NCF Nation: Jaz Reynolds

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 7

October, 14, 2013
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Taking stock of Week 7 in the Big 12:

Team of the week: Texas. Not only did the Longhorns pull off the biggest Red River upset in 17 years, they completely reversed the outlook of their season. At 3-0 in the Big 12 standings, Texas is right in the middle of the conference race. The Longhorns also finally found an identity in Dallas, which could make them a tough out during the second half of the season. The Longhorns ran the ball with authority between the tackles behind their experienced offensive line, which took pressure off quarterback Case McCoy. Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, meanwhile, disguised his defenses beautifully and utilized Texas’ speed in timely blitzes. Baylor remains the favorite to win the Big 12 crown. But Texas, which travels to Baylor in the regular-season finale, could be a factor. What a difference a week makes.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
Jackson Laizure/Getty ImagesBlake Bell had one of the worst performances statistically by an OU QB since 2005.
Disappointment of the week: Oklahoma. While Texas found its identity in the Cotton Bowl, the Sooners seemingly lost theirs. The defense’s Achilles' heel resurfaced from last season, as Oklahoma couldn’t stop the run. That made the Sooners vulnerable against deep passes, which McCoy capitalized on with a pair of long touchdowns. As much as the defense struggled, the offense looked completely lost. Blake Bell took four sacks, threw two interceptions and was utterly miserable on third down. Bell’s QBR on third down, in fact, was 0.1 percent (he had been 89.8 on third downs coming into the game). Bell wasn’t much better the rest of the game with an Adjusted QBR of 2.8, which was the fourth-worst single-game adjusted QBR of any FBS quarterback this season. Curiously, Bob Stoops said the offensive staff didn’t feel comfortable running Bell in this game. And the Sooners couldn’t figure out which running back to feature, with no back receiving more than seven carries. This is a team that doesn’t look like it knows who it is all of a sudden.

Big (offensive) men on campus: The Texas offensive line, Kansas State quarterback Daniel Sams and Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro.

The most experienced offensive line in the Big 12 blocked like it at the most opportune of times. Kennedy Estelle, Mason Walters, Dominic Espinosa, Trey Hopkins and Donald Hawkins paved the way for Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown to become the first Texas duo to top 100 rushing yards apiece in the same Red River game. The Bevos up front also kept McCoy upright, as the Texas quarterback was not sacked all day and barely pressured, either.

In Manhattan, Sams played valiantly in K-State’s 35-25 loss to Baylor. He rushed for 199 yards and three touchdowns and almost single-handedly kept the Wildcats scoring with the high-powered Bears. Sams' late interception that effectively ended the game was a huge mistake. But his 86.1 Adjusted QBR was 13th-best in college football for the week. Sams now is second in the Big 12 in Adjusted QBR (86.5) for the year, trailing only Baylor’s Bryce Petty (95.1).

Amaro continues to be a security blanket for Texas Tech’s true freshman quarterbacks. Against Iowa State, he had his best game yet with nine receptions for 143 yards. Amaro leads the Big 12 with 47 receptions. Teammate Eric Ward is second with 34.

Big (defensive) men on campus: Kansas State defensive end Ryan Mueller, Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon and Texas defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed.

Along with Sams, Mueller was a major reason the Wildcats were in the game in the fourth quarter. In what might be the defensive highlight of the season in the Big 12 so far, Mueller stripped Petty while simultaneously recovering the fumble to set K-State with field position in the third quarter that would turn into a go-ahead touchdown. Mueller finished with seven tackles, two sacks and a pass breakup.

Dixon, meanwhile, came up with the defensive play of the game, as he beelined to the sideline to intercept Sams with four minutes to play. Off the turnover, the Baylor offense sealed the victory with a touchdown that put the Bears up two scores.

Jeffcoat and Reed, meanwhile, were terrific against the Sooners. The swarming defensive end duo totaled three sacks and kept the Oklahoma running backs from bouncing much of anything outside.

[+] EnlargeDaje Johnson
AP Photo/Brandon WadeDaje Johnson delivered Texas' first punt return for a touchdown since 2009.
Special-teams players of the week: Texas returner Daje Johnson, Texas kicker Anthony Fera and Iowa State returner Jarvis West.

Johnson delivered the dagger to the Sooners with a weaving 85-yard punt return touchdown late in the third quarter, which put the Longhorns ahead 30-13. It was Texas’ first punt return touchdown since Jordan Shipley did it in 2009. Fera came up big on special teams, too. He nailed a 43-yard field goal right before halftime that stymied the Sooners’ momentum from a long Roy Finch kick return that led to a touchdown the previous drive. Fera also nailed 50- and 31-yard field goals to be perfect on the day.

West kept the Cyclones above water in the first half as the Iowa State offense struggled. His 95-yard kickoff return -- Iowa State’s first non-onside kick return for a touchdown since 1994 -- tied the game in the first quarter 7-7. West later added a 38-yard punt return, and he finished with three receptions for 36 yards.

