NCF Nation: Desmond Roland

STILLWATER, Okla. -- The ground rumbled and the frozen earth quaked.

And even though the ending was seismic, the result was not.

[+] EnlargeOklahoma Celebration
Richard Rowe/USA TODAY SportsOklahoma State again had to watch the Sooners celebrate a Bedlam win.
Yet again, Oklahoma ripped the heart out of its in-state rival.

Another phenomenal Bedlam victory for the Sooners. Another catastrophic Bedlam loss for the Cowboys.

Despite shuffling through three quarterbacks and not scoring an offensive touchdown until the final 19 seconds, Oklahoma ruined Oklahoma State’s Big 12 title and BCS-bowl hopes with a 33-24 victory Saturday.

“The feeling in the locker room is a bad feeling right now,” Oklahoma State running back Desmond Roland said. “We had it right on the line, and we couldn’t finish it.”

This one, however, was most disastrous in a long line of Bedlam disappointments for the Cowboys.

Oklahoma State had everything on the line this time.

A chance for its second Big 12 title in three years.

A chance at a top-five finish and a Fiesta Bowl berth.

And, perhaps most important, as a double-digit Bedlam favorite for the first time since Vegas began keeping track, the most golden of opportunities at home to send a message that Oklahoma State was finally on equal ground with the Sooners.

Instead, Oklahoma downed the Cowboys in the final seconds for the third time in the past four years.

“A tough one to swallow,” Oklahoma State linebacker Caleb Lavey said.

Maybe the fact a magnitude-4.5 earthquake struck Boone Pickens Stadium just as the Cowboys were attempting a second-quarter field goal should have been a sign. Ben Grogan made the kick. But fate, yet again in this rivalry, would not be wearing orange.

With starting quarterback Trevor Knight out and backup Kendal Thompson erratic, Blake Bell returned from his sarcophagus to lead the Sooners on a game-winning touchdown drive in the final two minutes, capped by a 7-yard scoring strike to Jalen Saunders in the corner of the end zone with 19 seconds remaining.

It was Oklahoma’s first offensive touchdown of the game.

And it was the only one the Sooners would need, as linebacker Eric Striker delivered the exclamation point by scooping up a fumble and returning it for a touchdown as time expired.

“We like to have the pressure on us, the defense,” Lavey said. “That’s something you wish you could have back. But that’s not gonna happen.”

The Cowboys would like to have several plays back.

On their first from scrimmage, Roland broke free around the edge for an apparent 75-yard touchdown. But wideout Charlie Moore was flagged for holding, and the play was called back.

“We didn’t look like the normal Oklahoma State offense,” Roland said. “We moved the ball the whole game, but we couldn’t capitalize. I feel like we could have put up more points than we did.”

The Cowboys entered Bedlam red-hot offensively, especially quarterback Clint Chelf, who had the highest QBR of any signal-caller in the nation in the month of November. But in sub-10-degree temperatures, Chelf lost his rhythm. And he completed just 2 of 10 passes on third down without a conversion against Oklahoma, causing several promising drives to stall out.

“Our mental focus just wasn’t there,” Roland said.

[+] EnlargeRoland
Richard Rowe/USA TODAY SportsThe Sooners' defense and special teams kept Oklahoma in the game.
Eventually, the Sooners took advantage.

Later in the first quarter, with Oklahoma State up 7-0 and seemingly in control, Saunders, who sparked Oklahoma’s fourth-quarter comeback last season with a punt-return touchdown, weaved through defenders before dashing right for a 64-yard punt-return score.

In the third quarter, Oklahoma State regained control. With Knight out with a separated non-throwing shoulder, the Sooners failed to get a first down their first four drives of the half. And when Chelf hit a wide-open Roland for a 15-yard wheel-route touchdown, it looked as if the Cowboys would finally put the game away.

Instead, the Sooners answered again with a 37-yard reverse from Saunders, who took the ball to the Oklahoma State 7. After the drive stalled, Bob Stoops called his first successful fake field goal in 11 years, and holder Grant Bothun flicked the ball on the run to place-kicker Michael Hunnicutt for a touchdown to again tie the game.

“Did Bob make some great calls? You bet,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said of his counterpart. “We lost the kicking game. When you do that, it’s always tough to win.”

The Cowboys, as they have five other times in Bedlam since 2000, lost the final two minutes, too. Ultimately dooming them again.

After going up 24-20 on Roland’s 1-yard touchdown plunge with 1:46 remaining, all the Big 12’s best defense had to do was keep Oklahoma’s third-string quarterback out of the end zone.

Instead, Bell came alive. He found Sterling Shepard for two big pass plays, then forced a defensive pass interference.

For a moment, it looked as if Oklahoma State had made the winning play that had eluded the program in Bedlam for so many years. Justin Gilbert appeared to come down with an interception, but the ball popped out at the last moment, and Gundy didn’t challenge the incompletion.

Five plays later, Oklahoma did what it’s usually done to the Cowboys.

“It hurts,” said Oklahoma State cornerback Kevin Peterson, who originally committed to the Sooners coming out of high school.

“Feels like a missed opportunity.”

Oklahoma State’s biggest Bedlam miss yet.

Big 12 predictions: Week 13

November, 21, 2013
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So, I received this email from Charlie “Bear” Boyd, last week’s guest picker:
I do not know how you pulled off that Kansas pick, but you better believe I will be launching an all-out investigation to see if there was any foul play involved. Seriously, though, well done! You were probably one of five people in the known universe who picked Kansas to beat West Virginia. Props where props are due.

I cannot confirm or deny whether foul play was involved. But Charlie is right about one thing -- props are due.

Like Clint Chelf in his return as Oklahoma State’s quarterback, I’m back with a vengeance in the picks following a sparkling 5-0 week. Sources have told ESPN that KU officials are planning to erect statues of both me and Charlie Weis outside Memorial Stadium to commemorate the West Virginia victory.

Can I keep the train rolling against this week’s guest picker, Wichita, Kan., resident Drew Hays?
Hey, I’m currently wrapping up my masters in sports management at Wichita State, however I graduated undergrad at Oklahoma State in 2012. I currently work in baseball, for an American Association Independent Baseball team called the Wichita Wingnuts (#GoNuts)! Currently, we are in our offseason, which means I get to sit around the house all-day on Saturday's doing nothing but watching football. You were one of two people that had the Jayhawks winning last weekend (very impressive pick I might add) -- my girlfriend was the other one. As a big Jayhawks fan, she likes to constantly remind me that her team beat the team that beat my team. So pick this Wingnut as your guest picker, so I can silence my girlfriend (until Marcus Smart does backflips again in Allen Fieldhouse).

Good luck silencing your girlfriend, Drew. Hope you have better luck than me with my wife (don’t worry, I got permission before writing that).

This weekend, Brandon and I will be in Stillwater manning the game of the week in college football. It should be a good one.

