NCF Nation: James Sims

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 13

November, 21, 2013
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Four Big 12 teams are on byes this weekend, but there is no shortage of storylines in Week 13:

1. Who’s the king of the conference? The Big 12 title race won’t officially be over after this weekend’s big showdown, but by the end of Saturday we should know whether Baylor or Oklahoma State is the conference’s top team. If the Bears win, they’re one big step closer to being No. 3 in the polls and fighting for a spot in the national title game. Oklahoma State sets up a three-way tie at the top of the Big 12 standings with a home victory, and then things get messy and crazy. But the Cowboys would assert themselves as the best of the bunch with that upset.

[+] EnlargeClint Chelf
William Purnell/Icon SMIClint Chelf and No. 10 Oklahoma State are out to prove that they are the Big 12's best team when they host No. 4 Baylor on Saturday night.
2. Can OSU go four quarters? Of all the nine teams the Bears have defeated this season, only Kansas State has taken them deep into the fourth quarter. That was a 35-25 game on the road. Baylor’s average margin of victory in its eight other games has been 48 points. The Cowboys have enough talent in all three phases to challenge Baylor, but can they keep this game close entering the fourth and survive late?

3. Winning the battle of the injury report: Baylor doesn’t know if running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin will be available to play Oklahoma State. Top Bears linebacker Bryce Hager could be out, too. And the Cowboys need top playmaker Josh Stewart back on the field after he missed the win over Texas. Cornerback Justin Gilbert got banged up against Texas but has said he won’t miss Baylor. Don’t expect Mike Gundy or Art Briles to tip their hands until kickoff.

4. Baylor tries to break Stillwater curse: The last time Baylor defeated Oklahoma State in Stillwater was 1939. Since 1994, the Cowboys are 9-0 at home against Baylor and 6-3 in Waco. There’s no obvious reason for the Bears’ longtime futility at Boone Pickens Stadium other than, you know, that BU used to be the cellar dweller of the Big 12. But they have a chance to end that slump on Saturday.

5. Kansas State: Big 12’s fourth-best team? The Wildcats are on quite a hot streak after starting 2-4 on the year. K-State has won four in a row, clinched bowl eligibility last weekend with a win over TCU and has a chance to land a signature win in the home finale against No. 20 Oklahoma. Beat the Sooners head-to-head and KSU can finish 6-3 in league play and as high as fourth place in the Big 12.

6. Trevor Knight time: Or maybe Blake Bell will start. Or it could be Kendal Thompson, which evidently would make a lot of Sooners fans happy. If the Iowa State game is any indication, we could see two or all three make appearances against Kansas State. No matter what, OU needs to find a solution to its QB carousel before the team travels to Oklahoma State on Dec. 7. This is the last chance for an in-game audition.

7. Jayhawks going for two: Kansas went more than 1,100 days between Big 12 victories. Might this program have to wait only seven days for its next one? KU knocked off West Virginia with a heavy commitment to the James Sims-powered run game and has been playing foes much closer than Iowa State has in Big 12 play. This is a big chance for the Jayhawks to notch their first road win since 2009.

8. Iowa State just wants a W: Iowa State remains winless in Big 12 play, and since knocking off Baylor 35-21 last October, ISU has won two of its last 15 games. Cyclones fans are ready for this brutal 1-9 season to end. The home finale against Kansas is as good a chance as any to at least get one win and send the program’s seniors off on a good note.

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

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 12

November, 18, 2013
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Taking stock of Week 12 in the Big 12:

[+] EnlargeCharlie Weis
John Rieger/USA TODAY SportsKansas and coach Charlie Weis were finally able to celebrate a Big 12 win on Saturday, ending a 27-game conference losing skid.
Team of the week: Oklahoma State was dominant in its 38-13 victory at Texas. But team of the week honors go to Kansas, which finally snapped a 27-game Big 12 losing streak with a 31-19 victory over West Virginia. The Jayhawks snapped the streak with authority, too, leading the Mountaineers 31-7 at one point in the fourth quarter. Kansas had been showing mild improvement throughout the season but couldn’t string together a performance over the course of an entire game. Saturday, Charlie Weis’ bunch finally did just that, giving the Jayhawks something tangible to build off moving forward.

