Dallas Colleges: Trevone Boykin

Big 12 pre-spring position rankings: QB

February, 9, 2015
Feb 9
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With spring ball a month away, we'll be ranking the position groups in the Big 12 over the next two weeks. These evaluations will be based on past performance, future potential and quality depth. Our outlooks will probably look different after the spring. But this is how we see them at the moment. We begin this series with quarterbacks:

1. TCU: Trevone Boykin is one of the top returning quarterbacks in the country and should open the season on the short list of legitimate Heisman contenders. Boykin was fabulous in Year 1 of the Doug Meacham/Sonny Cumbie spread offense, and could be even better with a season of experience under his belt. Depth after Boykin is a bit of a concern, though Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein were highly touted signees last year.

2. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys boast one of the top young QBs in the league -- if not the country -- in Mason Rudolph, who led Oklahoma State to wins over Oklahoma and Washington to end his true freshman season. In just three starts, he displayed a poise that could elevate the Cowboys into dark-horse Big 12 contender status. After Rudolph the Cowboys have a pair of quarterbacks with extensive starting experience in J.W. Walsh and Daxx Garman. They also just signed ESPN 300 passer John Kolar, who could have the luxury of redshirting.

3. Texas Tech: If Rudolph isn't the Big 12's best young returning quarterback, Patrick Mahomes is. He caught fire after taking over the starting job, throwing for 14 TDs in Tech's final three games, including a 598-yard passing effort in a near upset of Baylor. Mahomes has become such an integral part of the program, the Red Raiders have said they will tailor spring practices around his baseball schedule. Davis Webb was thought to be Tech's quarterback of the future going into last season, but struggled with turnovers, then injuries. He still has the ability to be a quality player.

4. Baylor: Bryce Petty is gone, but the cupboard is hardly devoid of talent. Seth Russell has been a solid backup the last two years, and will enter the spring as the favorite to take over as the starter. Russell, however, will have plenty of competition, notably via incoming freshman Jarrett Stidham, who was the top-rated QB recruit to sign into the Big 12. Stidham has all the tools to be a star in the league down the road. Dual-threat Chris Johnson will also be in his third year.

5. Oklahoma: Quarterback remains a huge question mark for the Sooners, but it also has the chance to be way better than it was in 2014. Baker Mayfield is finally eligible after transferring in from Texas Tech last year. Mayfield was the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2013, and could be the favorite to win the job. Returning starter Trevor Knight was actually solid at times last season, but also killed the Sooners with costly mistakes, topping the league with three pick-six interceptions, all of which came in defeats. Cody Thomas, who started three games while Knight was injured, has given up baseball to focus on the QB derby, but might be a long shot after completing just 46 percent of his passes as a starter. Justice Hansen, who redshirted last year, is a former ESPN 300 recruit.

6. West Virginia: Skyler Howard sparked West Virginia with his wheels after Clint Trickett missed the final three games last year. But Howard was also hit and miss with his accuracy, which prevented him from locking up the job. Instead, he'll have to fend off William Crest, who actually beat out Howard for the No. 2 job coming out of fall camp before a shoulder injury forced a redshirt. Crest has a skill set reminiscent of former West Virginia standout Geno Smith. Paul Millard brings veteran depth after taking a redshirt in his fourth year. Freshman David Sills, who once committed to USC in junior high, will also take part in spring drills.

7. Texas: For now, the Longhorns are basically where they were last year. Tyrone Swoopes is the only quarterback on the roster with any experience. He's had his moments, but also struggled late last season as the Texas offense cratered. Jerrod Heard is the X factor. He won a pair of high school state championships and was a highly touted signee, but clearly wasn't ready as a true freshman. Barring an unforeseen transfer, the Longhorns will have to ride with one of those two. Kai Locksley was a key late addition to last week's class, but his passing needs development.

8. Iowa State: When healthy, Sam B. Richardson was the least of Iowa State's problems last year. He did a solid job limiting turnovers and made plays with his feet. He should be the starter again. The Cyclones also return Grant Rohach, who has 245 pass attempts the last two seasons in relief.

9. Kansas: Michael Cummings pumped life into the Jayhawks after going from fourth string to starter following the Charlie Weis firing. Kansas also signed a pair of promising players at the position last week in three-star Ryan Willis and Carter Stanley.

10. Kansas State: The Wildcats are a blank slate at quarterback following the graduation of Jake Waters. Ex-walk-on Joe Hubener will get first dibs at the job entering his fourth year on campus. Hubener has good arm strength and good speed, but only 17 career pass attempts. He'll be pushed this spring by three-star signee Alex Delton, who is already in school.
Earlier today, we looked back on the most memorable Big 12 games of 2014.

SportsNation

Who had the most memorable individual Big 12 offensive performance of 2014?

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Discuss (Total votes: 4,229)

 Now, in our weekly Big 12 poll, we're looking back at the most memorable individual offensive performances of the season.

Samaje Perine's record-breaking performance against Kansas has to top the list. After all, the Oklahoma true freshman set an FBS game rushing record with 427 yards.

But what about some of the other memorable performances of 2014?

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty had some terrific showings in his final college season. But his magical comeback against TCU on Oct. 11 was something special. Petty threw for 510 yards and six touchdowns, while leading the Bears to 24 unanswered fourth-quarter points, catapulting Baylor to an improbable 61-58 win.

Petty, however, wasn't the only quarterback to deliver a notable performance.

On Oct. 25, TCU's Trevone Boykin threw for 433 yards and a school-record seven touchdown passes against Texas Tech. Behind Boykin, the Horned Frogs also scored a Big 12 conference-game-record 82 points in their 55-point annihilation of the Red Raiders.