To the Week 12 picks:

SEASON RECORD

Trotter last week: 5-0 (1.000)

Guest picker (Charlie “Bear”) last week: 4-1 (.800)

Trotter overall: 52-15 (.776)

Guest picker overall: 38-12 (.760)

Kansas State 31, Oklahoma 24: An early start with a freshman quarterback (Trevor Knight) with two more key offensive players (RB Damien Williams and WR Lacoltan Bester) out against a well-coached team? This is a tough spot for the Sooners. K-State is on a roll and playing with confidence, while 13 weeks into the season, Oklahoma is still trying to find its footing offensively. Even if QB Trevor Knight shines again, which he does, the Sooners lack the adequate firepower around him to keep up. Instead, K-State drops off 30 for the fifth straight week to thwart Bob Stoops’ attempt to break the Oklahoma record for coaching victories. With a road trip to Stillwater and the bowl game (Holiday Bowl?) all that’s remaining, it could be awhile before Stoops breaks that record, too.

Drew’s pick: Did anyone honestly think I would pick the dark side? The Cats are hot right now, and while the Sooners won’t make this easy, Jack Cantele nails another fourth-quarter field goal to start the party in Aggieville. K-State, 30-27



Kansas 28, Iowa State 24: Usually this time of year, the Jayhawks are the only ones in full basketball mode. But last week, Iowa State fans stormed the court after a home victory over Michigan (come on, guys, it’s November). Then again, given how south this season has gone in Ames, it’s understandable. Meanwhile, James Sims shows again why he’s one of the best running backs in the Big 12, while QB Montell Cozart makes enough plays with his feet to give Kansas -- that’s right -- the third-longest winning streak in the Big 12.

Drew’s pick: As an OSU fan, seeing anyone play a night game at Jack Trice Stadium makes me feel queasy. I don’t expect a repeat performance from Sims from last week, and Iowa State holds on for its first Big 12 win. This pick ensures I will be in the doghouse with my girlfriend for at least a week, but probably longer. Iowa State, 24-17



Baylor 49, Oklahoma State 45: Baylor coach Art Briles said this week that the Bears have played in comparable road environments this season. In actuality, Baylor has only played at Kansas State during the day and Kansas at night. A sold-out Stillwater, with “College GameDay” in town, will be a completely different animal. Especially against these Cowboys, who seem to be improving with every passing week. Especially against this veteran Oklahoma State defense, which is the class of the Big 12. This Baylor offense, however, is the class of college football. And with Levi Norwood emerging at wideout and Lache Seastrunk back to flank Shock Linwood in the backfield, the Bears outgun Oklahoma State in a Big 12 thriller to solidify their No. 3 ranking ahead of Ohio State in the BCS standings.

Drew’s pick: First, I would like to thank the Baylor faithful for returning almost your entire ticket allotment back to OSU. This will only make Boone Pickens Stadium louder. Behind the home crowd, "Choo-Choo" Chelf and Desmond Roland establish the run game early and the Oklahoma State defense keeps forcing turnovers, as the Cowboys prevail in another wild Stillwater shootout. OSU, 45-42


STILLWATER, Okla. -- Just seconds after the ball was kicked off, Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert was streaking down the sideline, poised to put the Cowboys up by one touchdown and help his squad send another message to the rest of the Big 12 with a statement win.

Well, 1-for-2 isn’t bad.

No. 14 Oklahoma State hammered Kansas, 42-6, at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday, but it was far from the same impressive effort that had become commonplace in the previous few weeks by the team from Stillwater. The Cowboys offense ran 70 plays for 359 yards, averaging 5.1 yards per play against the Jayhawks just days after looking like it had finally found its rhythm with Clint Chelf under center against Texas Tech and Iowa State.

[+] EnlargeClint Chelf
William Purnell/Icon SMIOklahoma State QB Clint Chelf threw for just 265 yards and three TDs, but the Cowboys' offense was on cruise control against Kansas.
“I hope not,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said when asked if his squad had lost any momentum with the offensive performance against the Jayhawks.

The Cowboys’ hopes of a Big 12 title could be counting on it. With Texas in Austin and Baylor at Boone Pickens Stadium looming in the next two weeks, OSU’s offense will have to look much more like the squad that put up 55 points per game, 456 yards per game and 5.6 yards per play in back-to-back wins over Texas Tech and Iowa State than the group that punted on six of eight possessions during a mid-game stretch against the Jayhawks.

Yet the Cowboys could have a valid reason for the up-and-down nature of their offense Saturday. Gilbert’s 100-yard kick return for touchdown to start the game coupled with a Kevin Peterson interception helped OSU take a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. The Pokes, quite frankly, didn’t need an explosive offense against the Jayhawks so they didn’t strive to have one, particularly when KU started stacking the box to stop the run.

“We were pretty vanilla,” Gundy said. “We felt comfortable with our defense and their ability to play well today. We weren’t as wide open as we would normally be on other Saturdays.”

They'd better hope so.

The Longhorns, even though they stumbled around against West Virginia on Saturday night, won’t be easy to beat in Austin, and the Bears, well, they’re looking like legit BCS title game contenders after their 41-12 thrashing of Oklahoma on Thursday.

“We were pretty vanilla, there wasn’t anything too exotic,” offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said. “We knew we just had to secure the ball and do what we do.”

The result? Chelf was 19-of-37 for 265 yards and three touchdowns as the Cowboys focused on maintaining control of the game and not committing turnovers to let the Jayhawks back into it.

“You’d like to really explode and be better,” Yurcich said. “You’re never really satisfied with those numbers, but we did what we had to do to win the football game.”

With KU aimed at stopping the run, Oklahoma State’s running game took a clear step backward. The Cowboys’ 2.7 yards-per-carry average and 85 total rushing yards will raise eyebrows, as main ball carrier Desmond Roland could only manage 44 yards on 16 carries (2.8 yards per) after combining for 57 carries for 315 yards and seven touchdowns against the Cyclones and Red Raiders.

That type of ground game won’t get it done against Texas, Baylor or Oklahoma in the final three games of the season as OSU tries to secure its second Big 12 title in three seasons.

“We just have to take one game at time,” said receiver David Glidden, who stepped in for an injured Josh Stewart to record six receptions for 73 yards. “This is the biggest part of the season, we’ve started to get it rolling the past few weeks and Coach Gundy says all the time we’re coming together as a team.”

Stewart, one of the Big 12’s most explosive players, suffered an leg injury early in the contest. While it didn't appear to be serious, his status is unclear, according to Gundy. Getting him healthy and productive would help, as will a Ben-and-Jerry’s-type approach on offense instead of the vanilla flavor that reigned Saturday.

“We feel like we still have our rhythm and confidence,” Roland said. “As a team, we’re playing hard and relentless, and that’s what we’ll have to do in this last stretch.”

Big 12 predictions: Week 11

November, 7, 2013
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Welp, it finally happened. I finally lost to a guest picker. And to a 14-year-old, no less. Thanks, Caymen. I thought you weren’t going to embarrass me?