Disappointment of the week: The Longhorns had a chance to set up a de facto Big 12 title game with Baylor in the regular-season finale. Instead, Oklahoma State handed Texas its biggest home loss of the Mack Brown era. The Cowboys completely shut down the Texas offense, including quarterback Case McCoy, who threw three interceptions. Texas is still technically alive in the Big 12 title race. But Brown has a better chance of being the coach in Austin next year than Texas does of winning the Big 12 championship.

Big (offensive) men on campus: Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf, Kansas running back James Sims and Baylor receiver Levi Norwood.

Chelf delivered the second-highest adjusted QBR (97.3) of the weekend in college football while leading Oklahoma State to its biggest win of the season. He threw for 197 yards and ran for another 95 while accounting for four touchdowns.

Sims was phenomenal against West Virginia, with 211 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries. His 68-yard scoring run 28 seconds before halftime proved to be the pivotal play in the game. Sims (914 yards) trails only West Virginia’s Charles Sims (946 yards) for the Big 12 rushing title.

Norwood picked up where Tevin Reese left off. With Reese out with a dislocated wrist, Norwood exploded against Texas Tech with 156 yards receiving. Norwood also had touchdown receptions of 40 and 58 yards and a 58-yard punt-return touchdown.

Big (defensive) men on campus: Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert and Kansas linebacker Ben Goodman.

Gilbert had maybe the finest game of his career, picking off McCoy twice. Gilbert leads the Big 12 with six interceptions.

Goodman halted a potential West Virginia scoring drive in the third quarter. He picked off quarterback Paul Millard at the line of scrimmage, then rumbled 54 yards to the Mountaineers' 14-yard line. Sims capitalized on the turnover with a 2-yard touchdown that put the Jayhawks up 24-7.

Special-teams players of the week: Kansas State kicker Jack Cantele and Oklahoma returner Jalen Saunders.

Cantele had never attempted a game-winning field goal before. But when the time came, he delivered, nailing a 41-yard kick with three seconds remaining to lift the Wildcats to a 33-31 win over TCU. Cantele converted his other three field-goal attempts, too, and the Wildcats needed every one of them.

With Iowa State leading OU 10-3 in the second quarter, Saunders broke off a 91-yard punt return TD to tie the game. The Sooners scored 45 unanswered points the rest of the way to rout the Cyclones.

Play of the week: Late in the second quarter of Oklahoma State's victory at Texas, Gilbert intercepted a McCoy pass intended for Kendall Sanders (who decommitted from Oklahoma State to sign with the Longhorns) and then raced 43 yards for his second pick-six of the season. The play put the Cowboys up 28-10 just 18 seconds before halftime, and Oklahoma State was firmly in control the rest of the way.

Stat of the week: Baylor now has six 60-point games this season. The only other FBS team with more than two is Ohio State, which has three.

Quote of the week: “I've warned them, this is different than the Big East. The days of just showing up and playing [are over].” -- West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, after his team became bowl-ineligible after a loss to Kansas

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 12

November, 17, 2013
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Recognizing the best of the best from the Big 12 in Week 12:

RB James Sims, Kansas: The senior rushed for 211 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries, and you know he would’ve traded the stats for a victory if given a chance. On Saturday he got both, as Kansas broke its 27-game Big 12 losing streak with a 31-19 upset of West Virginia. With freshman Montell Cozart at QB, Kansas ran the ball 55 times and threw on 12 plays, with just five completions. Going all-in on the run game paid off big, and the Jayhawks have Sims’ monster day to thank.

WR Levi Norwood, Baylor: The Bears were in need of a big-play threat after losing Tevin Reese for the year. They’ve found one in Norwood, who helped save the day in the first quarter with a 40-yard touchdown catch and a 58-yard punt return for a score after Baylor fell behind 14-0. Norwood finished with seven catches for 156 yards and two scores and 244 all-purpose yards in all.

CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State: Gilbert was the game-changer for OSU in a 38-13 win at Texas. He returned his first interception of Case McCoy 43 yards in the final minute of the first half to put the Cowboys up 28-10, and he snagged another interception off McCoy on a deep ball late in the third quarter. He also finished second on the team with nine tackles on the day.

RB Damien Williams and QB Trevor Knight, Oklahoma: Neither started the game for Oklahoma, but both got the Sooner offense running with their own running. Knight replaced Blake Bell and had a modest passing day, but he ran for 123 yards on 10 carries with a 56-yard score. Williams put up 128 yards and two touchdowns, with one coming from 69 yards out, to put Oklahoma back on track to a blowout win.