While the showing against TCU was one they'd just as soon forget, the Red Raiders also had a memorable performance of their own in a valiant defeat. In Texas Tech's regular-season finale on Nov. 29 vs. Baylor, quarterback Patrick Mahomes set a Big 12 freshman record with 598 yards on 30 of 56 passing. He also tossed six touchdowns, including a 40-yarder to Bradley Marquez with 1:42 left that erased a 25-point second half deficit and handed Tech a chance to tie the game with a two-point conversion. The try failed, but Mahomes was still magnificent.

West Virginia wideout Kevin White was magnificent all year, as he opened the season with seven straight 100-yard receiving games. But the highlight of that impressive run came when he torched Baylor for 132 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Mountaineers' 41-27 upset victory over the then-fourth-ranked Bears.

Like White, Kansas State's Tyler Lockett put up monster receiving numbers. Like White, it wasn't easy to single out one game. But Lockett's second half in the Valero Alamo Bowl against UCLA was downright dominant. In the second half alone, Lockett had 10 receptions for 116 yards and two touchdowns, as K-State almost came all the way back from a 31-6 halftime deficit before losing 40-35. It was a memorable performance for a memorable career.

Now we put the question to you: Of these five, who had the most memorable performance of 2014? Let us know by voting in this week's Big 12 poll.

Season report card: TCU Horned Frogs

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16
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After finishing 4-8 in 2013, an eight- or nine-win season that got the TCU program back on track to being competitive in the Big 12 would've been a reasonable aspiration in 2014. A 12-win season in which the Horned Frogs shared a Big 12 title and finished No. 3 in the AP poll is pretty good, too.

We conclude our Big 12 team-by-team season report card series with TCU:

Offense: A+

The Frogs had it all: a brand new Air Raid-inspired scheme; a quarterback in Trevone Boykin who finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting and instantly began playing at an elite level; a much-improved line; a loaded supply of skill talent all over the field; and the No. 2 scoring offense and No. 5 total offense in the country that scored a Big 12-best 47 points per game in conference play. It’s incredible how explosive these Frogs became on offense and how effectively they built up and maintained that level of play.

Defense: A-

A top-five unit nationally in measures that matter: three-and-outs, yards per play, turnovers, third-down defense and red-zone defense. With star talent at every level, led by Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Paul Dawson and defensive backs Kevin White and Chris Hackett, the Horned Frogs ranked No. 8 in scoring defense by holding seven opponents to 14 points or fewer. Their pass defense was slightly more generous but still fourth best in the Big 12. You can get away with that when your team grabs 40 takeaways, second most in FBS.

Special teams: B+

TCU had an All-Big 12 placekicker in Jaden Oberkrom, a great kick returner (when healthy) in B.J. Catalon and a punt returner in Cameron Echols-Luper who probably won TCU a game with his TD at Kansas. Even punter Ethan Perry did a nice job of pinning punts inside the 20 and 10.

Coaching: A+

The honors don’t lie. Gary Patterson has already racked up at least nine national Coach of the Year awards this offseason. He did a masterful job managing this team, especially once the expectations ratcheted up. His hiring of co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie and their ability to apply and install their vision proved brilliant. Patterson's ability to rally this team after the Baylor loss and win out was special. From staffing to scheme to preparation to week-by-week improvement and survival, this was a master class in coaching.

Overall: A+

TCU enjoyed a dream season, simple as that. Had the Frogs been able to hold onto their fourth-quarter lead in Waco, they would’ve made the College Football Playoff. Instead, they blasted No. 9 Ole Miss in the Chik-fil-A Peach Bowl and more than proved their legitimacy. This was one of the great surprise turnarounds in college football, and the future looks bright.

2015 Too-Early Big 12 Power Rankings

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

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Three thoughts

January, 1, 2015
Jan 1
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No. 6 TCU set out to send a message in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Wednesday and did a whole lot more: a 42-3 demolition of No. 9 Ole Miss that evoked the admiration of the college football world. Three things that stood out about the Horned Frogs' finale to finish 12-1:

1. TCU could've won the College Football Playoff. That's not a guarantee, an overreaction or some crazy hot take. The Horned Frogs team we saw Wednesday would've given Alabama all it could handle and more in New Orleans. The potent cocktail of aggression, speed and impeccable preparation put on display against the hapless Rebs proved TCU can play with anybody. Gary Patterson's squad can beat anybody, too, when they're clicking like this. The Tide and their CFP counterparts should breathe a sigh of relief. This TCU team is scary dangerous and seemed capable of pulling off a playoff stunner.

2. Frogs defense went for the kill. Who had the No. 1 scoring defense in the country during the regular season? Ole Miss, of course. But the better D won this game, and there's really no question about that. Forcing Bo Wallace to self-destruct right away made this game a cakewalk, and TCU's relentlessness against the run (9 yards allowed) made the Rebels even more miserable. James McFarland's zero-yard pick-six was the unforgettable highlight of the afternoon, but so many other players came up big as well. Horned Frog defenders took over, played fast and saved their best for last.

3. If you thought this was fun, just wait. Trevone Boykin and nearly every member of this offense are coming back for 2015. The only seniors departing? Left tackle Tayo Fabuluje, blocking tight end Cliff Murphy and valued backups David Porter and Matt Joeckel. That's it and that's all. TCU's offense will have all the same firepower, the momentum of an eight-game win streak and another full offseason to take the Air Raid to the next level. With all the buzz this bowl showing elicited, it's easy to see why TCU could go into 2015 as one of the most-hyped teams in the country.