Play of the week: With the Red River Rivalry tied 3-3 in the first quarter, Texas' Adrian Phillips came off the edge untouched on a third-down zone blitz and slammed into Bell. The hit caused Bell’s pass to flutter behind intended receiver Jaz Reynolds and into the arms of defensive tackle Chris Whaley, who rumbled 31 yards for the touchdown. The Longhorns never gave up the lead the rest of the way.

Stat of the week: Bell’s QBR against Texas was the lowest by an Oklahoma quarterback since Rhett Bomar posted a 1.6 against Tulsa in 2005.

Quote of the week: "We love the guy. We’re playing for the guy. You all keep writing those articles bad about him. We’ll keep playing for him." -- McCoy on coach Mack Brown
Officially, Justin Brown is a Sooner.

The Penn State transfer participated in his first Oklahoma practice Tuesday after flying in the night before.

“It was difficult under the circumstances, but it was the decision I thought was best for me and my family,” Brown said in his first interview since leaving Penn State.

Because of NCAA rules, Brown was in shirts and shorts while the rest of the team was in pads. But coach Bob Stoops already likes what he sees.

[+] EnlargeJustin Brown
Tim Heitman/US PresswireJustin Brown will likely be the Sooners' primary punt returner in 2012.
“He was incredibly impressive out there in one day,” Stoops said. “I said to [wide receivers coach Jay] Norvell, ‘Wow, this guy is going to be special in our system.’”

Playing in a run-first offense, Brown was Penn State’s second-leading receiver last season with 35 catches for 517 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Brown couldn’t hold back a smile when talking about playing in Oklahoma’s spread attack featuring veteran quarterback Landry Jones.

“I think everybody gets a chance to showcase their skills in this offense,” Brown said. “They throw the ball a lot and the give the receivers and running backs a lot of opportunities to make plays.”

The Sooners are counting on Brown to make an immediate impact as a position that’s suffered some turmoil this offseason. At the moment, the Sooners have only one non-suspended receiver -- junior Kenny Stills -- who has made a catch wearing an OU uniform. Kameel Jackson was dismissed from the team last week, and Jaz Reynolds and Trey Franks remain suspended.

“I can't say enough, looking out there today and you see him added to the equation, a guy that's a senior that has three years' experience playing and fighting people, crack-back blocking on people, catching the ball,” Stoops said. “He's a natural catching the football. He's going to bring a ton. It's going be exciting.”

Stoops also said that Brown will return punts for the Sooners. Brown ranked 36th nationally in punt returns in 2011 for the Nittany Lions.

“He can run through those arm tackles or people just trying to grab that jersey and pull him down,” Stoops said. “I saw him out there today, he catches them as easy and smooth as anyone I’ve ever seen.”

Brown said the decision to transfer from Penn State in his senior season was an “emotional” one. The toughest part? Telling his teammates.

“They're still my family and I still talk to them every day,” Brown said. “I'm just trying to get to know a new family now.”
Oklahoma sophomore wide receiver Kameel Jackson has been dismissed from the team, head coach Bob Stoops announced Saturday.

Since the spring, Jackson had been suspended indefinitely due in part to issues in the classroom. Earlier in the week, Stoops said that he would review Jackson’s standing after Jackson completed the summer academic session.

Before his suspension became public, Jackson had even tweeted that he would be transferring to Texas A&M. But he returned to OU with a goal of working his way back onto the field.

Jackson caught 12 passes for 165 yards as a true freshman last season. He earned the start in the Insight Bowl after injuries to Ryan Broyles and Jaz Reynolds.

While Jackson kept his scholarship during his suspension, receivers Reynolds and Trey Franks were stripped of theirs. OU put Reynolds and Franks back on scholarship earlier in the week, but Stoops said they would be suspended “multiple” games.

Really sad, surprising news out of Oklahoma today. Here's our news story:
Oklahoma senior Ben Habern's career is over.

The Sooner center won't return to the team after offseason neck surgery that fused together two vertebrae, despite expectations that he would return at full strength this fall.

...

"Our coaching staff knows this was a difficult decision for Ben," [coach Bob] Stoops said in a statement. "Ben has been a consummate leader for our team, both on and off the field. We appreciate the toughness that Ben has displayed, and we wish him the very best as he completes his education at OU."

First things first: Absolutely hate to see this for Habern. I covered the Sooners for The Oklahoman during Habern's freshman year, and he's consistently been a great guy to cover from that point through just last week, when he was chosen as a representative for Oklahoma at Big 12 Media Days.

Here's the video he took time to shoot for us. (Stick around until the end).

It's truly shocking news. Habern must have been thinking about quitting, but didn't know until just recently. If Oklahoma knew Habern's status was in doubt, it's highly unlikely he would have represented the Sooners at media days.

Habern's dealt with neck and back issues throughout his career, which also featured a broken ankle in 2009 and a broken right arm last season that forced him out of five games.

His experience and leadership simply can't be replaced this season. Oklahoma's fantastic offensive line takes a huge hit with his loss.

As for his spot on the depth chart? Look for guard Gabe Ikard (one of the league's best overall linemen) to slide over to play center, and junior Adam Shead to move up and replace Ikard at guard. The Sooners can handle that. Don't be surprised if freshman Ty Darlington gets some time at center, too.