K Jack Cantele, Kansas State: Let’s give some love to a kicker for once. Cantele was a perfect 4-for-4 on his attempts against TCU, hitting the easy ones from 31, 34 and 23 and then making a 41-yarder with 3 seconds remaining to give K-State the 33-31 win and secure bowl eligibility.

RB Shock Linwood, Baylor: We’re giving a bonus one to Linwood for another stellar performance filling in for the injured duo of Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin. Linwood carried 29 times for 187 yards and one touchdown. The third-stringer remains No. 2 in the Big 12 in rushing at 101.5 yards per game. He got some help from freshman Devin Chafin, who ran for 100 yards and two scores on 11 rushes.

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.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 9

October, 24, 2013
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A huge showdown in Norman, a statement game in Fort Worth and a must-win game (for both teams) in Manhattan are just a few of the many things we’ll be keeping an eye on Saturday. Here’s what to watch in the Big 12 for Week 9:

[+] EnlargeDavis Webb
AP Photo/Chris JacksonOklahoma will be the biggest test to date for Davis Webb and undefeated Texas Tech.
1. Time to earn that top-10 ranking, Red Raiders. Texas Tech debuted at No. 10 in the initial BCS standings thanks to the not-so-fine work of five top-10 teams who lost last week. This week, the nation finds out just how good these Red Raiders really are. Oklahoma has been in an unmistakably odd funk the past two weeks but is still the No. 15 team in the country. A win by any margin in Norman would be huge.

2. So … who’s Oklahoma State’s starting quarterback? Hate to be intellectually lazy and go for the low-hanging fruit, but this battle is ultimately a pretty big deal in the context of the Big 12 title race. Clint Chelf finally got the second chance he’d been waiting for and helped Oklahoma State finish off TCU last week. Does Mike Gundy go with the fairly logical choice of starting Chelf against Iowa State and working in J.W. Walsh as a run-pass option? Does Walsh win his job back in practice this week? Or, more important, will OSU even have an answer to its QB question after Saturday?

3. Sooners looking to plug the leaks. Since losing Corey Nelson and Jordan Phillips for the season, Oklahoma has given up a combined 440 rushing yards the past two weeks. This is still, statistically, the No. 1 pass defense in the country, but you know Kliff Kingsbury will draw up a plan to try to exploit OU’s deficiencies up the middle early on. And he did operate the No. 1 rushing offense in the SEC last season, so it’s not as if he’s afraid to lean on his rushing attack if necessary. The Sooners have to find some answers this weekend.

4. Does TCU keep its up-down streak one more week? Through seven games, the Horned Frogs have followed every loss with a win … and every win with a loss. So, following the loss in Stillwater last Saturday, doesn’t this week call for a victory over Texas? The timing might be just right. The Longhorns, after all, are coming to Fort Worth bursting with confidence following their Oklahoma victory and would be in trouble if they underestimate TCU.

5. Rebuilding West Virginia’s confidence. West Virginia defensive coordinator Keith Patterson had one of the best, most honest quotes of the Big 12 season this week when he said this about WVU’s 73-42 loss to Baylor: "The deal at Baylor was unlike anything I've ever been associated with in my life. It was just catastrophic in a lot of ways to our psyche." Then Texas Tech escaped Morgantown with a 37-27 win. The big question is if the Mountaineers defense will respond this week against Kansas State.

6. Is the Texas defense becoming legit? Texas’ defense made such drastic improvements against Oklahoma, in so many areas, that you have to wonder how much was the Longhorns’ doing and how much was OU ineptitude. Greg Robinson got another two weeks to work with the defense since that win, and a repeat performance -- even against a struggling TCU outfit -- would send a message that Texas is in fact on the right track.

7. What does Sams do for an encore? Remember, anyone and everyone still has a shot at winning the silver medal at quarterback in the Big 12. In his most significant action of the season, quarterback Daniel Sams rushed for 199 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries and gave Baylor a serious test two weeks ago. That wasn’t enough to end K-State’s losing streak, but a similar performance against West Virginia might be more than enough for a 'W.'

8. Can Iowa State get its magic back? So it’s not exactly on par with Iowa State’s revered "Hilton Magic" home-court advantage in basketball, but the Cyclones have pulled off a few upsets at Jack Trice Stadium. You might remember the big one from 2011, when ISU stunned No. 2 Oklahoma State in two overtimes on Nov. 18. Think Paul Rhoads is going to use a little tape from that game as motivation this week? His teams are good for one big upset every year, and the Pokes already have suffered that road loss at West Virginia.

