NCF Nation: Casey Pachall

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 14

December, 2, 2013
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Taking stock of Week 14 in the Big 12:

Team of the week: After trailing by three scores for most of the game, Iowa State came roaring back with 17 straight points in the fourth quarter and ultimately prevailed 52-44 in a stunning, triple-overtime comeback. Freshman QB Grant Rohach was terrific in his second career road start, accounting for five touchdowns, including the winning toss on the first play of the third overtime. The defense forced four turnovers to help spearhead the rally. And punter Kirby Van Der Kamp converted a fake punt into a huge first down, igniting the comeback early in the fourth quarter. As a result, Iowa State finished off an otherwise disappointing season with a thrilling road victory and a two-game winning streak to build on for 2014.

[+] EnlargeRyan Erxleben, David Brenner, Keenon Ward
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsTexas Tech punter Ryan Erxleben (26) celebrated perhaps the Red Raiders' only highlight Thursday.
Disappointment of the week: After a fake punt touchdown gave them a 7-0 lead, the Red Raiders basically no-showed the rest of the way in a discouraging 41-16 loss at Texas. The Longhorns obliterated Tech up front, as both Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron topped 100 yards on the ground. On the other side of the ball, Tech couldn't protect its quarterback, as Baker Mayfield was sacked seven times. As a result, a team that once was ranked 10th in the country ended its regular season with a thud -- and a five-game losing streak.

Big (offensive) men on campus: Kansas State running back John Hubert and Iowa State wide receivers Quenton Bundrage and Justin Coleman.

Hubert unleashed a monster performance in his final Sunflower Showdown. The senior rushed for a career-high 220 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries, as K-State defeated Kansas 31-10 for a fifth consecutive victory in the series.

Together with Rohach, Bundrage and Coleman fueled Iowa State's comeback with huge catches down the stretch. After Van Der Kamp's fake punt conversion, Bundrage hauled in a 62-yard touchdown grab to cut West Virginia's lead to 10. Later, Coleman's 19-yard scoring reception tied the game with a minute left in regulation. And on the first play of the third overtime, Coleman reeled in another touchdown, which proved to be the game winner.

All told, Bundrage and Coleman combined for 12 receptions, 184 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

Big (defensive) men on campus: Baylor linebacker Eddie Lackey, TCU cornerback Jason Verrett and Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat.

Lackey played a hand in two turnovers that ultimately led to defensive touchdowns. With the Horned Frogs driving at the end of the second quarter with a chance to take the lead before halftime, Lackey charged up the middle and tagged TCU QB Casey Pachall's legs. The hit forced Pachall's pass to be behind his intended receiver, and Orion Stewart intercepted it and raced 82 yards for a touchdown. Then on TCU's first possession of the third quarter, Lackey picked off Pachall and dashed 54 yards for another score, putting the Bears up 34-17. Lackey added six tackles and a sack in Baylor's 41-38 win.

As good as Lackey was, no player was more dominant than Verrett. Matched up one-on-one with Baylor's Antwan Goodley the entire game, Verrett checked the Big 12's leading receiver to just one reception for 12 yards. As a result, Baylor finished with a season-low 206 passing yards.

Jeffcoat also flourished in his final home game, recording a game-high three sacks as Texas shut down Texas Tech's passing game. Jeffcoat also had seven tackles and a quarterback hurry, solidifying his candidacy as an All-Big 12 defensive end.

Special-teams player of the week: Tech punter Ryan Erxleben produced one of the special-teams plays of the year in the Big 12 in Austin. On Tech's second possession, Erxleben took off on a fake punt and raced 51 yards down the sideline for a touchdown, giving the Red Raiders an early 7-0 lead. After the game, coach Kliff Kingsbury confirmed Erxleben called the fake on his own. It proved to be Tech's longest rush of the season, but pretty much its only highlight in the lackluster loss to the Longhorns.

Play of the week: After falling behind 34-17 on two Baylor defensive touchdowns, TCU made a furious rally and drove into field goal range with a chance to either win or send the game to overtime. Instead, with 18 seconds to go, quarterback Pachall's pass to Brandon Carter was tipped away by Baylor nickelback Sam Holl and into the arms of Terrell Burt for the game-clinching interception to seal Baylor's victory.

Stat of the week: By holding Baylor to 370 yards of offense, TCU snapped the Bears' 37-game streak of at least 400 yards of offense. Ball State now holds the longest FBS streak at 12 games.

Quote of the week: "Gary Patterson lives in Fort Worth. If he's got a problem with me, that's where I live."

-- TCU coach Gary Patterson, after a pair of heated exchanges with Baylor coach Art Briles

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 14

December, 2, 2013
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There was a shakeup at the bottom of the Power Rankings after the miracle in Morgantown:

1. Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1 Big 12, last week 1): The Cowboys have a chance to state their case as the Big 12’s top program of the last five seasons. Beating Oklahoma to win a second Big 12 title in three years would convey a very compelling argument.

2. Baylor (10-1, 7-1 Big 12, LW 2): Baylor’s two worst offensive outputs have come in the last two weeks. Is America’s top offense running on fumes? The friendly confines of Floyd Casey Stadium -- for one final game -- should give QB Bryce Petty & Co. the refueling they need.

3. Texas (8-3, 7-1 Big 12, LW 3): For all their issues and injuries, the Longhorns remain in the mix for an outright Big 12 title and automatic BCS bowl berth heading into this final week of the season. Ironically, if Texas somehow upset Baylor, this would actually be one of Mack Brown’s better coaching performances.

4. Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2 Big 12, LW 4): Nobody before the season predicted these Sooners, with a young defense and a new quarterback, would contend for a national championship. A victory at Oklahoma State and another 10-win season would make this a solid season in Norman.

5. Kansas State (7-5, 5-4 Big 12, LW 5): Even after a 2-4 start, Kansas State still managed to finish ahead of where it was picked in the preseason for a third straight season. Going forward, the media should automatically bump K-State up two spots when filling out Big 12 preseason ballots, to account for the “Bill Snyder effect.”

6. Texas Tech (7-5, 4-5 Big 12, LW 6): After another November slide, the Red Raiders are likely headed back to the Texas Bowl for the second straight season. Tech has had several memorable moments in Kliff Kingsbury’s first season. The 41-16 loss at Texas was not one of them.

7. TCU (4-8, 2-7 Big 12, LW 8): In their final game, the Horned Frogs finally showed what could have been this season. While the TCU defensive backs locked up Baylor’s receivers, senior QB Casey Pachall looked the sharpest he had in two years, even with the two pick-six interceptions. Take away those two plays and the fumble at the TCU 1-yard line, and the Frogs might have won this game going away. Yes, TCU finished with its worst season since going 1-10 in 1997. But if defensive end Devonte Fields can return to his freshman form, and TCU can figure out the answer at QB, the Frogs could be a force next year.

8. Iowa State (3-9, 2-7 Big 12, LW 9): Coach Paul Rhoads proved those who have wanted him out to be ridiculous. Despite all the tough losses, the Cyclones never quit on their coach, even when down 17 points in the fourth quarter on the road in Morgantown. With a little bit of luck, especially around the goal line, the Cyclones have the pieces to return to a bowl next year.

