NCF Nation: West Virginia Mountaineers

Big 12 bowl projections: Week 8

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
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It's moving day!

Chaos reigns as West Virginia's and Kansas State's wins join TCU's domination to result in the Horned Frogs sitting atop the queue. West Virginia could be the sleeper pick to win the conference, while K-State still faces a difficult road to its second Big 12 title in three years with road trips to TCU, West Virginia and Baylor left on the schedule.

The conference landscape is full of teams that could stake their claim in the Big 12 title race.

Allstate Sugar Bowl: TCU
Cotton Bowl: Kansas State
Valero Alamo Bowl: West Virginia
Russell Athletic Bowl: Baylor
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Oklahoma
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Oklahoma State
Cactus Bowl: Texas

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 8

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
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Lots of love to go around after a wild day in the Big 12. The top performers in the conference on Saturday:

WR Josh Doctson, TCU: The game-changer in TCU's 42-9 beatdown of Oklahoma State. His 77- and 84-yard touchdown catches broke the game open, and Doctson's 225 receiving yards came 1 short of tying the Horned Frogs' single-game school record. He led all of FBS in receiving this week and only needed seven receptions to do so.

DT Travis Britz, Kansas State: Sometimes it only takes one play to earn your Helmet Sticker. Britz gets a bravo for an unexpected game-changer: He blocked Michael Hunnicutt's extra-point attempt in the fourth quarter to ensure K-State kept its 31-30 lead over Oklahoma. Thanks to another Hunnicutt miss, this time a field goal, that proved to be the final score in Norman.

LB Ben Heeney, Kansas: We hear you, Ben. You know you belong on our midseason All-Big 12 team. We should've known, too. Heeney racked up a career-high 21 tackles (his previous best was 15) and added a 37-yard interception return in KU's 34-21 loss to Texas Tech. To suggest he's not playing at an All-Big 12 level ... that's just ignorant.

QB Trevone Boykin, TCU: The nation's leading passer in Week 8, Boykin only played three quarters and finished with a career-best 410 passing yards and three scores plus 41 rushing yards. He's playing at an unreal level right now and ranks top-five nationally in total offense at nearly 370 yards per game.

WR Kevin White, West Virginia: All-American all the way. White racked up 132 receiving yards and two touchdowns on eight catches in the 41-27 upset win over Baylor. He needed just seven games to surpass 1,000 receiving yards and is up to seven touchdown catches. Everyone knows the ball is going to him, and still nobody has stopped him.

QB Tyrone Swoopes, Texas: This kid is getting good. Swoopes threw for 321 yards and a touchdown and rushed for a career-best 95 yards and another score. But that's not what was impressive. His 39-yard pass to Jaxon Shipley and 29-yard pass to John Harris on back-to-back plays, both with under 30 seconds left, set Texas up for the game-winning field goal and 48-45 victory over Iowa State.

DE Shaquille Riddick, West Virginia: The Gardner-Webb transfer came to WVU to play in big games and played big Saturday: Five tackles, four tackles for loss, and three sacks. He got consistent pressure on Bryce Petty and is quite a weapon in WVU's scheme.

RB DeAndre Washington, Texas Tech: The Red Raiders' run game is enjoying a revival thanks to the steady Washington, whose 164 rushing yards in the win over Kansas were the most by a Tech running back in a game since Taurean Henderson in 2004.

WR Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma: Had to give him a shout-out for a career day in an excellent career. Shepard tied the OU school record with 15 receptions against Kansas State and took them for 197 yards, including a 47-yard score.
Here's what we learned about the Big 12 in a wild Week 8:

1. The league race is wide open: By taking down preseason favorites Oklahoma and Baylor, Kansas State and West Virginia completely transformed the Big 12 title race Saturday. With only one loss, the defending champion Bears could still win the Big 12. But they now have plenty of company. TCU (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) bounced back from its heartbreaking loss to Baylor last week to obliterate Oklahoma State 42-9. The Wildcats (5-1, 3-0) have also hopped firmly into the conference championship conversation after an impressive 31-30 victory in Norman. But West Virginia shouldn't be discounted, either, following its 41-27 win over Baylor. The Mountaineers have Oklahoma and Baylor behind them on the schedule, and they get TCU (Nov. 1) and Kansas State (Nov. 20) in Morgantown. The only certainty at this point is the Big 12 race down the backstretch is going to be a fun one to watch.