9. Can Kansas find a weakness in the Baylor D? Kansas running back James Sims is coming off probably his best game this season, a 129-yard, two-touchdown performance against a typically difficult Oklahoma defense. He played a big role in KU’s early 13-0 lead in that game. Can he make a dent against Baylor’s defense? We’ll also be keeping an eye on true freshman quarterback Montell Cozart, who could be called upon as a rushing weapon in this game and just might catch the Bears by surprise.

10. Will Baylor surpass 70 again? Maybe the better question is, will Baylor cover? The Bears are 34.5-point favorites entering their trip to Kansas. This game is basically the Big 12’s version of Broncos versus Jaguars, except for one thing: The Bears have played on the road only once this season and were held to 35 points by Kansas State. A win over KU probably won’t impress many, but road play is one of the only question marks facing Baylor at this point.

What we learned in the Big 12: Week 4

September, 22, 2013
9/22/13
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Iowa State, TCU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were all off. But we still learned plenty about the Big 12 in Week 4:

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsBaylor QB Bryce Petty leads the nation in QBR and the Bears have been nearly unstoppable in its nonconference games.
1. Baylor can’t be stopped: What the Bears have accomplished in three nonconference games has been incredible. Sure, the nonconference slate was bad. But the numbers Baylor is putting up are absurd. Capped with the 70-7 win over Monroe, the Bears outscored their three nonconference opponents by a combined score of 209-23 -- the largest scoring differential in an opening three games, according to ESPN Stats & Information, by any FBS team of the past 10 seasons. The Bears lead the nation in scoring, Bryce Petty leads in the nation in QBR and running back Lache Seastrunk is averaging 11 yards per carry. This offense, obviously, faces tougher tests ahead. But Baylor has the look of an offense that will be scoring on everyone it faces.

2. West Virginia can’t score: How far the West Virginia offense has fallen since that 70-point outburst in the 2011 Orange Bowl. In the first half against Maryland, the West Virginia offensive effort was futile. West Virginia compiled 65 yards compared to 61 yards in penalties; the Mountaineers also had as many first downs (two) as interceptions in the first half, as Maryland jumped to a 30-0 halftime lead before coasting to the 37-0 victory in Baltimore. Coach Dana Holgorsen said afterward he’s sticking with Ford Childress at quarterback, but the quarterback can only do so much with the West Virginia offensive line and receivers. Had running backs Charles Sims and Dreamius Smith not transferred in, this offense would be completely hopeless -- assuming it isn’t already.

3. Texas proved it doesn’t always lie down: During Big 12 media days, Kansas State linebacker Tre Walker was quoted saying that “Texas laid down a little bit” in their game last season because “that’s what they do.” Despite tumbling in with a two-game losing streak, the Longhorns didn’t lie down Saturday, instead grinding out a 31-21 win over the Wildcats. Who knows what -- if anything -- the win will do for Mack Brown or the Longhorns’ season? At the least, the win offered a little respite for a team that’s had to endure nothing but negativity since the first week of the season.

4. The Kansas schools have issues offensively: Both Kansas and Kansas State should be better offensively than what they’ve showed. Despite having former blue-chipper Jake Heaps at quarterback and one of the league’s better running back tandems in Tony Pierson and James Sims, the Jayhawks needed 10 points in the fourth quarter to edge out Louisiana Tech, 13-10. Meanwhile, against a Texas defense that had been porous stopping the run, the Wildcats managed just 115 yards rushing on 38 carries. If not for wideout Tyler Lockett, K-State might not have scored the whole night. Both the Kansas and K-State offenses have good players. Just not good offenses at the moment.

5. Texas Tech is back to square one at QB: For the second straight game, Davis Webb replaced fellow true freshman Baker Mayfield at quarterback. Last week, it was due to injury. In Saturday’s sloppy 33-7 win over Texas State, it was due mostly to the offense remaining stagnant, though Mayfield did get shaken up after taking a shot to his back. Mayfield completed 13 of 18 passes for 122 yards and an interception before getting replaced. But Webb didn’t fare all that much better, going 19-of-43 passing for 310 yards and an interception. Webb also badly missed Jakeem Grant and Jace Amaro wide open in the end zone near the end of the game. Coach Kliff Kingsbury said both quarterbacks would play going forward, but he also noted the position “just has to get better.” It’s unclear how Kingsbury will use his quarterbacks, but Michael Brewer is getting closer to practicing again after sitting out the past several weeks with a back injury. Brewer, the projected starter going into the preseason, could ultimately become Kingsbury’s answer at quarterback once he returns.

