 with a knee injury. D'Vario Montgomery gives the Cyclones a very capable trio at the position.

7. West Virginia: The Mountaineers face the unenviable task of replacing All-American receivers Kevin White and Mario Alford. Jordan Thompson and Daikiel Shorts will have to play bigger roles. They were able to capitalize off all the attention defenses devoted to stopping White. Shelton Gibson has the talent to be a difference maker, but he finished with just four catches last season. Incoming freshmen Jovon Durante, who was the top signee in West Virginia’s class, and Gary Jennings could be immediate factors in the rotation, as could junior-college transfer Ka'Raun White, Kevin White's younger brother.

8. Texas: John Harris and Jaxon Shipley were responsible for more than 50 percent of Texas' receptions last season, and both are gone. The Longhorns will have to unearth a new No. 1 target for whoever emerges out of the QB derby. Armanti Foreman has a chance to be that receiver after playing some as a true freshman. Marcus Johnson is the lone veteran of the group, but is mostly just a burner. Texas desperately needs someone such as Daje Johnson or Gilbert Johnson, or one of its highly touted signees such as Ryan Newsome, John Burt, or DeAndre McNeal -- or even tight end Devonaire Clarington -- to emerge.

9. Kansas State: The Wildcats graduated the most prolific receiver in school history in Tyler Lockett, and the best wingman in the Big 12 in Curry Sexton. Those two combined for 185 catches and 2,574 receiving yards last season. That level of production won’t easily be replaced. Deante Burton probably takes over as the leading receiver, but he had only 17 catches last year. Kody Cook, Judah Jones and Andre Davis have some experience in minor roles. This could be a transition year.

10. Kansas: After years of mediocrity, the Jayhawks were better at receiver last season. But with their top five pass-catchers gone, they could be taking a step back again. Nigel King would have been the top returning receiver, but he curiously declared for the draft. Former Florida tight end Kent Taylor, who was an ESPN 300 recruit in 2012, transferred to Kansas last year and should help. The staff has high hopes for early enrollee Chase Harrell as well, but this group overall is completely unproven.
This week, we've been counting down the Big 12's top 25 players of 2014. Friday, we'll unveil our top five players.

But before then, we want to mention the players who narrowly missed the cut.

The unfortunate part of our top 25 ranking is that only 25 players can make the cut. But we considered at least a dozen other standouts who were also worthy of inclusion.

SportsNation

Who has the biggest gripe being left off the Big 12 top 25 player ranking?

  •  
    13%
  •  
    27%
  •  
    45%
  •  
    7%
  •  
    8%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,781)

Standouts like Baylor's KD Cannon, who totaled more than 1,000 receiving yards as a true freshman; Texas' Jordan Hicks, who led a stout Longhorns defense in tackles; West Virginia's Mario Alford, who was a big-play threat on offense and special teams; Kansas State's Curry Sexton, who was third in the league in receptions despite playing alongside Tyler Lockett; Baylor's Shock Linwood, who finished second in the Big 12 in rushing; and Texas' John Harris, who finished fifth in the league in receiving.

But there were five other players who proved most difficult to leave out.

Oklahoma receiver Sterling Shepard most definitely would have made the top 25 had he not suffered a groin injury that severely limited him late in the season. Still, with more than 900 receiving yards before November, Shepard almost made the cut anyway.

So did his teammate, offensive right tackle Daryl Williams. The first-team All-Big 12 selection helped pave the way for the Sooners' powerful running game. His tackle cohort Tyrus Thompson, however, did crack the top 25 at No. 20.

Like Shepard, Baylor wideout Antwan Goodley would have been a lock had it not been for an early-season injury. After totaling more than 1,300 yards receiving last year, Goodley finished with just more than 800 this season. Still, Goodley re-emerged as one of the most dominant pass-catchers during Big 12 play, placing seventh in the league in receiving during conference games. He had 158 yards receiving and two touchdowns in Baylor's critical 61-58 victory over TCU.

The final two players who nearly made the list didn't play for prolific teams, but they stood out nonetheless. Iowa State tight end E.J. Bibbs tied for seventh in the Big 12 with eight touchdown receptions. Kansas' JaCorey Shepherd, meanwhile, surfaced as one of the top cover corners in the conference for an underrated Jayhawks defense. Shepherd was fourth in the country with 18 pass breakups.

So we put the question to you in our weekly Big 12 poll.

Of Shepard, Williams, Goodley, Bibbs and Shepherd, who has the biggest gripe about being left out of our Big 12 top 25 player ranking?

Big 12 all-bowl team

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16
11:00
AM CT
Below, we recognize the best individual performances of the 2014-15 bowl season with our Big 12 all-bowl team:

OFFENSE

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
AP Photo/LM OteroBryce Petty had a huge game in his college finale.
QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor. Petty didn’t go out with a win, but he did go out with a monster performance, as he threw for a Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic-record 550 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for another score.

RB: Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State. Roland ran for more than 100 yards for the first time all season and finished with 123 yards on 32 carries in Oklahoma State’s TicketCity Cactus Bowl win.

RB: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma. Perine was about the Sooners’ only positive in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Playing on a bum ankle, he ran for 134 yards to finish his true freshman season with a Big 12-best 1,713 rushing yards.

