Dallas Colleges: Tom Farniok
1. Oklahoma: The Sooners lose their captain in All-American Gabe Ikard, who kept the line together through several moving pieces. Those pieces, however, are almost all back. Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams are steady veterans at tackle. Inside, guards Dionte Savage and Nila Kasitati both started the Sugar Bowl, and former starter Tyler Evans returns after sitting out the last two years with injury. The Sooners also have been grooming Ikard’s replacement at center in Ty Darlington, who has played well in a reserve role the last two years. Even without Ikard, this is a seasoned unit.
3. Texas: The Longhorns return veteran center Dominic Espinosa, who has 39 career starts. But with three starters gone, the Longhorns really need the light to come up for Desmond Harrison. The talent is there, and if Harrison can put it all together, he’ll give Texas a much-needed bookend on the left side. There’s potential elsewhere in freshman guard Rami Hammad and sophomore tackle Kent Perkins, who could both earn starting roles this spring. The biggest addition to this group will be new assistant Joe Wickline, who worked magic with the offensive lines in Stillwater.
4. Baylor: The Bears need left tackle Spencer Drango to make a healthy recovery from his back injury. After Drango was injured in November, Baylor struggled at times to keep quarterback Bryce Petty upright. Departing unanimous All-American guard Cyril Richardson is irreplaceable, though Desmine Hilliard had a solid sophomore season at right guard. Sophomore Kyle Fuller looks ready to take over at center, but the Bears will need another piece or two to emerge. The skill talent is in place for the Baylor offense to keep humming. How the players up front perform will determine whether it will.
5. Oklahoma State: The key for the Cowboys here will be a healthy return of left tackle Devin Davis. Davis might have been Oklahoma State’s best lineman last season, but suffered a torn ACL during a preseason that knocked him out for the year. Davis has NFL ability, and if he resumes his role, that will allow Daniel Koenig to move back to right tackle. The O-line in Stillwater was something never to worry about because of Wickline’s masterful track record of mixing and matching to get a right fit. It will be interesting to see how the line performs next season with Wickline now at Texas.
7. West Virginia: The good news is that the Mountaineers should be superb inside. Quinton Spain is one of the best returning guards in the league, and Mark Glowinski had a solid season at the other guard spot. Tackle, however, is the biggest question on the entire squad going into the spring, outside QB. Coach Dana Holgorsen said Friday that guard Marquis Lucas would be swinging to the outside to compete with Adam Pankey, Marcell Lazard and Sylvester Townes.
8. Iowa State: A healthy Tom Farniok at center would go a long way in stabilizing an inconsistent offensive line that gave up a Big 12-high 38 sacks last season. Farniok was never healthy last year, and it showed. The Cyclones are excited about the potential of Brock Dagel as a cornerstone at left tackle. Jacob Gannon will battle Jake Campos for the other tackle spot, while Jamison Lalk, Oni Omoile and juco transfer Wendell Taiese will compete for the guard spot opposite Daniel Burton. Under the new offensive regime, this line could enjoy huge improvement from 2013.
9. TCU: The line was one of many reasons why the TCU offense struggled so much in 2013. Getting Matt Pryor on the field would be a big help. Pryor is massive at 6-foot-7, 350 pounds, and could fill a need a tackle. Getting Tayo Fabuluje back after a year away from football could help, too, assuming he’s not too rusty. Juco guard Frank Kee, who chose the Horned Frogs over Oklahoma, could fill a spot inside immediately. True freshman Ty Barrett, the prize in a hotly contested recruiting battle, could challenge for time quickly, too.
10. Kansas: John Reagan takes over at offensive coordinator and line coach, and he’ll have some talented newcomers to weave into the rotation. Devon Williams and Keyon Haughton both arrived as three-star guards from Georgia Military College. Haughton is already on campus and could start right away. Freshman Jacob Bragg, the No. 3 center recruit in the country, could vie for time immediately, too, at the vacancy at center (2013 backup center Dylan Admire has moved to fullback/tight end).
Back again with more stats and tidbits courtesy of SID departments across the league and ESPN stats and information. Did you know …
- TCU coach Gary Patterson returns to his alma mater for the first time as a head coach when he visits Kansas State on Saturday. He played linebacker and safety for the Wildcats before graduating in 1983. He was born in Larned, Kan., and lived in Rozel, Kan.
- TCU's Trevone Boykin is the only player in the nation with a 100-yard rushing, 100-yard receiving and 200-yard passing game this season.
- TCU leads the Big 12 with 70.4 percent (2,379 of 3,380 yards) of its scrimmage yards from underclassmen.
- Deante' Gray, who started two games at receiver this season, started at cornerback for TCU against Iowa State last Saturday and had two tackles and a pass breakup. He also leads the squad in special teams tackles.
- Iowa State's DeVondrick Nealy's 98-yard kick return for a touchdown snapped TCU's 135-game streak without allowing a kick return for a score, which was the nation's longest.
- TCU is tied for the conference lead and sixth in the nation with 25 forced turnovers this season.
- TCU holds the nation's third longest streak of games without being shut out at 265, dating back to a 32-0 shutout loss to Texas in 1991.