Anyway, this reporter’s pride is on the line again. This week’s guest picker submission:

My name is Claire Stallings and I would love to one day be a guest picker for you. It’s about time a lady shows these men how to pick a perfect week! I love the Big 12 and of course Baylor. I worked for the team all through college and I am that girl who knows more about Baylor football than most of the men on campus. I think it would be interesting to throw a girl into the “man’s world.” Don’t worry, I can hold my own. #GirlPower

The last time a girl challenged me to something, I was destroyed by my wife in a 5K. So this is my shot at redemption. #BringTheNoiseClaire.

Tonight, Max and national writer Mark Schlabach will be in Waco for Oklahoma-Baylor. Saturday, Brandon will drive to Stillwater to check out Kansas-Oklahoma State. Due to my horrific picking, I've been benched for the weekend.

To the Week 11 picks:

SEASON RECORD

Trotter last week: 2-2 (.500)

Guest picker (14-year-old Caymen) last week: 3-1 (.750)

Trotter overall: 43-14 (.754)

Guest picker overall: 29-11 (.725)

THURSDAY

Baylor 52, Oklahoma 34: The Sooners’ best chance in this game is to pound the ball, wear out the clock and keep Baylor’s high-powered offense on the sidelines. But without star fullback Trey Millard, I’m skeptical OU can pull off such a game plan. The Sooners have no viable tight end, and none of their other fullbacks are capable receiving threats off play-action. OU’s remaining firepower keeps the game interesting into the second half. But a Sooners defense playing two freshman linebackers finally capitulates to the overwhelming speed of the Baylor offense, as the Bears make a statement they belong in the national title picture.

Claire’s pick: The media (including you, Jake) keeps saying K-State laid out the blueprint on how to beat Baylor, but then again, Mack Brown made it clear that OU is far from invincible. Between Baylor’s dynamic receiving duo, Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese, along with Lache Seastrunk and Bryce Petty’s Heisman-worthy performances, this pick was easy. #GoingTarpless. Baylor 56-35

SATURDAY

West Virginia 26, Texas 23: I find it strange the voters still haven’t put Texas back in the Top 25 polls. I actually had the Longhorns ranked 14th in the ESPN power ranking, the highest of the 19 voters in the ESPN poll. But this is a tough spot for Texas. West Virginia has been a far better team in Morgantown than away from it. The Mountaineers also have a ton of momentum from last week’s comeback overtime win over TCU, with a bowl appearance in their sights. Texas QB Case McCoy comes back to earth a bit and the Longhorns get caught peeking ahead to next week’s clash with Oklahoma State, as Charles Sims runs wild again to hand Texas its first Big 12 loss.

Claire’s pick: The Horns will win if they keep the ball with Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray. But they have to make sure Case doesn’t make too many mistakes on the road. If they are not careful, West Virginia will upset Texas, just like they did to OSU. #TexasStayawayfromBriles. Texas 31-28

Kansas State 37, Texas Tech 34: With receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson back in the fold, the Wildcats are finally firing on all cylinders offensively. QBs Daniel Sams and Jake Waters have been terrific lately, and, much to Bill Snyder’s satisfaction, have been taking care of the ball, too. Tech has had a great run. But turnover-prone teams usually don’t fare well against Snyder-coached teams, and only six offenses in college football have turned the ball over more times than the Red Raiders. As a result, K-State continues its late-season push and hands Tech a third straight defeat.

Claire’s pick: I grew up in a Tech-loving family from Midland, Texas. I have lost sleep over this pick, and I may lose friends and a chunk of my inheritance after this is published. Unfortunately, the clock has struck midnight for Cinderella, and they are beginning to look reminiscent of last year’s West Virginia squad. #SorryDad. K-State 38-35

TCU 19, Iowa State 13: Will either side have enough players left to actually stage the game? Iowa State figures to be without running back Aaron Wimberly, who’s been its best offensive player, and could be without QB Sam B. Richardson, too. TCU cornerback Jason Verrett and running back B.J. Catalon are questionable on a team that also will be missing running back Waymon James and receiver Brandon Carter. The difference in this game proves to be TCU QB Casey Pachall, who finally showed signs of returning to his old self last week.

Claire’s pick: This is the “Battle of Who Could Care Less” between two struggling teams. TCU’s players are dropping like flies. TCU barely wins, but for sure is not making a bowl. #NotYallsYear #ByeFelicia. TCU 14-10

Oklahoma State 55, Kansas 9: Kansas has been hanging tough in Big 12 play. That ends here. The Cowboys have finally found their identity offensively with Clint Chelf at QB and the tough-running Desmond Roland at tailback. Oklahoma State keeps rolling in its return to the thick of the Big 12 title race.

Claire’s pick: I have always liked Kansas -- they have great school colors for game-day outfits. But that is all they have. Chelf is a real threat and the Cowboys' backfield has exploded these past few games -- they might actually steal the Big 12 title right out of Baylor’s little paws. #ButPleaseDont. Oklahoma State 56-14

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 10

November, 4, 2013
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Taking stock of Week 10 in the Big 12:

Team of the week: The Cowboys on Saturday showed why they were the preseason pick to win the Big 12. Oklahoma State jumped to a 21-0 lead over Texas Tech, and, for the most part, controlled the game the rest of the way. Despite throwing two interceptions, QB Clint Chelf played his best game since last season, accounting for four touchdowns. Desmond Roland and Rennie Childs also spearheaded another tremendous effort on the ground, as OSU converted all six of its red zone possessions into touchdowns. Defensively, the Cowboys were terrific, too, limiting Tech to just three touchdowns over 17 possessions. This is a team beginning to find its stride -- just in time to make a run at the Big 12 championship.

[+] EnlargeJace Amaro
Michael C. Johnson/USA TODAY SportsJace Amaro, who caught 15 passes for 174 yards in Texas Tech's loss to Oklahoma State, had a crucial fumble caused by Cowboys safety Daytawion Lowe.
Disappointment of the week: The Horned Frogs had an opportunity to take a step toward securing a bowl berth and partially salvaging the season. Instead, TCU blew a 17-3 lead, then self-destructed in overtime in a 30-27 loss to West Virginia. The Frogs turned the ball over three times in five plays, then committed a personal foul in overtime that resulted in having to attempt a 62-yard field goal. To even qualify for a bowl now, TCU will have to run the table, which is less likely than a 62-yard field goal.

Big (offensive) men on campus: Chelf, West Virginia running back Charles Sims and Kansas State running back John Hubert.

Chelf had two terrible interceptions, including a pick-six, in Lubbock. But he was terrific otherwise. Chelf threw for 211 yards and rushed for another 88 while accounting for four touchdowns.

Sims had his best performance yet as a Mountaineer, piling up 154 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries to power the West Virginia comeback in Fort Worth.

Hubert produced his best game of the season, too, rushing for 105 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.