[+] EnlargeKevin White
AP Photo/Chris JacksonKevin White, who has eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving with five games left, and West Virginia are still very much in the Big 12 title race.
2. Oklahoma is not elite -- again: The most recent time the Sooners seriously contended for a national title past October was 2008, when Oklahoma won a loaded Big 12 and played Florida in the national championship game. After returning the bulk of a team that downed Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, the Sooners believed they had a squad that could break the dry spell and break into the inaugural College Football Playoff. They played up to that hype through the first month of the season. But yet again, Oklahoma was proven to not be elite. The past three weeks, the Sooners lost at TCU, barely escaped Texas, then fell at home to the Wildcats to get all but eliminated from the playoff picture. Quarterback Trevor Knight has been too up and down, while the defense has failed to dominate. Even the kicking game crumbled Saturday when the Sooners needed it most. Oklahoma still has a good team. But for this program, having a good team isn't good enough, especially when this was supposed to be Oklahoma's year to return to national prominence. Bob Stoops and his coaching staff have soul-searching to do. Once again, the team they fielded won't be a contender past October.

3. Oklahoma State is rebuilding after all: After graduating more starters than any other Power 5 program, the Cowboys faced the prospect of having to rebuild this year. But after they took defending national champ Florida State to the wire in the opener, then won five straight games, expectations were raised. Turns out, they shouldn't have been. Oklahoma State's 3-0 Big 12 start turned out to be fool's gold, as the Cowboys were exposed in a game they were never in against TCU. Quarterback Daxx Garman failed to complete a single pass in the second half, while Oklahoma State's beleaguered offensive line was manhandled in the trenches. Defensively, the inexperienced Cowboys surrendered 676 yards of offense, the most TCU had racked up in a game since 2007. Oklahoma State has some good young players, but facing a back-loaded schedule, the Cowboys figure to endure more growing pains -- and losses -- the second half of the season.

4. The Big 12 has some monster WRs: Good luck finding four receivers in college football better than West Virginia's Kevin White, Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard, Kansas State's Tyler Lockett or Baylor's Antwan Goodley. That Big 12 foursome combined for 547 receiving yards Saturday. They were -- as they have been all year -- basically unstoppable. After breaking the 1,000-receiving-yard barrier with five regular-season games to go, White could begin to warrant Heisman consideration. Shepard, who tied a school record with 15 catches against K-State, should be a Biletnikoff finalist. Goodley and Lockett are All-American-caliber players, too. The Big 12 might be as deep as it's been since 2008, and the depth of its blue-chip wide receivers is a big reason for that.

5. Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes is turning the corner: Swoopes followed his breakout performance against Oklahoma last week by engineering a drive in the final seconds to set up a game-winning field goal and give Texas a dramatic 48-45 win over Iowa State. Swoopes got the ball back with 28 seconds to go on the Texas 28 and the game seemingly headed for overtime. Instead, Swoopes floated a bomb into the arms of Jaxon Shipley for 39 yards down the sideline. On the next play, Swoopes hit John Harris along the same sideline for a 29-yard gain to the Iowa State 4. Nick Rose nailed the field goal on the next play with 3 seconds left. All told, Swoopes threw for 322 yards and ran for another 95, and he gave more reason to believe he could be Texas' long-sought answer at quarterback.

Big 12 viewer's guide: Week 8

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17
10:00
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In Week 8 of Big 12 action, the Kansas State-Oklahoma, Baylor-West Virginia and Oklahoma State-TCU showdowns carry conference title implications; Texas Tech will try to get back on track against Kansas after losing four in a row; and Iowa State will attempt to avenge last year's controversial loss to Texas.

Those, among others, will be the storylines to watch in the league on Saturday:

No. 14 Kansas State at No. 11 Oklahoma, noon ET (ESPN): Oklahoma wideout Sterling Shepard is having an All-American-caliber season, ranking sixth nationally in receiving. But to get the offense back on track, the Sooners need to get other receiving weapons involved. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Shepard has accounted for 47 percent of Oklahoma's receiving yards, the highest percentage for any receiver in the country. While the Oklahoma passing game has sputtered, the K-State air attack has thrived of late. Jake Waters is completing 50 percent of his passes of 15 or more yards, the best rate of any Big 12 quarterback. To hold off the Wildcats, the Sooners will have to be better than they've been at defending passes downfield. Oklahoma has allowed the league's most receptions (20) and touchdowns (7) on throws of 15 yards or more.

[+] EnlargeSterling Shepard
AP Images/Sue OgrockiSterling Shepard has 34 catches for 714 yards, but the Sooners need to get production from elsewhere as well.
No. 4 Baylor at West Virginia, noon ET (FS1): If any game can outdo last weekend's TCU-Baylor shootout, it's this one. Baylor leads the country with 90.2 plays per game. West Virginia is second with 87.8 plays per game. Like last year, Baylor QB Bryce Petty has been lethal going over the top of opposing defenses. He leads the FBS with 11 touchdown passes of 20 yards or more, including six against TCU -- the most in a game by any Power 5 quarterback in the last four seasons. While Baylor has relied on the long ball, West Virginia has been efficient with quick passes and broken tackles. The Mountaineers top the Big 12 and rank second among Power 5 offenses with 212.5 yards after the catch per game.

