NCF Nation: Kansas Jayhawks

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 8

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
2:00
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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 7

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12
2:00
PM ET

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 4

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
2:00
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Big 12 viewer's guide: Week 2

September, 6, 2014
Sep 6
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In Week 2 of Big 12 action, Kansas State and Iowa State will stage the 98th edition of Farmageddon; Oklahoma will attempt to win 12 of 13 over Tulsa; Oklahoma State, Kansas, West Virginia and Baylor will look to beat up on FCS competition; Texas will see if it can exact revenge; and Texas Tech will try to stay awake.

Those, among others, will be the storylines to watch this week in the Big 12:

Saturday

Kansas State at Iowa State, Noon ET (FS1): Farmageddon lost much of its luster when Iowa State fell at home to North Dakota State last weekend. The Wildcats know what it's like to get popped by the Bison, who toppled K-State in last year’s opener. The Wildcats, however, have rapidly improved since that defeat, thanks to the development of quarterback Jake Waters. The Cyclones have to hope quarterback Sam B. Richardson can likewise bounce back after a rocky 2014 debut.

Oklahoma at Tulsa, Noon ET (ABC/ESPN2): Last year when the Sooners took on Tulsa, Blake Bell was making his first career start at quarterback. Bell was spectacular, too, throwing for 413 yards and four touchdowns while delivering a QBR of 96.7. The quarterback job is now Trevor Knight’s, but Bell remains a big part of the Oklahoma offense as a starting tight end.

[+] EnlargeTyrone Swoopes
Matthew Visinsky/Icon SMITyrone Swoopes is set to make his first career start at quarterback for Texas on Saturday.
Missouri State at Oklahoma State, 3:30 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Regional): After making Florida State sweat, the Cowboys should be in for a breather against the Bears. Following the tough opener, the schedule opens up nicely for Oklahoma State, which should be decent-to-heavy favorites in its next five games. The Bears and Cowboys, by the way, staged college football’s very first regular-season overtime game in 1996.

Southeast Missouri State at Kansas, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN3): Charlie Weis scouted Southeast Missouri State by streaming its game with Missouri Baptist over the Internet. There wasn’t much else to do, as the Jayhawks were the only Big 12 team with the opening weekend off.

BYU at Texas, 7:30 p.m. ET (FS1): The Longhorns have been talking BYU revenge all offseason. But they’ll have to try and get it without quarterback David Ash, who is suffering concussion-related symptoms again. While BYU will be starting veteran Taysom Hill, who gashed Texas with 259 rushing yards last year, the Longhorns will be rolling the dice at quarterback with sophomore Tyrone Swoopes, who enters the weekend with just five completions in his career.

Northwestern State at Baylor, 7:30 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Regional): Apparently, not even a pair of cracked transverse processes in his back can sideline Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, who said he plans to play against Northwestern State. The Bears won’t need him or wideout Antwan Goodley, who is nursing a strained quadriceps muscle, in this game. But they’ll need both to be healthy again before the schedule picks up next month.

Towson at West Virginia, 7:30 p.m. ET (ROOT): The Mountaineers should carry plenty of swagger into this home opener after going toe-to-toe with Alabama in Atlanta. No Mountaineer should be more confident than quarterback Clint Trickett, who is coming off passing for 365 yards –- the second-highest total an Alabama defense has allowed under Nick Saban. West Virginia, however, can't overlook Towson, a team coming off an appearance in the FCS national title game last season.

Texas Tech at UTEP, 11 p.m. ET (FS1): The late kickoff time is not a misprint. Kliff Kingsbury will have to hope his team won’t sleepwalk again the way the Red Raiders did Saturday in the narrow victory over Central Arkansas. Tech, which finished 124th out of 125 teams in penalty yardage last year, committed 15 penalties in its opener. That was not the start Kingsbury was looking for in his second season.

Preseason All-Big 12 team

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
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Today, ESPN.com released its preseason All-American team. Before Big 12 media days, we released our individual preseason All-Big 12 ballots. But to pair with the All-American team, we debated, argued and eventually settled on one Big 12 blog, consensus preseason All-Big 12 team.

Here we go:

Offense

QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor
Easy choice. Petty is the reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year after he threw for 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns with just three picks. He should be even better in Year 2 as a starter.

RB: Johnathan Gray, Texas
Malcolm Brown finished strong in place of Gray the past season, but there’s a reason Gray was Texas’ No. 1 back before he suffered an Achilles injury. Gray is healthy again, which gives Texas the best one-two punch at running back in the league.

RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor
Despite being Baylor’s third-string running back the past season, Linwood still finished sixth in the Big 12 in rushing. He’s the featured back now and could wind up the league’s top rusher.

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
Lockett was literally uncoverable at times last year. Just ask Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan, which surrendered a combined 631 receiving yards and six touchdowns to Lockett. With Jake Waters settled in at quarterback, Lockett could put up even bigger numbers in 2014.

WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor
Goodley might have been the most improved player in the league the past season. He was also one of the most dominant, with 1,339 receiving yards and a national-best five catches of 60 yards or more.

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State
With Jace Amaro gone, Bibbs takes over as the top receiving tight end threat in the league. Only Amaro had more catches and yards than Bibbs among Big 12 tight ends the past season.

OT: Spencer Drango, Baylor
With Drango in the lineup, Petty was sacked only eight times through the Bears’ first nine games last year. After Drango was sidelined with a back injury, Petty was sacked nine times in Baylor’s last four games. Suffice it to say, Petty is glad to have Drango back protecting his blindside.

OG: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech
The Red Raiders previously had plans to move Clark inside to guard, but they still have him manning left tackle this season. Whether he stays at the bookend or slides to guard, Clark is one of the most dominating offensive linemen in the league.

C: BJ Finney, Kansas State
Finney owns a Big 12-best 39 starts over the past three years. The former walk-on is also a two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection and will be the favorite to garner such recognition again as the linchpin of the K-State offensive line.