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State. Lockett fueled a furious second-half comeback in the Valero Alamo Bowl with 164 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The rally came up short, but Lockett was fabulous in his final game at K-State.

WR: Kevin White, West Virginia. White was unstoppable yet again in his last college game. He finished with 129 yards receiving and a touchdown in West Virginia’s loss to Texas A&M in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

WR: K.D. Cannon, Baylor. By hauling in eight caches for 197 yards and two touchdowns, Cannon became just the seventh receiver and first underclassman in Baylor history to finish with more than 1,000 yards receiving.

AP: Aaron Green, TCU. Green ignited a 42-3 onslaught of Ole Miss in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl by hauling in a 31-yard pass on a trick play for TCU's first touchdown. He scored the Horned Frogs’ second touchdown too and finished with 114 yards rushing and receiving.

OT: Halapoulivaati Vaitai, TCU: With “Big V” locking up one of the edges, the Horned Frogs dominated the line of scrimmage and finished with 177 yards on the ground.

OG: LaQuan McGowan, Baylor. The 400-pound backup guard delivered one of the most unforgettable plays of the bowl season, when he lined up as an eligible receiver then snagged an 18-yard touchdown pass to give Baylor a 20-point lead.

C: B.J. Finney, Kansas State. With K-State struggling to protect quarterback Jake Waters through the first half, Finney swung from center to right tackle after halftime. The Wildcats had no trouble moving the ball the rest of the way.

OG: Brady Foltz, TCU: Foltz had one of the best games of his TCU career as the Horned Frogs rolled up 423 total yards against Ole Miss’ talented defense.

OT: Zach Crabtree, Oklahoma State. Crabtree’s return to the lineup late in the year helped stabilize the line. With Crabtree, the Cowboys controlled a Washington front seven that featured three All-Americans.

DEFENSE

DE: Ryan Mueller, Kansas State. Mueller finished with seven tackles and produced a huge forced fumble of the Bruins in the third quarter that sparked K-State’s rally.

DT: James Castleman, Oklahoma State. Castleman’s biggest contributions actually came on offense. In Oklahoma State’s heavy set, Castleman rushed for a 1-yard touchdown, then late in the game hauled in a 48-yard yard reception off play-action that helped propel the Cowboys to victory.

DT: Malcom Brown, Texas. Brown did what he could in a 31-7 loss to Arkansas in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl by leading Texas with eight tackles, a tackle for loss and a pair of QB hurries.

DE: James McFarland, TCU. McFarland essentially ended the game when he came up with an acrobatic, diving interception of Bo Wallace in the Ole Miss end zone that put the Frogs ahead 28-0 just before halftime.

LB: K.J. Dillon, West Virginia. Dillon had a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown that gave West Virginia a 10-point lead over the Aggies and early command of the game. Neither the lead nor the command lasted, however.

LB: Marcus Mallet, TCU. The Horned Frogs brutalized Ole Miss’ offense, and Mallet was a big reason for that. He put up a game-high 10 tackles and forced and recovered a fumble, as the Rebels finished with just 9 yards rushing.

[+] EnlargeOklahoma State, Deric Robertson, Kevin Peterson
AP Photo/Rick ScuteriKevin Peterson (1) and the Oklahoma State defense made plenty of stops against Washington.
LB: Taylor Young, Baylor. Young had a game-high 15 tackles and very nearly produced the game-clinching play. His 84-yard fourth-quarter interception return, however, was called back by a penalty.

CB: Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State. In addition to providing solid coverage all night, Peterson came up with the game-clinching interception of Washington in the final seconds.

CB: Ramon Richards, Oklahoma State. The sure-tackling true freshman had perhaps the best performance in his young career and finished with six tackles, a tackle for loss and two pass breakups.

S: Karl Joseph, West Virginia. Joseph led the Mountaineers with 10 tackles and delivered yet another devastating hit that resulted in a forced fumble.

S: Derrick Kindred, TCU. Kindred picked off the Rebels in the first quarter and finished with five tackles and a tackle for loss as the TCU secondary swarmed Ole Miss' receivers all game.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Matthew McCrane, Kansas State. McCrane nailed 47-yard and 29-yard field goals and nearly pulled off a remarkable onside kick using the “Rabona” soccer technique. Honorable mention honors here go to West Virginia’s Josh Lambert, who broke the FBS season record with 39 made field goals.

P: Kip Smith, Oklahoma State. Smith placed all four of his punts inside the Washington 20 to help the Cowboys control the field-position battle.

Returner: Mario Alford, West Virginia: The electric Alford had two big kick returns, as well as a 45-yard touchdown reception off a quick pass in his final game as a Mountaineer.

2015 Too-Early Big 12 Power Rankings

January, 13, 2015
Jan 13
10:00
AM CT
» More 2015 Too-Early Rankings: Top 25 | ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

2014 All-Big 12 underclassman team

December, 16, 2014
12/16/14
12:00
PM CT
From Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine to West Virginia placekicker Josh Lambert, the Big 12 was loaded with underclassmen who made an impact on the 2014 season. With that in mind we unveil our second annual All-Big 12 underclassman team (freshmen and sophomores).

The underclassman team is based on 2014 performances, not future potential -- though many on this list have bright futures as well. Number of games played was also a factor, which is a reason why budding true freshman quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Mason Rudolph, who both came on strong only during the final month of the season, just missed the cut.

