With Halloween on the horizon it's been a scary early conference schedule for the Big 12's pair of preseason favorites.

Baylor and Oklahoma find themselves looking up at several teams in the conference standings as multiple squads have exceeded expectations. Several Big 12 coaches have done a terrific job this season, making the battle for Big 12 Coach of the Year honors one of the most interesting conversations of the midseason.

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Who is the Big 12 Coach of the Year thus far?

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    44%
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Discuss (Total votes: 1,430)

It's no surprise for Bill Snyder to elevate his Kansas State team to the top of the Big 12 standings in late October. The Wildcats are the only Big 12 team without a conference loss after KSU's road win over preseason favorite Oklahoma last Saturday. Snyder's team is well-coached yet extremely creative, a combination that has been making other coaching staffs pull out their hair for years.

West Virginia could be the surprise of the conference. The Mountaineers entered the season with the Big 12's toughest schedule but that hasn't deterred Dana Holgorsen's squad. After a loss to OU in its first Big 12 game, WVU has won three straight games including its upset win over Baylor. Holgorsen has done an exceptional job getting quarterback Clint Trickett to excel in his offense while receiver Kevin White is playing like the Biletnikoff Award favorite. Holgorsen was our Big 12 Midseason Coach of the Year and prompting one of the best tweets of the week.

TCU could be an even bigger surprise than WVU, going toe-to-toe with OU and BU and more than holding its own against the preseason favorites. Gary Patterson's decision to change the Horned Frogs offense looks like the best offseason move by any coach as TCU's offense has carried its defense at times this season as opposed to a year ago when the offense's turnovers and miscues put Patterson's defense behind the eight ball time and time again.

Mike Gundy has done an admirable job with Oklahoma State, even though the Cowboys came back to earth after last weekend's 41-9 thrashing at the hands of the Horned Frogs. After losing a roster full of senior standouts from last year's squad, Gundy has his inexperienced team at 5-2 with one conference loss. The Cowboys have yet to play a game that didn't feature glimpses of their youth yet find themselves one game from bowl eligibility before Halloween. The Pokes, picked fifth in the Big 12 preseason poll, probably won't win the Big 12 but they've exceeded preseason projections thus far.

Snyder, Holgorsen, Patterson and Gundy have done admirable jobs but other coaches could stake their claim on Big 12 Coach of the Year honors as well. OU's Bob Stoops and BU's Art Briles have had their teams looking like College Football Playoff contenders at times this season while Texas' Charlie Strong has the Longhorns looking like their best is yet to come heading into the second half of the season and Paul Rhoads' Iowa State squad just keeps getting up no matter how many times it gets knocked to the canvas.

Who do you think has been the Big 12's Coach of the Year thus far? Vote and leave your comment below. Let the debate begin!

Breaking down the Power 5 races

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
12:47
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video

The College Football Playoff selection committee will emphasize conference championships as a factor in selecting its four playoff teams. Eight weeks into the season, what teams are in control of their conference races, and which ones are best positioned to take home a conference title?

In a "man vs computer" breakdown, we will use ESPN's Football Power Index and the takes of various conference reporters to handicap the races in the five power conferences.

To see the breakdown of each conference race, click here Insider.
Bill Snyder has built his Kansas State program on the shoulders of players like Jonathan Truman.

He has quietly been among the Big 12’s most productive linebackers during the past two seasons, recording 149 tackles in 19 games.

Known for his toughness and work ethic, the former walk-on was a special-teams star before becoming a starter in 2012.

[+] EnlargeJonathan Truman
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesAt the behest of his coaches, Jonathan Truman has worked on being more of a vocal leader.
"Truman is well known as one of the toughest guys on the team,” linebacker Will Davis said. “His mindset is that he is going to compete and outwork everyone, no matter if he is a little banged up or 100 percent healthy. He is going to be on the practice field and the weight room doing everything he can."

This season, Truman has 60 tackles, averaging 10 tackles per game for a Wildcats defense that sits atop the Big 12 in rushing yards allowed per game (100.8) and 10th among FBS teams.

“From last year to this year my confidence level has grown,” Truman said. “That just comes with experience and preparation.”

As Truman ascended into a starting role for KSU’s defense two years ago, there were concerns about who would replace former All-Big 12 linebacker Arthur Brown.

Turns out, Truman, with the help of Brown, has filled in admirably. As Brown was dominating the Big 12 with his aggressive nature and playmaking, Truman was playing the role of understudy, soaking in the habits that made Brown -- now with the Baltimore Ravens -- successful.

