NCF Nation: Alex Okafor

Our team of scouts is in Mobile, Ala., all week long, and will have updates on ESPN Insider throughout the practices leading up to Saturday's game.

Earlier this week, Landry Jones has already stood out among the quarterbacks Insider, looking the "most natural" of all the South signal-callers. The scouting report on Jones this week? It'll sound absolutely familiar to anyone who watched Jones throughout his four years at Oklahoma.

He's deadly accurate when he has time, the scouts wrote, but his elongated release can cause some problems, especially if he is short on time. He has outshone South teammates Tyler Wilson from Arkansas and EJ Manuel from Florida State.

A strong early start for Baylor receiver Terrance Williams gave way to a step back in Tuesday's practice.

Texas defensive end Alex Okafor stood out at the North practices Insider, and he's dominated average opposition. When he's faced the top tackles in Mobile, though, he's been stifled. That's not a good sign.

Fellow Longhorn Marquise Goodwin turned heads with his speed and ability to free himself underneath this week, too. Our scouts said the receiver needed to work on his hands and route-running, however.

Stay tuned throughout the week for more.

Best/Worst of the Pac-12 bowl season

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
3:00
PM ET
We're taking a look at the best and worst of the Pac-12 bowl season.

Best player, offense: Washington RB Bishop Sankey was the best player on the field in the Huskies' 28-26 defeat in the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl. He gained 205 yards on 30 carries with a TD. He also caught six passes for 74 yards, giving him 279 of Washington's 447 yards from scrimmage.

Best player, defense: Arizona State DT Will Sutton had 2.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for a loss in the Sun Devils' 62-28 domination of Navy.

Best player, special teams: De'Anthony Thomas' 94-yard return of the opening kickoff of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl set the tone for Oregon's 35-17 triumph over Kansas State. We'll also slip in that his 23-yard TD on a screen pass was perhaps even more spectacular.

Best game: It's still difficult to wrap one's mind around Arizona's comeback against Nevada in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. The Wolf Pack led 48-35 with 1:48 remaining, but the Wildcats scored two touchdowns and recovered an onside kick in the final 46 seconds to steal a 49-48 victory. Arizona trailed 21-0 in the first quarter and was down 45-28 entering the final period, but still won.

Worst game: USC's 21-7 loss to a Georgia Tech team with seven defeats in the Hyundai Sun Bowl was not only the worst performance of the Pac-12's bowl season, it was the worst bowl performance in USC history. The Trojans, the preseason No. 1 team, managed to gain just 205 yards against a bad defense, one that had been shredded in a 49-28 loss to Middle Tennessee.

Best play: Arizona linebacker Marquis Flowers recovered the onside kick that set up the Wildcats' go-ahead drive against Nevada. He also grabbed the interception with 13 seconds left that ended the high drama.

Best goal-line stand: Stanford dominated Wisconsin's offense in the second half of the Rose Bowl, but that wasn't the case in the second quarter, when the Badgers scored 14 points and were gashing the Cardinal. Gashing, other than one critical play. On fourth-and-goal at the Stanford 1-yard line, Badgers RB James White was stonewalled by DE Ben Gardner.

Worst play: Baylor led UCLA 14-0, but UCLA looked poised to make a defensive stop in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl. The Bears faced a third-and-9 from their 45-yard line. UCLA decided to blitz, and Bears QB Nick Florence made them pay with a 55-yard TD pass to Tevin Reese. It was a beautiful pass and catch for Baylor. But it was a crushing blow to the Bruins, who never mounted much of a challenge the rest of the evening.

Best stat(s): Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly was nearly perfect against Navy. He completed 17 of 19 passes for 277 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. That's a pass efficiency rating of 277.43. Alabama's AJ McCarron led the nation with a pass efficiency rating of 175.28 this season. Oh, and Kelly also rushed for 81 yards on seven carries -- 11.6 yards per rush -- and a TD.

Best stat(s) II: Stanford's defense shut out Wisconsin in the second half of the Rose Bowl, holding the Badgers to just four first downs and 82 total yards, including 13 yards rushing from All-American RB Montee Ball.

Worst stat: UCLA's feckless performance against Baylor was best summed up by the Bruins going 1-for-17 on third downs. That's bad against any defense, but making matters worse is this: Baylor ranked 119th in the nation in third-down conversions allowed.

Crazy stat: Texas' defense posted an Alamo Bowl-record 10 sacks for minus-81 yards against Oregon State. Alex Okafor alone set a bowl record with 4.5 sacks. Here's a guess that Beavers fans were wondering how a team that gave up 23 sacks in its previous 12 games couldn't make an adjustment, because Okafor doesn't rank in the top five of defensive linemen/outside linebackers Oregon State faced during the regular season.
The Big 12 bowl season is over, but just as we did for the weekend rewind all season long, it's time to look back on the best and worst of the bowl season.

Best offensive performance: Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia. West Virginia got stuck in a snowstorm in New York City, and producing offense in that wasn't easy. Still, Bailey put together the best performance, grabbing seven passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns in the Mountaineers' loss to Syracuse.

[+] EnlargeAlex Okafor
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsDefensive end Alex Okafor set the Alamo Bowl record with 4.5 sacks against Oregon State.
Best defensive performance: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas. This was the best performance of any player in the Big 12 the whole bowl season. Okafor was unblockable in the second half, racking up 4.5 sacks and five tackles for loss in the Longhorns' comeback win against Oregon State. He made eight tackles and forced a fumble.