Kansas at Texas Tech, 3:30 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Regional): The Jayhawks led Texas Tech 10-0 early in Lawrence last year before giving up 54 unanswered points. Tech leads the all-time series 14-1, with Kansas' only victory coming in Lubbock in 2001. The Jayhawks have not won a Big 12 road game since defeating Iowa State in 2008. At 2-4, Tech is off to its worst start since 1994.

No. 15 Oklahoma State at No. 12 TCU, 4 p.m. ET (FS1): Cowboys QB Daxx Garman has flashed a big-play arm so far. He's averaging 14.4 passing yards per attempt, according to ESPN Stats & Information, the best of any Power 5 QB. In fact since Garman became the starter in Week 3, 72 percent of Oklahoma State's passing yards have come on passes of 15 yards or longer -- the highest percentage of any Power 5 offense. Though he's been inconsistent at times, Garman could have success against the Horned Frogs, who couldn't keep Baylor from throwing over their heads last weekend. But Oklahoma State's defense will have its hands full, too. TCU has 10 touchdown drives of three plays or fewer, tied for third-most in the country.

Iowa State at Texas, 8 p.m. ET (Longhorn Network): The Longhorns lead the all-time series against Iowa State 10-1, including a 31-30 win on a disputed no-fumble call in Ames last year. Both Iowa State QB Sam B. Richardson and Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes are coming off career outings. Swoopes passed for 334 yards, rushed for 50 and accounted for three touchdowns in Texas' narrow loss to Oklahoma. Richardson threw for a career-high 351 yards and three second-half touchdowns to rally Iowa State to a win over Toledo.

Big 12 Week 8 predictions

October, 16, 2014
Oct 16
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Why Oklahoma will win: The Sooners' defense has the ability to overwhelm KSU’s defense with its speed and athleticism, allowing OU to harass Jake Waters into a mental mistake or two, and Trevor Knight will play better at home than he did against TCU and Texas as the Sooners get things back on track with a tough home win. Oklahoma 28, Kansas State 23 Brandon Chatmon

Why Kansas State will win: Texas Tech burned me with my upset pick last week, but I'm taking another shot. Kansas State is coming off an invaluable bye week, just like it did in 2012 before its upset of the Sooners, and the teams played a terrifically close game a year ago. I think it's a toss-up, so I'm taking the team with the better quarterback. Kansas State 28, Oklahoma 24 – Max Olson

Why Baylor will win: This game comes down to whoever can get a few stops, right? WVU will have the right answers early on, just as it did against Alabama and Oklahoma, and Kevin White will get his. But Baylor pulls away late on the strength of its run game and gets those few needed stops from its D. Baylor 52, West Virginia 38 – Olson

Why West Virginia will win: Underscoring the depth and balance of the Big 12, I’m going heavy on the underdogs this week. The Mountaineers have come close to pulling the upset in their first two tries against top-five opponents. This time, Clint Trickett and Kevin White (and Josh Lambert?) get it done in another wild Big 12 shootout that goes down to the wire. West Virginia 52, Baylor 49 – Jake Trotter

Why TCU will win: Sure, the Horned Frogs are coming off a heartbreaking loss. But remember, they were up 21 at Baylor for a reason. Despite being 5-1, Oklahoma State has struggled to run the ball or protect QB Daxx Garman. TCU has a stout front seven and leads the Big 12 in sacks. Garman’s second career road start could be a painful one. TCU 34, Oklahoma State 24 Trotter

Why Texas Tech will win: Kliff Kingsbury’s squad finally gets a much-needed win against the Jayhawks. The Red Raiders' offense will simply score too many points for KU’s offense to keep up, with Davis Webb having one of his best games of the season. Texas Tech 35, Kansas 21 Chatmon

Why Texas will win: Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes seemed to turn a corner in the Red River Showdown, as he outplayed Trevor Knight. The Texas defense, meanwhile, has been downright dominant in Big 12 play. The Cyclones would love to avenge last year’s controversial loss to the Longhorns. But an improving Swoopes and a dominant Texas defense will be the difference. Texas 27, Iowa State 16Trotter

Season records:
  • Chatmon: 40-4
  • Trotter: 40-4
  • Olson: 39-5

ESPN.com midseason All-Big 12 team

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

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

Offense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special teams

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

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

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

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

Big 12 midseason overview

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
10:30
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Halfway through the season and this much is already clear: The Big 12 title chase will be a fascinating one. Six teams remain alive in a race that still looks wide open. After somehow surviving TCU, Baylor is the league's lone remaining undefeated team. But the Bears have a couple of tough games away from home coming up, including a trip to West Virginia this weekend.