- Kansas State coach Bill Snyder earned victory No. 175 overall and No. 100 in conference play with the Wildcats' 49-26 win over Texas Tech last Saturday. He's the 46th coach to reach the 175-win mark and just the 11th reach that standard at one school. He joins Tom Osborne of Nebraska and Barry Switzer of Oklahoma as the only Big 8/12 coaches with at least 100 wins at one school.
- K-State has turned it on in the fourth quarter of recent games, outscoring opponents 56-14 during its three-game win streak.
- The Wildcats are 49-17 in November under Snyder since 1991.
- KSU is looking to become the fourth Big 12 team to start 2-4 or worse yet still make a bowl game. 2001 K-State, 2002 Oklahoma State and 2004 Iowa State are the only teams to achieve that feat thus far.
- Since 1999, K-State ranks No. 1 nationally in non-offensive touchdowns with 91.
- John Hubert is averaging 109.5 rushing yards per game and one touchdown in KSU's last four games after averaging 53.6 rushing yards in the Wildcats' first five contests.
- KSU sophomore defensive lineman Travis Britz has blocked four kicks this season, which leads the nation.
- Texas is 6-0 in the Big 12 for the fifth time under Mack Brown (1999, 2005, 2006, 2009).
- The Longhorns has scored 30 points or more in their last six games, matching their longest streak since 2009.
- UT is No. 5 nationally in sacks in its last six games. The Longhorns have gotten to the quarterback 24 times during their last six contests.
- Longhorns' guard Mason Walters has started 47 straight games, the second-longest streak in the nation among offensive linemen (Mississippi State's Gabe Jackson owns the longest streak).
- Texas has scored 11 touchdowns on plays of 45 yards or more this season. Eight different Longhorns have achieved that feat.
- UT receiver Jaxon Shipley is clutch with 30 of his 46 receptions resulting in a first down this season, including three on fourth down. His fourth-down catch kept hope alive in the Longhorns' 47-40 overtime win over West Virginia last Saturday.
- UT defensive end Cedric Reed is the lone FBS defender with at least six sacks, four pass breakups and four forced fumbles. The junior has seven sacks, four pass breakups and four forced fumbles.
- Oklahoma State has won 10 of its last 11 games in the state of Texas.
- An OSU win over Texas would be the Cowboys third-straight victory in Austin and make the Cowboys the first team to do it since Colorado in 1990, 1994 and 1997.
- OSU has scored 20 or more points in 48 straight games dating back to the start of the 2010 season. It's the longest streak in the nation.
- OSU has forced a turnover in 17 straight games.
- Cowboys cornerback Justin Gilbert leads all active players with six kickoff returns for touchdown in his career after his kickoff return for a score to open the game against Kansas.
- OSU is one of seven teams ranking in the nation's top 20 in both scoring offense (40.7 points per game) and scoring defense (19.7 ppg). Alabama, Baylor, Florida State, Oregon, Ohio State and Louisville join the Pokes in that category.
- The Cowboys are averaging 6.11 three-and-outs forced per game this season.
- OSU ranks No. 9 nationally in yards per play allowed at 4.67 yards per play. Michigan State leads the nation at 3.47 followed by Baylor's 4.08.
- The Cowboys lead the Big 12 in third down conversion percentage at 29.6 percent which ranks sixth nationally.
- The Cowboys could feature the league's most balanced offense. OSU has 343 rushing attempts and 343 passing attempts heading into its battle with Texas.
- Texas Tech's series with Baylor is the longest in school history. The Red Raiders hold a 36-34-1 lead in the series.
- The Red Raiders have scored 20 points or more in 25 straight games, dating back to 2011.
- Linebacker Will Smith has either led or tied for the team lead in tackles in six of TTU's last eight games. He has 72 tackles in 10 games, including 50 solo stops.
- TTU had its nation-leading streak of 257 straight PATs snapped when KSU blocked Ryan Bustin's attempt last Saturday. It also snapped Bustin's personal streak of 101 consecutive PATs.
- TTU tight end Jace Amaro had nine receptions for 67 yards against Kansas State to make it nine straight games with at least eight receptions for the junior, tying Michael Crabtree for the school record. He also moved to 10th on Tech's single season receptions list with 88 catches this season.
- Baylor head coach Art Briles is a 1979 Texas Tech graduate and was an assistant coach on Mike Leach's staff from 2000-02.
- It's been a full year since Baylor lost a game and the Bears 12-game winning streak is a school record. Oklahoma was the last team to defeat Baylor on Nov. 10, 2012.
- The Bears' 8-0 start is the best in Baylor's history.
- Baylor is hoping to win three straight games against TTU for the first time since 1984-87.
- Baylor leads the nation in total offense (686 ypg), scoring (61 ppg), pass efficiency (201.5), yards per play (8.64) and passing yards per completion (19.29).
- The Bears defense has more interceptions (11) than passing touchdowns allowed (8).
- Baylor leads the nation in fewest three-and-outs per game (1.02) and is No. 2 in three-and-outs forced (7).