“I’ve always been really good friends with Arthur Brown,” said Truman. “When we would have breaks we’d go back home together, train together and I learned a lot from him. His habits on and off the field, he’s a great guy to say the least. He’s always doing the right thing on and off the field and I learned a lot from him.”

The pair still talk, although just once every few weeks during the football season, but Truman considers Brown to be one reason he’s been so successful for the Wildcats. When asked the biggest thing he learned from Brown, Truman said it’s been Brown’s accountability and consistency that he has tried to mimic.

“Doing the important things right and doing things the right way and being accountable,” Truman said. “When he was here everyone counted on him to do what was expected of him and he always came though.”

Even though Truman was one of the Wildcats’ most productive players as a junior, he’s taken things to another level as a senior. The Kechi, Kansas, native is not naturally vocal as a leader but he’s become a more vocal leader during his fifth season in the program, even being voted team captain for the 2014 campaign.

“Since I’ve been here, I’ve been more of a lead by example type of guy,” Truman said. “Coming into this year, my coaches have tried to encourage me to be more of a vocal leader and I think I’ve gotten better at that. Being more vocal is important on our defense and I understood that.”

Truman rarely finds his name alongside the Big 12’s top linebackers in conversations about the conference’s top playmakers but he doesn’t seem to care. He’s more concerned about making sure the Wildcats sit atop the Big 12 standings, like they do now.

“I just try to control the things I can control,” Truman said. “I don’t try to get caught up in hype. I do what’s important to me. And what is important to me is having this football team be successful and I’ll do anything I can to make that happen.”

Best and worst losses for 1-loss teams 

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
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For all of the debate about who should be ranked No. 1 among the three undefeated, power-conference teams, the far greater challenge right now when filling out a ballot is ranking the teams with one loss.

There are 15 once-beaten teams in this week's AP Top 25, and eight or nine of them could probably make a legitimate claim to being No. 4. That number of one-loss teams is sure to dwindle in the next few weeks, but there's still a good chance that the selection committee will face the difficult decision of which two or three of those teams to put into the playoff.

Obviously, there's much more to any team's résumé than a single loss, but if the BCS era is an indicator, the nature of that loss could become a major topic of discussion when distinguishing among the once-beaten teams. Perhaps that's because in a sport where there is so little common ground on which to compare top teams, having exactly one loss is the trait they all share.

So, recognizing that this could be a factor in determining which teams get into the playoff, here are the best and worst losses by current Top 25 teams that have only one defeat. The losses are ranked by Game Score, which is a metric developed by ESPN Stats & Information that takes into account quality of the opponent, location of the game, flow of the game and final score. It's important to note that opponent quality adjusts as more games are played, so these Game Scores will also change from week-to-week. (All Game Scores can be seen by clicking team links on the FPI page.)

Kickoff Show (1 ET)

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
10:15
AM ET
Join ESPN.com reporters Edward Aschoff, Heather Dinich, Adam Rittenberg and host Chantel Jennings as the discuss who should be in the top four when the College Football Playoff committee's first rankings come out next week. They will also preview Week 9's best games and take your questions.

FORT WORTH, Texas -- A high-five, a glove, a photo, a hug, whatever. If TCU’s youngest fans want something from Horned Frogs receiver Josh Doctson, he can’t say no.

He knows what those moments mean. Ten years ago, Doctson was one of them.

He and his brother Jeremiah were proud members of the Bleacher Creatures club back then, just two of the hundreds of kids who ran onto the Amon G. Carter Stadium field each week before kickoff. For three or four years, the Doctson brothers made that dash and watched from the stands and dreamed.

"I can recall it vividly," Doctson said. "Getting on the field. The horn blowing. Sprinting as fast as we can to the other goal line. We looked forward to every Saturday. We were here every Saturday. I’m at a loss for words now when I see those kids running on the field or hanging over the railing after the game. I was in their shoes."

[+] EnlargeJosh Doctson
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsHorned Frogs receiver Josh Doctson had 225 receiving yards, including TD receptions of 77 and 84 yards, against Oklahoma State.
You better believe all those dashes crossed his mind last Saturday. He ran wild like 11-year-old Josh against Oklahoma State, sprinting untouched for 77- and 84-yard touchdowns on the first two receptions of a career-best day in No. 10 TCU’s 42-9 blowout of the Cowboys.

Doctson surpassed 100 yards for the first time in his TCU career. Then he went over 200. He finished with 225 -- just 1 yard shy of the best pass-catching performance in school history. After coming home in 2012, Doctson is doing things today his younger self never could have imagined.