9. Kansas (3-9, 1-8 Big 12, LW 10): Hey, at least they beat West Virginia.

10. West Virginia (4-8, 2-7 Big 12, LW 7): The Mountaineers capped off another depressing season with an epic fourth-quarter collapse. Good thing no one was there to see it. Well, almost no one. Saturday featured the third-smallest crowd in Milan Puskar Stadium’s 33-year history, and the smallest since 1992.

Baylor beats Horned Frogs for Briles

November, 30, 2013
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FORT WORTH, Texas -- Before Baylor's game at TCU, Bears running back Lache Seastrunk pulled his head coach to the side.

“Coach Briles, I know you lost somebody,” Seastrunk told him. “But you’ve gained 99 of us.”

On Wednesday, Art Briles lost his brother, Eddie, who died unexpectedly from a head injury after falling in the bathroom of his home.

On Saturday, Briles’ football family gave him a win to ease the pain of that loss, if only for a little bit.

Keeping their Big 12 title and BCS bowl aspirations alive, the ninth-ranked Bears (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) held on to defeat TCU 41-38 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in a thriller that came down to the final seconds.

[+] EnlargeArt Briles
MCT via Getty ImagesCoach Art Briles' Baylor team didn't play its best game against TCU but still came out on top.
After falling behind 34-17 on a pair of Baylor defensive touchdowns, the Horned Frogs made a furious comeback and drove into field goal range with a chance to tie. But with 18 seconds to go, TCU went for the win, and quarterback Casey Pachall’s pass toward the end zone was tipped, then intercepted by Terrell Burt, sealing the victory.

“That just showed we're a tough football team,” said Briles, who declined to speak directly about his brother, but spent time outside the locker room emotionally hugging players, boosters and administrators. “You want to be in a room full of fighters and believers, and that’s what we have.”

This week required some fight from the Bears.

They suffered their first loss of the season last weekend, as Oklahoma State emphatically bounced them from the national title picture with a 49-17 victory in Stillwater.

Four days later, Eddie -- a nurse in Haskell, Texas, and Briles’ only sibling -- passed away, leaving behind a wife and two children.

Eddie actually appeared in a "College GameDay" feature last weekend, and spoke to ESPN.com for a feature story on his younger brother earlier this month. Their parents, Dennis and Wanda Briles, and their aunt, Elsie "Tottie" Kittley, died in a car accident while traveling to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas to watch Art play for the University of Houston on Oct. 16, 1976.

“(Winning for Coach Briles) was the emphasis of the week for sure,” Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty said. “Every guy in that locker room loves him like their own dad. It hurts you to see him hurt. I think this win was huge for him and that’s what we wanted to do.”

The win didn’t come easily.

TCU (4-8, 2-7), without enough wins to have a chance of qualifying for a bowl, turned Baylor into its de facto bowl game.

Due to an array of injuries and suspensions, the Horned Frogs had struggled offensively all season. But with an extra week to prepare, they saved their best performance for last. The Horned Frogs outgained the nation’s top statistical offense by 40 yards. Yet, after a flurry of turnovers, they found themselves still trailing Baylor 34-17 early in the third quarter.

Over the course of four possessions, TCU fumbled at its own 1-yard line, then Pachall threw two interceptions that Orion Stewart and Eddie Lackey returned for touchdowns.

"I made quite a few mistakes that cost us the ball game,” Pachall said. “I gave them 14 points, just handed it over on a platter."

But TCU didn't go down without a fight, either.

And the turning point came on its following possession. Baylor senior captain and safety Ahmad Dixon was ejected for a targeting penalty on Horned Frogs wide receiver Trevone Boykin, seemingly igniting a heated exchange between Briles and TCU coach Gary Patterson on the field.

Briles avoided addressing the exchange after the game. But Patterson didn't.

“To come across the field to me. ... He's picking on the wrong guy,” said Patterson, who didn't refer to Briles by name. “You're not going to come across to me. You can go correct your player, not me.

"If that's what class is, then I don't want to be it."

The penalty ultimately ignited the Horned Frogs, too. TCU scored touchdowns on its next two possessions, thanks to a Pachall 4-yard touchdown scamper, then a 16-yard scoring toss to Josh Doctson at the back of the end zone.

After Petty found Levi Norwood for a touchdown, TCU came right back again with Pachall’s touchdown strike to David Porter, trimming the deficit to 41-38.

The Horned Frogs got the ball back again with 1 minute, 23 seconds remaining and moved the ball all the way to the Bears’ 23. But two plays later, Pachall’s attempt to Brandon Carter was tipped away by Baylor nickelback Sam Holl, and into the arms of Burt in the end zone.

“This win really showed the character of this team,” Holl said. “We were all playing for Coach Briles. He’s family. He’s going through a rough time right now.

“So we really wanted to get this one for him.”

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 10

October, 31, 2013
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Here’s what to watch in the Big 12 for Week 10.

Will Texas Tech rebound after losing to the Sooners? Kliff Kingsbury’s squad pulled out all the stops in their 38-30 setback in Norman. Fake punt returns, halfback passes, onside kicks, nothing was left on the table. Yet, they still lost. It had to be deflating for the Red Raiders. But TTU comes back home to Lubbock with the realization that its Big 12 title hopes remain intact with Oklahoma State, Texas and Baylor remaining on their schedule. If they simply win out and get some help with another conference loss by the Sooners, their title hopes would be well within reach.

Will Oklahoma State remind people it remains in the Big 12 title hunt? The Cowboys still control their destiny with the rest of the top half of the league still on their schedule. OSU can send a message that it has been forgotten during discussions about the Big 12 with a road win in a tough night environment in Lubbock. Multiple starters remain from the 2011 Big 12 title squad so don’t expect the Cowboys to sit back and watch the title be decided without having their say.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports
Can Texas look dominant for the third game in a row? The Longhorns still have doubters thanks to their stumbling, bumbling start to the season. Yet they sit at the top of the Big 12 standings unbeaten in conference play alongside Baylor and have been as impressive as any team in the league during their past two games. If they come out and hammer Kansas, it will display the type of consistency that tends to be a trait of championship squads.

Will Roland keep rollin’? OSU running back Desmond Roland set a career high with 219 rushing yards and four touchdowns in his first collegiate start. What will he do as an encore against a Red Raider defense that has allowed 460 rushing yards in their past two games? TTU will likely try to take the running game away and force Clint Chelf to beat them with his arm.

Who will be the best running back on the turf at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium? Texas’ Johnathan Gray (93.71 rushing yards per game) and Kansas’ James Sims (84.14 ypg) sit at No. 2 and 3 among the Big 12 leaders for rushing yards per game behind Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk (124.14). Clearly, Gray has more help as he strives to make plays but Sims did rush for 176 yards against the Longhorns last season. It should be fun to see two of the Big 12’s top running backs in action on the same field.

How strong is OSU’s defense? The Cowboys are, statistically, one of the best defensive units seen in Stillwater in recent memory. Yet they haven’t seen anything like they will see against Texas Tech on Saturday. The Red Raiders feature a bag full of tricks and receiving corps full of treats unlike any other in the conference. Jace Amaro is an automatic mismatch, Eric Ward can make teams pay for leaving him in one-on-one situations, Jakeem Grant is slippery and fast and Bradley Marquez will hit you with a big play when you least expect it. Few envy the task of Cowboys’ defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer this weekend.