- Baylor is on track to set NCAA records in points per game (61) and yards per game (686). Army averaged 56 points per game in 1944 while Houston averaged 624.9 yards per game in 1989.
- BU's starting offense has 85 drives resulting in 52 touchdowns, getting into the end zone on 61.1 percent of its drives.
- Baylor has won a school-record eight straight conference games. The previous high was five in 2010.
- The Bears lead the Big 12 in tackles for loss with 8.9 per game. That ranks No. 2 in the FBS.
- Baylor has converted 52.7 percent of its third down attempts, which leads the Big 12 and ranks No. 8 in the nation.
- Baylor leads the Big 12 in sacks at 3 per game. That number ties the Bears for 14th nationally.
- BU quarterback Bryce Petty leads the nation in pass efficiency (210.6) and yards per completion (19.68).
- BU running back Lache Seastrunk has 10 games of 100 rushing yards or more in Baylor's last 12 games. He's averaging 8.7 yards per carry, which ranks No. 2 nationally.
- Seastrunk leads the league with 111 rushing yards per game and 11 touchdowns.
- Teammate Shock Linwood, a redshirt freshman running back, is second in the Big 12 with 89.3 rushing yards per game.
- BU receiver Antwan Goodley leads the Big 12 with 121.8 receiving yards per game, which is No. 4 nationally.
- Baylor is 12-1 in November and December since 2011, which is tops in the FBS. That record includes a 5-1 mark against Top 25 teams.
- Iowa State's loss to TCU was the fifth time this season the Cyclones lost a game by eight points or less, including losses to Big 12 foes Texas, Texas Tech and TCU by a combined 12 points.
- ISU and Rutgers are the only two teams with two different players who have returned a kickoff 95 yards or more for a touchdown.
- Nealy has scored in four straight games in three different ways for the Cyclones.
- ISU has used eight different starting offensive lines in nine games. With injuries ravaging its offensive front, 10 different Cyclones have starting along the offensive line.
- Receiver Quenton Bundrage is the only Cyclone to start every game on offense.
- ISU linebacker Jeremiah George has recorded double digit tackles in seven of nine games. He leads the Big 12 with 11.3 tackles per game, ranking fourth nationally.
- Even with ISU's struggles on the field, the Cyclones have had three sellouts this season (Oklahoma State, Iowa, Northern Iowa) and are averaging the highest attendance average (55,617) in program history.
- ISU has converted 23 of 24 red zone possessions into points (18 touchdowns, five field goals) to lead the Big 12 and rank No. 4 nationally at 95.8 percent.
- West Virginia is making its first trip to Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kan.
- Two of the top-20, single-game rushing performances in KU history have occurred on Nov. 16. June Henley rushed for 209 yards against Texas in 1996 (15th best) and John Riggins rushed for 189 yards against K-State in 1968 (19th best).
- Mountaineers running back Dreamuis Smith played at Wichita (Kan.) Heights and was committed to the Jayhawks before spending two seasons at Butler County Community College.
- KU's Michael Reynolds has 5.5 sacks this season, the most by a KU defender since 2009. He has a sack in four of KU's last five games.
- KU punter Trevor Pardula has punted for 3,044 yards this season, nearly 1.73 miles. He leads the nation at 338.2 yards per game.
- West Virginia has scored 30 points or more in 24 games, 40 points of more in 12 games, 50 points or more in six games and 60 points or more in three games during Dana Holgorsen's tenure.
- WVU running back Charles Sims leads the Big 12 in all-purpose yardage, averaging 124.2 yards per game.
- WVU has forced a turnover in 16 straight games and 28 of its last 29 contests.
- WVU's is looking to extend its streak of making bowl appearances to 12 with wins over Kansas and Iowa State to close the season.
- WVU is 3-1 on the road in November under Holgorsen
- Oklahoma has won 14 straight games against Iowa State and is 8-0 under Bob Stoops.
- The Sooners are 13-1 on Senior Day under Stoops.
- Stoops has 156 career victories and will be looking to tie Barry Switzer at 157 with a win on Saturday.
- OU will honor 17 seniors on Senior Day. This class is 39-10 during their time in Norman.
- The Sooners are seeking a perfect home record for the 11th time in 15 seasons under Stoops and the first time since 2010.
- The Sooners-Cyclones contest will feature a battle of brothers. Tom Farniok is ISU's starting center while Derek Farniok is a backup tackle at OU.
I had a guest picker lined up: Tyler, a K-State fan in California who is getting married. He pulled at my heartstrings with this submission:
Jake, I'm getting married on the 19th. How about an early wedding present for a Big 12 fan raised in Manhattan, Kan., now living in Pac-12 country?
Well, Tyler flaked out. Either the fiancée was getting on him about focusing more on the wedding and less about Big 12 football, or he got too depressed to send his picks in after his ‘Cats fell to 0-2 in Big 12 play.