Best play: David Ash, QB, Texas. Ash was nearly dragged down in the backfield, but somehow slipped out of a sack and rolled to his left to extend the play. Running back Johnathan Gray leaked out of the backfield, and Ash threw a perfect strike across his body and hit Gray in the hands for a 15-yard touchdown pass to get the Longhorns to within three points midway through the fourth quarter. Honorable mention: Ash's 36-yard bomb to Marquise Goodwin to take the lead with 36 seconds to play.

Biggest impact play: D.J. Johnson, S, Texas Tech. The Red Raiders hadn't forced a turnover since Oct. 20, but Johnson intercepted a pass in the final minute, returning it 39 yards to set up a game-winning field goal. Minnesota was driving in a tie game, but the Red Raiders' late flurry produced an unlikely comeback win.

Best catch: Isaiah Anderson, WR, Oklahoma State. Anderson caught five balls for 78 yards, but his crazy, spinning, aerial catch in the back of the end zone for a 37-yard touchdown put OSU up 45-0 and provided the best highlight of the Big 12 bowl season.

Worst play: Cornelius Lucas, OL, Kansas State. Kansas State faced a fourth-and-1 at Oregon's 18, but tried to draw Oregon offside and probably planned to go for it anyway after taking a timeout. The Wildcats trailed 15-10, but Lucas inexplicably moved early on a play that probably never would have happened. It backed up Kansas State five yards, and the powerful short-yardage offense couldn't go for it. Anthony Cantele missed the 40-yard kick that ensued, and Oregon answered with a quick touchdown before half to go up 12.

Most boneheaded play: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech. Amaro, who might be Tech's most talented player, missed half the season with a rib injury. He finally got to return, but he didn't seem to take that privilege very seriously. Right in front of an official, he pinned a Minnesota defender and threw a punch. He drew a flag and was ejected, but that flag backed up Texas Tech from the Golden Gophers' 1-yard line to the 16. The ensuing field goal was blocked, and Tech needed a late-game rally to win.

Craziest reaction to a boneheaded play: Texas Tech. According to a report from Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas Tech officials had to relay a message to Amaro telling him not to tweet about his ejection. Hours later, he tweeted a weak apology: "I want to apologize for being ejected. As bad as it seems, which it does, I had no intention of a punch. But the idea to get off of him," he wrote.

Best moment: Ash gets the win. It was an emotional bowl week full of distractions for Texas' team as two players were sent home after a police investigation into an alleged sexual assault. Texas' offense struggled for much of the first half, but Ash got hot late and capped the game with a 36-yard touchdown pass over the top to the speedy Goodwin. It gave Texas a huge win, the Big 12's best win of the entire season.

Worst moment: Michigan State takes the game back. TCU inexplicably blew a 13-0 lead when Michigan State's offense came alive, but Jaden Oberkrom gave the Frogs hope with a 53-yard kick to get the lead back, 16-14. It didn't last long. Michigan State strung together a drive and with 61 seconds to play, Dan Conroy boomed a 47-yard kick to take the wind out of TCU's sails after a difficult, emotional season.

The All-Big 12 Bowl Team

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
11:00
AM ET
The Big 12 had nine teams in bowl games this season, and here is the best of the best in the Big 12's postseason. Let's get to it.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ash
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsDavid Ash's big plays fueled Texas' comeback against Oregon State.
QB: David Ash, Texas: He edges out Clint Chelf because of his game-changing plays in the Longhorns' win against Oregon State. Ash had the best play of the entire bowl season with a crazy escape and acrobatic touchdown pass to Johnathan Gray, and he hit Marquise Goodwin on a 36-yard bomb to put the Longhorns ahead in the final minutes. He finished 21-of-33 with 241 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 22 yards and a score.

RB: Lache Seastrunk, Baylor: Seastrunk helped Baylor rout UCLA with 138 yards and a score on 16 carries in the Bears' Holiday Bowl win.

RB: Glasco Martin IV, Baylor: How many rushers did the Big 12 have this bowl season who had at least 95 yards? Two, and both played for Baylor. Martin scored three touchdowns in the Holiday Bowl and carried the ball 21 times for 98 yards. Heck of a night for the Bears backs.

WR: Darrin Moore, Texas Tech: Moore was the most consistent receiver in the bowl season with 11 catches for 84 yards, keeping the chains moving for the Red Raiders in their Meineke Car Care Bowl win against Minnesota.

WR: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia: Despite playing in a snowstorm, Bailey had the best performance of any Big 12 receiver. He caught eight balls for 121 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It wasn't enough to get the Pinstripe Bowl win, but no other Mountaineer scored a touchdown.

WR: Marquise Goodwin, Texas: The track star's touches were limited, but he had a huge impact. His 36-yard grab with 2:24 to play proved to be the game winner, and he finished with four catches for 68 yards. He also had one carry -- which he turned into a 64-yard touchdown, looking as fast as any player in college football while streaking to the end zone.

TE: Ernst Brun Jr., Iowa State: Brun caught four passes for 102 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown, to get the first-quarter party started for the Cyclones, which scored 17 points in the quarter. The rest of the game was forgettable, but Brun had one of the longest plays of Iowa State's season.

OL: Cyril Richardson, Baylor: The Bears' left guard was a big reason why Baylor had so much success running the ball. Baylor racked up 306 yards on the ground against UCLA.

OL: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State: Purdue's Kawann Short is a stud and arguably the team's best player, but Taylor helped Oklahoma State rack up 58 points and helped hold the Boilermakers defensive tackle to just one tackle and one sack. Short had minimal impact throughout the game.

OL: LaAdrian Waddle, Texas Tech: The Red Raiders ran the ball well -- on the few occasions they did -- and Seth Doege had plenty of time. Waddle was a big reason why for both.