Diagnosing the Big 12

September, 18, 2013
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Texas is crumbling, Oklahoma appears to be on the right track, Texas Tech has surprised and Oklahoma State remains the favorite. Here are some things that are ailing the Big 12 and some cures for those ailments:

What’s ailing the Big 12

Losing to FCS teams. After a summer in which Big 12 coaches touted the overall depth of the conference, Iowa State and Kansas State -- both bowl teams in 2012 -- lost to FCS opponents in Week 1. West Virginia escaped with a late win over FCS opponent William and Mary. Big 12 teams already have lost seven nonconference games, including against Ole Miss (over Texas), LSU (over TCU) and Iowa (over Iowa State).

The cure

Don’t talk about it, be about it. Oklahoma State did knock off Mississippi State and OU gets a shot at Notre Dame on Sept. 28, so all is not lost. But the league’s reputation has taken a hit.

On to Part II:

What’s ailing the Big 12

Lack of defense. The Big 12 has a reputation for poor defense. While nobody in the league likes that reputation, nobody’s done much to change it during nonconference play. The league average is 19.3 points and 384.5 yards allowed per game against FBS schools during the first three weeks of the season. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech have had strong single-game performances, but no Big 12 defense looks dominant.

The cure

Is there one? Things aren’t going to get any easier for Big 12 defenses when conference play begins. All is not lost for Big 12 defensive coordinators, however, because several Big 12 squads remain riddled with uncertainty at quarterback. This isn’t the Big 12 of old when defenses had to slow Robert Griffin III one week, then deal with Brandon Weeden the next. So there’s hope for Big 12 defenses. But based on the first three weeks, don’t hold your breath.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Zuma Press/Icon SMIPotential Big 12 breakout stars haven't emerged yet in 2013, but Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty could be on the verge of becoming one.
Part III:

What’s ailing the Big 12

Fluid quarterback situations. The season is 3 weeks old, yet 22 quarterbacks on Big 12 teams have thrown at least one pass this season, and 17 of them are in double digits in pass attempts. Blowouts have played a role in those numbers, but 15 quarterbacks have started a game in the 10-team league. Meanwhile, Oklahoma, West Virginia, TCU and Oklahoma State already are pinning their futures on the shoulders of a quarterback who didn’t take the first snap of the 2013 season.

The cure

Better quarterback play. Oklahoma State's J.W. Walsh, Oklahoma’s Blake Bell and West Virginia’s Ford Childress appeared to have upgraded their team’s offenses when they took over. TCU’s Trevone Boykin has a ton of talent, but he hasn’t become the run-pass threat he should be to this point. And Texas ... they’ve got other problems.

Part IV:

What’s ailing the Big 12

What happened to RG III, Tavon Austin, etc? There seems to be a lack of star power in the league. Stars were expected to emerge early this season, but they’ve been few and far between. Several standouts such as Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk, Kansas’ James Sims and Oklahoma State's Josh Stewart have performed well, but supplemental stars haven't emerged. Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty is showing good signs and several other players have had strong single-game performances. But the lack of legitimate game-changing performers is a surprise.

The cure

Time will tell. Petty, Oklahoma's Bell, TCU’s B.J. Catalon and others have the shown the potential to be stars, but the difference between stars and good players is pretty simple. Stars play like stars. Every single week. No excuses.

And finally, Part V:

What’s ailing the Big 12

Nobody has been challenged. Oklahoma State, Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas Tech are the current favorites to win the conference. Now, which from that foursome has recorded the best victories so far? Oklahoma State's victory over Mississippi State leads the pack, followed by Texas Tech’s win over TCU. Do we really know anything about these favorites? And what about Texas, West Virginia, Kansas State and TCU? It’s not crazy to think they can recover and insert themselves in the Big 12 race. (Sorry, Kansas and Iowa State, but you’ll have to prove it on the field.)

The cure

Conference play. We’ll start to learn how good Baylor and Petty really are in October. And the same can be said for a host of Big 12 teams and players. True favorites will start to separate themselves and pretenders will fall by the wayside. Some players with potential will blossom into stars, and other potential standouts will continue to flash some upside, but lack consistency. Should be a fun October.

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.

Big 12 preseason power rankings

August, 26, 2013
8/26/13
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Preseason camps have wrapped up around the Big 12, and it’s time teams focused on their openers this weekend.