OG: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
Whitehair is capable of manning either guard or tackle, but the Wildcats will be showing their trust in him by asking him to protect Waters’ blindside this season.

OT: Daryl Williams, Oklahoma
Williams is the best piece on the league’s best offensive line, which returns four starters and plenty of capable backups.

AP: Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech
Grant finished sixth in the league in receiving yards per game, despite being the third option in Tech’s passing attack the past season. Grant is now the first option in the passing game, as well as an electric playmaker on special teams.

K: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma
The Sooners have never had an All-American kicker before, but they have a strong candidate in Hunnicutt, who converted 24 of 27 field goals the past season.

Defense

DE: Ryan Mueller, Kansas State
In 2013, Mueller finished with 11.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss, which were second in the league only to Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jackson Jeffcoat. Mueller, who also forced four fumbles, has one of the conference’s best noses for finding the ball.

DT: Chucky Hunter, TCU
The Horned Frogs still had a formidable front the past season, even without Devonte Fields, due in large part to Hunter. TCU won’t have Fields again. But Hunter is back to anchor a defensive line loaded with quality players.

DT: Malcom Brown, Texas
This former blue-chipper broke out the past season with 68 tackles, including 12 for loss. He and Cedric Reed team up to form the best inside-outside defensive line combination in the league.

DE: Cedric Reed, Texas
Reed was third in the Big 12 in 2013 with 10 sacks, fourth with 19 tackles for loss and tied for first with five forced fumbles. He gives the Longhorns a chance to feature the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season.

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma
When it comes to rushing the passer, there’s no one better in the league. Striker has spent this offseason refining other parts of his game to become a more complete player. But his pass rushing alone makes him one of the top players in the league.

LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas
Heeney was a tackling machine last year for a defense that performed valiantly despite getting little help from its offense. Heeney will get plenty of help from his defense, though, which returns eight other starters.

LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor
Hager has notched 195 tackles over the past two seasons, while twice earning second-team All-Big 12 honors. With Ahmad Dixon and Eddie Lackey gone, he takes over as the leader of a defense angling to prove it can be as good as the past year’s.

CB: Quandre Diggs, Texas
Diggs, who has never been afraid to speak his mind, is the heart and soul of the Longhorns. If the rest of the team takes on his mentality, Texas could have one feisty team in Charlie Strong’s first season.

CB: Daryl Worley, West Virginia
Despite being just a second-year player, Worley has already taken over as one of the vocal leaders of the West Virginia defense. He’s also already one of the best cover corners in the league.

SS: Sam Carter, TCU
Carter has nine interceptions the past two years, the most of any returning Big 12 player. He leads arguably the best secondary in the league, too.

FS: Karl Joseph, West Virginia
Joseph has started all 25 games for the Mountaineers since he stepped foot in Morgantown. No other returning Big 12 defensive back has more career tackles than Joseph’s 170.

P: Nick O'Toole, West Virginia
The “Boomstache” ranked 15th nationally last year, with an average of 44.1 yards per punt. He also has the best mustache in the league, which has to count for something.
Considering its long history of Polynesian influence, it should come as no surprise that the Pac-12 led the way with 15 players named to the preseason watch list for the inaugural Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award.

Headlining the list is Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, USC safety Su'a Cravens, Oregon State center Isaac Seumalo, Washington linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha and BYU linebacker Alani Fua.

The award was established by the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame, which inducted its first class of members in January. That group of seven included Kurt Gouveia (BYU), Olin Kreutz (Washington), Kevin Mawae (LSU), Junior Seau (USC), Jack Thompson (Washington State), Herman Wedemeyer (Saint Mary's College) and Ken Niumatalolo (Navy/Hawaii).

The full breakdown of players on the watch list by conference is as follows: Pac-12 (15), Mountain West (12), Independents (4), American Athletic (1), Big 12 (1) and Sun Belt (1).

Here is the complete list (34 total):
Five finalists will be announced on Nov. 20 with the winner set to be named on Dec. 9.

TCU’s future starting quarterback might have spent his spring in College Station, Texas.

It’s possible Texas' next starter hasn’t even moved to Austin yet.

And half the teams in the Big 12 still haven't officially named a starter for the 2014 season.

[+] EnlargeJ.W. Walsh
AP Photo/Brody SchmidtJ.W. Walsh showed comfort and patience this spring, emerging as the clear favorite to become Oklahoma State's starting quarterback.
But while quarterback continues to be the Big 12’s biggest moving part, the spring brought at least some clarity to the position across the league.

After losing the job last season, J.W. Walsh retook a commanding lead in Oklahoma State’s third quarterback derby in as many years.

Grant Rohach built off his strong finish last season to head into the summer as the clear frontrunner at Iowa State.

And even though Clint Trickett sat out the spring recovering from a shoulder injury, none of West Virginia’s other spring contenders could unseat him from the top of the depth chart.

Elsewhere, Kansas surprisingly named sophomore Montell Cozart as its starter days after he outshined incumbent Jake Heaps and UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard in the Jayhawks’ spring game.

And Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight and Texas Tech’s Davis Webb rode the momentum of their breakout bowl performances to spring improvement.

Even the two schools with the biggest quarterback questions received some possible panaceas this spring.

Matt Joeckel, Johnny Manziel’s backup at Texas A&M the last two seasons, revealed two weeks ago that he would be transferring to TCU, where he’ll be eligible immediately. The Horned Frogs, who are installing an up-tempo offense similar to one Joeckel played in with the Aggies, ended spring with Trevone Boykin as their No. 1 quarterback, even though Boykin finished last year as a receiver.

To the south, another high-profile transfer could soon be following Joeckel to the Big 12. Since announcing he was transferring from USC, Max Wittek has visited Texas three times, including the Longhorns’ spring game. Wittek would be eligible right away as well, and with David Ash out for now with a fractured foot, Wittek could viably challenge to become Texas’ opening game starter.