Still, Habern has been around for everything coming into this year, and been a stalwart at center for the past three seasons. He saw the 2009 collapse up close. He was integral in the rebound for a Big 12 title in 2010. He learned from the pressure of 2011.

He talked about his neck surgery at Big 12 media days last week, but gave zero indication he was even thinking about quitting.

Now, he has.

It's a sad story, no doubt, but Oklahoma has no choice but to move on.

As Habern moves on, here's hoping for the best for him. I'm confident he'll excel in his future endeavors.

Suspended players reinstated

In Wednesday's statement, Stoops also said that receiver Trey Franks, defensive back Quentin Hayes and receiver Jaz Reynolds were each reinstated from offseason suspensions, but only for preseason practice. Their availability for Oklahoma's season opener at UTEP on Sept. 1 was still undecided. Receiver Kameel Jackson was not reinstated, and his suspension will be re-evaluated "at the conclusion the current academic session."

Stoops also confirmed previous reports that wide receiver Courtney Gardner and offensive lineman Will Latu would not be available this season.
Four Oklahoma players have been suspended indefinitely for violations of team rules, which could leave the Sooners with just one receiver on the roster for the season opener who has caught a pass.

Coach Bob Stoops announced the suspensions late Wednesday night.

Receivers Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Kameel Jackson and reserve safety Quentin Hayes are the players involved.

No details of the suspensions were made public, but the most troubling aspect? Two of the suspended players have been disciplined before.
This isn't the first time Reynolds has run into trouble with Stoops. Reynolds was suspended twice in 2010, including once after he made insensitive comments on Twitter following a campus shooting at the University of Texas.

This isn't the first time Stoops has punished Franks, either. After starting OU's first two games last season, Franks was suspended two games for what Stoops termed multiple violations of team rules. Franks ended the season with 22 catches for 196 yards.

Jackson, a true freshman last season who started for the Sooners in the Insight Bowl, tweeted earlier in the week that he was transferring from OU.

That's got to be frustrating for Stoops, but there's no doubt it's just as frustrating for quarterback Landry Jones, who's about to embark on an important season for his own career.

He's not getting much help from his teammates.

This story should be interesting to watch, and will have a big impact on the Sooners' Big 12 and national title hopes. Oklahoma was already a narrow favorite in the Big 12, but will the suspensions make way for another contender -- West Virginia, Kansas State, TCU, Texas perhaps? -- to grab the role of favorite come fall?

Big 12 position rankings: Receivers/TEs

February, 14, 2012
2/14/12
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We're continuing our look at the postseason rankings for each position in the Big 12. Here's a look back at where the receivers ranked in the preseason.

In this position, unlike quarterback, depth is a major, major factor in these rankings.

More postseason position rankings:
[+] EnlargeJustin Blackmon
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesJustin Blackmon highlighted Oklahoma State's deep group of receivers this season.
1. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys boasted two-time Biletnikoff winner Justin Blackmon, but he wasn't the only weapon. The Cowboys had nine (!) receivers with at least 19 catches and 200 yards receiving this season. Insane. Life is good with Brandon Weeden at quarterback.

2. Baylor: Kendall Wright actually outperformed Blackmon and Ryan Broyles on the stat sheet, catching 108 balls for 1,663 yards. The Bears didn't have the insane depth of OSU, but the trio of Wright, Terrance Williams (59 rec, 957 yards, 11 TDs) and Tevin Reese (51 rec, 877 yards, 7 TDs) were all in the Big 12's top seven receivers.

3. Texas A&M: Ryan Swope emerged to become one of just four Big 12 receivers to notch 1,000-yard seasons. Jeff Fuller's season was disappointing, but he still finished eighth in the league in receiving, and Uzoma Nwachukwu was in the league's top 15 in receiving.

4. Oklahoma: The Sooners weren't quite as solid as they thought to begin the season. Broyles was as advertised, though his Biletnikoff-contending season was cut short by a torn ACL. The unit was productive, but came down with the drops late in the season. Broyles and Kenny Stills were both in the league's top seven in receiving, and Jaz Reynolds caught 41 passes for 715 yards to crack the top 10.

5. Texas Tech: Tech's top target, Darrin Moore, battled injuries all year, but Eric Ward emerged as the team's most consistent target, catching 84 passes for 800 yards and 11 scores. Alex Torres missed two games, but added 616 more yards.

6. Missouri: The Tigers' receivers had their production dip with a dual-threat passer in James Franklin who ran the ball more than his predecessor, but they were still pretty good, despite lacking a true big-time threat. T.J. Moe caught 54 passes for 649 yards and four scores. Tight end Michael Egnew added 50 grabs for 523 yards and three scores. L'Damian Washington, Marcus Lucas and Wes Kemp had unremarkable individual seasons, but their production added up to a good year for Mizzou's receivers.

7. Kansas State: Kansas State was better than most thought to begin the season, but the ground-based offense limited their receivers' ability to finish with big production. Chris Harper (40 rec, 547 yards, 5 TDs) led the group. Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett showed some good promise, too.