It’s also time for the first Big 12 power rankings, which will appear on the blog at the beginning of each week throughout the season.

This list will change, obviously, but here is the starting point for how the Big 12 teams stack up going into Week 1:

1. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys were competitive last season, despite shuffling through three inexperienced quarterbacks. Even if Mike Gundy makes good on his promise to play both Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh, quarterback figures to be a strength this time. Weapons abound offensively, and seven starters return on defense. The schedule also favors the Pokes, with TCU, Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State all slated to visit Stillwater.

2. TCU: The Horned Frogs have the best defense in the league, maybe by far. Among the contenders, they also have -- by far -- the most difficult schedule, which begins this weekend with a neutral-site showdown with LSU. Can TCU survive the gauntlet? That hinges heavily on Casey Pachall, who has the talent to quarterback the Frogs to the Big 12 title -- even against a brutal schedule.

3. Oklahoma: Bob Stoops stunned the college football world last week by announcing Trevor Knight as his starter. There could be bumps in the road early for the redshirt freshman quarterback. But Knight’s potential appears to be vast, and he could become a lethal weapon out of the Sooners’ new read-option offense. If that happens, and Mike Stoops can get something out of an unproven defense, there’s no reason OU can’t win a ninth Big 12 championship.

4. Texas: On paper, the Longhorns would deserve to be at the top of this list. Unfortunately, for them, football is not played on paper. Texas returns 19 starters and appears formidable at every position on either side of the ball. Something, however, has been missing intangibly from this program the past three years, underscored by two consecutive no-shows in the Red River Rivalry. Can the Horns rediscover their mojo? If so, the rest of the league could be in trouble -- because the talent and experience is there in Austin.

5. Baylor: The Bears deserve to be in the same tier with Oklahoma State, TCU, OU and Texas. In other words, they are a viable Big 12 title contender. Seven starters return on a defense that uncovered an opportunistic identity last November, and the offense is, well, loaded. Then again, there’s something to be said for having done it before, which Baylor has not. The schedule is favorable early, but the Bears’ mettle will be put to the test in November-December when they face all four teams ahead of them in the power ranks.

6. Kansas State: Bill Snyder’s bunch has surprised the past two years with heady quarterback play and stingy defense. With a QB battle ongoing and only two defensive starters returning, it’s difficult to envision K-State winning double-digit games again with the same formula. That said, the Wildcats might have the best blocking line in the league, and three of the better playmakers in Tyler Lockett, Tramaine Thompson and John Hubert. You know Snyder will have his team well coached, too. In other words, the Wildcats should not be discounted.

7. West Virginia: West Virginia lost three of the best offensive players in the history of its program, and yet there’s still a lot to like about this offense. The Mountaineers added some talented junior-college transfers, and Houston transfer Charles Sims could be a star in the Big 12. Even though the defense will be improved, it probably won’t be good enough for West Virginia to contend; but it might be enough for the Mountaineers to top last year’s win total.

8. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are in a state of flux at the moment with their quarterback situation. Projected starter Michael Brewer continues to battle a bad back, which means first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury could wind up starting a true freshman Friday night at SMU. With running back Kenny Williams, wideout Eric Ward and tight end Jace Amaro, there’s more than enough around the quarterback for Tech to be prolific offensively. But unless Brewer gets healthy, it’s hard to see Tech maximizing its offensive potential.

9. Iowa State: Consistent quarterback play has been the one thing that’s kept Iowa State from becoming anything more than a .500 team in the Paul Rhoads era. Can sophomore Sam Richardson finally be the guy who turns that around? The Cyclones are banking he is. Richardson has some tools, and he played well in limited action last year with eight touchdowns compared to just one pick. He’ll need to stay efficient to offset a defense in rebuilding mode.

10. Kansas: Coach Charlie Weis said last month Kansas doesn’t deserve to be put anywhere but in last place. The Jayhawks should be better than last season, especially with former blue-chip prospect Jake Heaps now quarterbacking them. Running backs James Sims and Tony Pierson are dynamic, too. But will that be enough to pull Kansas out of the basement?

ESPN.com's 2012 All-Big 12 team

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

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

OFFENSE

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

DEFENSE

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

SPECIALISTS:

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

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

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Q&A: Kansas RB James Sims

November, 16, 2012
11/16/12
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Since returning from a three-game suspension to begin the season, no Big 12 back has been better than Kansas' James Sims. He's rushed for at least 100 yards in six consecutive games, and averages nearly five yards a carry. KU hasn't won a game in seven tries since Sims' return, but they've come close on a handful of occasions. Sims has helped make that happen.