I was, however, able to secure another guest picker at the final hour in Curtis, an OU fan in Washington, D.C., who submitted the following:
I'm in Washington, D.C., in the middle of a year-long military deployment, and while I can't say exactly what it is I do, suffice it to say the schedule is not conducive to going to a lot of live games. In fact, every other weekend I'm stuck in a room that we can't even take a phone into. That said, through lurking on various Big 12 message boards when I’m not on duty, I am eminently qualified to pick games.
Last week, Big 12 officials helped derail my upset special, as Texas escaped Ames with a controversial victory. West Ham not only scored its first road goal, but stunned Tottenham 3-to-nil to hand me yet another defeat. Bollocks!!
I’m feeling a bounce-back week, though.
To the Week 7 picks:
Trotter last week: 4-2 (.667)
Guest picker (David in England) last week: 5-1 (.833)
Trotter overall: 30-10 (.750)
Guest picker overall: 17-6 (.739)
TCU 44, Kansas 3: Led by All-American cornerback Jason Verrett, TCU is playing championship-level defense, even without a healthy Devonte Fields, who will undergo season-ending surgery. If only the Horned Frogs could find a way to muster just a little more offense, this could be a dangerous team the second half of the season. Kansas could barely move the ball with playmaking running back Tony Pierson. Without him, it becomes a long day for the Jayhawks in Fort Worth against this TCU defense.
Curtis’ pick: While Kansas has shown some signs of life, they will face a TCU defense far better than any they've seen. TCU, 45-13
Texas Tech 31, Iowa State 23: Iowa State has somewhat had Tech’s number recently, winning two of the last three, including the 41-7 stunner in Lubbock the week after the Red Raiders had upset Oklahoma in 2011. Coach Kliff Kingsbury, however, seems to have the Red Raiders on more solid ground than Tommy Tuberville did. The quarterback position continues to be a moving part due to injuries, but thanks to the defense, that hasn’t cost the Red Raiders yet. The Cyclones, meanwhile, should arrive in Lubbock angry after the way they lost to Texas last week. They also bring an offense that is rapidly improving, thanks to the healthy return of center Tom Farniok and emergence of speed-demon running back Aaron Wimberly. As a result, Iowa State hangs around. But the Cyclones come up short in the fourth quarter again against a Tech defense that continues to buck up in the red zone. By the way, this pick should please Iowa State fans, and concern Red Raiders. I’m 0-4 picking Iowa State games this year.
Curtis’ pick: A little tough to pick this game as there's still no word on who Texas Tech will have under center. Iowa State suffered a controversial loss last week after getting jobbed by the refs, so Paul Rhodes will have his team fired up for this one. The Cyclones are usually good for one upset a year, and this will be their week. Iowa State, 31-28
Oklahoma 34, Texas 16: There’s not much to like about the Longhorns in this game. Texas enters without starting quarterback David Ash or much momentum after a lackluster victory at Iowa State last Thursday. The Longhorns are lacking identity, and have shown little heart recently against the Sooners, as Oklahoma has completely run Texas out of the Cotton Bowl before halftime the last two years. Usually, the pressure is on the favorite in this game. But because of the way Texas has lost to OU the last two games, and because of Mack Brown’s tenuous standing in Austin, all the pressure is on the Horns. The Sooners have their vulnerabilities. The offense has sputtered at times. The defense will be without linebacker Corey Nelson, who is out for the year with a torn pectoral muscle. But the Cotton Bowl seems to bring out the best in the Sooners and the worst in the Longhorns. This game is no different.
Curtis’ pick: They should just rename this game the "Texas Turkey Shoot." While most OU fans would love to see Mack Brown finish out the final seven years of his contract, this game will be his last in the series. (Oh, and in front of a home "sellout" crowd, Oklahoma State drops a heartbreaker to "Bye", 10-3). Boomer Sooner! OU, 50-13
Baylor 55, Kansas State 19: The Bears have looked virtually unbeatable through four games. The offense has been unstoppable and the defense quietly has been sound since November of last year. But this will be Baylor’s first game away from Floyd Casey Stadium. And it’s worth nothing that the Bears have won just one Big 12 road game in their last nine tries -- the lone victory being at Kansas. This Baylor team, however, is at another level. This is the best defense Art Briles has had, and the offense has no weaknesses. And even though Bill Snyder has a solid defensive game plan in place, the Bears still drop off 50-plus to secure their first Big 12 road win in two years.
Curtis’ pick: It's tough to find a superlative to apply to Baylor’s offensive output this year, but their defense has also played pretty darn well. KSU isn't playing the mistake-free football characteristic of a Bill Snyder coached team, and their offense isn't built to get into a shootout. The only upset here is if Baylor doesn't drop another 60-point performance. Baylor, 63-27
Hi there guys! I'm an avid follower of college football, which is rather rare in this country! I'd love to be your guest picker and give you some good ol' English dry wit to add to your insight!
David, after last week’s disaster picking games, we could use some insight. And since you’ll be picking games from our version of football, I’ll be picking one from yours. David is a Tottenham bloke, so we’re going to pick Sunday’s West Ham at Tottenham match.
If you want to be next week’s guest picker, contact me here, and tell me why. And, as always, creativity counts.