Instant Analysis: TCU 42, Ole Miss 3

December, 31, 2014
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ATLANTA -- One team played as if it had something to prove. The other played as if it had something better to do.

And, in the end, motivation seemed to be the difference as the playoff-snubbed TCU Horned Frogs demolished the Ole Miss Rebels 42-3 Wednesday in Atlanta to win the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

It was over when: When Bad Bo showed up, there wasn’t much Ole Miss could do about it. Bo Wallace, who became known for his streaky play during his three seasons as Ole Miss’ starting quarterback, finished his career on a sour note. The senior was sacked three times and threw three interceptions in the first half alone, one of which resulted in a touchdown. TCU jumped out to a 28-0 halftime lead and never looked back.

Game ball goes to: If you’re looking for an early 2015 Heisman Trophy favorite, look no further than Trevone Boykin. TCU’s star quarterback was in peak form against Ole Miss, throwing for three touchdowns and 188 yards against a defense that ranked 12th in the country entering the day. From this pass to this fake toss, Boykin showed there wasn’t much he couldn’t do. The junior ranked fourth in the Heisman balloting this season. But if he continues his upward trajectory into his senior season, it’s difficult to imagine he won’t be in New York next year.

How the game was won: Wallace couldn’t keep the football. The Rebels' defense was out of sorts. And just before the mercy of halftime, Ole Miss lost arguably its best player, offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil, to a fractured fibula. For TCU, the game was won by halftime. Thanks to a stingy defense and an explosive offense, the Horned Frogs turned around the Big 12’s bowl season blues in a major way.

Stat of the game: The turnovers were enough of a statement, but TCU’s defense was much more than a happy beneficiary of Wallace’s many errors in judgment. No, the Horned Frogs were sound throughout, stuffing Ole Miss at the point of attack. Though five first-half sacks spoke volumes about the pressure TCU generated, it was its total defense that was most impressive, limiting the Rebs to 59 total yards of offense in the first half and 129 in the entire game.

Best play: How in the world? ... Yeah, Kolby Listenbee did catch that pass. Somehow, TCU's junior wideout went up for the jump ball from Boykin and snatched it away from both Ole Miss defensive backs, Mike Hilton and Trae Elston. Listenbee hauled in the pass and fell on his back, staying inbounds for the spectacular 35-yard touchdown reception.
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Viewer's Guide: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

December, 30, 2014
12/30/14
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Here’s what you need to know when TCU and Ole Miss go head-to-head Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. ET (ESPN) in Atlanta:

1. Playoff motivation: TCU should feel snubbed by the College Football Playoff selection committee. Being dropped from No. 3 to No. 6 a day after demolishing Iowa State was almost unexplainable. Seeing Florida State and Ohio State in the final four instead should burn up the Horned Frogs. It should make them angry and motivated to beat Ole Miss. Winning against a top SEC program in a New Year’s Six bowl would provide the message they surely want to send: We should have been in. It’s a cliché sentiment, “Us against the world,” but don’t discount its value. When you have roughly a month off between games, something has to fuel you.

2. Bo’s final ride: Forget Good Bo vs. Bad Bo. What Bo Wallace has done as Ole Miss’ quarterback the past three seasons might not be beyond reproach, but it’s certainly close. That’s at least what the stats tell us. The long-haired gunslinger transferred from a junior college in 2012 and immediately threw for 2,994 yards. In the two seasons since, he has averaged 3,216 yards, 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He has won a total of 24 games, and with No. 25 he would pass former Ole Miss great Eli Manning for the most in school history. You can bicker with the interceptions and other mistakes, but in his final game as a Rebel it might be time to set aside hurt feelings and appreciate all Wallace has accomplished.

3. A clash of qualities: Lest we forget there’s an actual game to be played, there’s the not-so-small matter of TCU’s high-powered offense going up against a more than worthy opponent in the Ole Miss D. The Horned Frogs, under the direction of quarterback Trevone Boykin, have flourished, ranking fourth in the country in total offense. With its version of the spread/hurry-up, no-huddle, it has scored more than 40 points in a game eight times this season. Meanwhile, Ole Miss’ Landshark defense ranks 13th nationally and has surrendered 20 points or less 10 times this season. As they say, something’s got to give. If Ole Miss holds down the Horned Frogs, it will be an indictment of Big 12 defenses. If TCU lights up the Rebs, it will be an indictment on the long-standing narrative that the SEC is the home to the best defenses in college football.

How TCU built its breakthrough in 9 months

December, 29, 2014
12/29/14
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FORT WORTH, Texas -- Gary Patterson got grief for it from coaching buddies all season long. They are glad that, after 31 years in the business, the guy finally wanted to have a little fun on offense.

"People are shocked Gary Patterson can have an offensive team," he joked. "'Have you lost your mind? What are you doing?' I like to win. It’s a very simple situation."

His not-so-simple New Year’s resolution to develop a thrilling spread offense set TCU on course for a transformative journey that will end with a New Year’s Eve bowl.

[+] EnlargeGary Patterson
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerGary Patterson's change in offensive philosophy led to big things for TCU and QB Trevone Boykin.
Mapping the path to a Big 12 championship trophy, a No. 6 ranking and spot in the Chik-fil-A Peach Bowl against Ole Miss required foresight and fortune. The process began on Dec. 1, 2013, the first day of the offseason for a 4-8 team.

Patterson had exactly nine months to rethink what winning the Big 12 required. After 15 years in Fort Worth -- and two tough ones in the Big 12 -- he had to reimagine TCU football.

He had realized this in November. After a last-second loss to Kansas State guaranteed TCU would not go bowling, Patterson warned his staff that change was imminent.