OL: Lane Johnson, Oklahoma: Texas A&M wrecking ball Damontre Moore declared for the NFL draft before the Cotton Bowl, but credit Johnson at tackle, who helped hold him to five tackles, one tackle for loss and zero sacks, despite Landry Jones throwing 48 passes.

OL: Ivory Wade, Baylor: Those 306 yards rushing for the Bears didn't come easy. Most of them came on the interior, and Wade was a solid presence in the middle of the line.

DEFENSE

DL: Chris McAllister, Baylor: He was one of a handful of guys to hold UCLA's Johnathan Franklin to 34 yards on 14 carries, had five tackles, including two sacks, and batted down a pass to help keep UCLA's passing game grounded.

DL: Alex Okafor, Texas: Okafor is my defensive MVP of the Big 12 bowl season. He gave Oregon State's offensive line nightmares and helped the Longhorns stage a late comeback with 4.5 sacks, five tackles for loss and eight stops. He also forced a fumble.

DL: Meshak Williams, Kansas State: The Wildcats had a rough night against Oregon, but Williams played pretty well with nine tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack.

DL: Terrance Lloyd, Baylor: Lloyd was part of the Baylor gang who helped UCLA have its worst running game of the season. He had four tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack. No zone read for you.

LB: Terence Garvin, West Virginia: Garvin was everywhere for the West Virginia defense, which largely struggled in a blowout loss to Syracuse. He forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, broke up a pass, had two sacks, made three tackles for loss and had 15 tackles.

LB: Tyler Johnson, Oklahoma State: Johnson blew up what Purdue likes to refer to as its "passing game." He made six tackles, had two sacks and forced two fumbles, including a huge hit on Purdue quarterback Robert Marve.

LB: Eddie Lackey, Baylor: Lackey was another part of Baylor's defense that put together one of its best games of the season. He made 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and five tackles.

DB: Jason Verrett, TCU: Most of Michigan State's night was frustrating in the passing game before some late success, and Verrett was a big reason for those struggles. He broke up two passes, made a tackle for loss and had 12 tackles.

DB: D.J. Johnson, Texas Tech: Johnson made 14 tackles and is on this team for one of the biggest plays of Texas Tech's season. The defense hadn't forced a turnover since Oct. 20, but Johnson picked off a Gophers pass in the final minute with Minnesota driving and the game tied. He returned it 39 yards, helping to set up the winning field goal as time expired.

DB: Jeremy Reeves, Iowa State: Reeves returned a Cody Green interception 31 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter of the Liberty Bowl loss. He had six tackles with a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

DB: Daytawion Lowe, Oklahoma State: No second-half comebacks for Purdue. Lowe opened the half with a 37-yard fumble return for a score and made seven tackles with half a tackle for loss.

SPECIALISTS

KR: Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech: This one is pretty simple. Grant returned a kickoff 99 yards for a score, giving Texas Tech a 7-3 lead early in the first quarter of its Meineke Car Care Bowl win.

PR: Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State: Purdue faked a punt to keep its opening drive alive but punted on its next set of downs. The always-shifty Stewart delivered a 64-yard punt return, giving Oklahoma State the ball on the Purdue 19-yard line. The Cowboys scored for a 7-0 lead to kick off the Heart of Dallas Bowl rout.

K: Jaden Oberkrom, TCU: He edges out Texas Tech's Ryan Bustin, who kicked a 28-yard winner, for making all three of his attempts, including a crazy 53-yarder for a 16-14 lead with 2:42 to play. He also made kicks of 47 and 31 yards.

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State: He narrowly edges out Oklahoma's Tress Way (five punts, three inside 20, long of 58 yards, average 49.4 yards) for this award after pinning Purdue inside its 20-yard line on two of his three punts. He boomed a 65-yarder and averaged nearly 53 yards on his three punts. He was more valuable for Oklahoma State because field position mattered to Purdue. It didn't to Texas A&M.
.500 -- It's not great. It's not bad. It's just sort of there.

1.000 -- Perfect. As good as it gets.

0.00 --- Doesn't get worse than a Blutarsky.

.667 --- Above average.

A 4-4 final record was lower than expected for the Pac-12 this postseason. A perfect record in the two BCS bowl games was outstanding, yet going 0-3 against other BCS conferences (outside of the BCS games) is disappointing. And the 2-1 mark against non-BCS conference teams is just so-so.

Any way you choose to crunch the numbers and winning percentages (or losing percentages, for that matter) from the Pac-12 bowl season, you're bound to reach the same conclusion. Some good, some bad.

Hopes were high when the bowl matchups were announced -- and there was even some talk of the Pac-12 running the table with a perfect 8-0 mark. After all, Pac-12 teams were favorites in seven of the eight games. But Arizona's New Mexico Miracle should have been a harbinger of things to come. We rejoiced at the final-minute heroics. But in that jubilation, one simple fact got lost: It ain't going to be easy.

From Washington's comeback-turned-fourth-quarter-cough-up to the inadequacies of UCLA, Oregon State and USC (of which there are many that can be debated), the Pac-12 didn't always put its best foot forward.

We saw some of Pac-12 teams out-played, out-coached and out-classed.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesOregon's Fiesta victory was the Pac-12's high point, lifting the conference to a 4-4 bowl mark.
And yet we also saw the conference at its best. We saw an explosive Arizona State team cruise to victory over Navy; a punishing Stanford defense doing exactly what it does best in the Rose Bowl; and Oregon's speed in the Fiesta Bowl -- so fast that it proceeds itself when it proceeds itself.

December 2012 through January 2013 saw the Pac-12 at its worst. And its best.