8. Texas: The Longhorns could get really good, really fast at this spot. The uncertainty/struggles at quarterback limited this group, but Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis could both mature into absolute stars. For now, though, they didn't quite crack the top 15 in the Big 12 in receiving. Both topped 40 catches and 600 receiving yards.

9. Iowa State: Darius Reynolds' size downfield will be missed, but Aaron Horne and Josh Lenz are tough covers working the middle of the field. Reynolds caught seven touchdowns, and Horne and Lenz both topped 38 catches.

10. Kansas: Yikes. The Jayhawks didn't have a receiver in the league's top 20, but D.J. Beshears led the team with 40 grabs for 437 yards and three touchdowns. He was the only Jayhawk in the Big 12's top 32 in receiving.

Big 12 recruiting needs in 2012

January, 24, 2012
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Signing day is coming fast. Next Wednesday, the next round of players will sign up for their respective programs and start what could be storied careers.

Here's what each team across the Big 12 needs. You'll find Texas A&M and Mizzou on the SEC blog and West Virginia on the Big East Blog.

BAYLOR

Quarterback: This one's pretty simple. Robert Griffin III is taking his talents to the NFL early. Nick Florence is waiting to take over, and the Bears have Bryce Petty behind him, but more reinforcements at quarterback are needed. Dual-threat quarterbacks, ideally.

Defensive tackle: Baylor already was one of the nation's worst teams (102nd nationally) at stopping the run. Now it'll need to replace both its interior linemen, Nicolas Jean-Baptiste and Tracy Robertson.

Offensive linemen: Baylor's offensive line, meanwhile, has been solid. It loses junior college transfer and two-year starter Robert T. Griffin, as well as All-Big 12 center Philip Blake. John Jones, a reserve guard, also has exhausted his eligibility.

IOWA STATE

Receiver: This has been a weak spot for the team for several years, and its top overall talent, Darius Reynolds, is gone. Darius Darks is, too. Aaron Horne and Josh Lenz will be the team's best weapons in 2012, but the pair of shifty slot guys will be seniors. This position needs reinforcements.

Defensive back: The DBs have been a quiet strength for ISU, especially in 2011. Cornerback Leonard Johnson and safety Ter'Ran Benton both have exhausted their eligibility, though, and defensive backs coach Bobby Elliott left for Notre Dame. You'll see plenty of new faces in the Cyclones' secondary next year.

Defensive line: Experienced starters Stephen Ruempolhamer and Jacob Lattimer are both gone, and Iowa State has struggled to stop the run consistently the past few seasons.

KANSAS

Quarterback: Kansas landed high-profile transfers Dayne Crist (Notre Dame) and Jake Heaps (BYU), but this is still a huge position of need. Last year's starter, Jordan Webb, left the team. Quinn Mecham is out of eligibility. Heaps is sitting out his NCAA-mandated year after transferring. Crist is the starter, but he badly needs a backup, especially if Brock Berglund's transfer appeal allows him to leave.

Wide receiver: Kansas lacks a big threat at this position. It needs a talent upgrade in a big way. Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay is joining the team, but he's no guarantee to a) be granted immediate eligibility or b) become an impact player.

Defensive tackle: Kansas is thin here, too. Richard Johnson, Patrick Dorsey and Michael Martinovich are gone, and Kansas couldn't stop much of anything on defense. Some push up front could help make everything look better. A late addition to the 2012 class from a junior college seems like a no-brainer. The Jayhawks need physically mature players to contribute immediately.

KANSAS STATE

Offensive line: K-State's offensive line was much better in 2011 and could be again in 2012. It needs help replacing All-Big 12 lineman Clyde Aufner, though. Starter Colten Freeze is also gone.

Defensive line: Kansas State is bringing back about as many starters as anyone in the Big 12, but the biggest losses are along the defensive line. Kick-blocking specialist (five in 2011) Ralph Guidry is gone, along with tackle Ray Kibble. Juco transfer Jordan Voelker exploded onto the scene this year, but he's gone, too.

Defensive backs: Cornerback David Garrett leaves a huge hole behind. Tysyn Hartman may not be as talented as teammate Ty Zimmerman, but his experience leaves a big hole. Zimmerman will have to mentor a younger safety in the near future.

OKLAHOMA

Receiver: The Sooners are thin here in a big way. That was obvious late in the season when Ryan Broyles' storied college career ended a few weeks early with a knee injury. The team also lost Justin McCay (transfer) to Kansas. Jaz Reynolds and Kenny Stills are the likely top two targets, but they need help.

Tight end: This position inspired a bit of panic at the end of the season. Seniors James Hanna and Trent Ratterree are gone. Austin Haywood wasn't allowed back on the team, and two more tight ends left the team for various reasons. That left the Sooners suddenly without a scholarship player at the position returning in 2012.

Offensive line: Starting tackle Donald Stephenson must be replaced, as will guard Stephen Good, who moved in and out of the starting lineup throughout his career. The Sooners bring back a lot of talent and aren't dying for depth there, but those two will leave holes. Three more offensive line starters will be seniors in 2012.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Offensive line: The Cowboys need a whole lot of help here to fill in behind young players stepping into the starting lineup. Starters Levy Adcock, Nick Martinez and Grant Garner are gone. Backup center Casey LaBrue is gone, too. Those are two All-Big 12 linemen who leave big shoes to be filled.