Without further ado, the ESPN.com 2014 All-Big 12 underclassman team:

Offense
QB: Tyrone Swoopes, Texas
RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor
RB: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma
WR: Corey Coleman, Baylor
WR: KD Cannon, Baylor
WR: Allen Lazard, Iowa State
OT: Adam Pankey, West Virginia
OG: Baylen Brown, Texas Tech
C: Kyle Fuller, Baylor
OG: Daniel Burton, Iowa State
OT: Kent Perkins, Texas
FB: Glenn Gronkowski, Kansas State
AP: Wendell Smallwood, West Virginia

Defense
DE: Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State
DT: Andrew Billings, Baylor
DT: Hassan Ridgeway, Texas
DE: Jordan Willis, Kansas State
LB: Taylor Young, Baylor
LB: Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma
LB: Seth Jacobs, Oklahoma State
CB: Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma
CB: Nigel Tribune, Iowa State
S: Jordan Sterns, Oklahoma State
S: Orion Stewart, Baylor

Special teams
K: Josh Lambert, West Virginia
P: Colin Downing, Iowa State
KR: Alex Ross, Oklahoma
PR: Cameron Echols-Luper, TCU

Big 12 true freshman power rankings

November, 7, 2014
11/07/14
12:00
PM CT
Going into the final month of the season, we've updated our Big 12 true freshman power rankings:

1. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma (previous rank: 1): Perine is second in the league with an average of almost 96 yards rushing per game, and with a Big 12-high 11 rushing touchdowns, he remains on track for a spot on the All-Big 12 team.

2. KD Cannon, WR, Baylor (2): Cannon is still fourth in the Big 12 in receiving, and though his production has dipped in conference play, he did have six receptions for 124 yards in Baylor’s big win over TCU last month.

3. Dravon Henry, FS, West Virginia (3): Henry had two interceptions, including a pick-six, in West Virginia’s win over Oklahoma State. In Henry, safety Karl Joseph and cornerback Daryl Worley, the Mountaineers have an exciting young core in their secondary.

4. Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State (5): Lazard has 21 receptions for 235 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Iowa State’s last three games. He’s been one of the Cyclones’ most consistent performers this season.

5. Jason Hall, S, Texas (4): Hall missed time with a minor injury, but has returned to laying wood in the Texas secondary. In time, Hall could become one of the hardest hitters in college football.

6. Corey Avery, RB, Kansas (6): Avery has been a bright spot in an anemic Kansas offense. He has gotten double-digit carries in every game but one, and is 10th in the Big 12 with 435 yards on the ground.

7. Elijah Lee, LB, Kansas State (NR): Lee leads the Wildcats with 3.5 sacks as their third-down pass rushing specialist. Lee has been a key part of the K-State defense all season.

8 (tie). Vincent Testaverde and Patrick Mahomes, QBs, Texas Tech (NR): Testaverde, a walk-on, is Tech’s only healthy quarterback. Mahomes started the Texas game in place of Davis Webb, whose status has been termed day-to-day. Either way, Testaverde and Mahomes are the only true freshman QBs to get meaningful action in the Big 12 this season.

10. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State (9): Washington hasn’t been helped by Oklahoma State’s sluggish offense but he’s still found ways to produce, with eight receptions and 120 yards receiving in the Cowboys’ last two games.

On the radar: Nigel Bethel II, CB, Texas Tech; Michiah Quick, WR, Oklahoma; Ramon Richards, CB, Oklahoma State; Dimitri Flowers, FB, Oklahoma; Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech; Steven Parker II, S, Oklahoma; Poona Ford, DT, Texas; Matthew Boateng, CB, Kansas; Desmon White, WR,

ESPN.com midseason All-Big 12 team

October, 14, 2014
10/14/14
11:00
AM CT
We're halfway through the season, which means it's time for our midseason All-Big 12 team. There's plenty of football still to play. And this midseason team might be very different from the end-of-season one. But this list recognizes the players who have distinguished themselves thus far.

After careful consideration and friendly debate, our midseason All-Big 12 team:

Offense

QB: Clint Trickett, West Virginia: Baylor's Bryce Petty had the Big 12's best game last weekend, but Trickett has had the better season so far. He leads the Big 12 in QBR and completion percentage and is third nationally in passing, fueling the Mountaineers' surprising 4-2 start.

RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor: The Big 12's top rusher has 326 rushing yards over Baylor's last two games, including 104 in the fourth quarter of the Bears' monumental comeback win against TCU.

RB: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma: This true freshman is second in the league in rushing, first in rushing touchdowns and delivered an historic performance at West Virginia with 242 yards and four scores.

WR: Kevin White, West Virginia: White has been as dominant as any player in the league. He easily leads the country with an average of 148 yards receiving per game, and has come up with a hundred yards receiving in every game.

WR: Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma: It's hard to imagine where the Oklahoma passing game would be without Shepard. He has accounted for 48 percent of Trevor Knight's passing yards.

WR: K.D. Cannon, Baylor: The true freshman might already be the most dangerous big-play receiver in the league, averaging 62.5 yards per catch on his six touchdowns.

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State: The senior has been a big part of the Cyclones' offense with 22 receptions for 190 yards and four touchdowns, including a one-handed scoring grab at Oklahoma State.