Such positive developments at the most critical of positions are welcome developments for a league that struggled and juggled at quarterback through much of the 2013 season. In fact, Baylor’s Bryce Petty was the only Big 12 quarterback to start every game for his team last season.

Petty, who was on the short list of Heisman contenders until November, will again be the class of the league at quarterback.

But he should have plenty more company this season, beginning with Kansas State's Jake Waters, who improved as much as any quarterback in the country did over the course of last season. In leading the Wildcats to victories in six of their final seven games, Waters actually produced a higher Adjusted QBR rating than Petty during the same stretch.

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder came away impressed with the confidence Waters carried throughout the spring, which included a crisp effort in the spring game minus his favorite receiver, Tyler Lockett, who sat out the scrimmage with a minor injury.

“He just understands things a lot better,” Snyder said. “He has gained more confidence, probably just because of going through the process of going through some growing pains.”

Both Walsh and Rohach also went through growing pains last season.

But after a jittery sophomore campaign in which he eventually lost the starting job back to Clint Chelf in October, Walsh re-established himself this spring and performed with the poise he did two years ago as a freshman to emerge as the favorite to become the Cowboys' starter again.

“J.W. has become more of a leader,” offensive tackle Daniel Koenig said after Oklahoma State’s “Orange Blitz” scrimmage. “He’s staying in the pocket more, which is good. Maybe a year or two years ago, he’d get nervous back there and start scrambling. But now he’s sitting in there and throwing.”

Rohach, who finished off the 2013 season by leading Iowa State to a come-from-behind, triple-overtime victory at West Virginia, also showed more confidence this spring, leading Iowa State on three of its six scoring drives in the spring game. Coach Paul Rhoads said he’d wait until mid-August before declaring a starter, but Rohach seems to have the clear edge over Sam B. Richardson and Joel Lanning heading into the summer.

"To begin [the spring], coming off that huge game against West Virginia, putting pressure on myself, my first few practices weren't very good," Rohach said. "But as spring ball went on I shrugged off those mistakes, and I think I got a lot better."

Webb and Knight also used their final performances of last season to springboard into their second springs on campus.

Webb has been especially impressive since earning MVP honors in the Red Raiders' National University Holiday Bowl victory over Arizona State. In Texas Tech’s three spring open scrimmages, he tossed 13 touchdowns with no interceptions.

“He is night and day from what he was at this time last year,” Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “I am really impressed with him.”

With a limited playbook and a no-contact jersey, Knight had a lackluster showing in Oklahoma’s spring game, and was actually outplayed by Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield. But behind closed practices, the Sooners liked the development they saw from their sophomore quarterback, who last torched two-time defending national champ Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

“He’s continued to make strides,” Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “It’s not even like he played perfect in the Sugar Bowl -- there are things he missed in that game. He’s by no means a finished product.”

The quarterback position in the Big 12 is by no means a finished product, either, coming out of the spring. But the position looks better -- and clearer -- now than it did just two months ago.
Spring ball kicked off in the Big 12 over the weekend, as Baylor, TCU and West Virginia all had their first practices. This week, most of the other Big 12 schools will join them.

With spring practice off and rolling, plenty of questions surround the league’s programs. And while many of those won’t be fully answered until the season begins in the fall, here are some of the biggest ones Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Oklahoma will face this spring:

How will Baylor replenish its secondary?

[+] EnlargeQuarterback Bryce Petty #14 of the Baylor Bears
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images Bryce Petty is back so Baylor's offense should be in good shape. Its defense, however, has some question marks heading into the spring.
The Bears won their first Big 12 championship last season, thanks in part to a secondary that ranked second in the league in pass defense. Safety Terrell Burt, however, is the only returning starter from that defensive backfield, meaning rebuilding the secondary will be priority No. 1 for the Bears this spring. But as if that job wasn’t going to be challenging enough, both Burt and juco cornerback Chris Sanders, who is supposed to vie for a starting role, will miss the spring following shoulder surgeries. With QB Bryce Petty back, the Bears figure to be formidable again offensively in 2014. But to defend its Big 12 title, Baylor will need several inexperienced players to begin emerging in the secondary this spring.

Can Mangino turn Iowa State’s offense around?

As a big part of their disappointing 3-9 record last season, the Cyclones ranked ahead of only Kansas in Big 12 scoring offense. As a result, Paul Rhoads fired offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham and brought in Mark Mangino to revive the Iowa State attack. Mangino was offensive coordinator during Oklahoma’s national championship season, and he took Kansas to the Orange Bowl. His track record as an offensive mind is not in dispute. But can he turn around an offense that hasn’t ranked higher than ninth in the Big 12 in scoring since 2005? Mangino will have some pieces to work with. Wideout Quenton Bundrage, running back Aaron Wimberly and quarterback Grant Rohach all had moments in 2013. Whether Mangino can put them in position to produce a lot more of those moments will go a long way in determining if Iowa State can bounce back.

Can Harwell fill Kansas’ go-to WR need?

Kansas’ lack of production at receiver the past few seasons has been astounding. Justin McCay caught a touchdown pass in the 2013 opener to become the first Kansas receiver to catch a touchdown in almost two full seasons. But Kansas receivers would catch only two more touchdowns the rest of the season (for context, Baylor receivers totaled 35 such grabs). Senior transfer Nick Harwell, however, could be the answer to that woeful drought. Two years ago at Miami (Ohio), Harwell led the Mid-American Conference with 7.6 receptions and 96.7 receiving yards per game while earning All-MAC honors. Going into his final college season, Harwell already has 229 receptions for 3,166 yards in his career. Oh yeah, he has 23 touchdowns over those three years, too. The Jayhawks have desperately been in search of a go-to receiver. They’ll find out this spring whether they can stop that search.

What will K-State do with Sams?