Big (defensive) men on campus: OSU safety Daytawion Lowe, Texas defensive tackle Chris Whaley and K-State defensive end Ryan Mueller.

In the first quarter, Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro hauled in a 21-yard pass across the middle on third-and-long. But at the end of the play, Lowe upended him, popping the ball loose, which the Cowboys recovered. The next play, the Cowboys converted a flea-flicker. The play after that, they were in the end zone to storm to a 14-0 lead. Lowe also led the Cowboys with a game-high 11 tackles.

With Texas clinging to a 14-6 lead midway through the third quarter, Whaley delivered his second game-changing defensive touchdown of the season. Teammate Cedric Reed hit Kansas QB Jake Heaps from behind, the ball popping to the turf. Whaley scooped it up and thundered 40 yards for the touchdown. “All of the momentum changed in one play," said Kansas coach Charlie Weis, as the Longhorns charged to a 35-13 win.

[+] EnlargeCharles Sims
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsWest Virginia tailback Charles Sims had his best game of the season vs. TCU, rushing for 154 yards and adding two touchdowns.
Mueller had another huge performance with seven tackles and two sacks. His tackle also knocked Iowa State QB Sam B. Richardson out of the game just before halftime.

Special-teams players of the week: Oklahoma State specialist Derek Branson and West Virginia kicker Josh Lambert.

With the Cowboys leading 14-0 in the first quarter, Branson busted through the West Virginia punt protection, blocked the punt and recovered it, setting up the Cowboys with great field position at the Tech 15. Four plays later, Roland was in the end zone.

Lambert was money in the Mountaineers’ rally over TCU. He nailed all three of his field goal attempts, including the game-winning 34-yarder in overtime.

Honorable mention recognition goes to TCU kicker Jaden Oberkrom, who converted a 45-yard field goal to send the game to overtime. Oberkrom also nearly saved TCU on his 62-yard try in overtime. The kick had the distance, but was wide to the left.

Play of the week: After Tech closed the deficit to 28-24 at halftime, OSU reestablished control in the third quarter. With the Red Raiders selling out on run blitzes off the edge, OSU offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich dialed up the perfect counter, a QB draw. Chelf took off up the middle of the field and raced 67 yards for the touchdown, giving the Cowboys a 42-24 lead. The scamper was the longest TD run by an OSU QB since Brent Blackman’s 72-yarder in 1972.

Stat of the week: With the overtime loss to West Virginia, TCU has lost three games in a row for the first time since Gary Patterson took over as head coach in 2000.

Quote of the week: "I'm pretty sore. I'm pretty beat up. But ... it’s worth it.” -- Oklahoma State's Roland, after carrying the ball 57 times the past two weeks.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 10

November, 4, 2013
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And then there were four in the conference race:

1. Baylor (7-0, 4-0 Big 12, last week: 1): The Bears have been complaining about a lack of national respect. Thursday night against Oklahoma, they have their chance to gain that respect. It should be noted, though, that Baylor has never played in a game with major conference and national title implications on the line -- and the whole country watching. The Sooners have played in dozens of these games. Are the Bears ready to shine in the spotlight? We’re about to find out.

2. Oklahoma State (7-1, 4-1 Big 12, last week: 5): Look who’s back in the thick of the Big 12 title conversation. On Saturday, the Cowboys delivered the most impressive Big 12 win of any team this season, dominating Texas Tech before a record crowd in Lubbock. Behind linebackers Caleb Lavey and Shaun Lewis, the OSU defense continues to perform at a high level, as they limited Tech to just three touchdowns in 17 possessions. The OSU offense is now beginning to click, too, with QB Clint Chelf making the big plays he did down the stretch like last season and backs Desmond Roland and Rennie Childs reviving the running game. The Cowboys are the only contender that get Baylor at home, and they have dominated the Bears in Stillwater. OSU still has to go to Austin on Nov. 16. But the Cowboys just proved they can win big games on the road.

3. Texas (6-2, 5-0 Big 12, last week: 2): It wasn’t a work of art, but Texas took care of business against Kansas. Next up is a sneaky-tough road game in Morgantown. West Virginia has been a much tougher team at home. The Mountaineers knocked off Oklahoma State and led Texas Tech by double digits in the second half before succumbing in the fourth quarter. West Virginia will also be playing with plenty of momentum after its overtime win at TCU. A showdown with Oklahoma State in Austin looms the following weekend. But Texas needs to escape Morgantown first.

4. Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1 Big 12, last week: 3): After struggling in conference play, Blake Bell seemed to turn a corner with a determined performance in last week’s win over the Red Raiders. To have any chance of scoring with Baylor, the Sooners are going to need a similar effort from their quarterback. The running game should be able to pile up yards. And the OU secondary will give Baylor’s speedy receivers their biggest challenge yet. But to pull off the upset as double-digit underdogs in Waco, Bell will have to make the same kind of throws downfield he delivered against Tech.

5. Texas Tech (7-2, 4-2 Big 12, last week: 4): Considering the Red Raiders were picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 in the preseason, this has already been a banner first season for coach Kliff Kingsbury. But the past two weeks, Tech’s flaws have been exposed. The defense hasn’t been able to stop the run without overloading the box. True freshman QB Davis Webb is making true freshman mistakes. And the depth doesn’t seem to be there for Tech to be sound covering punts and kicks. This is still a good team. But as it turned out, just not yet good enough to contend for the conference title.

6. Kansas State (4-4, 2-3 Big 12, last week: 6): Since the return of receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson, the Wildcats have featured an efficiently balanced offensive attack. K-State threw for 221 yards and ran for 227 while picking apart Iowa State’s defense. The K-State run defense has been excellent the past month, too. This is not a team anyone will want to face this last month of the season.

7. West Virginia (4-5, 2-4 Big 12, last week: 7): What a win for Dana Holgorsen’s bunch. The Mountaineers seemed to be dead in the water after falling behind 17-3 in Fort Worth. But behind running back Charles Sims and an eight-minute stretch where the Mountaineers forced TCU into three turnovers in five plays, West Virginia emerged with a crucial overtime victory. Had the Mountaineers lost, more questions would have surfaced about Holgorsen’s status in Morgantown. Instead, West Virginia is in great shape to make a bowl game, which would be a solid season for a team that had to replace Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.

8. TCU (3-6, 1-5 Big 12, last week: 8): When does basketball season start? Wait, nevermind.

9. Iowa State (1-7, 0-5 Big 12, last week: 9): The Cyclones have not posed much of a threat offensively when running back Aaron Wimberly has not been in the lineup. If they can get him back from a hamstring injury, they could still pick up a couple of Big 12 wins down the stretch, which would give this program some momentum heading into next season.

10. Kansas (2-6, 0-5 Big 12, last week: 10): The Jayhawks have not rolled over in Big 12 play, which has to be an encouraging sign for coach Charlie Weis. It would be huge for the program for that effort to manifest tangibly in the form of an actual win. If Kansas keeps playing hard, it just might get it.