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor: The Bears' franchise left tackle is thriving again after a return from a season-ending back injury. He has graded out the highest on the offensive line of the nation's top scoring offense.

OL: Joey Hunt, TCU: Hunt is the best offensive lineman on the Big 12's most improved offense, which is second in the league in scoring with almost 46 points per game.

OL: B.J. Finney, Kansas State: Finney is well on his way to a third consecutive All-Big 12 season as the lynchpin of the K-State offensive line.

OL: Quinton Spain, West Virginia: He and Mark Glowinski form one of the top guard duos in the country for the league's second-best passing offense.

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech: Arkansas coach Bret Bielema singled out Clark's prowess after facing him. Despite throwing the ball on almost every down, Tech leads the league in fewest sacks allowed with Clark protecting Davis Webb's blindside.

AP: Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State: The speedy Hill has kick return touchdowns the past two weeks, and has proven to be tough and durable as well as really fast.

Defense

DE: Shawn Oakman, Baylor: The freaky 6-foot-9 end is second in the league with five sacks and fourth with eight tackles for loss.

DT: Chucky Hunter, TCU: Hunter has been the anchor of the TCU defensive line, joining Davion Pierson to give Gary Patterson's squad one disruptive duo up front.

DT: Malcom Brown, Texas: This 320-pound monster has been unblockable, and the most disruptive defensive player in the league.

DE: Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State: Ogbah has broken out with five sacks, including two on defending Heisman winner Jameis Winston in the opener. In addition to being tied for second in the Big 12 in sacks, he's also second with 9.5 tackles for loss.

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma: Striker has 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss, and his relentless pass-rushing ability makes him the primary focus of opposing offensive coordinators.

LB: Jordan Hicks, Texas: The Longhorns' fifth-year senior is racking up 10 tackles per game, and is bringing leadership to the Texas defense after an injury-plagued career.

LB: Paul Dawson, TCU: The Big 12's leading tackler is on pace for the most single-season tackles in the Gary Patterson era. He also had the game-winning pick-six to upset the Sooners.

CB: Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma: Sanchez has given up some big plays, but he's countered with big plays of his own. He's second nationally with five interceptions, including a pick-six against Texas.

CB: Danzel McDaniel, Kansas State: McDaniel hits more like a linebacker than a cornerback. He's been another impressive junior-college find for Bill Snyder.

S: Sam Carter, TCU: Carter doesn't have eye-popping numbers, but he's once again been the heart of the TCU defense.

S: Karl Joseph, West Virginia: The enforcer of the West Virginia secondary is second among Big 12 defensive backs with 45 tackles.

Special teams

K: Josh Lambert, West Virginia: All he's done is nail two game-winning field goals as time has expired to beat Maryland (47 yards) and Texas Tech (55 yards) on the road.

P: Trevor Pardula, Kansas: He's gotten plenty of chances, but he's made the most of them, averaging 44.8 yards per punt, while putting 37.8 percent of them inside the opponents' 20.

PR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State: Lockett, who is second in the nation in punt returns, once again has been an electric all-around playmaker. He's also sixth in the league in receiving.

KR: Alex Ross, Oklahoma: Ross leads the nation in kickoff returns, taking two of his nine kick returns to the house for touchdowns.

Roundtable: Biggest threat to OU, Baylor?

September, 23, 2014
9/23/14
11:00
AM CT
In our weekly Big 12 roundtable, we examine what should be a fascinating race for Big 12 offensive freshman of the year, the Sooners’ remaining schedule and which third team could emerge as a threat to Oklahoma and Baylor for the Big 12 championship:

[+] EnlargeSamaje Perine
AP Photo/Tyler EvertFreshman Samaje Perine has faced some tough competition in racking up his early-season numbers.
 Who has been the more impressive true freshman, Baylor wide receiver KD Cannon or Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine?

Brandon Chatmon: Even with Perine’s explosion against West Virginia over the weekend, KD Cannon remains the Big 12’s most impressive freshman. The Baylor receiver is a playmaker who makes the game look easy with his smooth strides and silky hands. Both players will be a handful for Big 12 defenses, but I have a feeling Cannon is the man to be for Big 12 freshman-of-the-year honors.

Jake Trotter: Cannon has been unbelievable while ranking third nationally with 157 receiving yards per game. But Cannon has piled up those numbers against two of the worst FBS teams in the country in SMU and Buffalo and an FCS opponent in Northwestern State. Meanwhile, in 34 carries before a hostile crowd in Morgantown, Perine rushed for 242 yards and four touchdowns against a quality opponent in West Virginia. Cannon will have his chance to impress against tough competition. But Perine has already done it.

Max Olson: I do agree that Cannon is the Big 12's best freshman so far, but I'm a little more impressed by Perine because he's faced a much better level of competition. True, he's got it fairly easy behind that mauling OU O-line, but Perine is blasting Tennessee and West Virginia for 7.2 yards per carry makes his future look pretty scary. His 242 rushing yards vs. WVU is fifth-best in FBS this year and perhaps just the beginning.

With West Virginia out of the way, what is Oklahoma's toughest remaining game, other than the Nov. 8 clash with Baylor?