Daniel Sams proved to be one of the league’s best playmakers last season, leading all Big 12 quarterbacks with 807 rushing yards and 15 total touchdowns. Sams’ role, however, diminished late in the season, as Jake Waters emerged as the majority-of-the-time quarterback. Sams is too dynamic with the ball in his hands to watch games from the sidelines. But Waters isn’t going anywhere at quarterback, either. Before the bowl, Sams hinted that he’d like to try another position to get onto the field more. K-State whiffed on signing a quarterback last month, so Sams will still have to keep ties with his old position for depth purposes. But the spring will also give the Wildcats the opportunity to experiment using Sams elsewhere -- like receiver -- if they so choose.

How will Oklahoma build on the Sugar Bowl?

By beating Alabama, the Sooners notched arguably the program’s most significant win since defeating Florida State all the way back in the 2000 national championship game. After struggling at times during the 2013 season, the Sooners suddenly have the look of a preseason top-five team going into 2014. Yet, in many ways, this is still a very young team. QB Trevor Knight has only five career starts, two of which he left early due to injury. Projected starting running back Keith Ford has loads of potential, but only 23 carries in his college career. And of the returning receivers, only Sterling Shepard delivered more than 13 catches last season. In the Sugar Bowl, OU flashed its capability. And the Sooners have tons of momentum, underscored by their furious recruiting finish. But to be a legitimate national title contender this fall, the Sooners can’t rest on their laurels of besting the Tide. And OU’s young players have to continue building off that experience.

Final Big 12 Power Rankings

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
1:00
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The final power rankings of the 2013 season:

1. Oklahoma (11-2, 7-2 Big 12, last week 2): Where did this team come from? The Sooners seemed dead in the water after a 29-point loss at Baylor in early November. Instead, Oklahoma finished out the season by reeling off four straight wins, including the last three as the underdog. The Sooners saved their best performance for last, wiping out two-time defending national champ Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Crimson Tide didn't even play poorly. Oklahoma was just that good.

2. Baylor (11-2, 8-1 Big 12, LW 1): The Bears just weren’t quite the same team at the end of the season. With an outright Big 12 title, it was still a terrific season, even if the bowl game was not so terrific.

3. Oklahoma State (10-3, 7-2 Big 12, LW 3): The Cowboys finished with two brutal losses. The season was still a good one, but it could have been a great one. With several key players graduating, 2014 figures to be a rebuilding season.

4. Kansas State (8-5, 5-4 Big 12, LW 5): The Wildcats broke Bill Snyder’s bowl game losing streak by hammering Michigan while also continuing the momentum build for 2014. With star wideout Tyler Lockett back, K-State should be a legitimate title contender next season.

5. Texas (8-5, 7-2 Big 12, LW 4): New coach Charlie Strong is putting together an impressive coaching staff, notably plucking away Oklahoma State’s Joe Wickline, who is one of the best offensive line coaches in the country. If the Longhorns can find a quarterback, Strong might have Texas back ahead of schedule.

6. Texas Tech (8-5, 4-5 Big 12, LW 6): What five-game losing streak? The tenor in Lubbock has completely changed following the Red Raiders' pummeling of No. 14 Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl.

7. TCU (4-8, 2-7 Big 12, LW 7): Coach Gary Patterson has overhauled his offensive staff with expectations of bringing a more high-powered offense to Fort Worth. The Frogs will need to find a quarterback who can run the attack, but they do have a pair of blue-chip freshmen arriving in Grayson Muehlstein and Foster Sawyer.

8. Iowa State (3-9, 2-7 Big 12, LW 8): Iowa State missed out on a bowl game, but optimism has returned to Ames with the hiring of offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, who will have some talented pieces with which to work.

9. Kansas (3-9, 1-8 Big 12, LW 9): Joy has returned to Lawrence, Kan. It’s basketball season!

10. West Virginia (4-8, 2-7 Big 12, LW 10): The Mountaineers have hope that newcomers William Crest or Skyler Howard can be the answer at quarterback. We know it won’t be Ford Childress, who reportedly left school.
Immediately after the national championship game, colleague Mark Schlabach released his Way-Too-Early Top 25. In concert, below is our Way-Too-Early Big 12 power poll. This could change between now and the end of the spring. In fact, it probably will. But this is a first look at how the Big 12 teams stack up against one another for 2014:

1. Oklahoma Sooners

In the Allstate Sugar Bowl, freshman Trevor Knight finally played like the quarterback that had been drawing comparisons to Johnny Manziel behind Oklahoma’s closed practices. The Sooners lose some cornerstone players to graduation, notably running back Brennan Clay, center Gabe Ikard, receiver Jalen Saunders and cornerback Aaron Colvin. But with Knight and budding running back Keith Ford returning to man the backfield, and nine starters coming back defensively, including menacing outside linebacker Eric Striker, Oklahoma could be a favorite in every game next season -- and a force once again on the national stage.

2. Baylor Bears

Even with running back Lache Seastrunk going pro, the Bears return plenty of firepower offensively. Bryce Petty will be the reigning All-Big 12 quarterback, and Antwan Goodley will be coming off a monster junior season. Rising sophomore Shock Linwood showed he could shoulder the rushing load, too, when Seastrunk and Glasco Martin were banged up late in the season. The Bears, however, could take a step back defensively. Baylor, which got torched for 52 points in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, loses six starters there, including All-American safety Ahmad Dixon and All-Big 12 linebacker Eddie Lackey. Former blue-chip defensive tackle recruit Andrew Billings will need to step up and become more of a force. Even if the defense stumbles, Baylor should be capable of scoring enough points to win every game on its schedule, thanks to coach Art Briles being back on its sidelines.

3. Kansas State Wildcats

Along with Missouri, the Wildcats were the first two teams left out of Schlabach’s Top 25. But they make a compelling case for inclusion. Quarterback Jake Waters improved dramatically during the second half of the season, eventually squeezing Daniel Sams out of the QB rotation. Wideout Tyler Lockett could be a preseason All-American, after torching Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan for a combined 631 receiving yards and six touchdowns. The defense should be better, too, with sack artist Ryan Mueller back at end, and rising junior safety Dante Barnett set to take over for the outgoing Ty Zimmerman as leader of the secondary. The Wildcats will be tested early with national runner-up Auburn visiting Manhattan on Sept. 20. If K-State can win that game, the rest of the Big 12 will be on notice.