Historically speaking, this actually wasn't a bad bowl season for the Pac-12. Sure, it's not the perfect 5-0 mark of the '08 season. But it's better than the 2-5, 2-2 and 2-5 ledgers of '09, '10 and '11, respectively. Worth noting also that an eligible USC probably would have won a bowl game last season because it was the hottest team in football down the stretch. Even still, 3-5 wouldn't have been a whole lot better.

Since the 1999 bowl season, the Pac-12 is 40-41, including this season, so a .500 record seems to fit the turn-of-the-century trend.

The what-ifs are plentiful. What if play had actually stopped and Boise State had received a measurement? What if Oregon State had made adjustments to account for Alex Okafor -- a few plays in max protect, a tight end helping or a running back chipping? What if UCLA and USC hadn't left their abundance of talent back in the City of Angels instead of taking it to San Diego and El Paso, Texas, respectively?

But what-ifs are pointless. All that matters are the final records.

With that said, it's tough to really declare a "winner" from the bowl season. For all the talk about the Pac-12 and Big 12 rivalry for "Who's No. 2," we're still left with inconclusive data. The Big 12 went 4-5, which included a loss to Conference USA's Tulsa. It went 2-1 against the Pac-12 with a blowout victory by Baylor and a late Christmas present from Oregon State to Texas. But the best it had to offer, Kansas State, was smoked by Oregon. We can call this one a wash.

The almighty SEC saw two of its top-10 teams go down -- LSU and Florida -- and South Carolina needed a miracle against a Michigan team perceived to be wildly overrated.

But the SEC has the crystal ball -- again.

Maybe the ACC is the big winner -- scoring victories over LSU and USC, plus a BCS bowl win. Or is it the Big East after Louisville's stomping of Florida?

You can look for meanings in the numbers and rationalize what was and wasn't good for the conference in the 2012 bowl season. But in end, the result is the same.

Some good. Some bad. Trying to make any more -- or less -- is a wasted exercise.

SAN ANTONIO -- Texas has been a team searching for any sort of tangible evidence that the program was at least starting to turn around after two-plus seasons that were subpar by the program's standards. Saturday night's 31-27 win against Oregon State might have done just that. While the Beavers are not exactly a juggernaut in college football, any win against a BCS-ranked team for Texas is valued and pouted at as proof that better things are on the horizon.

It was over when: Texas quarterback David Ash went up top to wide receiver Marquise Goodwin for a 36-yard touchdown pass with 2 minutes, 24 seconds left in the fourth. The touchdown gave Texas its first lead of the game at 31-27.

Game ball goes to: Texas was down to just one viable option at quarterback with Ash following the suspension of backup Case McCoy. The sophomore started slowly but came through in the end. Ash finished 21-of-33 for 241 yards with two passing touchdowns against one interception. He also rushed for another touchdown on an 11-yard run.

Stat of the game: Texas' defense posted an Alamo Bowl-record 10 sacks for minus-81 yards. Alex Okafor led the charge with a bowl-record 4.5 sacks. While Oregon State quarterback Cody Vaz spent much of the game on his back, Ash was his team's second-leading rusher with 22 yards and a touchdown.

Stat of the game, part 2: Texas had 23 yards in the first quarter and failed to get a first down. In the fourth quarter, the Longhorns (9-4) had 165 yards and scored 14 points.

What it means for Texas: The Longhorns will be spared months of questions about the direction of the program and who the quarterback of the future might be. Ash was able to take control of the game when it mattered and should be the clear favorite as Texas heads into spring practice.

What it means for Oregon State: The Beavers (9-4) still had one of the top turnarounds in college football, going from a three-win season to a nine-win season, but they lacked a signature win in 2012. No doubt the solid showing against the Longhorns in Texas will help coach Mike Riley pull more players out of the state.

Pac-12 bowl primer: Valero Alamo

December, 12, 2012
12/12/12
6:43
PM ET
This week we'll be taking a snapshot look at all of the bowl games including Pac-12 teams.

No. 23 Texas (8-4, 5-4 Big 12) vs. No. 13 Oregon State (9-3, 6-3)

Where: San Antonio, Texas, Alamodome

When: Sat. Dec. 29, 6:45 p.m. ET/3:45 PT

TV: ESPN

About Oregon State: What a wild year it's been for the Beavers, who have flipped last season's mark of 3-9 to 9-3. From the strange start of postponing the season opener to the quarterback switches, Oregon State has dealt with some bizarre distractions -- but it has also endured through it all. Quarterbacks Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz continue to be locked in a quarterback competition. But whoever gets the start will have one of the nation's best wide receiver duos to work with. And for as explosive as OSU's passing game has been with Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks (both 1,000-yard receivers), the defense has been just as potent, allowing fewer than 20 points per game. OSU went 2-2 vs. ranked competition this season, topping Wisconsin and UCLA in consecutive weeks, then falling to Stanford and Oregon late in the year.

About Texas: Like the Beavers, the Longhorns have quarterback issues. While we wait for Beavers coach Mike Riley's decision, we too must wait for Texas' Mack Brown to decide between Case McCoy and David Ash. Texas lost its final two games, against TCU and No. 6 Kansas State. Ash, who started the first 11 games, was benched against the Horned Frogs, and McCoy started the season finale against Kansas State. Twice the Longhorns couldn't hold a lead against No. 8 West Virginia (48-45), and they were routed by No. 13 Oklahoma (65-21) and dismissed by Kansas State (42-24). Their only victory against a ranked team was a 31-22 win at Texas Tech.

Key players, Oregon State: It starts with Wheaton and Cooks -- who have combined for 152 catches, 2,327 yards and 16 touchdowns. This pair represents the best mismatch for the Beavers, so whichever quarterback wins the gig, look for them to get this duo involved early and often. Defensively, All-American cornerback Jordan Poyer leads a defense that has 19 interceptions this season, which ranks sixth in the country. He has seven of those interceptions and returned one for a touchdown.