Can Kansas State’s two-quarterback system continue to excel? Each week Bill Snyder is asked about his two-quarterback system and the Wildcats’ head coach commonly responds by saying both guys are good players who can help his team win. While far from colorful, his consistent message is dead-on accurate. Daniel Sams has caused havoc for Big 12 defenses all season and when West Virginia came out with a plan to stop Sams, Jake Waters promptly made the Mountaineers’ pay with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to spark KSU’s win. There's no reason to think the two-quarterback system won't continue to excel against Iowa State on Saturday.

Can WVU finally finish? Every week the Mountaineers show more and more signs that they are starting to find a rhythm. While many are quick to brush WVU off, the Mountaineers would have beaten Tech and K-State if they made key plays when it mattered in the fourth quarter. If they ever finally learn how to finish, they could finish the season with a strong final month, starting Saturday at TCU.

Will Casey Pachall look better in his second game back? Pachall didn’t look like the savior against Texas in his first game back from injury last Saturday but he still represents the biggest reason for hope as TCU tries to battle its way into a bowl game. If he looks like a healthy and confident Pachall against WVU and leads the Horned Frogs' offense to a high-scoring output, it would be hard to bet against Gary Patterson’s squad finding its way into a bowl game.

Someone help Quenton Bundrage: No, seriously, anyone? Bundrage keeps finding ways to make an impact on games despite not having another consistent threat alongside him in Iowa State’s offense. The Cyclones have been ravaged by injuries, but it would be interesting to see what the sophomore could do with someone alongside him forcing defenses to account for them. Regardless, Bundrage is a name to watch against KSU on Saturday.

Hope is on the way for TCU’s offense.

Quarterback Casey Pachall will be available to play against Texas on Saturday, Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Friday. Pachall’s return from a broken forearm couldn’t come at a better time for TCU, which has lost three of four games to start its Big 12 schedule.

TCU’s offense has struggled throughout the season, particularly with Pachall sidelined. Since the veteran quarterback was injured, TCU is averaging 22.4 points, 330.2 yards per game and 4.96 yards per play with Trevone Boykin as the starter. Its first-half production was particularly bad, averaging 3.4 points, 97.4 yards and 3.48 yards per play in the first half of those games. TCU went 2-3 during that stretch although all three losses came to ranked teams (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech).

Pachall brings the ability to test defenses with his arm better than Boykin and his veteran leadership has been missed during the past five games. He was the starter and passed for 2,921 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2011, leading the Horned Frogs to an 11-2 record in their last season in the Mountain West Conference before they joined the Big 12 in 2012.

Yet, life was not all roses with Pachall under center this season. He was 17 of 30 for 175 yards, 5.8 yards per attempt, zero touchdowns and one interception in TCU’s first two games. Their offensive struggles played a key role in their season-opening 37-27 loss to LSU with Pachall under center as he threw for just 75 yards and finished with a 45.2 raw QBR against the Tigers.

Nonetheless, Pachall’s return could spark the TCU offense by ramping up the competition at the quarterback position, forcing Boykin to compete at a higher level or sit on the sideline, while also giving renewed confidence to a Horned Frogs offense that has struggled to have any success this season.

Injury impact: Big 12

October, 24, 2013
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Injuries have played a major role in the Big 12 through the first half of the season and they’ll continue to impact the conference title race down the stretch. Baylor is the lone squad in the top half of the Big 12 that has escaped the injury bug relatively unscathed.

1. TCU: The Horned Frogs have watched quarterback Casey Pachall and defensive end Devonte Fields, arguably their top players on each side of the ball, go down. Pachall (forearm) could return soon but Fields (foot) is lost for the season. It’s easy to imagine the Horned Frogs offense, which has looked lost and has averaged just 97.4 yards in the first half in the past five games, as much improved with Pachall under center.

2. Texas: Another team that has lost a major contributor on both sides of the ball, the Longhorns hope to get quarterback David Ash (head) back at some point this season and have lost defensive leader Jordan Hicks (Achilles) for the season. Add in nicks and bruises to playmakers Daje Johnson and Mike Davis and success has been much harder to come by for Texas.

3. Oklahoma: The Sooners lost linebacker Corey Nelson (pectoral) and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips (back), two of their top defenders, in back-to-back weeks. Nelson's leadership is sorely missed and Phillips' strength in the middle is hard to replace. OU is still scrambling to replace the duo, which is a scary thought with Texas Tech and Baylor set to test the defense.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 8

October, 21, 2013
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There was little change in this week’s power rankings, as the favorites held serve:

1. Baylor (6-0, 3-0 Big 12, last week 1): The No. 8-ranked Bears got some major help in the national title picture over the weekend, as LSU, Louisville, Texas A&M, Clemson and South Carolina all got knocked out of the mix. That really leaves only Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Missouri, Ohio State and Miami (Fla.) ahead of Baylor in the pecking order at the moment. Missouri will have to beat Alabama to get the title game, and Baylor has a decent chance of passing the Buckeyes, due to the weakness of the Big Ten. The Bears, however, have virtually no shot of passing Oregon or Florida State. Those are the two teams Baylor fans need to begin rooting against.

2. Texas Tech (7-0, 4-0, LW 2): The faith Kliff Kingsbury showed in true freshman QB Davis Webb on Saturday was extraordinary. Webb’s second-quarter fumble at the West Virginia 1-yard line completely changed the complexion of the game, but that didn’t shake Kingsbury’s confidence in his quarterback. And, even though Texas Tech’s defense had shut down West Virginia on four straight drives and led by a field goal, Kingsbury put the game on Webb’s arm by calling two third-down pass plays in the final two minutes. Webb completed both passes, which should also give him plenty of self-confidence heading into this weekend’s road tilt at Oklahoma.

3. Texas (4-2, 3-0, LW 3): Was the dominant performance against Oklahoma a one-game anomaly? The Longhorns have the talent to make a run at the Big 12 title. Maybe they have the identity now, too. If Texas keeps pounding the ball between the tackles with Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown, that will continue to set up one-on-one opportunities for Mike Davis downfield. As the Sooners found out, such a formula could make the Longhorns formidable the final month and a half of the season.

4. Oklahoma State (5-1, 2-1, LW 5): The Cowboys finally turned the offense back over to Clint Chelf and not a moment too soon, as J.W. Walsh threw another two interceptions in the first quarter. But, in reality, Oklahoma State’s offense would be best off utilizing both quarterbacks going forward. The Cowboys hit their stride offensively last season only when they used Chelf as the base quarterback, then brought in the Walsh package in certain situations. Chelf’s arm strength can get the ball to Oklahoma State’s talented receivers downfield, which, in turn, opens up the running game. But Walsh brings savvy, toughness and leadership -- and he can make plays with his legs. Perhaps that quarterback blend will finally ignite this offense, which looks pretty rough at the halfway point of the season.

