NCF Nation: Kenny Cain

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 4

September, 24, 2012
9/24/12
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It's time to take a look at a few superlatives from the week that was across the Big 12:

Best offensive performance: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia. Austin gave Maryland fits on a slow day for the West Virginia offense, a 31-21 win over Maryland. He hauled in 13 catches for 179 yards and three touchdowns. Quite the day for the shifty speedster. Austin gets my runaway vote as the Big 12's quickest player, but it's a dead heat between Austin and a handful of others as the fastest.

[+] EnlargeKenny Cain
Ray Carlin/Icon SMIKenny Cain had a hand in three turnovers Saturday in TCU's win over Virginia.
Best defensive performance: Kenny Cain, LB, TCU. Cain forced three turnovers on his own in the Frogs' 27-7 win over Virginia. He picked off two passes, the second out of the hands of a receiver. He also recovered a first-half fumble to get the party started for the Frogs. A huge day at a much-needed position for Gary Patterson's defense. Honorable mention: Doug Rigg, LB, West Virginia, and Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma

Best team performance: Kansas State. Bill Snyder's crew did the impossible. Every time Oklahoma had been challenged at home by a ranked team, the Sooners bowed up and got the win. Most often, they got the win in emphatic fashion. Not on Saturday. The Wildcats forced mistakes from OU and made very few of their own, leaving as 24-19 winners and shooting into the top 10 with the upset.

Best freshman performance: Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma. Shepard's breakout game was lost in the wreckage of an awful night in Norman, but Oklahoma found another target for Landry Jones. Shepard led all receivers on Saturday night with seven catches for 108 yards, including his first career touchdown. The true freshman really looks like he may be something special. Everything he does looks natural.

Best play: Justin Tuggle/Jarell Childs, Kansas State. Tuggle changed the entire game in Norman when he chased down Jones from Jones' blind side and stripped him deep in his own territory. Childs scooped up the ball and stepped into the end zone to put K-State up 7-3 in the eventual win. That early second-quarter play had more impact than any other all week.

Worst play: Blake Bell, QB, Oklahoma. On the possession after that fumble, Jones moved the Sooners inside the 5. Bell came in at the 1-yard line to "Belldoze" his way into the end zone but mishandled a snap. Kansas State recovered, and the Sooners wasted seven points. They lost by five. You do the math. Dishonorable mention: Casey Pachall's/Skye Dawson's turnovers inside the opponents' 5-yard line.

Worst team performance: Kansas. Oh, Jayhawks. This team really is pretty close to being 3-1, but the lack of execution late in games has them at 1-3. Another week, another blown fourth-quarter lead. This one on the road to Northern Illinois. Not pretty.

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 4

September, 23, 2012
9/23/12
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Time to hand out a few stickers for a job well done in Week 4. My hat is off, gentlemen. And the next time yours is on, I expect these stickers to be on it.

Brandon Carter, WR, TCU: What a huge day for the sophomore receiver, who's got a case as the league's breakout star this season. Carter made two unbelievable one-handed catches, turning the first into a 68-yard score in TCU's 27-7 win over Virginia. He finished with five catches for 128 yards and a touchdown.

Tevin Reese, WR, Baylor: Simply put, Baylor doesn't survive Monroe as 47-42 winners without a huge game from Reese, who caught touchdown passes of 43 and 46 yards in the Bears' win. He was a constant threat long and finished with eight catches for 145 yards to go with his two scores.

Kenny Cain, LB, TCU: You don't see one player force three turnovers in one game very often. Cain did it in the Frogs' 27-7 win over Virginia. He picked one pass off on a tipped ball and was in the right place at the right time to recover a fumble. His last big play of the day was his best. He snatched a catch away from a Virginia receiver and returned the interception 41 yards into Hoos territory.

Tavon Austin, WR/PR, West Virginia: Austin had a quiet week against James Madison. He was anything but this week in a 31-21 win over Maryland. Austin hauled in 13 catches for 179 yards and three scores, and returned a punt 17 yards. He was back to his old start-and-stop self, threatening big plays every time he touched it. His 44-yard touchdown catch on a short throw over the middle would have been about a 10-yard gain for most players. Austin's speed makes it obvious: He is not most players.

John Hubert, RB, Kansas State: Collin Klein made a few big throws and was his usual consistent self, but Hubert paced the K-State offense in a 24-19 win over Oklahoma, and his 9-yard touchdown run was more powerful than you'd expect out of the 5-foot-7, 190-pounder. He finished with 130 yards on 23 carries, nearly 6 yards a touch against a pretty good Oklahoma defense. Klein made the headlines, but Hubert and the defense got it done, too.