"I texted my brother after the game and was just like, 'Wow, I don’t even know where that came from today,'" Doctson said. "My mother was in shock. It’s really unreal. I sit back and I don’t even know where all this came from."

This all started with Tracy Syler-Jones, an unemployed single mother of two who moved with her boys from Birmingham, Alabama, to Texas in 1999 despite no promise of a job. TCU took a chance on her -- as an assistant communications director -- when her family sorely needed a chance.

Doctson didn’t know just how much his mother had sacrificed and survived when he and Jeremiah were young. But he knew nobody worked harder. Tracy taught her sons to never be satisfied. Today she’s TCU’s vice chancellor of marketing and communications, and her sons’ constant inspiration.

"She’s the only reason I am where I’m at," Doctson said.

But Doctson didn’t start at TCU. He played his freshman season at Wyoming. His first TD? A 7-yard reception against, yep, TCU. He even beat former Horned Frogs cornerback Jason Verrett to make that play, one of his 35 catches as a true freshman. Dream come true, he thought at the time.

But by the end of his first semester, Doctson needed to get back home. His grandfather, who has since died, had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Living 750 miles away, knowing he couldn’t help, was too unbearable for Doctson.

"We were going through a lot as a family, myself especially," Doctson said. "I was really hard on myself and just a little bit distracted. That’s really what brought me back to Texas. Family was the No. 1 thing in my life. I couldn’t see myself spending four years apart from my brother and mom."

TCU took a chance on him, too. The 6-foot-4, 190-pounder has rewarded head coach Gary Patterson’s faith ever since.

"Josh is one of those guys that is very mature for his age," Patterson said. "Ever since he got here he’s run great routes, he’s blocked, he’s tenacious. Team is very important to him. He’s not going to be a guy who’s a true burner, but he has enough speed, he’s deceptive and he can go up and get the ball."

Oh yes he can. Against Minnesota this season, Doctson leaped so high for a one-handed touchdown catch, his right knee nearly brushed the poor defensive back's facemask. Thanks to this new high-flying offense, the Horned Frogs’ leading receiver already has more yards in six games than he put up in 11 games a year ago. The highlight reel got a bit longer Saturday.

Nobody told Doctson he was a yard short of the record until the final seconds of the win. He would be lying if he said he didn’t want one more catch. But days later, he still can’t believe what he did.

Knowing where he started, he says, makes all this -- the big plays, TCU's top-10 ranking, the opportunity this team has -- seem a little too unthinkable. The kid from the Bleacher Creatures still can’t believe he gets to play with the big boys now.

"I look at those plays now and it’s just like, 'Wow, I don’t even know who that is. That wasn’t me,'" Doctson said. "I’m just so happy to be out here and see where this team is heading and be a part of this. There’s an amazing vibe in the locker room, on campus, everywhere. I’m living in this moment right now."

Big 12 Week 9 predictions

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
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Why Kansas State will win: In case you haven't noticed, the Wildcats have been playing good football all season. It took three missed field goals and a pair of untimely turnovers for Auburn to escape Manhattan last month. Behind QB Tyrone Swoopes, the Longhorns have been getting better. And they should be able to hang tough, as they did against Baylor and Oklahoma. But they ultimately won't be able to run the ball well enough or contain dual-threat QB Jake Waters enough to also escape with a win. Kansas State 29, Texas 21 -- Jake Trotter

Why West Virginia will win: The Mountaineers are playing great, physical defense that complements the fireworks of QB Clint Trickett, receiver Kevin White and all of their skill-position talent. Oklahoma State will get its chances -- WVU has a minus-six turnover margin during its three-game win streak -- but its offensive line is in brutal shape and the Pokes showed no resilience in the second half last week at TCU. This just isn't a good time to play the Mountaineers. West Virginia 38, Oklahoma State 17 -- Max Olson

Why TCU will win: The Horned Frogs will simply overwhelm the Red Raiders with an active defense and relentless offense. Tech will have its share of big plays but TCU and quarterback Trevone Boykin should have plenty of big plays of their own against a Red Raiders defense that ranks No. 114 among FBS teams with 36.9 points per game allowed. TCU 49, Texas Tech 31 — Brandon Chatmon