"But it wasn’t just 'let’s go get an offense,'" Patterson said. "I’m big on chemistry. It was about guys that would fit the staff, guys that could recruit the Metroplex and the state of Texas and were respected."

His search ended up being easy. By Dec. 3, word of Doug Meacham leaving Houston for TCU had already leaked. Before that addition became official on Dec. 12, Patterson met with AD Chris Del Conte and laid out his plan.

"I was probably the most proud of that, because football coaches are creatures of habit," Del Conte said. "He said he had to evolve and change how we go about it. I was like, 'Wow. OK.'"

Meacham told Patterson the man he trusted most to coach quarterbacks was Sonny Cumbie. Until this season their paths had crossed only on the recruiting trail. West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen deserves some credit for the pairing -- he’s the one who first introduced Meacham to Cumbie.

By Dec. 18, Patterson had both on board. By April 5, he was nervous. The Air Raid, while incredibly simple in terms of its playbook, isn’t easily taught in less than a hundred days. TCU’s vanilla spring game hinted at the difficulty.

"We weren’t very good on offense at the end of spring," Patterson says bluntly.

Too many balls on the turf, too many interceptions, too many incorrect routes. Teaching the system is largely a mental challenge that requires constant repetition. Meacham and Cumbie could only teach Trevone Boykin so much in 15 practices. Plus, it didn’t help that TCU's scholarship backs were all banged up.

"Some days, you’d just say, "We’re bad,'" Patterson recalled. "Oh yeah, there was a lot of concern. But you went down a path. This is the path."

Quarterback Matt Joeckel understood the path. Two weeks after TCU’s spring game, the Texas A&M transfer picked the Horned Frogs. His arrival was supposed to spell trouble for Boykin, maybe even prompt a move to receiver. Instead, the two bonded and competed.

Linebacker Marcus Mallet says he saw this team’s rebound coming by June. The buy-in was intense and pervasive. Joeckel was an unsung hero, teaching his new teammates the offensive system in workouts and 7-on-7 at a time when coaches were required to be hands-off.

By August, not even the departure of Devonte Fields could shake TCU players’ faith. Three of their most talented and troubled peers -- Fields, Brandon Carter and LaDarius Brown -- were dismissed during the offseason. Their absence never proved to be an issue.

But the quarterback conundrum remained. TCU’s eventual Heisman Trophy candidate separated himself in scrimmages with his accuracy. Boykin had been a headache to defend in practices for years. He had yet to prove enough on Saturdays. Battling with Joeckel upped his game to another level.

"That’s one of the reasons why Boykin is where he is now," receiver David Porter said. "He had pressure on him, and he had to be on his p's and q's."

By the second scrimmage, Patterson knew. TCU’s offense started shredding his defense in the red zone. The sloppy project was turning into a slick, speedy operation just in time.

"Two weeks into fall camp, oh my god, they got it," Del Conte said. "They looked really good."

How good? Just ask Jason Verrett. TCU’s Big 12 co-Defensive Player of the Year and first-round pick a year ago watched this season’s Kansas State game in awe from the sideline. He didn’t expect this.

"If we had this offense last year, I don’t think a team would’ve beaten us," Verrett said. "That’s just the truth."

Chucky Hunter warned him, though. Verrett didn’t believe the Frogs' defensive tackle when he called during two-a-days in August.

"All he kept saying was, 'Bro, our offense is real as s---.'"

Hunter called Verrett again the week of the Oklahoma game and predicted a Big 12 title. Patterson wasn’t thinking nearly that big. Heck, he just wanted to win six. An eight- or nine-win season to set up a 2015 breakthrough? Even better.

On Wednesday in Atlanta, TCU plays for its 12th win. On Jan. 1, another offseason begins in Fort Worth. This one should be a bit easier.

"We’re built for success now," Del Conte said. "It’s fantastic. It’s no flash in the pan. We’re in this for the long haul."

TCU presents challenge for Rebels defense

December, 18, 2014
12/18/14
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When Ole Miss players and coaches turn on the video of TCU’s tremendously explosive offense, they see something that conjures feelings of a terrifying threat that thwarted the Rebels in years past.

That threat mostly comes in the form of TCU All-American quarterback Trevone Boykin, who electrified the nation this season with 4,411 total yards of offense and 39 total touchdowns. Boykin’s on-field talents have been dazzling to watch, just like a quarterback who just left the SEC in 2014.

“Boykin, they’ve got great players around him, but he’s a different animal,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze told reporters this week.

“He reminds me of Johnny Manziel when we had to play and defend him. He’s very similar to that.”

[+] EnlargeTrevone Boykin
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsTCU quarterback Trevone Boykin reminds Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze of Johnny Manziel and how tough he was to defend in the SEC.
Oh yes, the same Johnny Football who averaged 395 yards of offense and directed Texas A&M to 71 points in two victories over Freeze and his Rebels. While Boykin isn’t exactly the amazing improviser Manziel was -- he only had 29 rushes of 10-plus yards this year compared to the 36 and 47 Manziel had the past two seasons -- Boykin does possess that game-changing gene that helped the Horned Frogs rise near the top of the college football landscape this year. Ole Miss players believe TCU’s offense looks eerily similar to the Manziel-led offenses of the Aggies.

“It’s always a red flag for a defense when you’ve got a quarterback is that caliber [of player],” Ole Miss All-American cornerback Senquez Golson said. “They have a lot of athletes; they make a lot of plays. It’s definitely one of the better offenses we’ll face this year.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge. I don’t think we could have had a better matchup. This is really going to put our defense to the test and see what we got.”