Key players, Texas: The Longhorns can score. They average just north of 36 points per game, and the two-back system of Johnathan Gray and Joe Bergeron has been pretty successful. Gray, a freshman, is the smaller, speedier back (though he has pretty good size at 5-11, 207). Bergeron (6-1, 230) is a sophomore and has 16 rushing touchdowns. He's the thunder to Gray's lightening. All-conference defensive end Alex Okafor can be disruptive. He's got a team best eight sacks, and 12 tackles for a loss this season.

Did you know: This is the third meeting between the schools and Texas has won both, the last coming in 1987 ... Texas' last and only appearance in the Alamo Bowl was in 2006 when it defeated Iowa 26-24 ... This is Texas' 14th bowl appearance in 15 seasons under Brown ... this is Oregon State's first appearance in the Alamo Bowl and first postseason appearance since 2009 ... The Beavers are 5-1 in bowl games under Mike Riley ... Oregon State has been ranked for a school record 11 consecutive weeks in the AP poll.

ESPN.com's 2012 All-Big 12 team

December, 10, 2012
12/10/12
11:26
AM ET
Congrats to all these guys for turning in fantastic seasons. Naturally, there will be some snubs and some things that need to be explained. Check the blog later today for more thoughts.

Without further ado, here's the All-Big 12 team from ESPN.com.

OFFENSE

QB: Collin Klein, Kansas State
RB: Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State
RB: James Sims, Kansas
FB: Trey Millard, Oklahoma
WR: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
WR: Terrance Williams, Baylor
WR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia
TE: Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
OL: Cyril Richardson, Baylor
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
C: Joe Madsen, West Virginia
OL: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State
OL: LaAdrian Waddle, Texas Tech

DEFENSE

DL: Devonte Fields, TCU
DL: Meshak Williams, Kansas State
DL: Calvin Barnett, Oklahoma State
DL: Alex Okafor, Texas
LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State
LB: Arthur Brown, Kansas State
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
CB: Jason Verrett, TCU
CB: Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma
S: Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State
S: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma

SPECIALISTS:

PK: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
KR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
PR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia

Honorable mention: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia; Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma; Anthony Cantele, K, Kansas State; Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas; Justin Brown, PR, Oklahoma; Tanner Hawkinson, OL, Kansas; Jake McDonough, DL, Iowa State; Lane Johnson, OL, Oklahoma; John Hubert, RB, Kansas State; Travis Tannahill, TE, Kansas State; Durrell Givens, S, Iowa State; Cody Davis, S, Texas Tech

Valero Alamo Bowl

December, 2, 2012
12/02/12
10:40
PM ET
Texas Longhorns (8-4) vs. Oregon State Beavers (9-3)

Dec. 29, 6:45 p.m. ET, San Antonio (ESPN)

Texas take from LonghornNation's Carter Strickland: The Longhorns stumbled down the stretch, losing their last two games to finish the regular season third in the Big 12.

While most projections called for Texas to finish right around third in the conference -- second was a possibility but thought to be a distant one -- the 8-4 overall record is looked at as a disappointment because of who the Longhorns lost to and how they lost.

Oklahoma and Kansas State, the top two teams in the Big 12, beat Texas by a combined 60 points, but the fact that the Longhorns most likely were going to lose to both of those teams had been accepted prior to the start of the season.

The other two losses -- to TCU and West Virginia -- were seen more as swing games. Texas lost those two by a combined 10 points. That both losses were at home didn't exactly thrill the fan base.

Now Texas is at a loss as to which quarterback, David Ash or Case McCoy, should lead the team. Ash started the first 11 games but was pulled twice due to inconsistent play and turnovers. McCoy started the final game against Kansas State and threw for 314 yards with 17 straight completions at one point. But McCoy had two costly interceptions as well.

On defense, Texas was one of the most porous in both the conference and the nation. But a month of bowl practice may help heal defensive end Alex Okafor and build confidence in replacement linebackers Tevin Jackson and Peter Jinkens.

Texas needs one more win to finish one game better than last season's record of 8-5. If the Longhorns can do that it might lend slightly more credibility to Texas coach Mack Brown's continued stump speeches about the Longhorns having improved from last year.




Oregon State take by Pac-12 blogger Kevin Gemmell: Oregon State head coach Mike Riley has a decision to make. OSU's regular-season finale against Nicholls State was as much an open quarterback tryout between Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz as it was a quest for a ninth win. Both have had highs and lows throughout the season, so it will be interesting to see which way Riley goes in the postseason as the Beavers look for their first Bowl win since a 3-0 victory against Pittsburgh in the 2008 Sun Bowl.

Both quarterbacks looked outstanding against Nicholls State -- granted, it was against a one-win FCS team. Yet both made their cases with efficient performances.

But the true stars of Oregon's State's team this year have been seniors Markus Wheaton (receiver) and Jordan Poyer (cornerback). They were catalysts for one of the best turnarounds in college football in 2012. Last season, the Beavers were 3-9 and many questioned whether Riley's job was secure.

Wheaton is one of the most dangerous, yet underappreciated receivers in the country. He's not only made his quarterback better with his sure hands and blistering speed, but his presence also helped give rise to up-and-coming receiver Brandin Cooks. The duo went for more than 1,000 receiving yards each, so they'll test the Texas secondary.

Across the field, Poyer, an All-American, comes in with a Pac-12 best seven interceptions. He's supported by an outstanding defense that was second only to Stanford in points allowed per game. Scott Crichton (nine sacks, 15 tackles for a loss) headlines a front seven that was one of the tougher groups in the conference this season.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 14

November, 29, 2012
11/29/12
10:15
AM ET
Here's what I've got my eye on in the Big 12 in the final week of the regular season.