4. Texas Longhorns

During his introductory news conference on Monday, new Texas coach Charlie Strong said Mack Brown left him with a team that could win right away. Strong might be right. The Longhorns return eight starters off a defense that found its stride under interim coordinator Greg Robinson. Texas also brings back six starters offensively and its entire running back corps, including Malcolm Brown, who rushed for more than 100 yards in the Valero Alamo Bowl. A big part of Mack Brown’s downfall, however, was quarterback play, and that once again will be a huge question mark in Strong’s first season. David Ash sat out most of this season with concussion issues, making his football future tenuous. Tyrone Swoopes is athletic with a big arm but needs polish. The other option will be incoming freshman Jerrod Heard, who just led his high school team to a Texas state championship. If one of those three emerges, Strong could have Texas on the way back ahead of schedule.

5. Oklahoma State Cowboys

The Cowboys were 19 seconds away from playing in a BCS bowl game. But two losses to end the year soured what could have been a stellar season. Now, Oklahoma State must replace the bulk of its team, including quarterback Clint Chelf and seven starters defensively. Star slot receiver Josh Stewart is also reportedly mulling over leaving early, too. Either way, 2014 will be a retooling season for coach Mike Gundy, whose first order of business will be settling on a quarterback. J.W. Walsh, who started the first half of the season before losing the job back to Chelf, would have to be considered the favorite. But Gundy has shown before he’s not afraid of turning the keys of the offense to a true freshman, and the Cowboys have an intriguing freshman QB enrolling for the spring in Mason Rudolph, who threw 64 touchdown passes this fall as a high school senior in South Carolina. That could result in some growing pains for Oklahoma State, which opens the season against defending national champion Florida State. But if Rudolph proves to be the long-term answer at QB, it shouldn’t be more than a year before the Cowboys are contending in the Big 12 again.

6. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Texas Tech completely changed the tenor of its offseason with a dominating 37-23 win over Pac-12 South Division champ Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl. Finally healthy again, the Red Raiders showed they were better than a five-game losing streak to end the regular season indicated. Now, Tech returns eight starters offensively, including quarterback Davis Webb, who torched the Sun Devils and had several other encouraging moments as a true freshman. Tech has to replace most of its defense. But if Webb settles in at quarterback, the Red Raiders should be improved in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s second season in Lubbock.

7. TCU Horned Frogs

TCU was the 2013 preseason pick of many people to win the Big 12. Instead, injuries ravaged the roster, and the Horned Frogs failed to go to a bowl game for just second time with Gary Patterson as coach. Patterson shook up his offensive staff after the season, bringing in Houston’s Doug Meacham and Texas Tech’s Sonny Cumbie as co-coordinators to revamp TCU’s offensive attack. TCU should be stout again defensively, especially if 2012 Big 12 defensive freshman of the year Devonte Fields returns to form from a broken foot. But the key to a better season will be whether Meacham and Cumbie can squeeze more offense out of the Horned Frogs and find the answer at quarterback. The answer, however, might not be on campus yet. Trevone Boykin has 15 career QB starts, but is probably a better fit as a receiver. Meanwhile, TCU’s top incoming recruits, Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein, are both quarterbacks, and could factor into the wide-open competition.

8. Iowa State Cyclones

Even though Iowa State just finished in the bottom three of the Big 12 in points per game (24.8), yards per game (363), yards per play (4.82), rushing yards (143.8) and passing yards (219.2), the Cyclones return some offensive firepower. Tailback Aaron Wimberly was effective when healthy, and Quenton Bundrage flashed signs of a legit No. 1 receiver. The key will be QB, and whether Grant Rohach builds on his late-season surge. But with a proven offensive coordinator in Mark Mangino now on board, the Cyclones have the pieces to form one of the better offenses in the league next season.

9. West Virginia Mountaineers

The Mountaineers careened off the road late this season with back-to-back losses to Kansas and Iowa State. Now, the pressure is on coach Dana Holgorsen, who will have to win games to keep his job even though the 2014 schedule is brutal. Like so many other teams in the Big 12, West Virginia must find a solution at quarterback. Holgorsen has options. Clint Trickett, Paul Millard and Ford Childress are all back after getting at least two starts apiece last year. Junior-college transfer Skyler Howard will be enrolling early and joining the fray. Four-star recruit William Crest will be in the mix, too. Even if Holgorsen finds his answer at quarterback, a winning season won’t come easy. The Mountaineers have one of the toughest schedules in the country, beginning with the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game against Alabama in Atlanta.

10. Kansas Jayhawks

Kansas showed only modest improvement in Charlie Weis’ second season as head coach. This will be a key season for Weis as he attempts to rebuild the program. He desperately needs Montell Cozart to develop into the answer at quarterback. Cozart still has a ways to go with his passing, but he showed he could hurt defenses with his legs. Defensively, the Jayhawks bring back some solid players, notably linebackers Ben Goodman and Ben Heeney and safety Isaiah Johnson. But Kansas will take the next step only if Cozart -- or somebody else -- emerges at quarterback.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 15

December, 11, 2013
12/11/13
9:00
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The final power rankings before bowl season:

1. Baylor (11-1, 8-1 Big 12, last week 2): The Bears have a chance to put the finishing touches on a tremendous season with a favorable matchup in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl against Central Florida. Baylor better win for conference pride/bragging rights, as the Big 12 is an underdog in four of its other five bowl matchups.

2. Oklahoma (10-2, 7-2 Big 12, LW 4): If Bob Stoops somehow pulled off the upset of Alabama, it would constitute his best coaching job since the national championship season in 2000. That Stoops even got OU in the Allstate Sugar Bowl is remarkable. This might be the least talented 10-win team Stoops has ever had. But this is also a team that found a way to get to 10 wins when it didn’t look possible.