Added linebacker Serderius Bryant: “You think about it as you get to play Johnny again.”

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound firecracker helped push the sixth-ranked Horned Frogs (11-1) to the tip of the College Football Playoff behind the nation’s No. 4 offense (542.2 yards per game) and No. 2 scoring offense (46.8 points per game). TCU has scored 40-plus points eight times and hit 82 against Texas Tech, a game in which Boykin threw seven touchdowns.

Boykin and that spread offense are scary, but the Rebels present an equally as imposing defense for the Frogs to handle in this year's Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Dec. 31. Ole Miss owns the nation’s best scoring defense (13.8 points per game and 18 touchdowns allowed) and the No. 13 defense overall, allowing 321.2 yards per game.

The best defense TCU has faced this year? That would be Texas’ 26th-ranked defense (348.3) That isn’t bad at all, but the Horned Frogs piled on 34 points and gained a season-low 368 yards.

So how does Ole Miss’ defense, which spent the entire season near the top of the SEC, plan to stop Boykin and that fantastic offense? Bryant says the key is containing Boykin and combating speed with, well, speed – something Bryant says is the best he’s seen on Ole Miss’ defense during his four-year career.

The Rebels struggled with containing the middle of the field against Manziel when he took off under duress. Ole Miss collapsed the pocket well and took away his receivers at times, but they left themselves vulnerable up the middle, where Manziel absolutely gashed the Rebels, rushing for a combined 253 yards in those two games.

This season, Bryant said with increased speed at linebacker, the Rebels have been better equipped against running quarterbacks. The best rushing performances by QBs against Ole Miss this season were from Louisiana-Lafayette’s Terrance Broadway (59 yards) and Auburn’s Nick Marshall (50 yards and two touchdowns).

Boykin rushed for 642 yards and averaged 54.7 yards per game, but he likes to make a lot of plays outside the pocket, whether it’s running or throwing. That means the Rebels will have have to spy on him and collapse the pocket while being disciplined across the line of scrimmage and filling run gaps in order to take away potential big plays from Boykin’s arm and legs.

“As soon as he takes that step forward and tries to run, the defense is going to collapse on him,” Bryant said. “… If everyone knows that, it’s going to happen.”

Boykin is a special player, but the TCU offense can hurt teams in so many ways. Running back Aaron Green is averaging 7.7 yards per carry (854 rushing yards), and five players grabbed at least 29 receptions, including wide receiver Josh Doctson, who led the team in catches (59), yards (959) and touchdowns (nine).

There’s motion, space and quickness to frustrate a defense, and the Rebels know they’ll be on high alert.

“That’s how they put up big points,” Bryant said. “They put up points in all senses with throwing a lot of different things that confuse defensive coordinators. We have to get ready for that.”

But TCU also has to be ready for the Rebels, who held top SEC offenses at Alabama and Mississippi State to less than 20 points this year. The Rebels' defense has been impressive in its own right, and to Golson, he hasn’t seen a better defense face TCU.

“I’m really excited to find out, but I don’t think so,” he said. “… It might be even more exciting for us because we get to face this type of offense. It’s always exciting to play a team out of conference, so I’m just glad we’re playing a team like TCU.”

Roundtable: Big 12 team with most to gain in bowl

December, 16, 2014
12/16/14
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In this week's Big 12 roundtable, we examine the most intriguing bowls, which team has the most to gain in the bowl season and the players we'll be focused on the most during the bowls:

[+] EnlargeKevin White
Scott Clarke/ESPN ImagesMountaineers receiver Kevin White finished his senior regular season with 1,318 yards and nine TDs.
Other than the Goodyear Cotton and Chick-Fil-A Peach bowls, which Big 12 bowl are you most intrigued by?

Chatmon: It has to be the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, when West Virginia and Texas A&M battle on Dec. 29. Lots of points, lots of fun, lots of Red Bull. Mentor Dana Holgorsen against understudy Jake Spavital in a battle of offensive gurus. And considering this is a meaningless bowl game, I'm not interested in seeing much defense. I'm also looking forward to seeing what Kevin White has in store for his final game in a West Virginia uniform, after his breakout senior season.

Olson: There will be points in the Liberty Bowl, and I'm excited to see what a healthier West Virginia team is capable of against Texas A&M. But for me, the choice is the Valero Alamo Bowl. The Big 12 vs. Pac-12 matchup is typically a nice one in terms of style, and K-State taking on a UCLA team that Texas almost defeated in September, in the final starts for both Brett Hundley and Jake Waters, will be a lot of fun to watch.

Trotter: I'm intrigued by the Russell Athletic Bowl, and the matchup of Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables going up against his former boss at Oklahoma in Bob Stoops. Remember, Stoops brought in his brother to coach the defense in 2011, which ultimately prompted Venables to leave Oklahoma for Clemson. If Venables' Tigers shut down the Sooners, and Clemson runs the score up on Mike Stoops, it will serve as an indictment of where Oklahoma is as a program three years after that move was made.

With no one playing for a national championship, which Big 12 team has the most to gain in bowl season?

Chatmon: It has to be Baylor against Michigan State in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl. As good as the Bears have been during the past two seasons, some people still point to their Fiesta Bowl loss to Central Florida as a reason to doubt what Art Briles has built in Waco. Add the intrigue of proving the committee wrong and BU has plenty of motivation. It's also a chance for an impressive win against a quality Big Ten team in the race for conference bragging rights.

Olson: I agree with Brandon here. Some Baylor coaches I talked to before the season say their Fiesta Bowl loss to UCF was arguably the most frustrating of their time in Waco. A 12th win and ending a dream season with a BCS bowl win would've meant an awful lot to this program. They get a meaningful chance for a redo against a much better opponent in Michigan State.