Receiver: Justin Blackmon surprised no one by leaving a year early, and Josh Cooper leaves with perhaps the most underrated career of any receiver in school history. In OSU's offense, there's always room for depth here. Nine receivers had at least 19 catches in 2011. Blackmon and Cooper combined for 192, though.

Defensive ends: The pass rush was solid for Oklahoma State this year, but both starters, Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones, are gone. Replacing both is a necessity.

TEXAS

Receiver: Texas lacks a true game-changer at the position, though Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis may develop into that role in 2012. Former blue-chip recruit Darius White left for Missouri, too.

Quarterback: David Ash and Case McCoy didn't show a ton of potential at quarterback this year, though Ash may grow with an offseason to prepare as starter. Garrett Gilbert got a big chunk of the work in the spring, summer 7-on-7 and fall preseason camp. Even if Ash does grow, the Longhorns need reinforcements at the position.

Linebacker: Two senior impact players are gone. Texas is left trying to replace Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson, though Jordan Hicks may mature into a star in 2012.

TCU

Offensive line: TCU's offensive line is headed for some major turnover. OT Robert Deck, OG Kyle Dooley and OG Spencer Thompson are gone. Two more starters, OG Blaize Foltz and C James Fry, will be seniors in 2012.

Defensive linemen: TCU isn't losing a lot at this spot, but Ross Forrest and D.J. Yendrey will be seniors in 2012. The Horned Frogs would be well-served to prepare, and offer some depth next year.

Specialists: TCU will have to break in a pair of new starters on special teams next season. Kicker Ross Evans and punter Anson Kelton have exhausted their eligibility.

TEXAS TECH

Receiver: The Red Raiders' offense requires a lot of depth here. Tramain Swindall is the only loss at the position, but three more (Alex Torres, Cornelius Douglas, Darrin Moore) will be seniors. Douglas moved to cornerback this year after the team was racked with injury, but we'll see whether he moves back this offseason.

Offensive line: Tech has a huge need here. Four players won't be returning in 2012. Lonnie Edwards, Mickey Okafor and center Justin Keown must be replaced.

Defensive linemen: Tech's Donald Langley and Scott Smith are both out of eligibility, and juco transfer Leon Mackey will be a senior.

Early 2012 Big 12 power rankings

January, 10, 2012
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With the season over, it's time to take a look at the Big 12 in 2012. For now, that means assuming a few things. And we all know what assuming does.

It makes us all look like geniuses.

So, for the purpose of this, I'll assume a few predictions. First, I'll assume Robert Griffin III is heading for the NFL. I'll also assume Mike Stoops lands back at Oklahoma.

That said, it's time to project what this league looks like in 2012.

And, before we start, let me make this clear: The Big 12 from 1-6 is absolutely wide open. Last year, the league only had three legitimate title contenders: Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. This year, every one of the top six teams (and maybe seven, if RG3 returns) can win the Big 12 in a realistic scenario. The difference between Nos. 2 and 6 is minuscule and could change a ton by the end of spring practice.

And for the curious: I would have Missouri behind Kansas State on this list, and I'd have Texas A&M right behind Texas.

1. Oklahoma: The Sooners moved into the familiar role of favorite after Landry Jones announced he'd return in 2012, but not nearly as heavy a favorite as they were in 2011. Injuries hurt Oklahoma late this season, and replacing Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Frank Alexander, along with linebacker Travis Lewis and corner Jamell Fleming won't be easy. Receivers Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds have to play big for the Sooners to get the win.

2. Kansas State: The big question mark for this team is can it take care of business and not get stuck in close games in 2012? The Wildcats were 8-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less this season. They can't count on duplicating that in 2012. They should be better, and return most of the big pieces from this season's 10-win team, most importantly quarterback Collin Klein and linebacker Arthur Brown. Next season is the time to prove it.

3. West Virginia: Who else is excited to see Geno Smith, Dana Holgorsen and the Mountaineer Express show up in Big 12 country next season? Like I wrote last week, giving up 33 points and still winning by five touchdowns is the Big 12 way of life. The Mountaineers broke Baylor's week-old bowl scoring record with 70 points, and bring back most of a good Big East champion team in 2012. The transition won't be easy, but they've got a chance to make a big splash in their inaugural year. The Big 12 and West Virginia are both convinced that the Mountaineers will join the Big 12 in 2012 and are planning as if it will happen, though pending lawsuits with the Big East mean it's still unofficial.

4. TCU: The transition will be more difficult for TCU, methinks. Depth could be an issue. There aren't any weeks off in the Big 12. Not even Kansas. Ask Baylor about that one. New Mexico's staying behind in the Mountain West. Eventually, I think TCU has a chance to be on par with Texas and Oklahoma on the recruiting trail and on the field. Being the only team in the metroplex is a huge deal. And it'll bring back a great team with lots of offense, headlined by QB Casey Pachall and receivers Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson, along with Brandon Carter. It'll be fun to watch.

5. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys should sustain success from this year, even though they lose Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon. They don't have to worry about a losing season, but with a first-year starter at quarterback, the odds are against them winning the Big 12. First-year starters have only won the Big 12 twice. Look out for Joseph Randle to have a huge year in 2012. I'm also betting on Clint Chelf to grab the starting QB job, but keep an eye on early enrollee Wes Lunt.

6. Texas: The Longhorns should be better and have lots of upside, but it's looking more and more like this team will only go as far as David Ash will take it. We'll learn just how far that is during spring and summer. This offseason is paramount for Ash's development. He's got to show something big next fall. The defense should be stingy, the offensive line improved and the backfield loaded. It's up to him.

7. Baylor: Sounds like 2012 may be the Nick Florence Show in Waco. Baylor will take a step back without RG3, but we'll see just how much he had around him, which is to say, a lot. Kendall Wright and Terrance Ganaway will be gone, but Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese will get a chance to shine. Oregon transfer Lache Seastrunk will get plenty of preseason attention, too. The Bears look like a fringe bowl team with some upside without RG3.

8. Texas Tech: Tech and Oklahoma State probably have the most upside of any team in these power rankings. The Red Raiders were better than 5-7 this season, but will have to prove it in 2012, and have to stay healthy. Seth Doege, Eric Stephens and Darrin Moore could be a dynamic set of triplets in 2012, and don't rule out a top-three finish for the Red Raiders in 2012.

9. Iowa State: The Cyclones may have a bit of a quarterback controversy in the spring after Steele Jantz reclaimed the quarterback job in the second half of the Pinstripe Bowl. Paul Rhoads joked about it after the game, but he's not joking when it comes to needing one of those guys to push the other. Jared Barnett has more upside, and the Cyclones could certainly grab a third bowl bid in four years if he plays well in 2012. ISU's a good team, but it's stuck in an absurdly deep conference that could have as many as seven (six, most likely, depending on RG3) Top-25 teams to start the season.

10. Kansas: There's a new flavor at KU, and the variables will be unpredictable for this team through spring and fall. The season should be fun. Can Charlie Weis redeem himself? What about Dayne Crist? Was Notre Dame just not the right fit for either? The opportunity to do something special at Kansas is here, and the bar is very, very low after a miserable two years. The defense can't be worse, and the Jayhawks have solid, maturing running backs.

Insight Bowl: Three keys for Oklahoma

December, 30, 2011
12/30/11
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Oklahoma and Iowa will go head to head Friday night in the Insight Bowl at 10 ET on ESPN. Here are three things Oklahoma has to do to avoid a Hawkeyes upset.

1. Help Landry Jones out. His receivers -- sans Ryan Broyles -- have suddenly come down with a case of the dropsies late in the season. Jones will be throwing to lots of new faces without Broyles and Jaz Reynolds, and Kenny Stills hasn't looked like a No. 1 receiver in the Big 12 this season. Guys such as Kameel Jackson, Trey Franks and James Winchester will get reps at receiver. The Sooners can't afford drops in what looks like it'll be a low-scoring game.

2. Don't get fancy in the red zone. Oklahoma tried this against Iowa State, and Blake Bell threw an interception. The Sooners have had a ton of success with the Belldozer -- a Tim Tebow-like formation that allows the 6-foot-6, 245-pounder to burrow through the offensive line -- in the red zone, scoring 10 touchdowns in the past five weeks. Baylor couldn't stop it. Iowa might not be able to, either. But the Sooners have looked shaky in the gadget plays out of this formation. Just let Bell do what he does and make the defense stop it.

3. Win the turnover battle. It sounds simple and obvious, perhaps, but it needs to be said. Oklahoma's offense isn't as explosive as it was when the season began, and if you're a heavily favored team, this is the best way to lose these types of games. Oklahoma lost the turnover battle in spectacular fashion to Oklahoma State, 5-1. The result? The Sooners lost that game by 34 points. Oklahoma lost the battle 3-0 to Baylor and lost to the Bears for the first time in school history. Oklahoma has to take care of the ball.

What to watch in the Big 12 bowls

December, 15, 2011
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Here are a few things to keep an eye on in the bowl games involving teams from the Big 12 this season.

1. The headless Aggies. A team playing in a bowl after firing its coach is a bit of a rarity, but that's where the Aggies are as they prepare to face Northwestern on Dec. 31 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. Defensive coordinator and interim head coach Tim DeRuyter is leaving to become the coach at Fresno State. Former coach Mike Sherman served as their offensive coordinator, too, and it'll be interesting to see what Texas A&M looks like without him. Cyrus Gray is questionable, but Northwestern's defense is a lot different than Texas'. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill should be able to win this game, but will Texas A&M look like it's playing for anything, and will it show it has fixed the second-half woes?

2. Oklahoma State on the big stage. Oklahoma State has played in a lot of big games over the past two years, but the two biggest -- Oklahoma in both years -- were played in its home stadium. The Cowboys never played in a Big 12 title setting and never played in a huge neutral-site game against a team suited to beat them. The Jan. 2 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, opposite Stanford, will be all new for the Cowboys. Will the team look the same after a week unlike anything it has experienced before?