He took some time this week to sit down with ESPN.com.

How would you describe this season for you so far?

James Sims: It's been all right, but as far as us not winning games, I wish it had looked a little different.

[+] EnlargeJames Sims
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesJames Sims and the Jayhawks will try to get their first conference win of the season against Iowa State.
What were you expecting of yourself coming into this season?

JS: I was expecting to be a big part of the offense. When I sat down with Coach Weis at the beginning, he told me I was going to be a big part of this offense, and that's going on right now.

What was the toughest part of having to sit out the first three games?

JS: Just not being out there with my team. I made a mistake, and I had to suffer the consequence for it. It was just tough on me, but it was the best thing for me.

How have you been able to have the kind of impact that you've had so far?

JS: I think it's because of my offensive linemen. They've been doing a good job of opening up the holes for me. They're doing a great job up front for me this past season.

Where have you grown most as a player since last year?

JS: Being more committed and more into it than just into my own thing or what not. I've become more patient as a runner and I see the holes better and reading my blocks better than I ever have before.

What's been the toughest part of coming so close these past few weeks to getting a win?

JS: It's been pretty tough. Close games, you always want to come out with a win. You always want to come out on that side, so it hurt. It's tough. But we just have to come back and practice and get better.

Your coach said this week that he felt like last week was the first time all season he didn't see a 'woe is me' attitude on the sideline. Why do you think you turned that corner in terms of your mindset?

JS: We just came together, you know? We wanted to finish the season off strong. We've gotten into conference and it hasn't been good for us. We've been close, but we've fell short. So, we've come together as a team and just been sure we want to close out the season strong.

What's got to happen for you to get over the hump and get a win?

JS: Us preparing each week in practice, taking it day by day and not taking plays off. Just giving it your all in everything.

Where has this team seen the most improvement from last year to this year?

JS: I would say more like finishing games after last year when we got down and that was it. We'd just give up. Now, we've had more fight in us, not giving up in the second half.

What's changed that's allowed you guys to do that?

JS: It's just changed the mindset of we can't lay down, whether the game is going good or going bad.

What's it going to be like if you can get that win?

JS: It's going to be great. We've waited for so long to get over the hump, it'll feel real good once we get over it.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 12

November, 15, 2012
11/15/12
10:15
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Here's what I'm keeping an eye on in the Big 12 this week:

1. Remember all the little people. K-State has dealt with the distraction and hype really well this season. The Wildcats have been consistent and solid every week. This week, though, the pressure is at a whole new level. They're the nation's No. 1 team. Collin Klein's presence will test the Sports Illustrated cover jinx. Oklahoma State lost in its 11th game last season. K-State should roll Baylor on paper, but can it keep its focus in uncharted territory?

2. To care or not to care, that is the question. West Virginia was hyped all offseason for this game. Carrying a four-game losing streak into the Oklahoma game was not part of the plan, though. It's asking a lot for fans to come in droves and provide a big-time atmosphere. Will the Mountaineers fans do it and try to help their team reach bowl eligibility? Tough test for a fan base that has had a pretty terrible month or so and hasn't seen a win since Oct. 6 or a win in its home stadium since Sept. 29.

[+] EnlargeBaylor's Lache Seastrunk
Denny Medley/US PRESSWIRELache Seastrunk (25) rushed for 91 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries against Oklahoma.
3. Baylor breaks out its Jet Ski. Lache Seastrunk was officially set free last week, emerging as Baylor's No. 1 back with three touchdowns. Can he go to work against K-State's front seven this week, a solid unit headlined by Arthur Brown but still missing Tre Walker? Jarell Childs has played well, but Seastrunk's game-breaking speed could come into play.

4. Just do it. If Kansas is going to beat Iowa State, it will do so on the backs of its, uh, backs. Tony Pierson and James Sims are fantastic. Charlie Weis talked about needing to do creative things to run the ball when everybody knows the Jayhawks are going to run the ball. Well, everybody knows KU is going to run the ball. What does Weis have prepared this week for KU's best chance to crack its 19-game Big 12 losing streak?