Trotter: Baylor and TCU have the most to gain, because they have the chance to show they deserved to be in the playoff. But I'll throw another team into the discussion here in Texas. After finishing the season with a 48-10 home loss to TCU on Thanksgiving night, the Longhorns really need to bounce back against Arkansas in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl to set the tone for 2015. Next season is going to be a critical one for Charlie Strong and the Texas program. A win over a former rival like Arkansas would give the Longhorns the momentum they'll need heading into next season.

Who is the one Big 12 player you'll be focused during the bowls?

Chatmon: I can't wait to see what Trevone Boykin has in store for an Ole Miss defense full of playmakers in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. Boykin creates all kinds of problems for every defense with his ability to slither through open lanes like a running back yet frustrate defensive backs with his deep throws. The Rebels have held opposing quarterbacks to a 17.3 Adjusted QBR, ranking No. 2 among FBS teams behind Louisville, making this the best matchup of individual brilliance against team strength during the bowl season.

Olson: Giving Mason Rudolph a month of extra practice and all that post-Bedlam momentum is going to make for a fascinating performance in the TicketCity Cactus Bowl. Oklahoma State's rookie quarterback takes on Washington and a pass defense that ranked last in the Pac-12. I'll be a little surprised if he doesn't pick apart the Huskies on Jan. 2 and continue to build up hype for 2015. The confidence boost this team got from beating Oklahoma can't get squandered.

Trotter: Boykin and Rudolph are definitely players to watch. But I think I'll be most focused on Bryce Petty in his Baylor swan song facing one of the best defenses in the country in Michigan State. Quarterbacks the caliber of Petty -- on and off the field -- don't come along very often. I'll be curious to see how he goes out in a tough matchup in his final college game for the Bears.

Play that changed the Big 12 race

December, 16, 2014
12/16/14
10:30
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TCU and Baylor combined for 198 offensive plays on Oct. 11. This one mattered a great deal.

A back-and-forth, four-hour slugfest was tied at 58-58 with only 1:17 left. If Trevone Boykin completes his fourth-down fade to Josh Doctson, game over.

If he doesn’t, well, game over.

No way could TCU stop the streaking Bears after they’d rallied back with 21 unanswered points in a matter of 10 minutes. So this was it. Convert here, set up the game-winning kick, take control of the Big 12.

But it wasn’t that simple. With 1:20 to go, TCU had rushed its punt team onto the field and booted a kick, catching Baylor mid-substitution with 12 on the field. The ensuing penalty trimmed the Frogs’ fourth-down distance from 8 yards to 3.

Gary Patterson had a decision to make with the ball now at the Baylor 45. He sent out Boykin and his offense to finish the job. Then Patterson called a timeout. Both his offense and his special teams unit huddled on the field. What now?

He chose the punt team, which lined up with wide splits and unclear intentions. The Horned Frogs looked to the sideline. Another timeout.

“We were going to try a punt fake,” Patterson said after the game. “Even if we kicked it to the 5-yard line, I didn't know if we could have stopped them.”

Three crucial minutes passed between the substitution penalty and TCU’s eventual fourth-down pass -- more than enough time for Patterson, the eventual ESPN.com Coach of the Year, to weigh every option.

Going for it was the best one.

“If we get that play and we can go down and kick a field goal,” Patterson said this month, “we wouldn’t be talking about it.”

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To get that play, TCU sent out five receivers. Doctson lined up on the outside. Baylor corner Ryan Reid sneaked up to press him at the snap. It didn't matter. Boykin wasn’t making a read here. Snap, step, turn and lob. He threw it up and let his 6-foot-4 go-to receiver go get it.

Reid’s right arm was wrapped around him before the ball arrived, yet Doctson still got it in his mitts. If he’d snagged it right there, TCU is looking at first down near the 30. But the ball slipped off his left hand.

As Doctson was dragged to the ground, he still almost pulled the ball in with his outstretched right hand. Instead, it bounced off his fingertips and onto the turf.

Pass interference? They make a good case for it in Fort Worth. A smart no-call in which the refs let 'em play? You'll hear that argument in Waco. Art Briles says his defensive back did exactly what was expected.

“Our motto was keep it ugly,” Briles said. “We were going to play tough. We were going to play ugly, and whatever happens, happens.”

If a penalty happens, the Horned Frogs are set up perfectly for the game winner, maybe even a perfect regular season. Maybe that undefeated TCU team goes back to the Rose Bowl, takes care of business and plays for a national title in its own backyard.

Or maybe not. After all, it’s just one play.

ESPN.com's 2014 Big 12 awards

December, 16, 2014
12/16/14
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We've given you our All-Big 12 team first team, All-Big 12 second team, All-Americans and True Freshman All-Americans. Later today on the blog, we'll unveil our take on an All-Underclassman Team. But first, it's time to honor the very best of the best in the Big 12.

A few of these selections were easy. A lot of them were not. Here are our award winners for the Big 12 in 2014.

[+] EnlargeTrevone Boykin
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesTrevone Boykin went from being a possible backup quarterback to a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Trevone Boykin, TCU

College football's most improved player by far, Boykin went from utility player to superhero in an instant. His dream season included more than 4,400 total yards, 39 touchdowns, leadership of the nation's No. 2 scoring offense, 11 wins, a Big 12 championship trophy and a fourth-place finish for the Heisman Trophy. In August, there was no guarantee he'd be TCU's starting quarterback. By December, he had more Heisman votes than Jameis Winston. Incredible player, incredible season.