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 10

November, 3, 2013
11/03/13
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Recognizing the best and brightest from around the Big 12 in Week 10:

Oklahoma State QB Clint Chelf: Mike Gundy was rewarded richly for rolling with Chelf in the Cowboys' 52-34 road upset of No. 15 Texas Tech. He threw for 211 yards and two touchdowns, and he stunned the Tech defense with a 67-yard touchdown run on a draw play. Chelf finished with 88 yards and two scores on the ground and got plenty of help from another workhorse performance from Desmond Roland. It was an impressive must-win for OSU that should quiet some of the quarterback battle chatter in Stillwater.

West Virginia RB Charles Sims: The Houston transfer came up big for West Virginia in a 30-27 overtime victory over TCU. Against a defense with a reputation for defending the run, Sims ran for 154 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries and added a 13-yard touchdown catch to help WVU rally and eventually finish off the disappointing Horned Frogs. Sims now has 865 total yards and five touchdowns on the season.

Texas Tech TE Jace Amaro: Amaro had a career day in the loss to Oklahoma State, putting up 174 receiving yards and a touchdown on 15 receptions. No receiver in the country had more yards on Saturday, and Amaro's season stats at this point are stunning: 79 catches for 1,035 yards and four touchdowns. With Baylor on a bye, Amaro is now the leading receiver in the Big 12 and its first to surpass 1,000. Time to pack the Mackey Award in bubble wrap and ship it off to Lubbock.

Kansas State defense: Yes, Iowa State's offense is abysmal and the Cyclones are now 1-7 on the year. But Kansas State recorded three interceptions, let ISU enter the red zone only once and came close to pulling the shutout in a 41-7 beatdown. The Wildcats needed this win to keep their hopes of six wins and a bowl trip alive, and their defense took care of business on Saturday.

Texas DT Chris Whaley: We've got to show some love to the big fella for another game-changing touchdown. With Texas only leading Kansas 14-6 midway through the third quarter, the senior lineman scooped up a Jake Heaps fumble and ran it back 40 yards for a score that coach Charlie Weis admitted swung the game's momentum for good. It was Whaley's second touchdown in three weeks after recording a pick-six against Oklahoma.

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Back in July, Oklahoma State was the preseason pick to win the Big 12.

Saturday night, the Cowboys finally showed why.

And why they might be contenders after all.

Behind its new-look backfield, Oklahoma State unleashed the most impressive performance yet in the Big 12 season, overpowering Texas Tech 52-34 before a record Jones AT&T Stadium crowd.

"We've got a chance," answered Cowboys coach Mike Gundy, when asked if this team could win the Big 12. "We're not good enough to look past the next game. But we're improving."

Rapidly.

Roughly a month ago, the Pokes hardly looked the part of contender in a 30-21 loss as a 19-point favorite at West Virginia. Nor did the Cowboys look it in sluggish home victories over Kansas State and TCU.

This, however, is a different team.

More specifically, a different offense.

A week ago, the Cowboys overhauled their entire backfield, replacing quarterback J.W. Walsh with Clint Chelf and running back Jeremy Smith with Desmond Roland and Rennie Childs.

They haven't stopped scoring since.

[+] EnlargeJosh Stewart
Michael C. Johnson/USA TODAY SportsJosh Stewart caught six passes and set up a third-quarter touchdown with a long punt return.
In Lubbock, Oklahoma State rolled up another 281 yards on the ground and controlled the game from beginning to end.

"We're coming together as an offense," said Roland, who plugged away between the tackles for 96 yards and his fifth, sixth and seventh touchdowns since getting the starting nod. All three touchdowns came from inside the Tech 3-yard line, as Oklahoma State scored touchdowns on all six of its red-zone possessions.

As a change of pace, Childs scooted for 70 yards on nine carries.

Even Smith contributed to the effort with a 17-yard catch and 23-yard run on the Cowboys' first scoring drive.

"We're running more physical; that's what you have to do," Gundy said. "We made a strong commitment to it three weeks ago. We've really improved in that area."

The biggest difference Saturday, though, was Chelf, whose mistakes kept the Red Raiders in the game, but whose playmaking turned them back and ultimately put them away.

Chelf lost the starting job to Walsh two ineffective series into the opener against Mississippi State. But Walsh's inability to get the ball down the field prompted the Cowboys to turn back to Chelf and his stronger arm midway through the TCU game.

Since, the Oklahoma State offense has gradually improved.

Saturday, it took off.

All told, Chelf threw for 211 yards, ran for another 88 and accounted for four touchdowns. He also connected on a 44-yard flea-flicker to Jhajuan Seales to the Tech 1 to set up Roland's first touchdown and put the Cowboys up 14-0.

"He made some big plays," Gundy said. "Some big throws."

Chelf also made one really bad play on one bad throw.

Up 28-10 in the second quarter, the Cowboys were on the verge of putting the Red Raiders away after linebacker Shaun Lewis' interception. But two plays later, Chelf tried to drop off a pass into the flat. Instead, Tech's Pete Robertson stepped in front of the throw and took the interception 21 yards for a touchdown to wake up the crowd.

The Red Raiders scored again on their following drive to cut Oklahoma State's lead 28-24 and nullify all momentum the Cowboys had built.

"There's no question they had the momentum," Gundy said.

But Chelf would help Oklahoma State regain it.

A Josh Stewart punt return led to another Roland touchdown.

Then on the ensuing drive, Chelf broke through the middle of the Tech defense on a quarterback draw for a 67-yard touchdown run -- Oklahoma State's longest run of the season.

Chelf scored again on an eight-yard keeper late in the third quarter, giving the Cowboys a 49-31 lead and all but putting Tech away.

"It's a glaring mistake when you throw it to the other team," Gundy said. "But if it's not for that, everybody's saying, 'Hey, (Chelf) played a great game.' "

Since Oklahoma State's loss at West Virginia, Baylor has assumed the role of Big 12 favorite. Texas and Oklahoma have surged into the conference-title conversation, too.

But the preseason favorite showed it should not be overlooked, either. Not with this new backfield, which has the Cowboys offense finally humming.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 10

October, 31, 2013
10/31/13
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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.

Big 12 predictions: Week 10

October, 31, 2013
10/31/13
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How could anyone decline Caymen Bishop’s submission for guest picker?

I'm a 14-year-old kid from Moore, Okla., and I would love nothing more than to be a guest picker for a week on my favorite website, alongside my favorite college football writer. I myself am hoping to be a sports journalist someday. I follow the Big 12 very closely and would represent the younger fan’s insight into the college football world.

Good luck, Caymen, and don’t make me look too bad.

This weekend, I’ll be with the Red Raiders for a third straight game, as I head back to Lubbock for their showdown with fellow Big 12 contender Oklahoma State. Max will be in Austin manning the Longhorns as they try to move to 5-0 against Kansas.