Chatmon: The Sooners trip to TCU still looms large to me. The Horned Frogs can play defense and will have confidence on the offensive side of the ball heading into the matchup between the two teams on Oct. 4. TCU will put OU quarterback Trevor Knight in uncomfortable situations and could have the defensive line depth to handle OU’s physical running game. Add better ball protection from the offense and OU’s road trip to Fort Worth, Texas could be the toughest remaining test outside of Baylor.

Trotter: We witnessed last week how brilliant a game plan Kansas State coach Bill Snyder can design with an extra week to prepare. With the week off leading into the Oklahoma game Oct. 18, Snyder will have an extra week to prepare for the Sooners, too. Only this time, Oklahoma won’t have the extra week, as well. Instead, the Sooners will be coming off the emotional Red River showdown with Texas. This is a potentially dangerous game for Oklahoma. K-State won in Norman its last trip there. And with another brilliant Snyder game plan, the Wildcats are good enough to win there again.

Olson: The TCU game is a classic trap, but I don't think the Sooners should overlook their home meeting against Kansas State on Oct. 18. That game falls one week after the Red River showdown, a high-emotion, highly physical game, and I think we're going to figure out quickly K-State is not a team to be trifled with. A lot can change between now and then, but I'd be surprised if that isn't a four-quarter brawl that should really test OU's resolve.

Based on what you've seen, who is the biggest threat to Baylor and Oklahoma for the Big 12 crown?

Chatmon: K-State immediately came to mind, but the Wildcats face the Sooners, Bears, West Virginia and TCU all on the road. TCU is another team that could be considered, but Gary Patterson’s squad is looking at a three-game stretch that features OU, BU and Oklahoma State after SMU on Saturday. So I’m going to step out on the limb and say West Virginia, despite already having a conference loss to OU, is the biggest threat. If WVU knocks off Baylor and BU beats OU, WVU is right back in the mix. And with Clint Trickett and Kevin White playing like All-Big 12 performers, every game is winnable for Dana Holgorsen’s squad.

Trotter: This is a great question, with four possible answers. West Virginia has looked really sharp so far, but the Mountaineers already have a conference loss. Oklahoma State’s schedule is brutal, with road trips to Fort Worth, Manhattan, Waco and Norman. And I want to see more from this TCU offense before I elevate it into contender status. That leaves Kansas State, which has a veteran team and a Hall of Fame coach. The Wildcats have already proven that they can play with the nation's best. I don’t know if K-State has the firepower to win the league. But I do know that with Snyder at the helm, they’ll be a tough out for everyone, including Oklahoma and Baylor.

Olson: The gap between No. 2 and No. 3 in this league remains significant, but I'm buying stock in Kansas State after that Auburn game. I have a ton of respect for that Nick Marshall-led attack, and the Tigers would probably put up 35-plus on most Big 12 contenders. We'd be talking about KSU very differently today had they not made a few fatal mistakes. Plus, I generally have more faith in Jake Waters than in most of the other conference quarterbacks (excluding Petty and Knight) at this point.

Big 12 true freshman power rankings

September, 19, 2014
9/19/14
2:30
PM CT
Going into the fourth weekend of the season, we’ve updated our Big 12 true freshman power rankings again, which we’ll be revising occasionally throughout the year. Again, this list combines both opportunity and impact.

The rankings:

1. K.D. Cannon, WR, Baylor (previous rank: 2): Cannon has been nothing short of spectacular while temporarily taking over the role as Baylor’s No. 1 receiver with Levi Norwood, Clay Fuller, Corey Coleman and Antwan Goodley all out with injuries. In three games, Cannon leads the nation with 471 receiving yards, while averaging 33.6 yards per catch. No other Big 12 receiver is averaging more than 25 yards per catch. This is a future star in the making.

2. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma (3): Perine has been stout as Oklahoma’s power back, but will only see his role expand after the leg injury to Keith Ford. While splitting carries with Ford and Alex Ross, Perine has still rushed for 177 yards while averaging 5.5 yards a carry. Ross is expected to get the start at West Virginia, but don’t be surprised if Perine gets the most work.

3. Dravon Henry, FS, West Virginia (1): Henry has kept his starting job, though has been rather quiet since shining in West Virginia’s opener against Alabama. He’ll face another huge challenge this weekend against the balanced Sooners.

4. Dimitri Flowers, FB, Oklahoma (5): Flowers continues to be an instrumental part of Oklahoma’s powerful rushing attack. He hasn’t seen the ball much. But he has paved the way with his lead blocks for Ford, Perine and Ross and an Oklahoma ground game that averaging 5.6 yards per rushing attempt.

5. Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State (7): Lazard led the Cyclones in receiving in their 20-17 victory over the Hawkeyes. He also hauled in a key pass on Iowa State’s game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter. With Quenton Bundrage out for the season, Lazard has taken over as Iowa State’s go-to receiver on the outside.

6. Davion Hall, WR, Baylor (4): Like Cannon, Hall has made the most of his opportunities as the rest of the Baylor receiving corps recovers from injuries. He’s currently 10th in the league with 192 receiving yards.

7. Elijah Lee, LB, Kansas State (9): Lee didn't have much of an impact Thursday night against Auburn, but he still ranks fifth in the league with 2.5 sacks. Bill Snyder leans against playing true freshmen, but Lee has earned his trust.

8. Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech (10): Along with the rest of the Red Raiders, Stockton struggled against Arkansas with only seven yards rushing on six carries. But the week before against UTEP, he was outstanding with 135 yards rushing, including a 75-yard touchdown dash.

9. Corey Avery, RB, Kansas (8): While the rest of the Kansas offense did little, Avery was the lone bright spot in the loss at Duke. He led the Jayhawks with 87 yards rushing, after rushing for 91 the week before in his debut.

10. Jason Hall, S, Texas (NR): Hall had a sack and a couple of big hits against UCLA after entering the game in the second quarter. His aggression figures to warrant him more playing time after Texas returns from the open weekend.

On the radar: Tevin Madison, CB, Texas Tech; Colin Downing, P, Iowa State; Cameron Batson, PR/WR, Texas Tech; Matthew Boateng, CB, Kansas; Steven Parker II, Oklahoma

Roundtable: Most intriguing matchup

September, 9, 2014
9/09/14
12:00
PM CT
With seven games against Power 5 conference opponents, this is a huge week for the Big 12. We examine that and other storylines in our weekly Big 12 roundtable:

Which Big 12 matchup are you most looking forward to this weekend?

Max Olson: While watching UTSA give Arizona all it could handle last week, I had to wonder if the rising Roadrunners were playing well enough to beat Kansas or Iowa State. Well, we get to find out on Saturday when UTSA travels to Stillwater. Larry Coker's bunch doesn't have much star power besides a stout defensive line, but they play sound football and can keep it close against an OSU team that might not have J.W. Walsh. An upset win would be absolutely gigantic for this upstart.

Brandon Chatmon: Texas Tech’s battle with Arkansas is intriguing. The Red Raiders will look to rebound after a slow start, albeit two wins, to start the season. Arkansas will try to pound the ball and control the clock so whichever team controls the tempo is likely to win the game. The key for Tech is to start showing some improvement by limiting turnovers and penalties, otherwise it could be looking at a potential loss against an SEC foe.

Jake Trotter: I’m interested to see how West Virginia fares in a payback game against Maryland. The Terrapins returned 17 starters from a squad that throttled the Mountaineers 37-0 last season. But West Virginia has the look of a different team so far. If the Mountaineers also go to Maryland and win, it will be a signal West Virginia might actually be for real this season.

In light of its performance against BYU, does Texas has have hope for the rest of the year?

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsCharlie Strong's Longhorns get a tough test against UCLA on Saturday.
 Olson: Let's not call them dead just yet, but a 2-4 start seems like a distinct possibility now. If UCLA blows them out of the water, it's hard to envision a scenario in which the Longhorns trip up Baylor or Oklahoma without an absolutely perfect day of defense. The hope rests on the defense coming together as one of the nation's best and, in either Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard, the discovery of a quarterback who can lead this team in 2015 and beyond if David Ash is indeed done.

Chatmon: Yes, just look at last year. The loss to BYU was bad, really bad. But the same thing happened in 2013 yet UT still found itself playing for a Big 12 title on the final day of the regular season. I don’t expect them to match that feat again, but I still think 6-8 wins is possible if the Longhorns can get things turned around and somehow survive this four-game stretch of UCLA, Kansas, Baylor and Oklahoma.

Trotter: I don’t have a lot of hope for Texas. Yeah, the Longhorns bounced back after last season’s BYU debacle. But that offense wasn’t gutted to the point this one has been. I just don’t see Texas scoring enough points to avoid a 2-4 start. And after that, the Longhorns would still have road trips to Kansas State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. It’s not unthinkable that Texas misses out on a bowl game, which would be a disappointing start to the Charlie Strong era in Austin.

What player has impressed you most so far this season?

Olson: Just from an instant-impact standpoint, KD Cannon and Justin Stockton come to mind. But I covered their recruitments and watched them play live in high school at Mount Pleasant and Cibolo Steele, respectively so their play early on hasn't shocked me at all. Two guys who have my respect two weeks in are Clint Trickett and Jake Waters. They're underrated gamers, they've gotten sharper, and they're leading their teams at a high level right now.

Chatmon: This one’s easy. Somehow, someway, Tyreek Hill has been even better than advertised for Oklahoma State. I had my reservations about the track star heading into the season, but his performance against Florida State proved he is a football player not a track guy having fun on the gridiron. And OSU’s use of Hill has been smart as the Cowboys have looked to get him the ball in several different ways. Hill looks poised for a all-conference season.

Trotter: Trickett has impressed me the most so far. He ranks 22nd nationally in QBR, and I’m not sure that rating does justice to how well he’s played. Through two games, he’s completing 75 percent of his passes, a year after he connected on only 53 percent of his throws. As a result, Dana Holgorsen’s offense has been humming. He still has more to prove, including this weekend against Maryland. But if he plays this way the rest of the season, West Virginia will win a lot of games.