Defensive Player of the Year: DT Malcom Brown, Texas

The All-American and Outland Trophy finalist played defensive tackle at a level this league hadn't seen since Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy. Brown, an unblockable 6-foot-2, 320-pound monster, fought through double teams for 64 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. He's a nightmare to gameplan against and was consistently dominant from the start of the season to the finish.

Coach of the Year: Gary Patterson, TCU

Patterson's trophy case is filling up with national awards this month, and we'll throw him one more. A no-brainer choice for ESPN.com Coach of the Year, Patterson guided one of the most impressive one-year turnarounds we've seen in a long time. His 11-1 Horned Frogs looked nothing like the 4-8 team from 2013, even with nearly all of the same players from that season. Patterson hired the right coordinators, picked the right quarterback and nearly took them all the way to the College Football Playoff.

Offensive Freshman of the Year: RB Samaje Perine, Oklahoma

Freshmen aren't supposed to rush for 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns and an NCAA-record 427 yards in one game. Perine, a perfectly built wrecking ball of a back, never played like a freshman this season. He surpassed 200 yards in three games, put the Sooners on his massive back and finished the regular season as the No. 8 rusher in the country.

Defensive Freshman of the Year: S Dravon Henry, West Virginia

The Mountaineers had high hopes for their former ESPN 300 recruit, and he lived up to the hype. Henry has started at free safety since day one and logged 37 tackles and two interceptions, including a 52-yard pick-six. He's going to be a difference-maker in this conference soon.

Offensive Newcomer of the Year: WR Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State

We voted on these honors last week, three days before Hill was dismissed from OSU following an arrest for domestic abuse. In his 12 games as a Cowboy, Hill played at an All-Big 12 level as a game-changing returner and racked up 815 yards from scrimmage as a receiver and back. Oklahoma State is not bowl-eligible without him.

Defensive Newcomer of the Year: CB Danzel McDaniel, Kansas State

A hard-hitting corner who can do everything else, too, McDaniel shined in his first season as a Wildcat. The Dodge City Community College transfer started every game and finished with 55 tackles (five for loss), a 5-yard pick-six at Oklahoma and two forced fumbles. McDaniel covers, plays the run, hits with aggression and brought a lot of confidence.
Not long ago, the Heisman Trophy ran through Big 12 country.

From 1998 to 2011, the Big 12 produced five Heisman winners in Ricky Williams, Eric Crouch, Jason White, Sam Bradford and Robert Griffin III. Others, like Josh Heupel, Adrian Peterson and Vince Young, were worthy runners-up.

[+] EnlargeTrevone Boykin
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesAfter a breakout 2014 season, TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin could be even better in 2015.
Lately, though, the Big 12 has been in a Heisman drought.

No winners since 2011.

No finalists since 2012.

That, however, could change in big way next season.

The Big 12 figures to boast a pair of preseason Heisman heavyweights in TCU fleet-footed quarterback Trevone Boykin and Oklahoma bulldozing running back Samaje Perine.

As arguably the most improved player in college football this season, Boykin drove the Horned Frogs to an 11-1 record and the cusp of the College Football Playoff. He led the Big 12 with 3,714 passing yards and 30 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. Boykin also ran for 642 yards and eight scores.

The Horned Frogs will be loaded again offensively next season with 10 starters back. Despite splitting time with Casey Pachall his first two years, Boykin will be one of the most experienced quarterbacks in college football. And he will have a season under his belt operating the Doug Meacham/Sonny Cumbie spread offense.

Boykin’s top quarterback competition nationally should be out of the way as well. Marcus Mariota, this year’s Heisman winner, will likely be in the NFL. So likely will Jameis Winston and Baylor’s Bryce Petty.

Because he finished fourth in the voting over the weekend, Boykin will open his senior year on the radar of Heisman voters, which can be an important factor in generating enough traction. And Boykin will be the quarterback of a probable preseason top-10 team and playoff contender, another critical element to mounting a successful Heisman race.

Not since Davey O’Brien accomplished the feat in 1938 has TCU produced a Heisman winner. But with so many factors working in his favor, Boykin will be TCU's best shot to win the award since LaDainian Tomlinson.

However, Boykin won’t be the Big 12’s only shot.

A running back hasn’t won the Heisman since 2009, but Perine could have as good a chance as any running back in 2015 coming off his phenomenal true freshman campaign.

The 5-foot-11, 243-pound power runner led the Big 12 with 1,579 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns this season. One week after Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon set an FBS single-game rushing record with 408 yards, Perine eclipsed it with 427 yards against Kansas on Nov. 22. While splitting carries at times with Keith Ford and Alex Ross, Perine averaged 6.6 yards per carry.

Considering he will have his first full offseason with a college strength and conditioning program, Perine figures to get stronger and sharper, which is a scary thought for opposing Big 12 tacklers. He will be the clear focal point of the Oklahoma offense next season. And like Boykin, he will have Heisman buzz going into the season.

The Sooners will have to win for Perine to have a shot. But if they do, and Perine puts up even bigger numbers as a sophomore, he could join Boykin as a major factor in the Heisman race.

Boykin and Perine aren’t the only Big 12 players who could impact the Heisman race. Anyone quarterbacking the Baylor offense has a chance to make waves. Mason Rudolph and Pat Mahomes shined as true freshman quarterbacks for Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, respectively, and could turn into big-time players.

Few saw Boykin as a starting quarterback, much less a Heisman contender, before this season. Who knows who next year’s Boykin will be from the Big 12?

But after banner 2014 seasons, Boykin and Perine have prime opportunities to turn the Heisman race back through the place it once ran seemingly every year: Big 12 country.

Poll: All-Big 12 biggest snub?