But instead of just looking ahead, we're also looking back in our Big 12 midseason overview. Who has been the league's offensive MVP? Its defensive MVP? Its biggest surprise? Its biggest disappointment?

Find out in our Big 12 midseason overview:

[+] EnlargeKevin White
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsWest Virginia receiver Kevin White has amassed at least 100 yards in each game so far this season.
Offensive MVP: Even though the Mountaineers have faced one of the nation’s toughest schedules in the first half of the season, West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White has been unstoppable. White, who has at least 100 yards receiving in every game so far, leads the country with 888 receiving yards, placing him within striking distance of challenging Michael Crabtree’s Big 12 single-season record of 1,962 receiving yards.

Defensive MVP: The Longhorns are off to their worst start in 58 years, but that’s not the fault of Malcom Brown. The behemoth Texas defensive tackle has been unblockable as the Longhorns have locked up the offenses of Baylor and Oklahoma the past two weeks. He leads the Longhorns with nine tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and three quarterback hurries. Texas has played defense as well as anyone in the league since Big 12 play began. Brown is the biggest reason.

Biggest surprise: The Horned Frogs had been a disappointment their first two years in the league, compiling a measly conference record of 6-12. This season, the Frogs have finally arrived. TCU stunned Oklahoma 37-33 two weeks ago to jump into the Big 12 title and national playoff conversation. The Frogs had a chance last weekend to take total command of the Big 12 but couldn’t preserve a 21-point fourth-quarter lead at Baylor. Still, the surprise Frogs remain in the thick of the Big 12 race. Who knows, maybe even in the playoff picture, too.

Biggest disappointment: Coming into the season, Texas Tech had high hopes it could capitalize on its dominating win over Arizona State in last season's Holiday Bowl and emerge as a surprise contender for the Big 12 crown. Instead, after a 2-4 start the Red Raiders are in danger of missing out on a bowl for just the second time since 1999. Tech leads the country in penalties and the Big 12 in turnovers lost. The Red Raiders haven’t been able to stop anyone, either, with the league’s worst statistical defense. After the disastrous start, Tech faces the monumental task of having to upset TCU, Oklahoma or Baylor just to avoid a losing season.

Newcomer of the year: In Stillwater, they call him “The Freak.” So far, Oklahoma State’s Tyreek Hill has lived up to that moniker. The fastest player in the Big 12 ranks second in the league in all-purpose yards. He opened the second half against Iowa State with a kickoff return touchdown, then took one to the house late in the fourth quarter at Kansas to lift the Cowboys to a 27-20 win. Yet his most impressive performance came in the opener against defending national champ Florida State, when he racked up 278 all-purpose yards in Oklahoma State’s near-upset of the Seminoles. Hill has lived up to the preseason hype, and then some.

Best coach: After a 4-8 season last year, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen was on the hot seat coming into 2014. But just halfway in, he’s already solidified his job status while turning around the Mountaineers. Despite facing a brutal early-season schedule, West Virginia is 4-2, with its only two hard-fought losses coming against Alabama and Oklahoma. He’s also helped turn quarterback Clint Trickett into one of the most improved players in the league and orchestrated a passing offense that has been prolific. This weekend, the Mountaineers even have a chance to jump into the Big 12 title conversation against Baylor.

Best game: This one is easy. This past weekend, TCU-Baylor provided more than four hours of high drama, with the Bears rallying from a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit to stun the Horned Frogs 61-58 as time expired. It was the most points ever scored between two teams ranked in the top 10. And it was a must-see classic.

Biggest games of the second half:

Kansas State at Oklahoma (Oct. 18): OU needs this win to stay in the Big 12 and playoff races. K-State needs it to join the Big 12 and playoff races.

Baylor at West Virginia (Oct. 18): This is West Virginia's last chance to be a factor in the Big 12 title conversation.

Oklahoma State at TCU (Oct. 18): One of these two teams will be eliminated from the playoff picture this weekend.

Baylor at Oklahoma (Nov. 8): The Bears have never won in Norman, but they'll probably have to this time to defend their Big 12 title.

Kansas State at TCU (Nov. 8): Everyone thought Baylor-Oklahoma would be the game of the year in the Big 12, but this game the same weekend looms large.

Kansas State at West Virginia (Nov. 20): Morgantown will be abuzz for this Thursday night clash.

Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (Dec. 6): Bedlam almost always goes down to the wire.

Kansas State at Baylor (Dec. 6): This regular-season finale could carry major Big 12 title implications.

Separation Saturday hits the Big 12

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
11:15
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Before the season, Oklahoma and Baylor were considered to be the clear Big 12 co-favorites.

TCU joined them two weeks ago when it upset the Sooners.