What we learned in the Big 12: Week 2

September, 7, 2014
9/07/14
3:17
AM CT
Here's what we learned about the Big 12 in Week 2:

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong
AP Photo/Michael ThomasIt was a long night against BYU for Texas coach Charlie Strong and his Longhorns.
1. Texas has issues beyond QB: Sure, the Longhorns were missing quarterback David Ash. But quarterback was hardly Texas’ only problem Saturday. For the second consecutive season, BYU demolished the Longhorns, this time 41-7, while handing them their worst home loss in 17 years. Missing three offensive linemen, Texas couldn’t block anyone, as running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown averaged just 2.6 yards per carry. In the second half, the Texas defense couldn’t corral BYU quarterback Taysom Hill, who had another monster outing with three rushing touchdowns against the Longhorns. Ash’s replacement, Tyrone Swoopes, actually didn’t play poorly in his first career start. But it didn’t matter. Charlie Strong was right before the season: The Longhorns aren’t ready to contend for the playoffs. Heck, as anemic as they looked against BYU -- coupled with a daunting upcoming schedule that features three top-12 teams in the next month -- they might have to scramble just to be bowl eligible.

2. Jake Waters has grit: Down two touchdowns in the second half in a hostile environment, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder put the game in the hands of his senior quarterback. That senior quarterback delivered. Waters threw for 239 yards and ran for a career-high 138 while willing the Wildcats to a hard-fought, comeback victory in Farmageddon. Waters led K-State to a potential game-tying scoring midway through the fourth quarter. But on the two-point try, he was stood up just shy of the goal line by Iowa State safety Kamari Cotton-Moya, who delivered a vicious hit to Waters’ head to keep the Cyclones ahead 28-26. Two possessions later, K-State got the ball back with 3:01 remaining, and Waters marched the Wildcats back down the field and capped the drive with a game-winning, 8-yard, touchdown scamper. K-State didn’t play its best in Ames. But Waters, Tyler Lockett and Ryan Mueller wouldn’t let the Wildcats lose. That type of grit from its stars could take K-State a long way this season.

3. Daxx Garman can spin it: The last time Garman played a snap of competitive football, he was a junior in high school in 2009. But after relieving an injured J.W. Walsh in the first quarter, the former walk-on opened up the Oklahoma State offense with his big arm. Garman completed 16 of 26 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns, as the Cowboys disposed of Missouri State 40-23. Garman's first touchdown came on an 87-yard pass to Brandon Sheperd on third-and-19, in which he threw the ball back across his body downfield for the second-longest completion in Oklahoma State history. It’s unclear just how serious Walsh’s injury is, but he came out of the locker room on crutches and wearing a boot on his right foot. Although Walsh played well in the opener against Florida State, the offense has bogged down at times in the past with him at the helm because of his limited arm strength. Garman demonstrated no such limitations, as he peppered the ball around to Oklahoma State’s deep and talented receiver crew. The Cowboys should be in good hands with Garman as long as Walsh is out. When Walsh returns, Oklahoma State will have a difficult decision about the direction to take at quarterback.

4 .K.D. Cannon is a boss: With Baylor receivers Antwan Goodley (quad), Levi Norwood (wrist), Corey Coleman (hamstring) and Clay Fuller (collarbone) all out with injuries, true freshman wideout Cannon stole the show in Baylor’s 70-6 waxing of Northwestern State. In the first half alone, Cannon had three touchdown catches and 223 receiving yards -- the second-most in school history for an entire game. Cannon will have to shoulder the receiving load while his cohorts heal up. But Cannon and fellow true freshman wideout Davion Hall, who had 78 yards receiving and a touchdown, appear more than ready.

5. Texas Tech will go nowhere with a hole in its foot: The Red Raiders survived a late scare from UTEP on Sunday morning and won 30-26, but it was hardly the performance Kliff Kingsbury was looking for after a sluggish opener this past weekend against Central Arkansas. Once again, penalties tormented the Red Raiders, who already have 25 of them through two games. One almost comedic sequence late in the third quarter underscored the epidemic. As UTEP punted on fourth-and-8, Tech was flagged because it had two players on the field wearing the same number. After the mark off, facing fourth-and-3, the Miners elected to go for it, except they wouldn’t have to snap the ball because Tech was flagged again, this time because one of its coaches was too close to the field (Tech had already received a sideline warning). Thanks to the pair of gifts, UTEP went on to score a touchdown and get back in the game. The Red Raiders have talent, particularly with their offensive skill players, but they won’t be a factor in the Big 12 if they keep shooting themselves in the foot this way.

Big 12 true freshman power rankings

August, 15, 2014
8/15/14
9:30
AM CT
Today, we debut our Big 12 true freshman power rankings, which we’ll update occasionally through August and the season. This list combines the factors of playing time and potential impact.

Without further ado, the Big 12 freshman power ranks:

1. Dravon Henry, FS, West Virginia: After just a few months in Morgantown, Henry is pushing to be the starting free safety for the opener against Alabama, another team that also recruited him hard. The ultra-athletic Henry could also be a factor in the return game. He and cornerback Daryl Worley give the Mountaineers potentially two of the best young defensive backs in the Big 12.

2. Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State: The gem of Iowa State’s recruiting class has not disappointed this preseason. He is already getting first-team reps alongside Quenton Bundrage and E.J. Bibbs. If he continues to progress, Lazard could round out a dynamic pass-catching trio.

3. K.D. Cannon, WR, Baylor: Cannon is behind Lazard, but only because the Bears are loaded at wide receiver. Cannon has been equally as impressive. Baylor coach Art Briles acknowledged that Cannon has proved to be even faster than he thought while recruiting him.

4. Armanti Foreman, WR, Texas: Foreman has taken full advantage of the injuries and dismissals Texas has endured at the wide receiving position this preseason. He might even have a chance to start the opener against North Texas.