5. Get a medical team on it, stat. Klein's injury saga is over, but K-State has more injury issues this week to keep an eye on. Starting safety Ty Zimmerman left the stadium in a boot last week, and Tyler Lockett suffered an ankle injury late against TCU. Both are key pieces to the nation's No. 1 team. Will they play, and will they do so effectively? All bets are off in this one.

6. At what point does someone start swiping chairs? Oklahoma State has played musical chairs at quarterback, and it shocked a lot of folks when Mike Gundy confirmed J.W. Walsh was available last week but didn't play. He is not on the depth chart this week, instead with an "or" between Clint Chelf and Wes Lunt. The good news: All three can play, and OSU can win with all of them. The bad news: This is turning into a bit of a circus. At least it's unpredictable for opponents, so that plays to OSU's advantage while the competition has to prepare for all three.

7. If you're so inKleined. A.J. Klein has had a quiet couple of games since Jake Knott's injury, making just 11 tackles total in the past two games after tallying at least 11 in three of the past five before Klein left the field. Klein has moved to weakside linebacker and wants more production out of the position. Iowa State needs that while Jeremiah George replaces Knott and the duo teams up to slow KU's running game.

8. Gotta fix the leaks. Oklahoma dominated Baylor's passing game, but the defense was hot after the game after giving up a season-high 252 yards on the ground to the Bears. Can WVU's Shawne Alston and Andrew Buie have a little success? Dana Holgorsen wasn't happy with the Mountaineers' run game, but this matchup will have an influence on the winner in Morgantown.

9. Time for the hook ... again? Steele Jantz has gone back to struggling after tearing up Baylor. He completed just more than 50 percent of his passes in consecutive weeks -- both losses -- and hasn't topped 200 yards through the air with one touchdown to three picks. If he struggles again, does Jared Barnett get a shot against KU? I seem to remember another Big 12 team switching QBs late and having it pay off.

Kansas keeps fighting after close calls

November, 14, 2012
11/14/12
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For the second time in three weeks, Kansas' defense took the field with a lead and a chance to win a Big 12 game. The first occasion came against Texas back on Oct. 27.

Case McCoy converted a fourth down at midfield and kept the Longhorns moving, punching in a game-winning touchdown with 12 seconds to play.

Saturday, KU got on the board first in the first overtime, but couldn't get the game-winning stop and lost in the next overtime.

The Big 12 losing streak stretched to 19 games and Kansas left the field with that same sinking, losing feeling, perhaps intensified by how close the Jayhawks came to experiencing the intoxicating high of a hard-earned win.

Two games. The same result.

Except that it wasn't. At least, not entirely.

"The most positive thing that came out of the game is it wasn’t a ‘woe is me’ on the sideline at any time during the game," Jayhawks coach Charlie Weis said. "I think normally, when a team gets in a habit of losing, when one thing goes bad in a game, it’s like, 'OK, here we go again.' This was the first time in awhile where I felt that way, that no one was like, 'Here we go again.'"

Weis saw that feeling against Texas, even though the Jayhawks made plays and a go-ahead field goal in the final minutes that got them oh-so-close to setting off a memorable celebration at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence.

"In this game, the team is starting to get past that waiting for something bad to happen and instead trying to make something good happen, and I think that’s a good thing," Weis said.

The next opportunity should be the Jayhawks' best out of a dwindling number of chances to snap the Big 12 streak before the end of the 2012 season. Iowa State beat Kansas just 13-10 in Ames last season, and the Cyclones are coming off a 33-7 beating against the same Texas team the Jayhawks nearly nabbed last month.

"Every week we do something a little bit different. I already got some things that I talked to the team about yesterday," Weis said. "When the team gets into that rut when they get used to losing, I think that you have to make sure you have fresh ideas each week so that the team doesn’t get stale."

Sometimes that means trick plays. The Jayhawks successfully converted a fake punt and a fake field goal on one drive against Kansas State earlier this year. Sometimes it's new wrinkles. That's been a necessity in the running game that's ridden James Sims to six consecutive 100-yard rushing games.

"Everything we’ve done this year will just make us better going forward, because now we’ve had to come up with more and more innovative ways to try and run the ball when everyone knows we’re trying running the ball," Weis said.

Even if Kansas can't snap the streak this year, the progress it made in the past month will eventually become even more evident, Weis says.

"When you get into an offseason where you develop your passing game, which has been very inefficient, but you develop your passing game to be a compliment to this running game that you’ve been progressing all year," he said. "That investment in the running game will just make you that much better once your passing game becomes more efficient."

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