To the Week 10 picks:

SEASON RECORD

Trotter last week: 4-1 (.800)

Guest picker (oil-rig Colin) last week: 4-1 (.800)

Trotter overall: 41-12 (.774)

Guest picker overall: 26-10 (.722)

Texas 42, Kansas 9: Is Texas ever going to lose again? Somebody asked me this week if the Longhorns would be undefeated had they started out the season with Greg Robinson at defensive coordinator instead of Manny Diaz. I’m not so sure. The final scores against BYU and Ole Miss weren’t close. But I can’t argue that it might have been possible. The defense has been so much sounder with Robinson. How different would Mack Brown’s status be had he not decided to keep Diaz through the offseason? We’ll never know. But that singular decision could have lasting effects on who is Texas’ coach next season. Either way, it’s not unthinkable the Longhorns will be favored in every game until they travel to Baylor in the season finale. What a turnaround this is turning out to be in Austin.

Caymen’s pick: Kansas nearly upset Texas last year, but don't expect that to be the case here, as Case McCoy has another big day. Texas, 35-10

Kansas State 39, Iowa State 20: The Wildcats have emerged as the best team no longer in contention for the Big 12 crown. TCU and West Virginia might still make a bowl game, but K-State is the only one of the three that looks like an actual bowl team. The healthy return of Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson at wide receiver will be a huge boost for the passing attack, as the two totaled four touchdown receptions in last week’s rout of the Mountaineers. After a tough first half of the season, the Wildcats are not going to be able to defend their title. But they still could factor into the conference race by knocking off one of the contenders. The Cats will not be an easy out for Tech or Oklahoma this month.

Caymen’s pick: Kansas State’s passing game looked incredible last weekend, and Iowa State’s 101st-ranked pass defense won't be able to stop it either. K-State, 42-24

TCU 15, West Virginia 12: This is almost a must-win for either side’s bowl aspirations. West Virginia’s offense has been slightly less disastrous, but TCU’s defense is the best unit in this game. This is an offense the Horned Frogs will be able to dominate, giving their own inept offense enough field goal opportunities to prevail and keep TCU’s bowl hopes alive.

Caymen’s pick: Toss-up game. But West Virginia will force TCU into some turnovers. West Virginia, 21-17

Texas Tech 35, Oklahoma State 28: The Red Raiders have lost four in a row in this series, including a 66-6 whipping the last time the Pokes came to town. Last weekend, OSU’s rushing attack finally came alive as Desmond Roland overwhelmed Iowa State on the ground. The Cowboys won’t be able to do the same to Tech without a viable passing attack. After all, the Sooners only got moving against Tech once Blake Bell started completing passes downfield. OSU, however, has shown no signs of fashioning a viable passing attack. The Cowboys are ninth in Big 12 games in completion percentage (46.8), leading only Kansas. Tech’s passing attack (63.0), meanwhile, has been crisp with Davis Webb at QB. The Red Raiders will turn the ball over, and they’ll commit penalties, but they’ll also make plays in the passing game. That proves to be the difference in this key Big 12 matchup.

Caymen’s pick: Lubbock will be rowdy and rocking, and so will Tech’s offense. Tech, 45-38

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 9

October, 28, 2013
10/28/13
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Taking stock of Week 9 in the Big 12:

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiBlake Bell answered his critics with a big performance in Saturday's victory over previously unbeaten Texas Tech.
Team of the week: After three scuffling weeks, Oklahoma finally broke out with an inspiring 38-30 win over Texas Tech. Most encouraging, QB Blake Bell had his best game since Notre Dame. On a second-quarter touchdown drive that finally got the Sooners going offensively, Bell completed 3 of 4 passes on third downs for 45 yards. After the lone third-down incompletion, Bell rushed for 10 yards on fourth-and-2 to the Texas Tech 14. Two plays later, he found Jalen Saunders for a touchdown. That kind of drive inspires confidence as the Sooners get ready for Baylor -- both for Bell in himself, and for the Sooners in their quarterback.

Disappointment of the week: West Virginia had begun to show signs of life offensively, scoring 30, 42 and 27 points, respectively, in its previous three games. But the Mountaineers took a major step back at Kansas State on both sides of the ball. After taking a 12-7 lead early in the third quarter, West Virginia was thoroughly outplayed the rest of the way. K-State scored four unanswered touchdowns on the next four drives while the Mountaineers mustered nothing, as the Wildcats coasted to a 35-12 win. West Virginia can still get to a bowl game. But the margin for error is running out.

Big (offensive) men on campus: Oklahoma State running back Desmond Roland, K-State QBs Daniel Sams and Jake Waters and Oklahoma fullback Trey Millard.

Roland proved he’s the Cowboys’ most effective running back, racking up a career-high 219 yards and four touchdowns in his first game as a featured back. His 58-yard rumble in the third quarter essentially put Iowa State away.

Sams and Waters were stellar in K-State’s win over West Virginia. The dual-threat duo combined to complete 18 of 21 passes for 291 yards and four touchdowns through the air, and ran for 71 yards.

This will be the last time Millard will be eligible for any game recognition. He tore his ACL in the fourth quarter covering a kick. On the previous drive, he took a pass and hurdled a Tech defender for a 14-yard gain to set up a touchdown from the Tech 3. Millard was also tremendous all game as the lead blocker for Damien Williams, Roy Finch and Brennan Clay. Millard’s great career in Norman comes to a close.

Big (defensive) men on campus: Texas linebacker Steve Edmond, Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert and K-State safety Ty Zimmerman.

Edmond led a Texas defense that completely shut down TCU in the Longhorns’ 30-7 win. He had an interception, two pass breakups and helped thwart the TCU running attack.

Gilbert had a pick-six early that gave OSU an early 14-0 lead. He added three tackles and a pass breakup.

Zimmerman spearheaded the Wildcats defensively with 12 tackles, two pass breakups and a forced fumble. The forced fumble of West Virginia QB Clint Trickett set up a K-State touchdown that put the Wildcats ahead 28-12 in the fourth quarter, effectively putting the game away.

Special-teams players of the week: Everyone involved with the Texas Tech punt return and kickoff coverage teams. Trey Haverty’s units masterfully executed a pair of maneuvers in the third quarter that almost allowed Tech to knock off the Sooners. Down 21-14, deep man Jordan Davis ran away from the ball to draw the OU punt coverage team toward him. Toward the other side of the field, where the ball actually was, Tanner Jacobson scooped up the ball on the bounce and returned it 17 yards. The play set up a field goal. Immediately after the field goal, Kramer Fyfe's onside kick was recovered by Summitt Hogue. Three plays later, the Red Raiders were in the end zone to take a 24-21 lead.

Play of the week: For the second straight week, Oklahoma wide receiver Lacoltan Bester takes this category. After the Sooners fell behind 24-21, Oklahoma dialed up a double reverse pass for Bester -- the same play that resulted in a touchdown pass last week. But with no one to throw to this time, Bester took off and weaved his way through the Tech defense 35 yards for a touchdown. The Sooners never trailed again.