5. Corey Avery, RB, Kansas: Avery could be heir in the Kansas backfield to departed All-Big 12 running back James Sims. Avery has wowed with his ability to make defenders miss and has recently begun to receive first-team snaps.

6. Dimitri Flowers, FB, Oklahoma: The Sooners raved about Flowers in the spring before he suffered an injury in the spring game. The 220-pound Flowers, who has drawn comparisons to former Oklahoma fullback Trey Millard, is healthy again and figures to be a big part of the Sooners’ pistol attack.

7. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State: Up until late in the recruiting process, this small-school Texas standout’s only other offer was from Texas State. But the Cowboys have apparently uncovered a diamond in the rough in Washington, who has been turning heads with his knack for catching any pass in his direction. Oklahoma State is deep at receiver, but Washington has played himself into a rotation role.

8. William Crest, QB, West Virginia: Clint Trickett was named the starter over the summer, but Crest is vying to become West Virginia’s second-team quarterback. That could be a critical role, considering Trickett’s injury history. Dana Holgorsen also has hinted at installing a special offensive package for his athletic quarterback.

9. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech: Davis Webb is the clear-cut starter in Lubbock, but Mahomes is showing he might be ready to be a reliable backup. Mahomes tossed five touchdown passes during a scrimmage over the weekend. That might also be an indictment of Tech’s second-team defense. But even against air, five touchdowns is impressive.

10. Emanuel Porter, WR, TCU: With Trevone Boykin still working at quarterback, the Horned Frogs need help at receiver. They’ve been getting it from Porter, who has impressed the coaching staff with his penchant for making big plays downfield.

On the radar: Dalvin Warmack, RB, Kansas State; Jeffery Mead, WR, Oklahoma; Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech

Big 12's Ultimate Road Trip: Week 1

May, 27, 2014
5/27/14
1:30
PM CT
The college football offseason is way too long. But we’re here to help with your suffering. With spring ball done and gone and the season still months away, we’re giving you a taste of the 2014 season, with the long-awaited Big 12 Ultimate Road Trip series.

To those unfamiliar with this series, we both pick a game featuring a Big 12 team in every week of the season that we’d cover if the travel budget was unlimited and there were no editors telling us where to go.

We’ll be basing our choices on a number of factors, including the quality of the matchup and the stakes that could be involved. The only restriction is that both of us can only pick one game per week.

Let's begin with Week 1.

Here's the schedule:

Aug. 30-31

Central Arkansas at Texas Tech
Stephen F. Austin at Kansas State
North Dakota State at Iowa State
North Texas at Texas
Louisiana Tech at Oklahoma
Samford at TCU
West Virginia vs. Alabama (Atlanta)
Oklahoma State vs. Florida State (Arlington, Texas)
SMU at Baylor

Jake Trotter’s pick: SMU at Baylor

It was tempting to go with either Florida State-Oklahoma State or West Virginia-Alabama. But with both Big 12 teams being heavy underdogs in those games, I settled on seeing the debut of the Jewel of the Brazos.

The $266 million McLane Stadium could be a game-changer for Baylor, which has had to overcome playing in (and recruiting to) an archaic, off-campus Floyd Casey Stadium. Now, Baylor will be armed with one of the finest stadiums in the entire Big 12, with the individuality of being located along the Brazos River. If only I can hook up with a “sailgate” party before heading up to the press box.

The opportunity to check out the defending Big 12 champs is another reason to head to Waco on Week 1.

We all know about quarterback Bryce Petty and wideout Antwan Goodley. But I’m intrigued to see Baylor’s array of young talent in person, including running back Johnny Jefferson, receivers Corey Coleman, K.D. Cannon and defensive tackle Andrew Billings.

Plus, since the Baylor-SMU game is on a Sunday, I’ll be able to watch the entire opening Saturday of college football -- including Florida State-Oklahoma State and West Virginia-Alabama -- on the tube.

Brandon Chatmon’s pick: West Virginia vs. Alabama (Atlanta)

I strongly considered a trip to Arlington, Texas, to check out Florida State-Oklahoma State but instead a trip to The ATL gets the nod.

Dana Holgorsen vs. Nick Saban? Sign me up.

Seeing how Holgorsen’s squad opens the season against a Crimson Tide team looking send a message after a surprising Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma is an intriguing prospect. It’s the Mountaineers first chance to state their intent to force themselves into the Big 12 title conversation against a team that has been in the national title race for the past few seasons.

The amount of talent on the field at the Georgia Dome will be astronomical with Alabama’s roster full of NFL talent and West Virginia’s group of young, yet talented playmakers.

Running backs Wendell Smallwood and Dreamius Smith should be fun to watch, while cornerback Daryl Worley and safety Karl Joseph could make highlight plays in the secondary. And the Mountaineers have a class full of potential impact newcomers who could see the field for the first time.

The Mountaineers have the skill position talent to hold their own against the Crimson Tide, but their offensive and defensive lines will decide their success. I won’t be heading to this game expecting an upset but, if the Mountaineers find a quarterback, stranger things have happened.

While Trotter heads to Waco, Texas, I’d gladly be Georgia-bound as the combination of talent, upset potential and coaching storylines make this is the marquee game in the Big 12 during opening weekend.

SPONSORED HEADLINES