5. Oklahoma (6-1, 3-1, LW 4): The Sooners’ downfield passing game continues to be incompetent, as Oklahoma completed just two passes longer than 16 yards at Kansas. One of those was a reverse pass from Lacoltan Bester to Sterling Shepard. That’s two straight games in which QB Blake Bell has completed only one pass downfield. The Sooners were able to grind out 235 yards on the ground, but that was against a Kansas defense missing its best player (linebacker Ben Heeney). If the Sooners can’t complete passes downfield against man coverage, they have little chance of getting to double-digit wins.

6. West Virginia (3-4, 1-3, LW 7): West Virginia has begun to show some life offensively. The Mountaineers gained 473 yards of offense against a Texas Tech defense that has been pretty solid. At one point, the Mountaineers scored on five straight possessions. Clint Trickett is all over the place with his throws, but at least he makes things happen. Running back Charles Sims is a star, and backfield mate Dreamius Smith is legit, too. The schedule also eases up considerably for the Mountaineers, as West Virginia has already faced four of the top five teams in the league. If the offense keeps developing, this could still be a bowl team. That wouldn’t be a bad season, either, considering the offensive firepower the Mountaineers had to replace from last season.

7. Kansas State (2-4, 0-3, LW 8): The Wildcats have not played poorly despite their 0-3 start in the league, but with Oklahoma and Texas Tech still on the schedule, K-State almost has to beat West Virginia at home this weekend if it’s going to advance to a bowl. The good news is that starting receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson are expected back, which should be a big boost to QBs Daniel Sams and Jake Waters.

8. TCU (3-4, 1-3, LW 6): The Horned Frogs are beginning to stake their claim as one of the worst offenses in Big 12 history. Switching coordinators or switching quarterbacks -- Gary Patterson tried both Saturday -- isn’t going to make any difference, either. Even with the best defense in the Big 12, the Horned Frogs will be in danger of missing out on a bowl game if they don’t beat Texas this weekend. QB Casey Pachall is close to returning, but not even he can salvage this dumpster fire of an offense.

9. Iowa State (1-5, 0-3, LW 9): After three straight promising performances, the Cyclones took a step back in Waco, Texas. Nobody expected Iowa State to win, but to get completely annihilated was disappointing, as coach Paul Rhoads called the game a “fiasco.” Now, yet again, the quarterback position has become a moving part. Sam B. Richardson is so banged up the Cyclones considered shutting him down for the season. Rhoads replaced Richardson with Grant Rohach in the second quarter to no avail. The No. 1 obstacle that’s kept Iowa State from becoming more than a .500 program has been the inability to find a long-term answer at quarterback. Dating back to last November, the Cyclones have put their chips on Richardson being that answer. Now, who knows what direction they'll go.

10. Kansas (2-4, 0-3, LW 10): Now that the Jayhawks have burned the redshirt of freshman QB Montell Cozart, they might as well turn the offense over to him. Jake Heaps just isn’t getting it done, as he completed five of 13 passes for 16 yards against Oklahoma. Sixteen yards. It’s not all on Heaps: The Kansas receiving corps is terrible. But that’s all the more reason to go with Cozart, who can at least make plays with his feet.

Big 12 predictions: Week 8

October, 17, 2013
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Last week, Tyler, the K-State fan from California who is getting married this weekend, flaked out on being the guest picker.

Or so I thought.

I assumed Tyler’s bride-to-be was getting on his case about focusing on his picks instead of his wedding. Sure, getting married is a big deal. But being the guest picker? Way bigger deal.

Turned out, my correspondence kept getting dumped into his spam folder. And once this was cleared up, Tyler pleaded for another early wedding present. What can I say? I’m a romantic.

From Tyler:

So I missed out on my chance to be the guest picker last week, and Trotter let me have it in the Week 7 predictions. You'll have to excuse me for making my wedding a bigger priority than being the guest picker. As they say, a happy wife is a happy life, and as a K-State fan, I need all the happiness I can get. Fortunately, Jake gave me a second chance to get my priorities straight before I tie the knot.

When I thought Tyler was blowing off the blog, Curtis from Washington D.C., stepped in as the guest picker. It was a rough week for Curtis, whose Sooners took it on the chin in a Red River wipeout. I just hope he was stuck in that military office with no TVs so he didn’t have to witness it.

This weekend, the Big 12 team will be canvassing the conference landscape. Brandon will be in Stillwater for TCU-Oklahoma State; Max will head to Waco for Iowa State-Baylor; and I will be reunited with my favorite league mascot -- “The Mountaineer” -- in Morgantown for Texas Tech-West Virginia. Have the deer jerky ready, Jon.

Congratulations, too, to Tyler and his bride, who will be honeymooning in France.

To the Week 8 picks:

SEASON RECORD

Trotter last week: 3-1 (.750)

Guest picker (Curtis in Washington D.C.) last week: 2-2 (.500)

Trotter overall: 33-11 (.750)

Guest picker overall: 19-8 (.704)

SATURDAY

Texas Tech 21, West Virginia 20: Last season, the Mountaineers were in a spot similar to where Tech is now. And the Red Raiders thrashed West Virginia in Lubbock, sending the Mountaineers into a tailspin that lasted the rest of the season. As a result, the Red Raiders are very aware just how precarious this 1,500-mile road trip back is. Tech, however, appears to have more staying power than last season's Mountaineers, who were really just a three-man show. These Red Raiders have more defense and more depth, and sneak out of Morgantown with their biggest win of the season yet.

Tyler’s pick: Eventually, Kliff Kingsbury is going to turn Tech into a team that can consistently compete for a Big 12 championship. His youth and coaching style will be a magnet for blue-chip recruits. Unfortunately, inexperience trumps hype here. West Virginia, 34-31

Oklahoma State 16, TCU 13: If the Cowboys couldn’t move the ball against West Virginia or Kansas State, why would anyone have confidence they’ll be able to against the best defense in the Big 12? Cornerback Jason Verrett and Co. will have Oklahoma State’s receivers on lockdown, not that QB J.W. Walsh has been able to get them the ball anyway lately. The problem is, TCU can’t score, either.

Tyler’s pick: TCU fans can't wait to have QB Casey Pachall back, as the offense continues to struggle without him. TCU's defense keeps the first half close, but Oklahoma State pulls ahead with Jeremy Smith rushing for 100 yards and a score. OSU, 24-17

Oklahoma 30, Kansas 17: Bob Stoops is 14-0 the week after Texas with an average margin of victory of 27 points. Stoops, however, doesn’t have Josh Heupel, Jason White, Sam Bradford or Landry Jones at quarterback this time. And Texas showed this Oklahoma defense isn’t anything special without linebacker Corey Nelson or tackle Jordan Phillips, who are both out for the season. The Sooners win. But their problems on either side of the ball remain very evident as Kansas keeps this one relatively close.

Tyler’s pick: After Oklahoma takes out its frustrations, Charlie Weis calls the Jacksonville Jaguars to see if they'll be needing a new offensive coordinator. OU, 54-3

Baylor 66, Iowa State 28: The scariest part for the rest of the Big 12 about Baylor’s win over K-State last week? The Bears were sluggish offensively -- and they still scored 35 points. Who knows if this is the best offense in Big 12 history? But it certainly is the fastest scoring. Iowa State is one of 11 teams in college football that has yet to allow a touchdown in three plays or fewer. That changes Saturday.