But this key weekend, in which the league’s top six teams all face one another, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and West Virginia could hop into the Big 12 title conversation, as well. Who knows, with a win, the Wildcats and Cowboys could even sneak into the playoff discussion, too.

Coming off an open week, K-State goes to Oklahoma with a chance to knock off the Sooners for the second straight time in Norman.

[+] EnlargeArt Briles, Gary Patterson
AP Photo/Jerry LarsonGary Patterson (left) will try to revive his team from the gut-wrenching loss to Baylor, while Art Briles' team faces another tough test at West Virginia.
West Virginia gets Baylor at home with a third chance to topple a top-five team.

And after coasting under the radar with five straight wins, Oklahoma State will return to the national spotlight when it travels to TCU for the first time since 1992.

This will be the weekend that narrows the contenders and weeds out the pretenders in the Big 12 race.

Call it separation Saturday in the Big 12.

And the teams that best handle their emotions after a wild weekend in the league could be the ones that survive it.

It was an emotion-filled game day in the Big 12, as all four conference games went down to the final minutes. Oklahoma State needed a late Tyreek "The Freak" Hill kickoff return touchdown to overcome Kansas, 27-20. The Sooners held off a furious late Texas rally to escape the Red River Showdown.

West Virginia scored 17 points in the final 6 minutes in Lubbock to stun Texas Tech with another Josh Lambert game-winning field goal. And Baylor, well, there are no words to describe its 61-58 comeback victory over TCU.

The most compelling storyline of the week figures to be whether the Horned Frogs can get off the mat after such a deflating loss. TCU had a chance to take total command of the Big 12 race, and control its own destiny for playoff inclusion. Instead, the Horned Frogs collapsed in the fourth quarter in every way possible, from the offense to the defense to the coaches on the sideline. Still, even in defeat, TCU proved it has a formidable squad. Though they’ll now need help the Horned Frogs still can win the Big 12. And they’re not out of the playoff picture just yet. But can they bounce back emotionally in time for the Cowboys?

Oklahoma State has the playmakers to be a load for any opponent in the Big 12, including TCU. But the Cowboys have issues going into the heart of their schedule. The offensive line, which has always been a strength in Stillwater, has been a train wreck this year. The Cowboys have given up a Big 12-worst 16 sacks. The running game has been a disaster, too. Oklahoma State is averaging just 3.77 yards per carry, the school’s worst average since Mike Gundy took over in 2005. Still, Gundy’s young defense has been far better than anyone expected, and Hill leads a horde of prolific offensive weapons. In the opener against Florida State, Oklahoma State proved it could toe-to-toe with the best in the country. If quarterback Daxx Garman can display more consistency, the Cowboys have the potential to beat the staggered Horned Frogs.

On the flip side, Baylor and West Virginia will be riding a wave of momentum after their improbable comebacks. The Mountaineers played Oklahoma tough and Alabama even tougher. Yet even as improved as West Virginia is, this will be its final chance to factor into the Big 12 race. Morgantown, however, will be rocking, even for the noon ET kickoff. And the Mountaineers have the firepower to score with Baylor, which, as TCU showed, can be scored upon.

After two lackluster weeks offensively, the Sooners, meanwhile, will try to get quarterback Trevor Knight and Co. back on track in a difficult matchup. Earlier this year, K-State’s disciplined and sure-tackling defense shut down Auburn, which has a similar scheme to Oklahoma’s. Bill Snyder has also had an extra week to prepare for the Sooners, who will be coming down from the thrill of playing their biggest rival. Despite the loss to TCU, the Sooners are still hovering on the cusp of the playoff discussion. But K-State could supplant them with a win.

Oklahoma State could do the same to TCU. And West Virginia could help itself -- and the rest of the league -- by upsetting Baylor, the Big 12’s only undefeated team.

Halfway into the season, six teams still hold Big 12 title hopes. Some of those hopes will be dashed on a separation Saturday, when the league's true contenders will be revealed.

Big 12 bowl projections: Week 7

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12
8:00
PM ET
There is not much reason to shake things up in the Big 12 bowl projections this week.

Baylor remains unbeaten (barely) while TCU did nothing to make anyone think its win over Oklahoma was a fluke. OU and Kansas State will battle in one of several conference games that will really start to separate the contenders from the pretenders this Saturday.

Allstate Sugar Bowl: Baylor
Cotton Bowl: TCU
Valero Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma
Russell Athletic Bowl: Kansas State
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: West Virginia
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Oklahoma State
Cactus Bowl: Texas

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 7

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12
9:00
AM ET
It's that time again! Let's honor the Big 12's top performers over the weekend:

CB Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma: The sophomore has been a feast-or-famine player in crimson and cream but seems to consistently make big plays in the Sooners' biggest games. His 43-yard interception return for a touchdown gave the Sooners breathing room while the offense was struggling in the first half and he finished fourth on the squad with eight tackles. He also added three pass breakups in OU's 31-26 win over Texas.