December, 12, 2014
12/12/14
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It’s honors day on the Big 12 blog with our All-Big 12 first team being released earlier today.

There were plenty of no-brainers, some breakout stars and a couple surprises as Jake Trotter, Max Olson and I debated the Big 12’s best while putting together the team. Several tough decisions had to be made and quality players snubbed as we sought to honor the conference’s best players.

SportsNation

Who was the biggest snub on ESPN.com's All-Big 12 first team?

  •  
    22%
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    37%
  •  
    13%
  •  
    21%
  •  
    7%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,102)

Now it’s your turn to get involved. Who was the biggest snub?

TCU receiver Josh Doctson emerged as a legitimate No. 1 target for Trevone Boykin, using his length and athleticism to create mismatches all over the field. He was a big-play machine, scoring nine touchdowns while averaging 16.3 yards per reception to help transform TCU's passing attack.

The linebacker spot was a tough debate with Texas linebacker Jordan Hicks finding himself left out in the cold. Hicks returned from a season-ending Achilles injury in 2013 to finish with 98 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss as a critical member of one of the Big 12's top defenses.

It’s hard to ignore the sheer production of Texas Tech linebacker/defensive end Pete Robertson, but we did. The lone bright spot on the Red Raiders’ defense, Robertson lead the Big 12 with 12 sacks and added 14.5 tackles for loss. Quite simply, Tech’s bowl-less campaign made it hard for Robertson to force himself into the first team.

Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez tied with TCU first-teamer Chris Hackett for the Big 12 lead with six interceptions. The feast or famine aspect to his game was readily apparent but he never stopped competing, constantly creating turnovers for the Sooners. Yet it’s hard to find a first-team spot for a defensive back on a defense that allowed 272.7 passing yards per game, finishing No. 115 among FBS teams.

Kansas cornerback JaCorey Shepherd was quietly excellent for Clint Bowen’s defense, leading the Big 12 with 18 passes defensed. Much like Sanchez, receivers knew they were in for a battle anytime they lined up opposite Shepherd, yet he went largely overshadowed thanks to the ridiculous production of teammate Ben Heeney.

Who do you think was the biggest snub? Or is there another snub?

College Football Awards preview: Big 12

December, 11, 2014
12/11/14
8:30
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As far as invites go, this one is pretty coveted. Four of the Big 12's best are in Orlando as nominees for The Home Depot College Football Awards on Thursday night (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET). Here's a closer look at each player, their competition and our take on why they could take home a trophy.

Fred Biletnikoff Award: WR Kevin White, West Virginia

[+] EnlargeKevin White
Scott Clarke/ESPN ImagesKevin White is among college football leaders in receptions and receiving yards.
Competition: Amari Cooper, Alabama; Rashard Higgins, Colorado State
Last Big 12 winner: Justin Blackmon, 2011

The case for White: Well, it’s hard to envision Cooper, one of three finalists for the Heisman Trophy, not taking home this honor. He’s the No. 1 player for the No. 1 team in the country. So that’s fair. But let’s not let that diminish what White achieved this season. A year after catching 35 passes, White was good for 102 receptions and 1,318 receiving yards this fall, and he still has a chance to break WVU’s single-season record. White was the first FBS receiver to reach 1,000 yards (needing just seven games) after surpassing 100 in all seven of those games. He found the end zone in eight games, recorded double-digit catch totals in five and made West Virginia’s offense move with big plays and reliability.

Lou Groza Award: K Josh Lambert, West Virginia

Competition: Roberto Aguayo, Florida State; Brad Craddock, Maryland
Last Big 12 winner: Dan Bailey, 2010

The case for Lambert: Aguayo is probably the odds-on favorite to win, which is no surprise. He won the Groza last year and hit 25 of 27 field goals this season for a Florida State team that constantly played in close games. Lambert has had a great season, too, and no FBS team needed their kicker more. With Lambert, WVU led the country in field goal makes (27) and attempts (36). He nailed two game-winning kicks on the road, a 47-yarder at Maryland and a 55-yarder to stun Texas Tech in Lubbock. No kicker in the nation had more makes from 40-plus (11) and 50-plus (four) than the Mountaineers’ trusty junior.

Davey O’Brien Award: QB Trevone Boykin, TCU

Competition: Marcus Mariota, Oregon; Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Last Big 12 winner: Robert Griffin III, 2011

The case for Boykin: The element of surprise. There isn’t a more improved quarterback in the country than TCU’s star junior. We expected Mariota to have a Heisman-caliber season, and he did just that. Prescott wasn’t an unknown on the national radar. Boykin was. He wasn’t supposed to finish No. 3 in the nation in total offense. He was supposed to play receiver. Mariota will be a lock for this one, but Boykin’s personal transformation and phenomenal numbers, to go along with the stunning success of 11-1 TCU, make him a more than worthy recipient. (Plus, you know, O'Brien was a Horned Frog, too.)

Outland Trophy: DT Malcom Brown, Texas

Competition: Brandon Scherff, Iowa; Reese Dismukes, Auburn
Last Big 12 winner: Ndamukong Suh, 2009

The case for Brown: He didn’t receive in-season acclaim on par with Suh, Aaron Donald, Glenn Dorsey or other defensive tackles who’ve won this award. But Brown is as good as it gets, an unstoppable three-tech defensive tackle who racked up 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks despite commanding near-constant double-teams. He’s the most important cog for a Texas team that finished No. 1 in the Big 12 in total defense, and what Brown consistently brings against the run and the pass make him a terrifying force. Of these four Big 12 nominees, Brown might have the best chance of taking home some hardware on Thursday night.

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