1. Reach for the stars. If you fail, you'll still land among the Heismans ... or something. Collin Klein needs an absolute monster of a game to catch front-runner Johnny Manziel after Klein's awful outing against Baylor two weeks ago. He hasn't been himself after suffering an injury against Oklahoma State, having his two worst games of the season since. Can he bounce back?

[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
Brett Deering/Getty ImagesOklahoma's Landry Jones takes a string of two straight 500-yard passing games to TCU.
2. Shoot for three. Why not? Landry Jones, if you haven't been paying attention, has been tearing it up of late. Oklahoma has only had three 500-yard passing performances in school history; two have come in the last two weeks, and all three are from Jones. Jones has 1,054 passing yards, nine touchdowns and two picks in his past two games. Can he keep it rolling against a really good TCU pass defense that loves to disrupt in the backfield and force interceptions downfield?

3. No time to pout. Kansas State is the Big 12's No. 2 rush defense. Only three teams had managed to top 100 yards on the ground against the Wildcats before the Baylor loss. The Bears managed, uh, 342. Kansas State has a lot left to play for, but Texas excels on the ground, and may rely more on its running backs without David Ash starting. Can the Wildcats D answer the bell?

4. Make 'em do something else. TCU jumped out to an early lead against Texas, and the Longhorns never forced the Frogs to do anything special on offense. Quarterback Trevone Boykin threw just nine passes and ran 10 times against the Horns. If his pass attempts are that low again this week against the Sooners, Oklahoma's in big trouble.

5. Return of the MAC. Hey, if you're not doing anything else on Friday night, you really might want to tune into the MAC championship game at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2. I usually wouldn't sanction such an action, but it's quite relevant for Big 12 fans. If No. 17 Kent State beats No. 21 Northern Illinois (the Huskies are favored), the Golden Flashes will be heading to the BCS -- likely at Oklahoma's expense. If the Huskies win, the Big 12 should be fine and place two teams in the BCS for the first time since 2008, barring upset losses by K-State or Oklahoma.

6. There's a first half too, guys. Oklahoma State has outscored Baylor 59-0 in the first half of its past two meetings. Those games were over before they even started. Can the Bears hang around in the first half this time and give themselves a decent shot in the second half?

7. Closing arguments, gentlemen? Alex Okafor and Devonte Fields are Nos. 1 and 2 in my defensive-player-of-the-year race. They both take on great offenses this week, offenses that love to get physical. A big performance by each might help his team grab an upset. Can either one make a strong case to close the season and take home the award? And on the offensive side of the ball, another off day by Collin Klein might open the race. Can Terrance Williams, Tavon Austin or perhaps Landry Jones step in there?

8. The Choo Choo keeps rolling and running. Clint Chelf hadn't done a ton of running before last week, but he looked a whole lot like Zac Robinson in the Cowboys' near-upset of Oklahoma. His 12 carries were more than he'd had in his previous three games combined. Some of them were on scrambles, but a few were designed. Does he look to run again against the Bears?

9. This might just be unfair. Kansas plays good team defense, but so do Iowa State and Oklahoma. And those teams have much better individual talents all over the field than the Jayhawks. Tavon Austin didn't play as much running back last week, but he still was all over the place for West Virginia. What does he have in store for a KU defense that ranks eighth in the league in total defense?

10. Is there hope? Kansas is sitting on a 20-game loisng streak in Big 12 play. If the Jayhawks win this game, it will be on the back of James Sims and Tony Pierson, controlling the clock and keeping West Virginia's offense on the sidelines. I don't believe the defense has any shot to slow them down otherwise. It's within reason. Can KU close the first year under Charlie Weis in style?

What to watch for in the Big 12: Week 10

November, 1, 2012
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Here's what I'm watching for in the Big 12 this week:

1. Welcome back -- your dreams were your ticket out. West Virginia's offense stumbled in big losses to Texas Tech and Kansas State and had a bye week to sit in the corner of the classroom and think about what it just did. Or something like that. WVU is back and plays an underrated but beat-up TCU defense. Can Geno Smith & Co. finally get back on track? It'll be the difference between 7-5 or 6-6 and 10-2 or 9-3.

2. You wouldn't like them when they're angry. Oklahoma has never lost consecutive conference games under Bob Stoops. Notre Dame's not a conference game, of course, but it might as well be. Point is, late in the season the Sooners don't take too well to losing consecutive games. Iowa State hosts an angry bunch of Sooners. The last time OU was coming off a loss, it destroyed a pretty good Texas Tech team on the road back in September.

3. Get a push, or end up on your tush. If the Cowboys can't slow down Kansas State's rushing attack on some level, it's going to be an ugly, ugly game. OSU might have to do it without its best tackle, too. Calvin Barnett was arrested for driving with a suspended license -- the third time that has happened.

[+] EnlargeTrevone Boykin
Jerome Miron/US PresswireTCU could get quarterback Trevone Boykin back this week, but a knee injury might limit his effectiveness.
4. Are the kinfolk OK? Gary Patterson sounds like he thinks he'll have quarterback Trevone Boykin this week against West Virginia. Boykin's a speedy guy who uses his legs a lot. With a knee injury, will that affect TCU's game plan? If Boykin's sitting in the pocket all day, that certainly will have an impact on his effectiveness.

5. Back to the start. Texas Tech's defense gave up scores on seven consecutive drives last week, and K-State scored 55 points. TCU scored 53 in triple overtime the week before. The Tech defense has taken some lumps over the past couple of weeks. It gets a struggling Texas offense this week. Can Texas Tech return to its early-season ways on defense?