QB Tyrone Swoopes, Texas: Swoopes played with a presence and poise we had rarely seen from the sophomore during his stint as the Longhorns' starting quarterback. Playing in his first Red River Rivalry, he passed for 334 yards and rushed for 50 yards, accounting for three touchdowns along the way. It was a losing effort but Swoopes performance provides a glimmer of hope for UT.

K Josh Lambert, West Virginia: Not only did Lambert make 3 of 4 field goals, including a 55-yarder to give the Mountaineers a 37-34 win over Texas Tech, Dana Holgorsen actually talked to him. That, my friends, is the definition of winning.

DB Kennon Ward, Texas Tech: The sophomore finished with 16 tackles (11 solo) and 0.5 tackles for loss and one pass break up. It was a disappointing but productive day for Ward.

K Chris Callahan, Baylor: The Bears kicker entered the game 1-of-6 on field goal attempts this season. It didn't matter on Saturday as he went 4-of-4 in the Bears 61-58 win, including the 28-yard game winner as time expired. Redemption must have felt pretty sweet.

RB B.J. Catalon, TCU: Catalon finished with 213 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in the Horned Frogs' loss. He made big plays as a runner, receiver and kickoff returner while giving the Bears defenders fits throughout the game.

WR Corey Coleman, Baylor: The sophomore receiver quietly had a monster game in the Bears win, finishing with 253 all-purpose yards including eight receptions for 144 yards and two touchdowns. He added 22 rushing yards and 87 kick return yards.

QB Sam B. Richardson, Iowa State: It was looking like Toledo might ruin the Cyclones' homecoming before a pair of Richardson touchdown tosses in the fourth quarter helped put the game out of reach. The junior finished 37-of-53 for 351 yards and three touchdowns without an interception in the 37-30 win. He added 13 carries for 31 yards.

DE Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State: It's officially a breakout season for the sophomore. Ogbah finished with 10 tackles including 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks in Oklahoma State's 27-20 win over Kansas.

QB Bryce Petty, Baylor: His eye-popping numbers have become so commonplace he almost didn't make the list but I don't want to live in a world where 510 passing yards and six touchdowns isn't enough to earn a helmet sticker. Do you?
Here’s what we learned about the Big 12 in Week 7:

1. No matter how far down, Baylor is never out: TCU led the Bears by three touchdowns with just over 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter. After a pick-six, the Horned Frogs had all the momentum, too. Yet even all that wasn’t too big an obstacle for Art Briles’ club to overcome. Behind quarterback Bryce Petty, the Bears put together touchdown drives of 45, 92 and 91 yards covering a combined 3 minutes, 21 seconds to tie the game. Then after stopping TCU on fourth down, Shock Linwood (who had 104 yards rushing in the fourth quarter) bulled the Bears into field goal range to set up Chris Callahan’s 28-yard game winner, which lifted the Bears to the improbable 61-58 win. Baylor never lost its resolve, even after Marcus Mallet’s pick-six of Petty that put the Bears in a seemingly insurmountable hole. That speaks to the character of the team and of the program. And it bodes well for Baylor’s Big 12 title and playoff hopes the rest of the season.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesBryce Petty's fourth-quarter heroics on Saturday likely put the Baylor signal-caller back in the Heisman race.
2. Bryce Petty is officially in the Heisman race: After a banner junior season, Petty started out the year on the short list of Heisman contenders just below reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston. But the combination of a back injury and a soft early-season schedule knocked Petty off the radar. On Saturday, Petty returned to the Heisman picture with authority, delivering his Heisman moment -- or moments -- while rallying the Bears in the fourth quarter against TCU. Petty threw for a career-high 510 yards and six touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter. With Winston struggling and Georgia running back Todd Gurley ineligible indefinitely, the Heisman race is wide open. As long as the Bears keep winning, Petty could surge to the top of the Heisman conversation.

3. TCU still has a really good team: The Horned Frogs played phenomenally in Waco, Texas, for 50 minutes. Unfortunately for them, they had another 10 minutes still to play. This epic collapse won’t be easy to put in the rear-view mirror. The Horned Frogs had a prime opportunity to beat a top-5 team for the second straight week while putting themselves in the driver’s seat of the Big 12 title and a playoff spot. But TCU couldn't make any plays in the final 10 minutes of the fourth quarter, including a crucial failed fourth-and-3 attempt on a questionable fade call that set up Baylor's game-winning field goal. Nevertheless, this remains a very good TCU team that could still be a major player in the Big 12 title race. Which means, despite Saturday's fourth-quarter collapse, this season could be a special one for a team that is vastly improved from its first two years in the league.