Stat of the week: By defeating Kansas 59-14, Baylor extended its winning streak to 11 games dating back to last season, the longest winning streak in Baylor history.

Quote of the week: “They’ve all had a goal and a dream to play on Sunday, and now they’ve done it.” -- Longhorns coach Mack Brown, after the weather-delayed Texas-TCU game went past midnight

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 9

October, 28, 2013
10/28/13
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The conference race is beginning to heat up:

1. Baylor (7-0, 4-0 Big 12, last week 1): Baylor dominated the first portion of the schedule. Now, comes the defining part. The Bears’ next three opponents (Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State) are all ranked. The season finale against Texas could be a load, too. Baylor remains the favorite to win the league. But are the Bears truly national title contenders? We’re about to find out.

2. Texas (5-2, 4-0 Big 12, last week 3): After Bryce Petty, who is the one QB in the Big 12 you’d want quarterbacking your team. Davis Webb? Daniel Sams? Maybe. But you could make a serious argument for Case McCoy. The career backup has been terrific since taking over for David Ash, leading the Longhorns to a 4-0 Big 12 record, including wins over Oklahoma and TCU. In those two games, McCoy totaled Adjusted QBRs was 83.9 and 95.4. The Longhorns are a contender again in the Big 12. And McCoy is a major reason why.

3. Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1 Big 12, last week 5): Few teams in college football have had to deal with more injury adversity than the Sooners. After losing its best defensive lineman (Jordan Phillips) and best linebacker (Corey Nelson), OU lost its most valuable offensive player Saturday night when fullback Trey Millard suffered a season-ending knee injury. That’s a huge blow to the Sooners’ power running game, which is really the biggest strength of this team. OU’s best chance of knocking off Baylor a week from Thursday is by running at them. That won’t be easy without Millard leading the way.

4. Texas Tech (7-1, 4-1 Big 12, last week 2): The Red Raiders might have suffered their first defeat in Norman. But what recruit watching that game wouldn’t want to go play for Kliff Kingsbury? The Red Raiders seemingly always play to win, and as a result, are one fun team to watch. The silver lining in this game is that Texas Tech never lost its poise, even after a questionable offensive pass interference call and three turnovers all in OU territory. That poise, which is a reflection of the head coach, will serve the Red Raiders well the rest of the season.

5. Oklahoma State (6-1, 3-1 Big 12, last week 4): At some point, you are who you are. And the Cowboys are not a very good team at quarterback. After completing 4-of-5 passes to begin the game at Iowa State, Clint Chelf went just 6-of-21 the rest of the way. At least OSU found its running back in Desmond Roland, who piled up 219 yards and four touchdowns on 26 carries after getting the start over Jeremy Smith and Rennie Childs. Even if Roland keeps running that way, it’s difficult seeing the Cowboys as Big 12 contenders without a competent passing attack.

6. Kansas State (3-4, 1-3 Big 12, last week 7): Finally at full strength, K-State blasted West Virginia 35-12 to secure its first Big 12 win of the season. The Wildcats are better than their record indicates. And with Daniel Sams’ confidence throwing the ball growing with each game, K-State will be a dangerous team down the stretch -- and a good bet to become bowl eligible.

7. West Virginia (3-5, 1-4 Big 12, last week 6): Nobody in the Big 12 has played a tougher schedule than the Mountaineers, who have already faced five of the top six teams in the league. But has the rugged start left West Virginia too demoralized to recover and still make a bowl?

8. TCU (3-5, 1-4 Big 12, last week 8): The Texas game revealed a lot about where the Horned Frogs are. And where are they? Pretty much in shambles. Casey Pachall’s return to QB did little to alleviate the overwhelming problems offensively. Now, the players’ preseason pick to win the Big 12 is unlikely to even become bowl eligible. The college football season can’t end fast enough in Fort Worth.

9. Iowa State (1-6, 0-4 Big 12, last week 9): We wondered whether Iowa State would fight back against Oklahoma State after a demoralizing loss to Baylor last week. Even after a horrible start Saturday, the Cyclones did. After falling behind 28-7, Iowa State clawed its way back into the game before halftime. That showed character. This season has not gone Iowa State’s way. But the Cyclones showed over the weekend they’re not going to give up, either.

10. Kansas (2-5, 0-4 Big 12, last week 10): The Jayhawks have actually been fast starters. They led Tech, 10-0. Led OU, 13-0. And were tied with TCU, 10-10. They gave Baylor problems early in their game over the weekend. I don’t know what this means. I’m just trying to find something positive to say.

What we learned in the Big 12: Week 9

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
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Here's what we learned about the Big 12 from Week 9:

1. Texas Tech is no fraud: The Red Raiders might not have come out of Norman with a victory. But unlike the ’02 and ’08 teams, they came to play the Sooners. Tech never lost its poise, even when down two touchdowns, and executed a series of trick plays to retake the lead in the third quarter. Ultimately, the Red Raiders committed too many killer penalties and turned the ball over too many times to beat Oklahoma on its home field. But the Red Raiders also proved their 7-0 start was not a mirage. Kliff Kingsbury’s aggressive game plan showed why he’s a rising star in the coaching ranks. And even in defeat, Tech showed it’s still a team that could win 10 games this season -- and it's a program with a bright future.

[+] EnlargeDesmond Roland
Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY SportsOklahoma State has found its running back after Desmond Roland rushed for a career-high 219 yards and four touchdowns against Iowa State.
2. Desmond Roland is Oklahoma State’s best running back: The Cowboys still can’t throw the ball. But at least in Ames, they found their running back, as Roland at last got the Oklahoma State running game going. On 26 carries, he racked up a career-high 219 yards and four touchdowns to lift the Cowboys to a 58-27 win at Iowa State. His 58-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, in which he rumbled over Cyclone after Cyclone, gave the Cowboys a 38-20 lead and the Pokes some breathing room after a sloppy second quarter. The passing game remains a mess. In his first start since the opener, Clint Chelf threw for just 78 yards and completed just 10 of 26 passes. But at least in Roland, the Cowboys now have someone they can run their offense through going into next weekend’s showdown at Texas Tech.

3. The OU win wasn’t a one-game anomaly for Texas: The Longhorns moved to 4-0 in the Big 12 with a dominating 30-7 victory at TCU. They also showed that the win over Oklahoma two weeks ago wasn’t a fluke. Texas carried over its winning recipe from the Red River win into Fort Worth. They fed the ball to running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown, who churned out another 145 yards on the ground against a tough TCU defense. Quarterback Case McCoy made some big throws downfield to Mike Davis and Marcus Johnson. And the defense forced turnovers. This is not the same club that got pummeled by BYU and Ole Miss earlier in the season. The Longhorns are quickly gaining confidence, and for good reason, are beginning to believe they could bring the Big 12 title to Austin.