Tyler’s pick: As a K-State fan, I am required to comment about how amazing Bill Snyder is. Since K-State is off this week, we will add the Snyder love here. Last week, he showed the country how to beat Baylor. Unfortunately for Iowa State, Snyder doesn't coach the Cyclones. If Snyder coached the talent Texas and OU had, he’d have five national championships. Baylor, 58-35
Mack Brown was widely mocked last month for saying tackling had become a problem in America, not just at Texas. He wouldn’t be laughed off if he made this claim: Quarterback instability is a national epidemic.

[+] EnlargeDaniel Sams
AP Photo/Eric GayKansas State is one of several Big 12 teams that have played musical quarterbacks, alternating Daniel Sams (pictured) with Jake Waters.
More than 50 FBS programs have already been afflicted, including nearly a third of the AP top 25. A total of 184 quarterbacks have started at least one game for the 126 programs, and we’re only a month and a half into the 2013 season.

No major conference has dealt with more insecurity behind center than the Big 12. Good luck naming the second-best quarterback in the Big 12 behind Baylor’s Bryce Petty, or even naming off all 18 who have made starts.

“This year, it seems like everyone is kind of juggling one to try to find answers and two to try to keep them healthy,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “I know Texas Tech is dealing with it, we’re dealing with it, TCU has dealt with it, Texas has dealt with it, Kansas State has dealt with it.

“So just until guys get established and remain healthy, that’s just the reality of college football. The next guy has got to get ready to go in there and play at the highest level possible to try to get a win.”

Kansas State became the seventh Big 12 team to give a second quarterback a start Saturday when Daniel Sams got the nod over Jake Waters against Baylor.

Thus far, injuries have been more at issue than ineffective play. TCU’s Casey Pachall, Texas’ David Ash and Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight lost their jobs when they went down with injuries, and that could be the case for Texas Tech’s Baker Mayfield as well.

Oklahoma State pulled Clint Chelf for J.W. Walsh in the opener, and Cowboys coach Mike Gundy is sticking with him. Same with Blake Bell, who’s holding onto his job despite the return of Knight.

And then there’s the situation at West Virginia, where Holgorsen has been dealing with a quarterback calamity all season long. Paul Millard, Ford Childress and Clint Trickett have each started two games, and the job is still very much up for grabs.

“Unfortunately by the time we settle on somebody, then he gets hurt and you’ve got to put somebody else in there,” Holgorsen said. “That’s not an excuse. Whoever is going to be our quarterback this week, we’ve got to get him prepared to play and we’ve got to get him to where we’re playing at a higher level than what we’ve got out of him.”

This isn’t exactly unprecedented for the Big 12. During its 12-team era, two seasons were especially chaotic: 2005 and 2009. In both years, eight Big 12 teams started at least two quarterbacks. In both years, Texas rolled through the conference thanks to Heisman finalist-caliber quarterbacks Vince Young and Colt McCoy.

But take note of this: A team with multiple starting quarterbacks has not won the Big 12 Championship since Kansas State in 2003.

[+] EnlargeClint Trickett
Brad Davis/Icon SMIClint Trickett is the third player to start at QB for West Virginia this season.
Bill Snyder’s quarterback situation is no doubt an outlier from the rest. He likes both Sams and Waters. He likes playing both, and Sams has paired his 522 rushing yards with just 32 pass attempts. The Wildcats are just trying to find the right combination, the right rhythm.

“We just have two young guys that are competing in a very positive way to be the No. 1 quarterback, and both of them have demonstrated the capabilities beyond the field and deserve to play,” Synder said.

There was a three-season stretch in this conference, from 2006 to 2008, when no more than four backups earned a start in a single season. In 2011, only Texas and Iowa State tried multiple starters.

ISU coach Paul Rhoads is now one of the three Big 12 coaches who hasn’t needed his No. 2 guy this fall thanks to the solid play of Sam B. Richardson. He doesn’t consider the problem facing his colleagues to be an unexpected one.

“With the number of new quarterbacks in the league, first of all, and then the game is physical, the game is violent and teams’ quarterbacks are more active in their offenses in these leagues,” Rhoads said. “There’s going to be some vulnerability. So no, not surprised.”

This is a problem everywhere. Forty percent of FBS schools have started two quarterbacks. Seven SEC, seven Big Ten and five ACC schools have rolled out more than one starter. The national number of 184 total starters is ahead of the 2012 midseason total (170), which finished at 210 starters by season’s end.

What all that uncertainty creates, at least in the Big 12 landscape, too many unpredictable conference title contenders ... and one great advantage for Baylor.

Petty is No. 1 in the Big 12 in every passing statistic. But it’s a good thing his backup, Seth Russell, already has 30 attempts, 381 yards and three scores on his 2013 resume.

Considering how this season is already playing out, the Bears just might end up needing him.

Big 12 midseason report

October, 14, 2013
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Texas was on its deathbed; now it’s a contender. The Oklahoma schools, once bastions of quarterbacking, suddenly have issues there. West Virginia’s defense is better than its offense. TCU can’t score. Kansas State can’t buy a win. And the teams picked to finish fifth and seventh in the conference are the only ones without a loss.

If the second half of the Big 12 season is anything like the first, who knows what might happen? Good luck guessing which game will ultimately decide the conference race, too.

Before the season, Bedlam looked most likely to be that game. Now, another showdown the very same day could end up overshadowing it.

Bedlam decided the Big 12 in 2011. It decided the Big 12 South in 2010. But will anything more than bragging rights be on the line this time? That will depend on whether either team can solve quarterback problems that plagued both in their losses.

[+] EnlargeKliff Kingsbury
AP Photo/LM OteroKliff Kingsbury's calm, cool demeanor has resonated with his players, as Texas Tech is one of two undefeated teams in the Big 12.
After Trevor Knight was ineffective in two lackluster wins to begin the season, the Sooners turned to Blake Bell. The Belldozer took care of the ball and made plays in the fourth quarter in wins over Notre Dame and TCU. But he did neither in a 36-20 loss to Texas that shook up the league race. According to QBR, Bell’s Texas performance was the worst by a Big 12 quarterback this year, raising questions about whether he’s the answer for the Sooners after all.

Oklahoma State is in a similar raft. J.W. Walsh took the starting job from Clint Chelf two series into the opener against Mississippi State. But the past two games, including a loss at West Virginia, have seen the Cowboys flatline offensively. Oklahoma State, in fact, failed to get a single first down the second half against Kansas State until a late game-winning drive. Like the Sooners, the Cowboys can’t run the ball lately, because they can’t get anyone to take their downfield passing game seriously.

That hasn’t been a problem in Waco, which is one of the reasons why Baylor has ascended to conference favorite status. Every one of Tevin Reese’s six touchdown receptions has gone for more than 40 yards. Five of Antwan Goodley’s six touchdown catches have gone for at least 60. As a result, 32 of Baylor’s 40 touchdown drives have taken less than two minutes.

While Oklahoma and Oklahoma State could still turn things around, Texas and Texas Tech could wind up being the biggest roadblocks to Baylor’s first Big 12 title.

Despite playing two true freshmen quarterbacks, the Red Raiders have spread the ball around as well as anyone in the league, claiming four of the Big 12’s top eight receivers. Tech also leads the conference in third-down defense. Back-to-back road trips to West Virginia and Oklahoma the next two weeks will shed more light on whether the Red Raiders are ready to contend.