4. Texas has reason for hope: The Longhorns might have lost the Red River Showdown 31-26, but they also showed there’s hope for this season and hope for this program under Charlie Strong. Texas completely dominated the box score, outperforming the Sooners in almost every statistical category. Oklahoma's big plays ultimately did Texas in. But even when the Sooners led 31-13 in the fourth quarter, the Longhorns didn’t give up. Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes threw for a career-high 334 yards and displayed tremendous poise in a building-block performance. The Texas defense was also dominant again, and is looking more and more like it might be the class of the league. With a 2-4 record, the Longhorns have an uphill climb to make a bowl game. But Strong had to feel better about his club leaving Dallas than he did arriving.

5. West Virginia, Oklahoma possess gumption: The Baylor comeback overshadowed another amazing display of resiliency in the Big 12, as the Mountaineers rallied from a late 14-point deficit to stun Texas Tech 37-34 earlier in the day. The Mountaineers scored 17 points in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter, which ended on Josh Lambert’s game-winning field goal from 55 yards out (Lambert also had the game winner that beat Maryland). The Mountaineers struggled all day offensively in Lubbock, Texas, but they turned it on when they had to. Speaking of a struggle, Oklahoma's win over Texas didn't come easy. The Sooners had just one first down the entire first half, then nearly squandered a 31-13 lead in the fourth quarter. Yet from Alex Ross’ kickoff return touchdown on the Sooners’ first touch of the game to Samaje Perine’s two third-down conversions on their final drive, the Sooners made the plays they had to make to win. Even when not at their best, good teams find a way to win. That's what the Mountaineers and Sooners did Saturday.

Big 12 viewer's guide: Week 7

October, 10, 2014
Oct 10
10:00
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In Week 7 of Big 12 action, Texas and Oklahoma will clash in another Red River Showdown; TCU and Baylor will meet in Waco, Texas, with first place in the league on the line; Texas Tech will attempt to get its season on track against West Virginia; Kansas will try to give interim coach Clint Bowen his first win against Oklahoma State; and Iowa State will gun for a much-needed nonconference win.

Those, among others, will be the storylines to follow in the Big 12 Saturday:

[+] EnlargeTexas coach Charlie Strong
AP Photo/Eric GayTexas coach Charlie Strong will make his Red River Showdown debut Saturday at the Cotton Bowl.
Texas vs. No. 11 Oklahoma, noon ET (ABC): The Sooners are a two-touchdown favorite in the Red River Showdown. Of course, they were a two-touchdown favorite last season, too, and lost in a stunner that the Longhorns dominated. In addition to it being the Cotton Bowl debut for Texas coach Charlie Strong, it will be the first Red River start for the quarterback on either side: Oklahoma's Trevor Knight and Texas' Tyrone Swoopes. Since 1970, the Longhorns hold a slight advantage in games in which both sides have started a new quarterback, with a record of 7-6-1.

West Virginia at Texas Tech, noon ET (Fox Sports 1): West Virginia's first-ever trip to Lubbock, Texas, two years ago resulted in a 49-14 defeat, which sent the then-No. 5 Mountaineers spiraling the rest of the season. This time around, Tech is in the spiral, having lost three in a row and eight of its past 11 dating back to last season. Quarterback Davis Webb led the Red Raiders to a come-from-behind win in Morgantown, West Virginia, in 2013 but has struggled with ball security this season. Only John Wolford (Wake Forest) and former Red Raiders quarterback Michael Brewer (Virginia Tech) have more interceptions this season among FBS quarterbacks than Webb, who has thrown 10 picks. West Virginia's Clint Trickett, meanwhile, who was outplayed by Webb in last season's game, is third nationally at the moment in passing.

No. 9 TCU at No. 5 Baylor, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC): It's been 58 years since Baylor was involved in a regular-season matchup of AP top-10 teams; the eighth-ranked Bears lost that 1956 game to No. 7 Texas A&M 19-13. Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, who completed just seven of 22 passes at Texas, is coming off the worst statistical performance of his career, while TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin, who totaled 395 all-purpose yards in last week's upset of Oklahoma, is coming off his best. The rivalry has been extremely close over the years, with the series 51-51-7 all-time.

Toledo at Iowa State, 3:30 p.m. ET: The Cyclones step out of conference play in desperate need of a victory to keep their bowl hopes alive. The Cyclones have played a brutal schedule so far, with their first five opponents compiling a 22-3 record -- the highest FBS opponent winning percentage in the country. Beating Toledo, however, won't be easy, either. The Rockets sit atop the MAC West standings with a 3-0 conference record.