By the way, the Big 12 blog team will be out and about this weekend. Max Olson will be in Waco for West Virginia-Baylor, Brandon Chatmon will be in Stillwater for Kansas State-Oklahoma State, and yours truly will be in Norman for TCU-Oklahoma.
To the Week 6 picks:
Trotter last week: 1-3 (.250)
Guest picker last week: 2-2 (.500)
Trotter overall: 26-8 (.765)
Guest picker overall: 12-5 (.706)
Iowa State 27, Texas 25: The Longhorns revealed Wednesday that QB David Ash would not travel to Ames due to lingering issues from a head injury. Backup Case McCoy has actually filled in well for Ash this season. However, the offense is limited with McCoy, and I’m not sure that changes if the redshirt is pulled off freshman Tyrone Swoopes, either. The Cyclones, meanwhile, found their offensive footing last week with the healthy return of center Tom Farniok and emergence of speedy running back Aaron Wimberly. Ames will be rocking. Iowa State is tenacious on weekday games. I smell upset here.
David’s pick: Texas is coming off a bye week and a standout game against K-State. Iowa State is coming off losses to two other Iowa teams (neither of them particularly impressive games anyway) and could barely handle Tulsa. Watch for Johnathan Gray to have a standout game against a particularly poor rush defense. Texas 35-14
No. 20 Texas Tech 28, Kansas 7: Long known for its high-powered offense, Tech has actually jumped to 4-0 with defense this season. Despite having talent on offense, the Jayhawks have struggled to score points. That continues, as the Red Raiders win another ugly game to remain undefeated.
David’s pick: Kansas welcomes a Texas Tech team that is achieving over 400 yards passing per game. The Jayhawks capitulate, as the combination of Baker Mayfield and Jace Amaro tears through them. Texas Tech 42-7
No. 21 Oklahoma State 29, Kansas State 17: For the first time in seemingly forever, Oklahoma State is without much of an offensive identity. The offense’s best asset is receiver, but J.W. Walsh is a running quarterback without the arm strength to get the ball downfield. So far, Jeremy Smith has also proven to be a major downgrade from Joseph Randle at running back, which has limited the effectiveness of the running game. Bill Snyder is one of the best, and off an open week, he’ll have a strong defensive gameplan that attacks Walsh’s weaknesses. OSU wins, but Walsh continues to sputter passing, raising questions about whether the Cowboys should turn back to Clint Chelf at QB.
David’s pick: OSU's BCS title dreams are in tatters thanks to a woeful showing against at West Virginia. Kansas State faces an angry team and one that's ready to let it rip. OSU 32-17
No. 11 Oklahoma 28, TCU 16: This is the ultimate trap game for the Sooners, who get TCU sandwiched between the big win at Notre Dame and the Texas game next weekend. The Sooners, however, know better than to overlook TCU, which has played OU tough over the years, winning in Norman in 2005. These Horned Frogs don’t have enough offense to pull off the upset, but the TCU defense keeps the Horned Frogs in the game until the fourth quarter.
David’s pick: A once-ranked TCU finally found some offense against SMU. If Oklahoma had lost to Notre Dame, this would have been a blowout. Instead, it’s a nail-biter. OU 28-27
No. 17 Baylor 49, West Virginia 21: Neither of these teams played defense last season. This season, both units have made major improvements. The difference is that Baylor’s offense is better than last year. West Virginia’s is much worse. Even though the Mountaineers toppled then-No. 11 Oklahoma State last weekend, they are four-touchdown underdogs in Waco. Vegas is giving Baylor major respect for a reason. This offense appears to have no weakness. The Bears continue to roll.
David’s pick: Being an Oregon fan at heart, Baylor's impression of the Ducks’ high-speed offense has paid off. But I must give credit to that Baylor defense. West Virginia's shocking win against OSU will give it the confidence, but only scoring just over 20 points per game is not going to give you a win against Baylor. Baylor, 52-10
Tottenham Hotspur 5, West Ham United 0: I wanted to pick West Ham to troll David. But then I found out Tottenham is third in the Premier League standings; West Ham is 17th out of 20 and has failed to score away from home. This is like when Louisiana-Monroe traveled to Baylor, and we all know how that turned out.
David’s pick: Tottenham is flying high to start this season. Only one loss (to top of the table Arsenal) is the blip in an otherwise comfortable start to life without Gareth Bale. Gylfi Siggurdson has had a tremendous start to the campaign, bank on him to get one or two against a frail West Ham side. West Ham, typically, doesn't travel well in the BPL. Their key to victory will be to play Tottenham at its game: slick passing counter attack. Fail to do so, and we could be looking at a blowout in the first half. Tottenham 3-0
1. Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0 Big 12, last week 3): The Sooners take over the top spot after delivering the most impressive Big 12 win of the season. Notre Dame is not the same team as last season, but the Irish hadn't lost in South Bend since October of 2011. OU has been a different team since Blake Bell took over at quarterback, and Bell was fabulous Saturday, throwing for two touchdowns without a turnover while churning out first downs with his arm and his legs. The OU defense is clearly better, too, picking off QB Tommy Rees on Notre Dame's first two possessions, with linebacker Corey Nelson returning one for a touchdown. The Sooners were clearly a team overlooked in the preseason, and, after five weeks, are looking like a clear Big 12 favorite along with Baylor.