3. Oklahoma State (10-2, 7-2 Big 12, LW 1): Oklahoma State’s football history is filled with Bedlam disappointments. But 2013 will rank at the very top. The Cowboys were in control for most of the game against Oklahoma. But they were a disaster on special teams and third downs, and when the game was on the line, a defense that had been terrific all year capitulated against a third-string quarterback. A win over Missouri in the AT&T Cotton Bowl will ease the sting, but this one will sting for awhile.

4. Texas (8-4, 7-2 Big 12, LW 3): With a chance to win the Big 12 outright, Texas’ up-and-down season ended with a thud in Waco. As a result, Mack Brown’s seemingly impending resignation will dominate the conversation in Austin while the Longhorns attempt to prepare for a very difficult matchup in the Valero Alamo Bowl against Oregon.

5. Kansas State (7-5, 5-4 Big 12, LW 5): The Wildcats won’t have the matchup with old conference rival Nebraska in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. But they will have the chance to beat a name program (Michigan), which would cap a very nice end to a season that began very badly.

6. Texas Tech (7-5, 4-5 Big 12, LW 6): Losing five in a row after a top-10 ranking is not how Kliff Kingsbury wanted to close out his first season. Losing six would be even worse. But the Red Raiders have an opportunity against Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl. Win that game, and nobody will be talking about the five-game losing streak. Instead, they’ll be talking about one of the biggest upsets of the bowl season, which would give Tech some momentum going into the winter.

7. TCU (4-8, 2-7 Big 12, LW 7): The Horned Frogs will have a new offensive coordinator (reportedly Doug Meachem) and a new quarterback (who knows?), but will that translate into more points? It better if TCU is to bounce back from two mediocre-to-bad years in the Big 12.

8. Iowa State (3-9, 2-7 Big 12, LW 8): With wins over Kansas and West Virginia to finish out the season, along with their impending stadium expansion, the Cyclones have some momentum again. Head coach Paul Rhoads getting the right offensive coordinator to jump-start a unit that has talent is the next step.

9. Kansas (3-9, 1-8 Big 12, LW 9): Did the Jayhawks show improvement in Year 2 of the Charlie Weis era? Not really. Which is why Year 3 will be a defining one. Kansas needs to win more than one Big 12 game. The key will be rising sophomore QB Montell Cozart. If he can make a jump to the next level, so too will the Jayhawks.

10. West Virginia (4-8, 2-7 Big 12, LW 10): Last week, athletic director Oliver Luck issued a statement backing coach Dana Holgorsen. But Luck’s statement sure seemed to emphasize the 2014 season. Problem is, West Virginia opens with Alabama, goes to Maryland, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Texas, and plays Oklahoma and Baylor at home. The Mountaineers would have to win one of those games just to become bowl eligible. On top of that, they’ll be replacing easily their best offensive (running back Charles Sims) and defensive (safety Darwin Cook) players from this past season. Good luck, Dana.

Big 12 predictions: Week 14

November, 27, 2013
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What an epic disaster last week was.

First, the Sooners blitzed K-State, destroying my first pick. Then Oklahoma State annihilated Baylor, annihilating my second pick. And before the end of the night, the Iowa State Cyclones made me look ridiculous for taking the Jayhawks.

As a result, I went 0-3 for the week. To add insult to injury, Wingnut Drew went 2-1. Now, I trail you guest pickers for the season. Maybe one of you should just take over the blog.

Alas, I fear you all would miss me too much. So I’m going to give it another go.

This week’s guest picker submission, Shelley from Lubbock, Texas:

I grew up watching the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Oilers (yep, I’m old) and West Texas high school football under the Friday night lights. But I love college football the most. Now, I work in the billing office at Texas Tech. After eight years of watching Tech athletes grow and succeed on and off the field, I have become a Red Raider, despite my Aggie roots. Guns Up!

To the Week 14 picks:

SEASON RECORD

Trotter last week: 0-3 (.000)

Guest picker (Wingnut Drew) last week: 2-1 (.667)

Trotter overall: 52-18 (.743)

Guest picker overall: 40-13 (.754)

THURSDAY

Texas 37, Texas Tech 31: There are only four teams in college football whose turnover differentials are negative-11 or worse: Southern Miss, California, Eastern Michigan and Texas Tech. Southern Miss, Cal and EMU have combined to win three games. So, it’s actually pretty remarkable the Red Raiders have seven wins, given how poor their ball security has been. Turnovers, however, will doom the Red Raiders in Austin, as Texas takes better care of the ball and exploits Tech’s depleted defensive front with Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron. Sorry, Shelley.

Shelley’s pick: The Red Raiders jump to a big lead, forcing Texas to play catch-up, which means playing fast, which means throwing the ball … and we all know Case McCoy’s arm can handle only so many passes in one game. Seeing the Longhorns lose on Thanksgiving is better than pecan pie. Tech, 35-17

SATURDAY

Kansas State 44, Kansas 13: One step forward, two steps back. The Jayhawks finally looked like they were breaking out after a landmark victory over West Virginia that ended a 27-game conference losing streak. Instead, Kansas looked like the old Kansas while getting obliterated in Ames. Tyler Lockett has another huge afternoon hauling in passes downfield, Daniel Sams and John Hubert pound the Jayhawks defensive line and the Wildcats run their Sunflower State winning streak to five on their way to the National University Holiday Bowl.

Shelley’s pick: “The Sunflower Showdown” is the worst rivalry name ever. It sounds like a gardening reality show on HGTV. Sadly, the game will probably be as entertaining as a gardening show. K-State, 45-17

Baylor 41, TCU 23: The Horned Frogs aren’t going to a bowl. So they’ve turned QB Casey Pachall’s final college start into a de facto bowl game. That, combined with a slight Baylor hangover, actually keeps this game interesting in the fourth quarter.