3. Sooners stopping a swoon? Oklahoma finished the season with two losses in its final three games and now will be without Jaz Reynolds in the Dec. 30 Insight Bowl against Iowa. Landry Jones will be missing his No. 1 and No. 3 receivers, and the Hawkeyes' offense will take on a defense that struggled late in the year against Baylor and Oklahoma State. Iowa is closer to Iowa State -- Oklahoma's only victory in the final three games -- but the Sooners had better show up in this one, or this season will get even more forgettable.

4. A finale for RG3? At Baylor, 2011 has been unforgettable. The Bears already have nine wins, a third-place finish in the Big 12 and the school's first Heisman winner. Quarterback Robert Griffin III has become must-see TV, but the Valero Alamo Bowl against Washington on Dec. 29 might be the last time we see him in green and gold. There's no guarantee on either side, but what's Griffin got in store for the finale?

5. Did the Longhorns learn? Texas lamented its holidays at home last year, with players saying they never wanted to experience the feeling again. Several said they couldn't even watch the bowls. Well, the Longhorns are back. How much will they relish the Dec. 28 Holiday Bowl meeting with Cal? Texas should be back to health by then, and a big win in this game might produce big results next fall for a young offense that needs good vibes heading into the offseason.

Sooners not sure-handed minus Broyles

December, 3, 2011
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STILLWATER, Okla. -- Bob Stoops and Landry Jones told me this week about the little things that go missing without injured receiver Ryan Broyles.

Sometimes a receiver drifts too far or too short over the middle. He does things differently than Broyles, who had caught around a third of Jones' career completions before tearing his ACL against Texas A&M.

Last week in windy conditions against Iowa State, the Sooners receivers dropped seven passes. This week, we've already seen six by my count, plus a deep ball that Jaz Reynolds didn't help break up. Brodrick Brown intercepted that one.

Broyles' best attribute was his hands. If the ball touched them, he caught it.

For all the talk of the little differences between having and not having Broyles, tonight, it's the big ones that have hurt.
Oklahoma won. That's done with.

The 26-6 final score over the Cyclones is convincing enough not to raise eyebrows. It should, though.

The Sooners suffocated Iowa State's offense, perhaps aided a bit by wind ,and quarterback Jared Barnett never consistently found receivers. The defensive miscues and poor safety play that plagued the Sooners against Baylor last week was gone, but Iowa State has nothing close to what Baylor has at its skill positions. Still, the defense was impressive.

But the offense?

It's clear this offense misses Ryan Broyles, and today, missed receiver Jaz Reynolds, too. Reynolds was suspended for a violation of team rules, and had a banged up shoulder from last week's loss to the Bears. Landry Jones' most reliable and most-often open target is gone, and against the Cyclones, it showed.

Jones finished 22-of-43 for 253 yards and no touchdown passes for the second consecutive game. His first interception? A ball thrown well enough to have been caught, but tipped up on a drop by Kameel Jackson and intercepted by ISU safety Ter'Ran Benton.

Why was Jackson playing? Because he had to. No Broyles and no Reynolds means the Sooners must dig deeper into the depth chart.

His second interception came on a pass intended for Trent Ratterree but CB Jeremy Reeves didn't clear out on an in route by Dejuan Miller and snatched an easy interception.

Who would have thought that missing the all-time FBS leader in receptions could leave a gaping hole in a passing offense. Oh, everyone? OK.

Backup quarterback Blake Bell's played well in short yardage situations and punched in eight touchdowns in three games for the Sooners.

It's clear Jones misses Broyles and against Oklahoma State next week, the Sooners will have to put up points. Iowa State's defense is improving, but Oklahoma State's defense is better. Make the same kinds of mistakes against Oklahoma State next week with a Big 12 title in the balance and the eight-year run of in-state dominance is over for the Sooners.

Reynolds will likely be back. That'll help.

But Oklahoma State has the offensive weapons to stretch the defense and force the offense to make plays. Turn the ball over three times in the second half next week like the Sooners did today and that's a near certainty. The defense forced four turnovers but the offense turned them into just nine points.

It was an ugly day. The defense might be capable of carrying the Sooners next week, but life would be easier if the Sooners offense made sure we all didn't find out.

If that's going to happen, there's plenty of work to do before next Saturday in Stillwater.

Sooners down another offensive talent

November, 26, 2011
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Oklahoma is already missing top receiver Ryan Broyles and top rusher Dominique Whaley.

Now, it's missing Jaz Reynolds. Reynolds is Oklahoma's No. 3 receiver-turned No. 2 without Broyles.

He suffered a shoulder injury last week against Baylor, but his post-game sling was reportedly a precautionary measure and coaches said he was expected to play.

Nope.

Reynolds isn't at the stadium, and updated fans about his status via his Twitter account.

"For whom it concerns: I'm at home icing my shoulder, I'll be back for bedlam don't worry too much..let focus now!" he wrote.