2. Baylor (3-0, 0-0 Big 12, last week 2): After the off week, the Bears' offense will get its first real challenge this weekend from West Virginia's defense that appears to be the most improved unit in the league. Baylor has been unstoppable so far, but the level of competition is about to undergo an uptick. Can the Bears keep it up? They've shown no signs they can't.
3. Texas Tech (4-0, 1-0 Big 12, last week 4): Despite having the week off, the Red Raiders move up a spot with Oklahoma State's loss. The big question in Lubbock is who will be starting at quarterback for Tech come Saturday against Kansas. Baker Mayfield? Davis Webb? Michael Brewer, who has been progressing well from the back injury? The Red Raiders have been solid defensively, and the skill talent is legit. If Tech can get better play from its quarterback, this team could be a handful -- even for OU and Baylor.
4. West Virginia (3-2, 1-1 Big 12, last week 8): What a difference a week makes. The Mountaineers produced the most impressive in-conference win of the season with a 30-21 victory over preseason favorite Oklahoma State. West Virginia's defense continues to play at a high level (Maryland's 37 points were somewhat of an anomaly because of West Virginia turnovers) and Clint Trickett sparked the offense with his energy and leadership. West Virginia's offense is still pretty limited, but at least it no longer looks completely inept with Trickett at quarterback. The Mountaineers can't score with Baylor this weekend, but maybe they can slow the Bears down? Nobody thought West Virginia could slow Oklahoma or Oklahoma State, either, though Baylor's offense is at another level. We'll see.
5. Texas (2-2, 1-0 Big 12, last week 5): The Longhorns have a couple of interesting games looming. Thursday, Texas travels to Iowa State, which looked much better offensively in a 38-21 win at Tulsa this past Thursday. Then, Texas gets surging Oklahoma in Dallas. This figures to be the defining two-game stretch of the season for the Longhorns. Win the next two, and the season -- as well as Mack Brown's status in Austin -- looks totally different than it did two weeks ago. The off week could not have come at a better time for the Longhorns, giving acting defensive coordinator Greg Robinson another week to acclimate to his defense and quarterback David Ash another week to recover from the head injury that knocked him out of the Ole Miss and Kansas State games.
6. TCU (2-2, 0-1 Big 12, last week 6): Did TCU's offense finally uncover an identity during a rainy fourth quarter against SMU? The Horned Frogs poured on 31 points in the final quarter and did it with some new faces, as Ty Slanina, Ja'Juan Story and Cameron Echols-Luper all factored into the scoring onslaught in the first real action of their TCU careers. The Horned Frogs can really turn their season around with a win in Norman this weekend. That won't be easy, though, if All-American cornerback Jason Verrett (shoulder) and defensive end Devonte Fields (foot) can't play.
7. Oklahoma State (3-1, 0-1 Big 12, last week 1): The Cowboys plummet six spots after an uninspiring performance in Morgantown. It was just one loss, but it was a loss that exposed weaknesses across the board. For the first time in seemingly forever, Oklahoma State's kicking game is awful. The Cowboys' secondary gave up 320 yards to a West Virginia passing attack that previously had been completely futile. And on the other side of the ball, when the Mountaineers dared QB J.W. Walsh to beat them deep, he couldn't do it. That allowed West Virginia to stuff the Cowboys' running game, which also doesn't appear to have that bell-cow running back Oklahoma State has been accustomed to featuring. The Cowboys are better than they looked at West Virginia -- but how much better?
8. Kansas State (2-2, 0-1 Big 12, last week 7): Bill Snyder maintains the Wildcats will stick with the two-quarterback system, which has yielded mixed results. K-State has moved the ball better when Daniel Sams has been in at quarterback. But when he's in, the Wildcats are virtually no threat to pass. Sams has 29 rushes and only four passing attempts. Is Sams really that poor of a passer? Maybe it's time for K-State to find out.
9. Iowa State (1-2, 0-0 Big 12, last week 10): It's hard to believe a center could make that much of a difference. But the return of Tom Farniok sure seemed to do wonders for Iowa State's offense, which finally got going in a 38-21 win at Tulsa. The Cyclones also finally involved running back Aaron Wimberly, who ignited the running game with Iowa State's first 100-yard performance in more than a year. With former blue-chip junior-college transfer E.J. Bibbs emerging now at tight end, QB Sam Richardson no longer appears to be on his own. Jack Trice will be rocking Thursday night for the Longhorns, as Iowa State has a chance to land a signature win to build off of for the rest of the season.
10. Kansas (2-1, 0-0 Big 12, last week 9): The Jayhawks have a winning record but have been mostly unimpressive. Can they turn around the offense against Texas Tech? That will hinge almost entirely on quarterback Jake Heaps, who has talent but has been unable to find any rhythm so far with a collection of unproven wideouts. If the Jayhawks can be competitive this weekend, it will be a good sign they are moving in the right direction. If they get blasted, it could be a long season, especially with Iowa State and West Virginia seemingly having found their stride.