Shelley’s pick: Baylor is going to take out its frustration on those poor Horned Frogs. It's going to be ugly in Fort Worth. Baylor, 63-17

West Virginia 27, Iowa State 21: West Virginia QB Clint Trickett called Iowa State "the greatest 2-9 football team in the history of football." After falling at Kansas, it's probably wise for West Virginia to respect any and every opponent. But the Mountaineers have been a different team in Morgantown than on the road. Just ask Mike Gundy.

Shelley’s pick: Both of these teams would really love a reset button. Iowa State gets my vote in this one purely because the Cyclones have momentum in their favor after crushing KU last week. Iowa State, 24-14

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 13

November, 25, 2013
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Taking stock of Week 13 in the Big 12:

Team of the week: Oklahoma State took command of the Big 12 title race with a commanding 49-17 win over No. 4 Baylor. Behind the most dominant defensive performance in the Big 12 this season, the Cowboys limited the nation’s highest-scoring offense to just three points over the first three quarters. Oklahoma State also rolled up 594 yards of offense, too. The Cowboys are now 9-3 versus AP Top 25 teams going back to 2011, and after winning just one conference title from 1953 to 2010, Oklahoma State can win a second in three seasons with a victory over Oklahoma in two weeks.

[+] EnlargeClint Chelf
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesBehind a career day from signal-caller Clint Chelf, Oklahoma State rolled Baylor in Stillwater.
Disappointment of the week: Baylor traveled to Stillwater, Okla., with a chance to send a message that it belonged in the BCS National Championship. Instead, the Bears were blown out of Boone Pickens Stadium. Baylor’s vaunted offensive attack never got anything going, as the Bears finished with their fewest points in a game since 2010. The 32-point loss was also the worst from a top-four BCS team since No. 2 Texas Tech lost by 44 points to Oklahoma in 2008. It has still been a remarkable season for the Bears, but it won’t be one that ends in the national title game.

Big (offensive) men on campus: Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf, Oklahoma running back Brennan Clay, Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett and Iowa State quarterback Grant Rohach.

Chelf unleashed the best performance of his career, completing 19 of 25 passes for a career-high 370 yards and three touchdowns. Chelf also had a 48-yard reception on a trick play. For the second consecutive week, Chelf posted the second-highest QBR in college football, delivering a score of 97.8 (scale zero to 100) against Baylor. He is now seventh in the FBS in QBR.

Clay also had a career day, rushing for a personal-best 200 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries, with Damien Williams suspended, to lead OU to a 41-31 win over Kansas State.

Lockett had a monster performance, too, in the game, hauling in 12 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns. Lockett’s 440 all-purpose yards broke Darren Sproles’ school record and were the second most ever in a Big 12 game.

Rohach, who had not thrown a touchdown pass in his five previous games, finished 15-of-20 passing with scoring throws of 58 and 15 yards to lead Iowa State to a 34-0 rout of Kansas.

Big (defensive) men on campus: Oklahoma State cornerbacks Tyler Patmon and Kevin Peterson.

Baylor’s pass-catchers entered the night leading the country in 30-, 40- and 50-yard receptions. Against the Cowboys, they had just two such receptions.

Even with All-American cornerback Justin Gilbert limited to spot duty because of a shoulder injury, the Cowboys still locked up Baylor’s receivers. Why? Patmon and Peterson, who held up remarkably well in man coverage on the outside against Baylor's Antwan Goodley and Levi Norwood. With Patmon and Peterson taking away the deep ball, the Cowboys were able to commit more bodies to pressuring QB Bryce Petty and shutting down Baylor’s rushing attack.

Patmon also delivered the Oklahoma State defense’s exclamation point when he scooped up a Petty fumble in the fourth quarter and raced 78 yards for a touchdown to put the Cowboys up 42-10.

Special-teams player of the week: Oklahoma’s Jalen Saunders. For the second consecutive week, a Saunders punt return proved to be the turning point in an OU win. With the Sooners up 27-24 early in the fourth quarter, Saunders fielded a short punt on the fly and dashed 30 yards to the K-State 3-yard line. Clay scored a touchdown on the next play, and the Wildcats never recovered from the special-teams swing.

Play of the week: Midway through the first quarter in Stillwater, QB Petty pulled the ball on a read-option and appeared to be on his way to a 27-yard touchdown. Instead, Petty’s feet got tangled up and he stumbled to the turf at the OSU 1. It proved to be a critical stumble. Two plays later, Shock Linwood tried to extend the ball over the goal line, but before he could, Cowboys defensive tackle James Castleman batted the ball out of Linwood’s hands and recovered the fumble. The Cowboys countered with a 99-yard touchdown drive to take a 7-0 lead and remained in control the rest of the night.

Stat of the week: Baylor has lost 37 straight road games to ranked opponents dating all the way back to 1991.

Quote of the week: "Without question, there are rodeos, and this is not their first one."
-- Baylor coach Art Briles, on Oklahoma State after the Cowboys defeated his Bears 49-17

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 13

November, 25, 2013
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The Power Rankings have a new team at the top, and a not-so-new team back at the bottom:

1. Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1 Big 12, last week 2): If the College Football Playoff era had come a year earlier, Oklahoma State would be a serious contender for inclusion. The Cowboys have been on fire for more than a month now, and could ascend to as high as fourth in the BCS going into Bedlam should Auburn, Missouri or Clemson fall in rugged games this weekend. Either way, there might not be a better one-loss team in college football right now than the Cowboys.

[+] EnlargeArt Briles
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesDespite a tough loss to Oklahoma State, Art Briles' Bears still have some key goals to accomplish this season.
2. Baylor (9-1, 6-1 Big 12, LW 1): The national championship is no longer in the cards. But this has still been a tremendous season for Baylor, which even after its disappointing performance in Stillwater has a chance to set a school record for victories and win its first conference title, either shared or outright. Even a BCS bowl berth is not out of the realm of possibility. But first coach Art Briles will have to get his team refocused, which won’t be a cinch.