4. K-State is better than its record: After suffering four tough losses, including three in the league, Kansas State finally got its first Big 12 win with an impressive 35-12 pasting of West Virginia. Jake Waters and Daniel Sams were fabulous throwing the ball, combining to complete 18 of 21 passes. And receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson were terrific in their returns from injuries, totaling four touchdown receptions. This was a game the Wildcats had to have to make a bowl game. And at 3-4, K-State still has work to do. But the Wildcats sure looked like a bowl team against West Virginia. Given the remaining schedule, K-State is a good bet to get to six wins.

5. Baylor will be humming entering the defining part of its schedule: The Bears have yet to face a ranked opponent. But after their 45-point win at Kansas, they will head into a Nov. 7 tilt with Oklahoma still on a roll. Once again, QB Bryce Petty was on target with 430 passing yards and three touchdowns, while Lache Seastrunk spearheaded another impressive ground game for Baylor. The Bears have been the most impressive team in the Big 12 by far. They remain the league favorite. Yet their mettle is about to be tested. The Bears face ranked opponents (Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State) in their next three games, a defining stretch that will determine whether they are truly a national title contender. But after another dominating performance, Baylor will go into that stretch healthy, with all pistons firing.

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 9

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
9:00
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Recognizing the best and brightest from around the Big 12 in Week 9:

RB Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State: Where did this come from? Jeremy Smith has been talked up as the Cowboys’ best back throughout the season, but it was Roland who exploded when given the chance to be the feature man. He rushed for 219 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Iowa State, highlighted by a 58-yard dash for a score in which he eluded a handful of defenders. And if you’re counting at home, Roland’s big day would’ve been worth 45 fantasy points. That ain’t bad.

WR Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma: Big-time players making big-time plays in big-time games. That was Saunders on Saturday. He caught a season-high six passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-30 win over Texas Tech, and both scores helped swing this game. His first was a 15-yard score to make it 7-7 in the second, and Saunders followed that up with a 76-yard touchdown to go ahead.

Texas defensive line: The box score says Texas’ defense recorded only two quarterback hurries in its 30-7 win over TCU. But it didn't seem like it. The Longhorns' line of Jackson Jeffcoat, Cedric Reed, Chris Whaley and Malcom Brown is playing at an exceptionally high level right now, just as it did against OU. It combined for five of Texas’ six tackles for loss, Jeffcoat and Whaley recorded sacks, and the Horned Frogs rushed for only 45 yards. More importantly, Casey Pachall had no time to throw on Saturday, as the pressure up front got to him on a constant basis.

RB Shock Linwood, Baylor: Bryce Petty or one of his go-to guys on offense -- Tevin Reese, Lache Seastrunk, etc. -- usually deserve a spot in helmet stickers on a weekly basis. This time we’re going with the Bears’ rising redshirt freshman, who rushed for 106 yards and two scores on only nine carries. Yes, it was against a bad Kansas defense in a blowout. But Linwood merits some attention: He’s the No. 3 back on this roster and yet is also No. 7 in the Big 12 in rushing.

WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State : What a fourth-quarter finish from K-State after trailing West Virginia 12-7 late in the third quarter. Lockett was a big help in K-State’s 28 unanswered points to knock off WVU, with three touchdown catches and his fourth 100-yard game of the season. His 9-yard score gave the Wildcats the lead back, and from there they never looked back.

Big 12's unsung heroes

September, 2, 2013
9/02/13
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It's that time of year.

September is the time when new names start to emerge in the Big 12 and prove themselves as players who will be key components of their teams' success. Here's a look at one player from each school whose season-opening performance might have been overlooked, yet they could become important playmakers for their teams this fall:

Defensive end Shawn Oakman, Baylor: The Penn State transfer could end up being a terror for Big 12 offenses this fall. At 6-foot-9, 275 pounds, he brings terrific size and athleticism to the Bears’ defensive front. He was extremely disruptive against Wofford, recording six tackles including 3.5 tackles for loss in Baylor’s 69-3 win.

Linebacker Jared Brackens, Iowa State: Against Northern Iowa, Brackens was one of the few bright spots in a disappointing loss for the Cyclones. He recorded 10 tackles and one sack,as he is trying to help Cyclone fans forget about A.J. Klein and Jake Knott. If Brackens continues to play like he did against UNI, the Cyclones should fell terrific about their linebacking corps with Brackens alongside Jeremiah George and Jevohn Miller.

Safety Dante Barnett, Kansas State: Lining up alongside preseason All-Big 12 safety Ty Zimmerman, Barnett could give the Wildcats the conference’s top safety duo if he continues to play like he did against North Dakota State. The sophomore finished with seven tackles including one tackle for loss and an interception. He was a shining light in the upset loss to NDSU.

Defensive end Charles Tapper, Oklahoma: Sooners’ coach Bob Stoops has been consistent in his praise of Tapper leading up to the season opener. The sophomore didn’t disappoint on Saturday as he was able to consistently get pressure on Louisiana-Monroe quarterback Kolton Browning in OU’s 34-0 win. Tapper had three tackles and one quarterback hurry in his first collegiate start.

Running back Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State: The junior could emerge as a solid No. 2 option in the Cowboys backfield this season. The buzz in Stillwater says he’s matured and found a renewed focus that should help him be an impact player in OSU’s offense. He had 10 carries for 46 yards against Mississippi State and saw extensive time alongside Smith and quarterback J.W. Walsh in the Pokes’ diamond formation.

Running back Jalen Overstreet, Texas: The Longhorns have so many explosive skill position players it’s unfair. Add Overstreet to the mix after his nine-carry, 92-yard, two-touchdown performance against New Mexico State. UT moved Overstreet from quarterback because the coaches recognized he was too talented to be standing on the sidelines, and now Overstreet gives the Longhorns another weapon to allow offensive coordinator Major Applewhite to be creative with his play calling.

Cornerback Kevin White, TCU: Returning All-Big 12 cornerback Jason Verrett gets all the headlines, but White was consistently around the ball against LSU. With the Tigers picking on him, he won some individual battles and lost some individual battles but held his own with four tackles, four pass breakups and a fumble recovery. White made a strong case that the Horned Frogs have the Big 12’s top cornerback duo.

Linebacker Micah Awe, Texas Tech: Awe could emerge as one of the key players in the Red Raider defense as a sophomore. He’s an athletic, quick linebacker who plays with a physicality that belies his size. He was consistently around the ball against SMU with 5.5 tackles including 0.5 tackles for loss. If Awe can make plays from sideline to sideline in the Big 12, he’ll become more than just the other No. 18 for the Red Raiders.

Receiver Daikiel Shorts, West Virginia: The true freshman had been the buzz of WVU’s preseason camp and backed up the praise he received by leading the Mountaineers in receptions in his first collegiate game. He had seven receptions for 63 yards in their 24-17 victory over William and Mary.

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