Not a good sign for the Sooners, who have been uninspired early.

The BellDozer formation that dominated Baylor last week hasn't worked well, and the Sooners tried to throw from the formation, but Jake Knott intercepted Blake Bell to end the Sooner scoring threat.

Early in the second quarter, Oklahoma trails Iowa State, 6-3, and will need to find some offense without three of the team's top five offensive weapons. Iowa State showed what it was capable of in beating Oklahoma State last week. It may not be easy.
Ryan Broyles sat on a training table with a quickly swelling, torn up knee and a college career that had been over for a little more than an hour.

His talented protégé, Kenny Stills, walked inside, but there was nothing left to be said.

Stills shook his head.

"He knew. I knew. He teared up and my eyes got watery for him," Stills said.

They shook hands. Stills promised he'd pray for him and he'd be missed. A relationship that began when Stills, a California native, visited Oklahoma for the first time was deepened on an offseason mission trip to Haiti.

[+] EnlargeKenny Stills
Mark D. Smith/US PresswireThe Sooners will look to sophomore Kenny Stills to become their No. 1 receiver in the wake of Ryan Broyles' injury.
Now, it's left to run its course off the field.

"You’re not able to change everything that you’re doing with three games left in the year," said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. "Other guys just have to step up and make plays and try and make the plays that he’s used to making."

Broyles' career ended fittingly -- on a huge reception. The 30-yard grab was the 349th of his career, more than any other receiver to ever play the game.

Stills was blocking ahead of Broyles and saw him go down, but Broyles had complained of pain in his opposite knee during the week. He caught the ball and landed awkwardly.

"I figured when he went down, it was just the same knee and it wasn’t a big deal," Stills said, "and he'd be back."

Stills, too, had gone down in a heap clutching his knee earlier in the season in a win over Kansas. Fans feared the worst. He was back shortly.

Four plays after Broyles went down, Oklahoma reached the end zone to take a 34-10 lead in the win over Texas A&M.

Receivers went to the sideline, and it was only a few minutes before trainers told Broyles and his teammates on the sideline that Broyles' injury was serious.

Three of the worst letters in football: a torn ACL.

Broyles was in tears before being helped into the locker room.

"As soon as he went in the locker room, you pretty much knew," Stills said.

The team followed later, beating a good Texas A&M team by 16 with a dominant second half.

"The whole team felt (the loss). I could tell in the locker room, everybody was just more quiet than usual, because it was on all our minds," Stoops said. "It definitely took a lot away from it."

The task now is clear: Oklahoma's final four games will be played without Broyles, and Stills must develop into quarterback Landry Jones' new favorite target.

"Ryan’s always been the guy I’ve always looked up to. I came here to study underneath him and one day maybe follow in his footsteps," Stills said, "and that time came a little earlier than I expected."

Broyles' on-field void is obvious, but Stills isn't the only player who'll be affected off the field.

"He’s such a spark in everything that he does, so in both places, but again, our team will respond, I believe," Stoops said. "We have to."

It's only the latest loss for an Oklahoma team now missing its top rusher. Broyles, a much higher-profile player than first-year starter and walk-on Dominique Whaley, makes it easy to forget just how big of a hit the Sooners have taken in recent weeks. This loss, though, Oklahoma is better prepared to handle.

Stills is the biggest reason why. Fellow receivers Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Dejuan Miller will have to help, too.

"Everybody just has to step their game up, from the offensive line to the running back to the quarterback and receivers. Just keep rolling and step our game up and pay attention to little details and we’ll be fine," Stills said. "We have a lot of playmakers. Ryan’s no scrub. We know we’re going to miss him, but other people have to step up and make plays for us now."

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 10

November, 6, 2011
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Handing out a few stickers for a job well done.

Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State: Weeden was big time when the Cowboys needed him most: the fourth quarter. He threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to Justin Blackmon in a pressure-packed drive with the Cowboys trailing by one and hit Blackmon again for the two-point conversion. He finished with a school record 502 yards and four touchdowns on 36-of-46 passing in the Cowboys' 52-45 win over No. 14 Kansas State.

Terrance Ganaway, RB, Baylor: Ganaway averaged more than 15 yards on his 12 carries, running for 186 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80-yard score in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach in Baylor's 42-39 win over Missouri.

Joe Bergeron, RB, Texas: Star freshman and the team's leading rusher, Malcolm Brown, was out with turf toe, and Bergeron answered in a big way. He ran for 191 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries in Texas' 52-20 win over Texas Tech.

Jared Barnett, QB, Iowa State: The passing wasn't too pretty, but you can't deny Barnett's productivity. The freshman, making his second career start, ran for 125 yards and threw for 175 more in Iowa State's 13-10 win over Kansas.

Roy Finch, RB, Oklahoma: The Sooners' undersized back proved he could be pretty durable, carrying the ball 26 times for 99 yards and a touchdown in OU's 41-25 win over Texas A&M that wasn't quite that close. No other running back had more than one carry in the game. This sticker was close, and here's a nod to Blake Bell, Landry Jones and Jaz Reynolds, who all have a case for this award.

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