A week ago, virtually everyone had written the Longhorns off as possible Big 12 contenders. Then they pulled off the biggest Red River upset in 17 years to move to 3-0 in the league standings. Texas’ rushing attack looked formidable, and quarterback Case McCoy looked poised. If that continues, who knows? Maybe Texas will be playing for the conference title at Baylor in the season finale.

The season’s first half is done. Much is yet to be decided.

But as we gear up for the second half, below is a breakdown of the Big 12 at midseason:

Offensive MVP: Baylor junior quarterback Bryce Petty has picked up where Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence left off, posting an Adjusted QBR of 95.1. That’s second only to Heisman frontrunner Marcus Mariota of Oregon. Thanks in large part to Petty’s precision passing, the Bears led the nation with a scoring average of 63.4 points per game.

Defensive MVP: The Horned Frogs haven’t had the kind of the season they’d hoped for so far. But that’s to no fault of cornerback Jason Verrett, who has been lights out. Even with opposing quarterbacks leery about throwing his direction, Verrett leads the Big 12 in passes defended. And even with a tender shoulder, he has continued to be one of the surest tackling cornerbacks in the league.

Biggest Surprise: The Red Raiders were picked to finish seventh in the Big 12. But seven weeks into the season, they join Baylor as the league’s only teams still without a loss. Amazingly, Texas Tech has gotten to 6-0 rotating true freshman quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Davis Webb, who, despite some rocky moments, have been solid.

Biggest Disappointment: In ESPN.com’s preseason player poll, the league’s players tabbed TCU as the team to beat. The Horned Frogs, however, have already been defeated three times. TCU has faced a difficult schedule, and the injuries to quarterback Casey Pachall and defensive end Devonte Fields have really hurt. But at the season’s midway point, the Frogs are already just one loss away from falling completely out of the conference title hunt.

Newcomers Of The Year: West Virginia running back Charles Sims was the Big 12’s preseason pick for newcomer of the year, and for good reason. But the impact of Texas Tech true freshmen quarterbacks Mayfield and Webb has been greater. Mayfield is 5-0 as a starter. Webb, who quarterbacked Tech to a win over Iowa State over the weekend, also threw the game-winning touchdown pass to beat TCU.

Coach Of The Year: In his first year as its coach, former Texas Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury has resurrected his alma mater. The Red Raiders have already taken on the personality of their cool, confident coach, who has Tech at 6-0 for the first time since 2008.

Best Game: Most of the intriguing matchups in the Big 12 will come later in the season. But so far, the most entertaining game in the league has been Texas’ 31-30 victory at Iowa State. Yes, the game had some questionable officiating. And some questionable low blocking. But it was also wonderfully compelling, from Texas coach Mack Brown staving off disaster to Paul Rhoads rallying his team during a fiery postgame news conference.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 7

October, 14, 2013
10/14/13
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After a Red River upset, the power rankings have a new top two:

1. Baylor (5-0, 2-0 Big 12, last week 2): Kansas State coach Bill Snyder had the right game plan to slow Baylor. Run the ball, chew up clock, bottle up Lache Seastrunk, take away the quick passing attack and hope you can somehow survive Baylor’s vertical speed downfield. But that’s what makes the Bears so prolific. Take away the short stuff, and Bryce Petty will beat you deep with Tevin Reese & Co. Back off, and Baylor will tear you apart with quick passes and a heavy dose of Seastrunk with a side of Glasco Martin. K-State proved the Bears could be slowed. But can they be stopped?

2. Texas Tech (6-0, 3-0 Big 12, last week 3): In 2012, West Virginia was 5-0 when it traveled the 1,500 miles to Lubbock, Texas, where its season began to go the wrong direction. Can the Red Raiders avoid a similar fate against a likewise backloaded schedule? There’s reason to believe Tech is better equipped to do so than last year's Mountaineers. At the moment, the Red Raiders’ balanced offense claims four of the top eight receivers in the Big 12, while the defense has been tremendous at getting off the field on third down. The next two games, on the road at West Virginia and Oklahoma, will determine whether Tech is a contender or pretender. If the Tech quarterbacks keep spreading the ball around and the defense continues to buck up in key situations, it very well might be the former.

3. Texas (4-2, 3-0 Big 12, last week 5): The 1989 Longhorns and 1996 Sooners also pulled off big upsets in the Red River Rivalry. Both teams, however, went just 2-4 the rest of the season. The biggest question for Texas coming off its most impressive victory in four years is whether it can keep it going. At 3-0 in the Big 12 standings, the Longhorns have plenty to play for. If Texas keeps running its offense through running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown and its veteran offensive line, and defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed keep wreaking havoc, it’s not unthinkable that Texas could be playing for the Big 12 title in Waco, Texas, on Dec. 7.

4. Oklahoma (5-1, 2-1 Big 12, last week 1): Quarterback Blake Bell was completely off in his first Red River start, but he didn’t get a lot of help from Josh Heupel, either. The offensive coordinator kept Oklahoma’s designed quarterback running plays that had been so effective on the shelf even though Texas had been vulnerable all year to stopping the quarterback run game. While Texas finally elected to ride Gray in the running game, the Sooners are the ones that now seem confused about who to ride. Is it Brennan Clay? Damien Williams? True freshman Keith Ford? The good news is that Bob Stoops is 14-0 the game after Texas, with an average winning margin of 27 points; OU visits Kansas on Saturday, too. But if the Sooners don’t figure out who they are offensively soon, they could be staring down yet another second-half swoon.

5. Oklahoma State (4-1, 1-1 Big 12, last week 4): An interesting question to think about: Had he not transferred to Illinois, would Wes Lunt be Oklahoma State’s starting quarterback this weekend against TCU? My hunch is he would. Spotty downfield passing is restricting the potential of this Cowboys offense, which still has the playmakers at receiver to form the the basis of a prolific attack. Problem is, J.W. Walsh can’t consistently get them the ball. And now the best pass defense in the conference comes to town. If the Cowboys sputter again, they’ll have to give serious thought to giving Clint Chelf another shot to open up an offense that has looked shockingly mediocre against Big 12 competition.

6. TCU (3-3, 1-2 Big 12, last week 6): Announced attendance of Saturday’s home game against Kansas was almost 42,000. But based on photos taken of the stands, it looked like there was less than half that. As one of the preseason favorites, the Horned Frogs carried plenty of hype into the season. But after three early-season losses, apparently the excitement surrounding the program for this season has completely evaporated. It might be too soon, however, to give up on TCU. Nobody has played a tougher schedule thus far. And few teams have been bit harder by the injury bug. If the Frogs can pull off the upset in Stillwater, Okla., they could fight their way back into the Big 12 race, especially if quarterback Casey Pachall can return to the field from a broken forearm before month’s end.

7. West Virginia (3-3, 1-2 Big 12, last week 7): The West Virginia defense has had a week to recover from the TKO it suffered in Waco. No matter who Dana Holgorsen goes with at quarterback this week, the Mountaineers’ best chance of getting bowl eligible is with solid defense. But is this a solid defense? It’s hard to tell. The Mountaineers have had two good defensive performances (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State) and two bad ones (Maryland, Baylor). What West Virginia does against Texas Tech this weekend will be revealing about where this defense really is.