ESPN.com's preseason All-Big 12 team

August, 29, 2012
8/29/12
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The season is only a few days away, and it's time to unveil our official All-Big 12 team.

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

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

Without further ado, here's our team:

OFFENSE

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

DEFENSE

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

SPECIALISTS:

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

Honorable mention/regrettable snubs: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma; Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas; Ivory Wade, C, Baylor; LaAdrian Waddle, OL, Texas Tech; Blaize Foltz, OL, TCU; Kenny Cain, LB, TCU; Shaun Lewis, LB, Oklahoma State; Jamarkus McFarland, DL, Oklahoma; Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas; Nigel Malone, CB, Kansas State; Demontre Hurst, CB, Oklahoma; Tyler Lockett, KR, Kansas State
 Oklahoma Sooners spirit squadBrett Deering/Getty ImagesThe Sooners face difficult match ups against Kansas State, Texas and West Virginia but should still come out on top in the Big 12.
Our weekly prediction series is over, and that means my projections for every Big 12 team are complete.

Here's how I'm predicting each Big 12 season to finish this year:

1. Oklahoma: 11-1 (8-1): The Sooners clinched the Big 12 heading into the final weekend, but I picked the Sooners to stumble on the final step to the national title. It's worth noting that I began these predictions before the offensive line injuries racked the Sooners' depth, so in retrospect, a loss might come earlier. Tough tests await against Kansas State and Texas, not to mention the trip to West Virginia.

2. West Virginia: 10-2 (7-2): I picked the Mountaineers to beat Texas in Austin but lose to TCU and Oklahoma at home. Some rough losses, but some memorable moments and another 10-win season with a good shot to grab an at-large bid to the BCS. Not a bad first year in the Big 12.

2. Kansas State: 10-2 (7-2): I'm higher on K-State than most and significantly less skeptical. Collin Klein does it ugly but gets it done, and the defense will be better than people think. Also, this is Bill Snyder we're talking about, bringing back 17 starters from a 10-win team. Close wins and other factors aside, think about that last sentence for a bit and tell me you really think K-State is finishing sixth in this league.

4. Texas: 9-3 (6-3): An inconsistent offense will cost the Longhorns a few games this year, but this is still a salty squad that will have a shot at making a run to a national title in 2013 if the quarterback position progresses. So far, I'm not all that encouraged by what I'm hearing out of UT camp, but we'll learn a lot about the Horns on their trip to Stillwater at the end of September. I picked the Horns to win it by 17.

5. TCU: 8-4 (5-4): I'm skeptical of how TCU will handle the transition, but the offense will be fine. How will the defense handle the move? Kenny Cain needs some help at linebacker. I picked the Frogs to start 7-0, but then lose four games before knocking off the Big 12 champion Sooners. The final five games of the season are just brutal for the Frogs.

5. Oklahoma State: 8-4 (5-4): OSU's got tons of upside, but the depth at the top of the Big 12 is going to be difficult. The Pokes might just as easily finish first in the league rather than here, but like Texas, Oklahoma State is setting up for a huge 2013.

7. Baylor: 6-6 (3-6): Baylor's going to be better than a six-win team, but like Oklahoma State, will fall victim to simply playing in a league with better teams at the top of the league. The offense will be there, but RG3 won't. Baylor's still a good team, but a step back is inevitable. The defense is better, but not good enough.

8. Texas Tech: 5-7 (2-7): I was a little surprised here. Yes, I did think Texas Tech would get back to a bowl this spring and summer. As I went through the schedule, though, I just didn't see the wins. Ultimately, that Nov. 24 showdown versus Baylor will decide who goes to the postseason and who doesn't. In a different league, I do think Texas Tech is a 7-8-win team. This isn't a different league.

9. Iowa State: 4-8 (2-7): Iowa State might spring an upset to get to 5-7, but I don't see Iowa State knocking off Iowa in Iowa City, and even Tulsa in the season opener is far from a gimme. The Cyclones are underdogs at home, too. I wouldn't be shocked to see the Cyclones spring another bowl appearance on us, but I don't see six wins. ISU is good enough to win six, but not good enough for me to pick them to win six, if that makes sense.

10. Kansas: 3-9 (0-9): KU will be more competitive this year, and I feel similar to the Jayhawks as I do with Iowa State in some ways. I expect Kansas to win a conference game this year. I really do. I just don't know who it's going to be, and I didn't have the guts to pick it. My top candidates are: at home against TCU on Sept. 15, at Texas Tech on Nov. 10 and Iowa State at home on Nov. 17.

Want my picks for every week this season? Here you go:

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