3. Texas (7-3, 6-1 Big 12, LW 3): The Longhorns still have a shot at an outright conference title, but they have to play much better than they did against Oklahoma State, which thoroughly whipped the Horns in Austin. Then again, Oklahoma State has been whipping everybody lately. Baylor no longer looks so invincible. And Tech, Texas' next opponent, hasn’t won a game in November in seemingly forever. This season hasn’t gone the way the Horns had hoped. But the chance remains for a special finish that, at the very least, would close the Mack Brown era with a good taste in everyone’s mouth.

4. Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2 Big 12, LW 5): Did the Sooners uncover -- well, re-uncover -- their QB of the future in Manhattan? Trevor Knight was splendid in his first career road start, with his running, decision-making and, in several cases, throwing. If Knight plays this way in Stillwater, Bedlam could get interesting.

5. Kansas State (6-5, 4-4 Big 12, LW 4): The Wildcats squandered an opportunity to show they belong in the upper tier of the Big 12 against OU. Now they’re all but locked into the National University Holiday Bowl, which isn’t so bad for a team that once was 2-4.

6. Texas Tech (7-4, 4-4 Big 12, LW 6): The Red Raiders have a prime opportunity to get off this 1-10 November slide on Thanksgiving in Austin. Tech played well in Arlington against Baylor, except for the turnovers. If the Red Raiders can limit the turnovers at Texas, they should be in the game in the fourth quarter with a chance for a huge victory to end the regular season.

7. West Virginia (4-7, 2-6 Big 12, LW 7): This season will end without a bowl. But at least the Mountaineers can hang their coonskin caps on what might wind up being the upset of the season in college football.

8. TCU (4-7, 2-6 Big 12, LW 8): Since TCU failed to qualify for a bowl, the Horned Frogs have turned their season finale against Baylor this weekend into a de facto bowl. TCU has talent coming back in 2014, with only six seniors graduating. If the Frogs can play Baylor tough, that will leave them feeling even better about their prospects for 2014 after a disastrous season.

9. Iowa State (2-9, 1-7 Big 12, LW 10): The Cyclones gave their fans a reprieve from a miserable season with a solid performance in a shutout of the Jayhawks. After throwing for 300 yards and two touchdowns, Grant Rohach might have taken command of the QB spot over the injured Sam Richardson going into 2014, too.

10. Kansas (3-8, 1-7 Big 12, LW 9): Back to the cellar.

What we learned in the Big 12: Week 13

November, 24, 2013
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What we learned about the Big 12 in Week 13:

1. The Big 12 title now goes through Stillwater: Before 2011, Oklahoma State had won just one conference title -- a three-way share in 1976 -- in 58 years. After a dominating 49-17 win over Baylor, the Cowboys are just a win over Oklahoma away from claiming their second Big 12 title in three seasons. The Oklahoma State defense has been the best in the Big 12 all year, and Saturday was no different. The Cowboys held the nation’s top-scoring offense to just a field goal through the first three quarters. Cowboys QB Clint Chelf remained red-hot, too, completing his first 12 passes while ultimately accounting for four touchdowns. Oklahoma State now controls its own destiny in the Big 12. And if the Cowboys take Bedlam, they will take the Big 12 title again, too.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiBryce Petty and Baylor's high-powered offense never got on track against Oklahoma State.
2. Baylor’s offense is not invincible: The Bears entered their Big 12 showdown at Oklahoma State leading the nation with an average of 61.3 points per game. Early in the fourth quarter in Stillwater, Baylor had just a field goal. The Bears had been fabulous offensively all season. But Oklahoma State completely shut them down. Baylor’s vaunted vertical passing game was completely nonexistent, as Antwan Goodley and Levi Norwood failed to shake loose from the Cowboys' cornerbacks corps, which for the most part was without All-American candidate Justin Gilbert. The Bears also struggled to get the running game going, as Oklahoma State’s defensive tackles controlled the line of scrimmage. No doubt, not having running back Lache Seastrunk and wideout Tevin Reese hurt. But Baylor had overcome such injuries against Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Against Oklahoma State, the Bears proved to be human. And against a top-notch defense, vulnerable, too.

3. OU might have found its QB of the future: In place of the injured Blake Bell, Trevor Knight was terrific in Oklahoma’s 41-31 win in Manhattan. Knight did most of his damage out of the read-option with Brennan Clay, who had a career day with 200 yards on the ground. But Knight was also precise with his passing, completing 14 of 20 passes, including 7 of 8 in the second half, for 171 yards. His throw of the day came in the first quarter when he found Sterling Shepard in the end zone with a bullet on third-and-goal from the K-State 12. It gave the Sooners a 7-0 lead. The Sooners have gotten inconsistent QB play all season. But the way Knight has performed the past two weeks, it’s possible he just might be OU’s long-term answer at the position.

4. K-State not quite in the Big 12’s top tier: The Wildcats entered their game with the Sooners as a favorite thanks to a four-game winning streak. But even with a freshman QB making his first career start on the road, OU controlled the game from beginning to end, piling up 301 yards on the ground while shutting down a K-State rushing attack that had been so good the last month. No doubt, the Wildcats made a great recovery from a 2-4 start to become bowl eligible. But after going 0-4 against the Big 12’s top four teams, it’s evident they don’t quite belong in the league’s upper tier.

5. Iowa State still better than Kansas: With a spot in the Big 12 cellar on the line, Iowa State throttled the Jayhawks 34-0 for its first conference win of the season. A week after snapping a 27-game conference losing streak, Kansas resorted to its old ways in the frigid Ames weather. Freshman QB Montell Cozart completed only 4 of 12 passes for 20 yards, and Jake Heaps was not much better in relief in the second half. As a result, Iowa State rolled to its first Big 12 shutout since a 41-0 victory over Baylor in 2001. The Cyclones also racked up a season-high 502 yards of offense behind freshman QB Grant Rohach, who had 300 yards passing in the best game of his career. The Jayhawks might have ended their conference losing streak. But as Saturday showed, they are still the worst team in the conference. And apparently, it’s not close, either.

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