8. Kansas State (2-4, 0-3 Big 12, last week 8): The Wildcats have been in every game, and yet don’t have much to show from it. This still could be a bowl team, however. Getting starting receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson back from injury after the open week would be a boost. But the real key will be limiting turnovers. The Wildcats are last in the Big 12 in turnover margin, a year after they led the conference in the category. If quarterback Daniel Sams can take better care of the ball, K-State is good enough and well coached enough to get to six wins despite the tough start.

9. Iowa State (1-4, 0-2 Big 12, last week 9): With a bounce here or there, the Cyclones could easily be 2-0 in the conference. This young team is making plays, but it still has to figure out how to win games in the fourth quarter. Now, the Cyclones find themselves in a tough spot this week. They face a Baylor offense looking to prove it’s better than it showed over the weekend. The Bears also haven’t forgotten about losing in Ames, Iowa, last year. If Iowa State is still in the game at halftime, that will be a victory in and of itself.

10. Kansas (2-3, 0-2 Big 12, last week 10): You have to give it up to the Jayhawks for showing some fight at TCU. The early start, the paltry crowd, the loss of running back Tony Pierson -- there were many reasons for Kansas to mail it in. Instead, the Jayhawks took TCU to the brink and had the ball three different times in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie the game. The Jayhawks might not win a Big 12 game this season, but if they keep scrapping and clawing like they did Saturday, they'll have more chances.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 6

October, 7, 2013
10/07/13
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This week's Power Rankings after a weekend in which there were no upsets:

1. Oklahoma (5-0, 2-0 Big 12, last week 1): The Sooners currently have the top-ranked defense in the Big 12. However, on Sunday they learned they’d likely be without linebacker Corey Nelson for the rest of the season. Nelson, who suffered a partially torn pectoral muscle, had been one of the defense’s three most valuable players. Can the Sooners overcome his loss? The answer to that question will go a long way in determining whether OU emerges with the Big 12 title.

2. Baylor (4-0, 1-0, LW 2): West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said he’d never seen an offensive line establish the line of scrimmage the way Baylor did Saturday night. Quarterback Bryce Petty and Lache Seastrunk are getting the headlines, and for good reason, but Baylor's offensive line is another reason it has been putting up points in record fashion. Led by All-American guard Cyril Richardson, Baylor’s line is one of the best units in the country. Just ask Holgorsen.

3. Texas Tech (5-0, 2-0, LW 3): Texas Tech is beginning to look like last season's Oklahoma State, which had to shuffle through three different quarterbacks because of injuries. Michael Brewer finally returned to the field from a back injury, but not before starter Baker Mayfield left with an undisclosed knee injury. The Oklahoma State offense survived its QB injury shuffle. Can the Red Raiders follow suit?

4. Oklahoma State (4-1, 1-1, LW 7): The Cowboys won, but it has been four seasons since an Oklahoma State offense has looked anywhere near this discombobulated. J.W. Walsh engineered the game-winning touchdown drive, but the offense was largely ineffective otherwise, as the Cowboys went the entire second half without a first down until that drive. Oklahoma State’s intermediate and downfield passing game has fallen off a cliff, as Walsh had only two completions go for more than 15 yards (though he should have had a third that Josh Stewart dropped). This has allowed opponents to zero in on Oklahoma State’s rushing game, which has been poor since the opener against Mississippi State. If the Cowboys don’t make a QB change and give Clint Chelf a chance, or find some way for Walsh to be more effective through the air, they stand little chance of contending in the Big 12.

5. Texas (3-2, 2-0, LW 5): The Longhorns' season and Mack Brown’s tenure at Texas comes down to one game. If the Longhorns somehow knock off Oklahoma, the conversation in Austin changes. If the Longhorns get blasted like they have the past two seasons, the conversation is effectively done. And, for all intents and purposes, the season is, too.

6. TCU (2-3, 0-2, LW 6): It’s a shame this TCU defense can’t be paired with a more effective offense. Even though the Horned Frogs opened at Oklahoma with seven straight three-and-outs, the defense somehow kept the Frogs in the game. I was told over the weekend that QB Casey Pachall is ahead of schedule on his recovery from a broken forearm -- but he is still weeks away from actually returning. Until then, TCU will have to find a way to generate a little offense. And with the way its defense is playing, that would still be enough to win most games.

7. West Virginia (3-3, 1-2, LW 4): It’s about time to end the honeymoon with the West Virginia defense. The Mountaineers were completely and utterly torched in Waco, 73-42. The last time West Virginia gave up that many points was in 1904, when Michigan beat the Mountaineers 130-0. This Baylor game was almost as bad. West Virginia is definitely improved defensively, but good defenses don’t give up 73 points, regardless of who they are facing.

8. Kansas State (2-3, 0-2, LW 8): KSU coach Bill Snyder finally gave QB Daniel Sams a chance Saturday in Stillwater to run the offense. You have to wonder when he might give Sams a chance again. Sams moved the chains but turned the ball over four times, which ultimately proved to be K-State’s downfall. Sams showed he’s capable of being an effective Big 12 quarterback, but Snyder is not a coach who will tolerate turnovers from his quarterback.

9. Iowa State (1-3, 0-1, LW 9): What a bummer it’s been to be an Iowa State fan this year. I don’t know which was worse, losing twice in overtime in hoops to Kansas, getting bounced from the NCAA tournament by Aaron Craft’s leaning jumper or falling to Texas the way the Cyclones did Thursday. Iowa State has shown rapid improvement offensively the past two games, but it’s a challenge finding five more wins on the schedule that will get the Cyclones to a bowl game.

10. Kansas (2-2, 0-1, LW 10): Even if Charlie Weis didn’t call for the fake punt, it’s on him for even giving punter Trevor Pardula an option to take off that deep in his own territory. The Jayhawks probably wouldn’t have beaten Tech anyway, but the botched fake punt ensured that they wouldn’t. With running back Tony Pierson now out indefinitely, the Jayhawks will be without their best offensive weapon now, too.

Video: Front Rowe, with Casey Pachall

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
8:59
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video
Holly Rowe gets an inside look at how TCU quarterback Casey Pachall was able to successfully battle substance abuse and get back on the field.

Big 12 predictions: Week 2

September, 5, 2013
9/05/13
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By request, we’ll be revealing here what games the Big 12 blog team will be covering week-to-week. Last weekend I was in the Metroplex for Texas Tech-SMU and TCU-LSU. This Saturday, I’ll be covering Oklahoma-West Virginia along with Brandon Chatmon. Max Olson will be in Provo, Utah, for Texas-BYU.

We’re also going to try something new. Beginning next Thursday, we’re going to have a different guest picker each week who will go head-to-head with me in picking games.

How does one become a guest picker? Contact me here and tell me why you should be our guest picker. Creativity counts.

As for last week’s picks, the FCS destroyed an otherwise flawless docket. Thanks, guys.

SEASON RECORD

Last week: 7-2 (.778)

Overall: 7-2 (.778)

My picks for Week 2:

TCU 48, Southeastern Louisiana 7: The Frogs bounce back in a big way to even up their record against the state of Louisiana. Both Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin play well while spitting time, leaving TCU’s quarterback situation unresolved heading into next week’s conference opener in Lubbock.