6. Losing is the hardest part. Kansas State leads the Big 12 in scoring offense and defense, but the defense lost a big piece in linebacker Tre Walker last week. He may be out awhile. Arthur Brown gets all the publicity, but Walker was a fantastic player, too. How badly will he be missed this week against Oklahoma State?

7. If you don't rush, they won't hurry. Texas didn't have Jackson Jeffcoat last week after he suffered a season-ending pectoral injury, but Kansas isn't exactly a test for your pass rush. The Jayhawks threw nine passes last week against Texas. Just a hunch: Texas Tech will throw more than that this week -- in the first quarter. How will Longhorns defensive end Reggie Wilson handle a heavier load, and will Tech's line be able to slow Alex Okafor this week?

8. Time for a Sims 5 release party. James Sims has rushed for 100 yards in four consecutive games, and I'll go ahead and predict he rolls over Baylor for a fifth this week. However, can Baylor's defense show some fight? The Bears are ninth in the Big 12 in rush defense.

9. West Virginia learned this the hard way, Baylor. When WVU lost Stedman Bailey, defenses were able to slow down Tavon Austin. With Tevin Reese banged up a little bit, will the same happen to Terrance Williams? I'm betting no, and that Kansas doesn't have the athletes in the secondary to make that happen, but it'll be interesting to see how KU tries to cover Reese, and if Reese is still effective after suffering a knee injury last week. He's expected to play.

10. Two in a row is the hard part. Steele Jantz blew up one of the Big 12's worst defenses last week, throwing for almost 400 yards and five touchdowns against Baylor. This week, he faces one of the best, and probably the league's best secondary in Oklahoma, which has surrendered only three passing touchdowns all season. Can Jantz keep it rolling for a second consecutive week?

ESPN.com's preseason All-Big 12 team

August, 29, 2012
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The season is only a few days away, and it's time to unveil our official All-Big 12 team.

The criteria for this is pretty simple: I picked the best players at every position in the game, but made room for deserving players. For this league, that meant eliminating the tight end spot and sliding a more deserving Collin Klein onto the team via an all-purpose position.

The quarterbacks are solid in this league, but I'd call the cornerbacks the best and deepest position in the league. The worst? Defensive tackle. I didn't put a single one on the All-Big 12 team, electing to name four defensive ends along the defensive line. I hate doing that, but this year, it's necessary.

Without further ado, here's our team:

OFFENSE

QB: Geno Smith, West Virginia
RB: Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State
RB: Waymon James, TCU
All-Purpose: Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
WR: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
WR: Kenny Stills, Oklahoma
WR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia
C: Joe Madsen, West Virginia
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
OL: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State
OL: Cyril Richardson, Baylor
OL: Mason Walters, Texas

DEFENSE

DL: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
DL: Stansly Maponga, TCU
DL: Alex Okafor, Texas
DL: Meshak Williams, Kansas State
LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State
LB: Arthur Brown, Kansas State
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
CB: Carrington Byndom, Texas
CB: Brodrick Brown, Oklahoma State
S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
S: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma

SPECIALISTS:

K: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
KR: Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
PR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia

Honorable mention/regrettable snubs: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma; Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas; Ivory Wade, C, Baylor; LaAdrian Waddle, OL, Texas Tech; Blaize Foltz, OL, TCU; Kenny Cain, LB, TCU; Shaun Lewis, LB, Oklahoma State; Jamarkus McFarland, DL, Oklahoma; Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas; Nigel Malone, CB, Kansas State; Demontre Hurst, CB, Oklahoma; Tyler Lockett, KR, Kansas State
The Big 12 got two swipes (should have been a third in 2011) at the SEC during the league's run of six national titles, but failed on both occasions.

Colt McCoy's shoulder suffered a freak injury on a usually harmless hit, and when McCoy trotted to the sideline, the Longhorns' chances of beating Alabama came off the field with him.

A season earlier, Florida twice stuffed Oklahoma on the goal line, giving Tim Tebow his second national title and denying the Sooners the school's eighth.

[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
Rick Scuteri/AP ImagesQuarterback Landry Jones is best suited to push Oklahoma past the SEC's supremacy when it comes to national titles.
So, who among the Big 12's contenders this season is best suited to end the SEC's tyranny?

The Sooners are simply the best team, even though Oklahoma is loaded with flaws. Question marks on the offensive and defensive lines as well as at linebacker could prove problematic in a showdown with one of the SEC titans, but the Sooners would love for the play of four-year starting quarterback Landry Jones to answer it. He's got the skills to decipher complex SEC defensive schemes and the pocket presence to elude the rush. His arm strength assures that SEC secondaries will have to cover the whole field.

The Sooners would have to get past Texas in the Red River Rivalry to make that happen. (Never mind 2008. Just humor me here.) If the Longhorns can survive a brutal Big 12 schedule with six 10-win teams on the docket, they're probably the best Big 12 team suited to beat one of the SEC's best teams in a national title game.

The problem is producing enough offense to beat Big 12 teams. In an SEC matchup, though, it's all about the line of scrimmage. Texas' defensive line may challenge LSU as the nation's best, and the Longhorns have a crazy duo at defensive end in Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat, two of the nation's best at the position.

Texas' depth at defensive line is huge, too, but it likely has the Big 12's best offensive line. The loaded backfield of Joe Bergeron, Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray is a good sign, too. Mack Brown brought in assistants with SEC ties like Manny Diaz (defensive coordinator), Bo Davis (defensive tackles) and Stacy Searels (offensive line) to offer his team a little SEC flavor. You want power football, Nick Saban and Les Miles? Texas would love to play some power football.