- The Cyclones found their footing, and an offense, at Tulsa, according to the Ames Tribune's Bobby La Gesse. Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register writes about how QB Sam Richardson overcame injuries to guide Iowa State to the 38-21 win. The paper's Bryce Miller explains how center Tom Farniok shored up the Cyclones offensive line.
- Saturday, Clint Trickett will become West Virginia's third starting quarterback already this season. The Charleston Daily Mail's Mike Casazza breaks it down. The Mountaineers are also ready to pick up the pace, writes Dave Hickman of the Charleston Gazette. Opposing defenses, meanwhile, have the blueprint for stopping the West Virginia offense, in the opinion of Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- The Sooners are expecting a big-time atmosphere in South Bend. The Oklahoma players talk about playing in big-time games. The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey breaks down the OU-Notre Dame matchups. The Dallas Morning News does the same.
- Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich is getting the opportunity of a lifetime, writes The Oklahoman's Gina Mizell. Running back Jeremy Smith has been a reason for Oklahoma State's 3-0 start.
- Baylor coach Art Briles is hoping his book, “Looking Up: My Journey from Tragedy to Triumph," inspires. The Bears expect to get back tight end Jordan Najvar and running back Glasco Martin next week in their Big 12 opener against West Virginia. The Dallas Morning News compares the Baylor and Oregon offenses side-by-side.
- TCU is the best in the Big 12 when it comes to non-conference scheduling, according to The Oklahoman's Ryan Aber. The Horned Frogs need an offensive spark, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Jimmy Burch and Stefan Stevenson. E.J. Holland of the Dallas Morning News predicts the Frogs will keep the Iron Skillet in Fort Worth.
- The Lawrence Journal-World's Matt Tait writes that the Kansas offensive line is trying to get tougher during its open week.
- A bye week on the schedule doesn’t mean Kansas State has taken it easy, either, according to Ken Corbitt of the Topeka Capital-Journal.
- Texas Tech is planning some reunions.
- Could there be crimson on the burnt orange side? The AP reports that Texas students have not claimed all their tickets for the Red River Rivalry.
I should be your Big 12 guest picker for Week 5. Why? Because when it comes to challenging the experts at ESPN, nobody Bears down like I do. I'm like an unstoppable Cyclone of correct predictions. I'm not a Wildcat with my selections (you'll never catch me picking a Longhorn to do anything other than be a horn that's long). I strive for the highest summits of analysis the likes of which no Mountaineer has ever seen. While you may be a college football maverick, I'm the Red Raider with guns-up accuracy. No Jayhawk can hang with my stuff (or anyone's stuff, for that matter). So stop being a Cowboy with your reckless game-picker selections. You know you're gonna tab me Sooner or later. Horned Frogs.
Last week, I correctly picked Texas to bounce back and beat Kansas State, but Omar’s Mountaineers burned me with a no-show performance in Baltimore. I was also called out in front of my ACC colleagues via this tweet from a @beedubss: “I hope Andrea Adelson and Heather Dinich get to give @ESPN_Big12 a really hard time about his #WVUvsMD prediction. #GirlsRuleBoysDrool #GoTerps”.
Come on, guys. We’re better than this.
If you want to be next week’s guest picker, contact me here, and tell me why. And, as always, creativity counts.
To the Week 5 picks:
Trotter last week: 4-1 (.800)
Guest picker last week: 4-1 (.800)
Trotter overall: 25-5 (.833)
Guest picker overall: 10-3 (.769)
Tulsa 30, Iowa State 27: Dating back to last year, Iowa State has now lost six of seven, which includes a two-touchdown loss to Tulsa in the Liberty Bowl. Tulsa, meanwhile, has played better since an embarrassing 27-point loss at Bowling Green in its opener. This game is in Tulsa, where the Hurricane has not lost since falling to eighth-ranked Houston in November 2011. The Cyclones just don’t have the offensive firepower right now around quarterback Sam Richardson, who also faces the possibility of playing the rest of the season on a bum ankle.
Omar’s pick: The Golden Hurricane is a young team, but can still run the ball. The Cyclones cannot, and the return of Tom Farniok won’t change the fact that Sam Richardson is currently the team’s biggest threat on the ground. Tulsa, 31-27
TCU 31, SMU 16: Coach Gary Patterson rode his team hard during the off week, even calling them out in the media for “feeling sorry for themselves.” Despite the disappointing 1-2 start, the Horned Frogs have too many veteran players to feel sorry for themselves for very long. This is still a good team, with good players on both sides of the ball. If TCU can uncover an offensive identity post QB Casey Pachall -- perhaps running the ball more with B.J. Catalon and Waymon James to take pressure off QB Trevone Boykin -- the Frogs will be fine. This SMU game is a golden opportunity for TCU to figure out some things before going to Norman next weekend.