Oklahoma State 44, UTSA 9: The Cowboys settle into the J.W. Walsh option offense and look much crisper offensively. The defense, meanwhile, puts together another stellar performance. But is it for real or is it just smoke and mirrors?

Baylor 51, Buffalo 17: Buffalo puts up more of a fight than Wofford, but this one ends in a rout, too, suggesting Baylor just might have the best and most complete offense in the Big 12.

Oklahoma 35, West Virginia 13: Former Sooners coach Barry Switzer made the prediction this week that the Mountaineers would not be gaining 787 yards on Oklahoma this time. He must have watched West Virginia’s William & Mary game. Along with Tavon Austin, the Mountaineers could wind up missing offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh, who left West Virginia for the same job at Oklahoma during the offseason. The Sooners’ line looked strong last week, while West Virginia’s looked shaky. Charles Sims is a big-time playmaker. But he doesn’t have many creases to slide through this week either in Norman, and the Sooners will cruise.

Kansas State 31, Louisiana-Lafayette 20: Coach Bill Snyder has his bunch back on track with a solid victory over the underrated Ragin’ Cajuns. Daniel Sams steals enough snaps away from Jake Waters to rush for more than 100 yards while igniting a full-blown quarterback controversy in Manhattan. At least Snyder has another week to work that out before his ‘Cats visit Austin on Sept. 21.

Texas 28, BYU 10: If Texas has indeed turned the corner, then this is a game it needs to win easily, right? Well, that’s what happens, as the Longhorns roll in Provo behind two big-play touchdowns from Daje Johnson. Uh, keep feeding this guy the ball.

Kansas 28, South Dakota 17: Finally, somebody represents the Big 12 against that pesky FCS. Jake Heaps throws three touchdowns, including one apiece to backfield mates Tony Pierson and James Sims.

Texas Tech 66, Stephen F. Austin 7: The Baker Bandwagon is filling up fast. Baker Mayfield throws for another four touchdowns and 400 yards, setting up next week’s showdown against TCU -- the school he originally wanted to attend but which never gave him a scholarship.
The opening weekend brought some clarity to the Big 12. Baylor’s offense was unstoppable, Texas did an outstanding job finishing drives and Oklahoma State’s defense proved to be aggressive. Here’s a closer look at some interesting stats from the opening slate of games and what those stats could mean for the future heading into Week 2.

Baylor: The Bears scored on 71.4 percent of their drives against Wofford. That means BU was operating its offense with ridiculous efficiency in quarterback Bryce Petty’s first game as a starter. The Bears averaged 4.4 points per drive against the FCS foe.

What it means for the future: It means good things for the Bears’ program because they took a business-like approach against Wofford and the offense performed at a extremely high level in their first game. It’s also a sign the overall depth within the program is increasing. BU led 38-0 at halftime, yet its second half scoring percentage was 71.4 percent as well with backup quarterback Seth Russell accounting for two touchdowns.

Iowa State: The Cyclones’ offensive line struggled against Northern Iowa. ISU quarterback Sam Richardson was sacked 13.5 percent of the time on attempted passing plays. The Big 12 average was 5.3 percent. And things have gotten worse for the Cyclones offensive front, which will have to play without injured center Tom Farniok against Iowa on Sept. 14.

What it means for the future: It will be a long season if the Cyclones don’t correct their pass protection struggles. More and more, Big 12 defenses are designed to attack the quarterback so Richardson, who is a quality signal-caller, won’t be able to display his talents if he’s on his back or running for his life all season.

Kansas State: Curious why the Wildcats got upset by North Dakota State? It’s simple -- 36.5 percent of their offensive plays went for zero or negative yards. That’s an eye-popping lack of success against an FCS opponent.

What it means for the future: K-State has to go back to the drawing board and figure out ways to move the ball on the ground. Running back John Hubert struggled mightily in his first game as the main man in the backfield without Collin Klein. The Wildcats might want to consider using Daniel Sams more alongside Hubert to spark their running game.

Oklahoma: Louisiana-Monroe averaged just four plays per drive against the Sooners. OU did a terrific job of getting off the field against ULM, which contributed to its first defensive shutout since 2010. Only four of ULM’s 15 drives included five or more plays.

What it means for the future: It could be a huge development for the Sooners as they strive to develop depth along their defensive line. If they continue to keep opponents from making lengthy drives, they won’t have to turn to their second team defensive linemen unless they want to get them added experience and they won’t be forced to substitute because their starters are wearing down during a drive.

Oklahoma State: Mike Gundy wanted the Cowboys' defense to be more aggressive. Early indications point to OSU fulfilling that wish as 42.9 percent of Mississippi State’s offensive plays ended in zero or negative yards. The Cowboys were able to play the majority of the game in the Bulldogs’ backfield and held their SEC opponent to just three points.

What it means for the future: If the Cowboys' defense is more aggressive and opportunistic, they could win their second Big 12 title in three seasons. New defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer has OSU attacking and the overall speed and athleticism of the unit is better than it was during the Pokes’ BCS run in 2011.

Texas: The Longhorns did a great job of finishing drives against New Mexico State. UT scored touchdowns on 80 percent of its drives inside the Aggies' 40-yard line. The Longhorns scored touchdowns on four of those five drives.

What it means for the future: Life will be much easier for the Longhorns defense if the offense is scoring touchdowns and finishing drives instead of settling for field goals or turning the ball over. It also a sign that David Ash’s experience could be paying off and he understands the critical nature of each play as his team approaches the goal line.

TCU: Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin each finished with subpar Total QBR ratings against LSU. Pachall’s 45.2 and Boykin’s 20.4 were lower than the Big 12 average of 65.1. Granted there’s a very good chance the Tigers defense is among the best, if not the best, TCU will face all season but the Horned Frogs need better and more efficient play from both signal-callers.

What it means for the future: It means TCU’s two-quarterback system should remain intact. If either of Pachall or Boykin had been extremely efficient and effective against the Tigers, it would have been hard to justify taking the hot hand off the field. Now, TCU’s quarterback situation remains in flux, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing since both guys do bring different qualities that could be valuable this season.

Texas Tech: Quarterback Baker Mayfield was simply outstanding on third down. He played with a maturity and awareness uncommon from a true freshman with 61.5 percent of his third-down passes resulting in first downs. His ability to keep the chains moving was a big reason why Mayfield earned Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors.

What it means for the future: It means it will be hard to unseat Mayfield from his starting spot when Michael Brewer returns to full health. Additionally, if Mayfield remains consistently superb on third down, the Red Raiders could insert themselves into the Big 12 title race.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers threw the ball 31.4 percent of the time on first down. That is not Dana Holgorsen’s reputation. The WVU coach does run the ball more than some of his “Air Raid” colleagues but it’s clear his offense left some tricks in its bag during Week 1. Last season, the Mountaineers threw 53 percent of the time on first down.

What it means for the future: Oklahoma beware. The WVU offense we saw against William and Mary was a scaled-back version of Holgorsen’s attack. When the Mountaineers travel to Norman this weekend we’ll get a much better feel for how explosive their offense could become.

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