What about a Big 12 newcomer who's never won the league and never played for a national title in the BCS era?

West Virginia is all about speed. There are plenty of questions on the defensive line, but the Mountaineers will test the mettle of any SEC defense that's feasted on weak offense all season. Geno Smith's got a big arm and the Big 12's two best receivers in Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin.

West Virginia has to play its best, but if Dana Holgorsen's team can hang 70 on Clemson like it did at the Orange Bowl, the Mountaineers' biggest stage last season, you've got to like its chances to at least put 30 or 40 on the board against an SEC team. Do that, and WVU will have a shot. Just have to survive the first year in the Big 12 and win a league title first.

There's no USC in the Big 12, a team built for a title run in 2012. The Big 12 does have plenty of contenders, though, and if any of these three teams gets a shot, they won't take it lightly.

Texas tops Big 12 defensive lines

August, 2, 2012
8/02/12
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Colleague Travis Haney continued our series at ESPN.com on college football's best position units Insider by ranking the nation's top 10 defensive lines.

Only one Big 12 team made his list, and it's the Texas Longhorns.

No question here. Texas is in a league of its own in the Big 12 when it comes to the defensive line. Ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor are the league's two best, and Okafor was named Big 12 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year by the media.

The Longhorns checked in at No. 3 on Haney's list, behind only Florida State and LSU.

The kicker for Texas? Jeffcoat and Okafor get plenty of attention, but the depth at defensive tackle might take this line to the next level.

Ashton Dorsey returns along with sophomore Desmond Jackson, but juco transfer Brandon Moore and incoming freshman Malcom Brown could have a big impact. If that rotation starts collapsing pockets up front, flushing quarterbacks into the flats, Jeffcoat and Okafor are going to be racking up big, big numbers this year. Look out for former running back Chris Whaley on the line, too.

Texas is going to have a fearsome front four all season, regardless of who's on the field, well-deserving of a spot in the national top three.

TCU and Oklahoma may have the next-best defensive lines in the league, but nobody's got one like Texas does this year. We'll see how much damage the Longhorns do.
Media days season has arrived, with the SEC getting us started Monday. The Big 12 won't begin until next Monday, but we're opening up a preview here Monday on ESPN.com. Here's what you can expect for the Big 12.

When: Monday, July 23 and Tuesday, July 24. TCU, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech will be up on Day 1. Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Texas and West Virginia will be speaking to the media on Day 2. Here's the full player roster.

Where: Westin Galleria hotel, north Dallas. The players could wander outside the hotel and hit up the skating rink at the Galleria mall, but they'll probably be a little too busy to strap on skates or go shopping.

Big names in attendance: West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith and Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones top the list of guys who will be hounded by media from start to finish. The same goes for Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, last season's breakout star.

Big names not in attendance: The biggest will be Oklahoma State quarterback Wes Lunt, who's staying home per Mike Gundy's rule against first-year players speaking with the media. He'll be sticking to it, even though he named the true freshman his starting quarterback in the spring. Texas also won't be bringing either of its quarterbacks, including likely starter David Ash. West Virginia is leaving its leading receiver, Stedman Bailey, at home, and Texas star defenders Alex Okafor and Kenny Vaccaro are banned from representing the team to media after an offseason incident. Oklahoma stars and two-thirds of the California trio -- safety Tony Jefferson and wide receiver Kenny Stills -- won't be representing the Sooners, either.

What to watch for:
  • Media days are traditionally full of mostly fluffy fodder, but the TCU players in attendance will face some pressing, difficult questions. Coach Gary Patterson withheld his players from media interviews for the entirety of the spring after an offseason campus drug sting that resulted in four player arrests and removals from the team. The players haven't been asked about anything surrounding the incidents since, and they're bound to come up in the first interviews since.
  • Look out for a debate on which Big 12 quarterback is the best. You could make a case for Smith, Jones or Klein, but this blog's readers are firmly in the "Smith" camp.
  • This year expect the main topic of conversation to center around "How will TCU and WVU adjust?" It's already been talked about plenty, but for the Big 12, that's better than "Is the league really stable?" or "Will Texas A&M leave?" -- a few of the simmering topics of conversation last year.
  • Each coach gets 15 minutes at the podium before a break for lunch and a return to the breakout room. Players will be available in the afternoon, too. Last year, Art Briles stole the show on the podium, and expect him to do the same with a few one-liners this year. Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville and Texas' Mack Brown are also usually pretty entertaining, but West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen might have a few cracks up his sleeve too, as he looks to make a name for himself in his first Big 12 Media Days.
  • Expect Kansas' Charlie Weis to be disarmingly honest, a refreshing change from his predecessor and the majority of coaches in attendance. Expect Oklahoma's Bob Stoops to drop an "in the end" more than a few times. Kansas State's Bill Snyder will be frivolous in referring to his players as "youngsters."
  • It'll be civil. The SEC has a few coaches who love to prod each other -- mostly Steve Spurrier. The Big 12 coaching fraternity is largely a boring one when it comes to feuds. Everybody looks up to Snyder, respects Stoops and Brown, and gets along with everyone else. If anybody's going to spice it up, it'll be Tuberville or Holgorsen. There aren't many issues or opportunities, unless they want to go out of their way to stir the pot.
  • Here's hoping Paul Rhoads shows up and is so proud of a thick beard. The Big 12 doesn't have a coach with any facial hair, and Rhoads has been rolling with one of the greatest beards in existence all offseason. Please, let it live. This is my plea.
  • We may get a little talk on what the coaches think of bringing in new teams, whether it be Florida State, Notre Dame or Louisville. For now, it's a little early, but realignment is always in the back of any college football fan's mind.

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