Omar’s pick: Despite the 1-2 start, TCU’s defense is still arguably the best in the Big 12. Garrett Gilbert will get his yards, but Boykin and Catalon run wild on a Mustang front seven that’s one of the smallest and most inexperienced in the nation. TCU, 36-20
Oklahoma State 42, West Virginia 14: Both teams are running Dana Holgorsen’s offense. Only one is running it well. After the 37-0 loss to Maryland, Holgorsen rightfully called West Virginia’s offense as inept as it could be. Omar's Mountaineers don’t have any playmakers at receiver, the offensive line is not getting any push in the run game and QB Ford Childress is too young to overcome either deficiency. Poor Charles Sims, by the way, picked the wrong year to transfer. Imagine Sims on the same team with Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Now that would be an offense that could outscore Oklahoma State. This West Virginia offense cannot.
Omar’s pick: The Cowboys are getting it done by land and air so far, while the Mountaineers are trying to rebuild the offense through Ford Childress. The WVU defense keeps it closer than most expect. OSU, 34-21
Notre Dame 24, Oklahoma 21: The Sooners feel good about themselves after Blake Bell’s performance against Tulsa. But this isn’t Tulsa. And this game won’t be played in Norman. The Irish have looked lackluster so far this season, but they’ve played a difficult schedule featuring Michigan and Michigan State. The Sooners, meanwhile, have yet to play anybody. Notre Dame will win the battle in the trenches, force Bell into a couple of critical mistakes in his first start on the road and make the plays in the fourth quarter like it did last year in Norman. They will move to 10-1 all-time in the series while preventing the Big 12 from picking up its first Top 25 non-conference victory.
Omar’s pick: Blake Bell has a cool nickname; Tommy Rees does not. OU, 28-23
Here's what we've covered so far:
This group is subject to more change during the season than perhaps any other position. You never quite know how chemistry will develop, and in these rankings, you really have to rely heavily on experience, similar to quarterbacks. It's not the only factor, but you have to acknowledge that it's a major one.
So, here's how I rank them:
2. Baylor: The Bears might be a bit of a surprise here, but Baylor's strong skill-position talents wouldn't look nearly as good without this group, which lost a first-round pick at left tackle in Danny Watkins. However, Philip Blake is one of the league's best centers and four starters return from a line that helped Baylor finish second in the Big 12 last season in yards per carry, just behind Nebraska but nearly a half-yard more than Oklahoma State, the third-place team.
3. Missouri: The Tigers suffered a big loss in center Tim Barnes, a three-year starter and the offensive line's leader, but they return four starters from last season line and have the most career starts on the line of any team in the Big 12, with 105, which ranks 11th nationally.
4. Texas A&M: A&M's rising sophomore tackles, Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, had to learn on the go last season, but their development should be fun to watch this season on an offensive line blocking for the Big 12's best overall collection of skill-position talents. The line returns four starters, replacing only center Matt Allen.
5. Oklahoma: The Sooners' goal-line problems last season cost them a game at Texas A&M, but this line was very solid the rest of the season and has plenty of upside. Likely starter Jarvis Jones won't be available until perhaps October, so the Sooners will turn to touted redshirt freshman Daryl Williams at right tackle in the interim. Center Ben Habern and tackle Tyler Evans add a lot of experience.
6. Texas Tech: Tech boasts one of the Big 12's best guards in Lonnie Edwards, but don't be surprised if Mickey Okafor grabs the Big 12's first-team spot at right tackle by season's end. The Red Raiders return all five starters, and will have to play well to support new faces at every skill position on offense.
7. Kansas: Four of the Jayhawks' starters are juniors and another is a senior, and for all of KU's struggles last season, it did have some success running the ball in spots, even though its 1,615 total rush yards were the fewest in the Big 12. James Sims (742 yards, 9 TDs) returns and KU adds a possible home-run threat in Darrian Miller, but the offensive line returns 97 total starts, 15th-most in college football and second-most in the Big 12. That has to pay off eventually, if not this season.
8. Iowa State: The Cyclones boast the league's best left tackle, Kelechi Osemele, but center Ben Lamaak is gone and ISU might turn to redshirt freshman Tom Farniok as his replacement. Brayden Burris is solid at right tackle, but sophomore Ethan Tuftee, who has very little experience (just five appearances total), enters fall camp as the starter at right guard.
9. Texas: No, I don't know how this happens. But it's hard to deny. Run blocking has been a struggle for Texas, and new position coach Stacy Searels will have to change that for the Longhorns, who have kept quiet about any real depth-chart developments throughout the spring and into fall camp. Tray Allen's health is a concern, but Mason Walters played well in 2010 and David Snow has a lot of experience at center with 19 starts and 39 appearances. If this group can't ascend in these rankings during the season, Texas' turnaround from last season 5-7 campaign will not happen. Texas, though, has the fewest career starts in the Big 12, with 36, which ranks 105th nationally.
10. Kansas State: Kansas State has had the Big 12's leading rusher the past two seasons, but he's gone and so are three offensive linemen, including the unit's best blocker, guard Zach Kendall. Center Wade Weibert and guard Kenneth Mayfield also are gone, leaving gaps in the interior. Senior Zach Hanson joins Manese Foketi and Clyde Aufner on a unit that returns just 42 career starts, second-fewest in the Big 12 and 97th-most in college football.
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