No. 16 Oklahoma State at Kansas, 4 p.m. ET (FS1): This will be Oklahoma State's first true road trip of the season after playing its past four games at home. It will also be the first collegiate snap Cowboys quarterback Daxx Garman has taken outside of Boone Pickens Stadium. Kansas, meanwhile, is searching for answers at quarterback because the offense has struggled to score with Montell Cozart. Michael Cummings and T.J. Millweard both played last weekend at West Virginia and could get their chances against the Pokes, too. Oklahoma State has lost to the Jayhawks just once since 1995.

Big 12 Week 7 predictions

October, 9, 2014
Oct 9
9:00
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Predictions for Saturday's games in the Big 12:


Why Oklahoma will win: The Texas defense has been phenomenal in recent weeks. But the Texas offense has been abysmal. The Sooners have some issues, and they could struggle to move the ball again in Dallas the way they struggled late in last week's game in Fort Worth. But as long as Oklahoma doesn’t completely melt down with turnovers, it’s difficult to envision a capped-out Tyrone Swoopes attack putting enough points on the board to pull off a second consecutive stunner in this rivalry. Oklahoma hasn't lost back-to-back regular-season games under Bob Stoops since 1999. That doesn't change Saturday. Oklahoma 22, Texas 9 Jake Trotter

Why Texas will keep it close: Defense. Texas' No. 5-ranked pass defense thrived against Baylor and is going to give Trevor Knight trouble. The Longhorns can win the turnover battle and at least give their struggling offense some advantages in field position. But whether Swoopes is ready to capitalize, I just don't know. Plus, Texas' kicking game is a real problem. Oklahoma 21, Texas 17 Max Olson


Why Baylor will win: The Baylor offense has been a completely different animal at home. Since 2013, the Bears have averaged 60 points a game in Waco. This will be the toughest defense Baylor has faced at home during that span. But while the Horned Frogs have played well, asking them to beat two top-five teams in back-to-back weeks seems like too tall a task. Baylor 41, TCU 30 Trotter

Why TCU will keep it close: Trevone Boykin. It doesn’t matter how good a defense is playing if Boykin is throwing like an efficient quarterback and running like a superb running back. He can present all sorts of problems for Baylor’s defense and will, at the very least, help TCU keep it close. Baylor 48, TCU 45Brandon Chatmon


Why West Virginia will win: The Mountaineers are battle-tested and playing with a confidence we haven’t seen from Dana Holgorsen’s squad since the last time they headed to Lubbock. That Geno Smith-led West Virginia squad was hammered by Tech, but that won’t happen this time around. West Virginia's offense and playmakers are a handful, and the Red Raiders can’t seem to stop shooting themselves in the foot. West Virginia 41, Texas Tech 27Chatmon

Why Texas Tech will win: There's a chance this is just completely wrong, because Texas Tech really does make the same mistakes week after week. But I'm going with the home team in a high-scoring affair, not out of disrespect for West Virginia but out of a hunch that Tech isn't as awful as we assume. Texas Tech 45, West Virginia 42 Olson


Why Oklahoma State will win: The Jayhawks' offense hasn’t seemed to find a rhythm all season and the Cowboys' defense is maturing before our eyes. Add the explosive element Daxx Garman has brought to the Pokes’ attack, and it’s hard to imagine the Jayhawks scoring enough points to upset Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State 30, Kansas 10Chatmon

Why Kansas will keep it close: Two years ago, Oklahoma went to Lawrence with an inexperienced quarterback and barely won, 20-14. This time it’s Garman instead of J.W. Walsh. And while the Cowboys have been potent downfield, they’ve also been inconsistent with shorter passes and with running the ball. An underrated Kansas defense will keep the Jayhawks in this game again. Oklahoma State 24, Kansas 13Trotter

Other unanimous pick

Iowa State over Toledo, 34-20: The Rockets have won three in a row and rank No. 6 nationally in yards per rush. They won't necessarily be a quick, easy out for Iowa State. But the Cyclones will avoid any controversial calls and their defense will get back on track in this much-needed reprieve from conference play. – Olson

Season records:
  • Chatmon: 35-4
  • Olson: 35-4
  • Trotter: 35-4

Oklahoma's visit was TCU's chance to make a big impression on the Big 12 title race, and Gary Patterson's squad seized the moment with a 37-33 upset win. The result is a Horned Frogs leap toward the top of our bowl projections with a matchup at Baylor looming this week. TCU could complete its rise with another upset win.

The Sooners drop a couple spots but can redeem themselves against Texas and Kansas State in the next two weeks. And don't count out West Virginia, which has its toughest remaining games at Milan Puskar Stadium. The Big 12 is shaping up to have another competitive race to the title.

Allstate Sugar Bowl: Baylor
Cotton Bowl: TCU
Valero Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma
Russell Athletic Bowl: Kansas State
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: West Virginia
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Oklahoma State
Cactus Bowl: Texas

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 6

October, 5, 2014
Oct 5
2:00
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