Season records:
  • Trotter: 45-4
  • Chatmon: 43-6
  • Olson: 43-6

Big 12 morning links

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
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In case you missed it, the Royals took Game 2.
  • Oklahoma State has sued Texas co-offensive coordinator Joe Wickline for breach of contract, alleging he misled his former employer about his new position at Texas, and the school is seeking more than $593,000 in damages. According to the suit filed in an Oklahoma district court on Oct. 17, Oklahoma State’s board of regents asserts that Wickline violated his contractual agreement to pay a buyout fee of $593,487 if he left OSU for an FBS offensive coordinator job that did not include play-calling duties. Wickline filed a countersuit this week and claims that he is indeed calling plays for Texas’ offense, according to an Austin American-Statesman report. This is a bizarre and unfortunate situation. Wickline was such a big part of the success Oklahoma State had in the Mike Gundy era. Now, the two sides are involved in litigation. Texas, by the way, travels to Stillwater on Nov. 15.
  • Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth and Texas running back Ricky Williams are just a few of the Big 12 names that were nominated for the College Football Hall of Fame. I don't know how anyone couldn't vote for those three, and anyone that leaves Snyder off his or her ballot should have it stripped away for life.
  • West Virginia's revamped 3-3-5 scheme is earning praise, writes Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. And deservedly so. The Mountaineers held Baylor’s offense, which was averaging 57.2 points and 623 total yards per game, to just 318 yards in West Virginia’s 41-27 upset victory. Much has rightfully been made of what TCU co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie have done at TCU. But West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson and assistant Tom Bradley have done a phenomenal job turning the Mountaineers into arguably the most improved defense in the Big 12. If West Virginia contends for the Big 12 title, it won't just be because of Clint Trickett and Kevin White. It will be because of that defensive unit, too.
  • Speaking of TCU, the Dallas Morning News' Ryan Gerbosi wonders whether TCU QB Trevone Boykin is a legitimate candidate for the Heisman Trophy. It's a little strange that Boykin hasn't generated more Heisman buzz so far. He's been the pivotal piece in TCU going from having the nation's 106th best offense last year to the seventh-best one this season. With West Virginia and Kansas State coming up back-to-back to start the month of November, Boykin might begin to appear on Heisman straw polls if he can lead the Horned Frogs to a sweep of those two games.
  • While TCU is flying high, Texas Tech is going the opposite way, writes Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Exactly one year ago, Tech was 7-0 and ranked No. 10 in the polls. That feels like a long time ago. The Red Raiders have exactly one Big 12 win since then -- over Kansas last weekend. It hasn't been a fluke, either. Of the 33 team categories tracked by Big 12 statisticians, Tech is last in the league in nine of them, according to Burch. That is a bad sign. Of course, the Red Raiders can always turn it around. Just look at what TCU has done.

Recruiting class rankings: Oct. 22 update

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
5:00
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video

National recruiting coordinator Craig Haubert joins ESPN’s Phil Murphy to break down updates to the ESPN class rankings in the wake of updated player evaluations with the ESPN 300.

To read the full class rankings, click here.

Q&A: Kansas LB Ben Heeney

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
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We're not perfect here on the Big 12 blog. And Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney showed that we may have erred omitting him from our midseason All-Big 12 team. Days after our team came out, Heeney delivered a dominating performance with 21 tackles and a 37-yard interception return in Kansas' 34-21 loss at Texas Tech last weekend.

Heeney now leads the Big 12 with 58 solo tackles.

Though we snubbed him, Heeney was a good sport, and agreed to talk with us about getting left off the midseason team, what it was like when Charlie Weis got fired and how to properly groom a beard:

[+] EnlargeBen Heeney
Charlie Riedel/AP PhotoLinebacker Ben Heeney says the Jayhawks have a goal in mind for coach Clint Bowen: "We have to win for him, because we all really like him and we want him to stay around as our head coach."
We think we might have made a mistake in leaving you off our midseason All-Big 12 team. Do you think we made a mistake?

Heeney: Whatever you guys think. I think the guys you put ahead of me (Oklahoma's Eric Striker, Texas' Jordan Hicks and TCU's Paul Dawson) are great players also. But I did have to prove last week that you guys made a mistake.

So did it give you a little extra motivation against Tech?

Heeney: Yeah, I guess a little bit. But more than anything, I was playing to win that game against Texas Tech.

You have tackled a bunch of guys over the past four years. Who has been the toughest to tackle?

Heeney: I think Lache Seastrunk at Baylor was really hard. Tavon Austin at West Virginia my sophomore year was hard to tackle. And (former Kansas State QB) Collin Klein was hard to tackle. Those three guys stick out.

Why did you decide to go to Kansas?

Heeney: It had always been my dream school. Both of my parents went to school here. My brother gradated from here in 2013. It's basically been a family school. I was born and raised in Kansas. It was my dream school since I was a little kid.

What's it been like having three head coaches?

Heeney: It's tough. Especially with wondering where you stand. After Coach (Turner) Gill got fired after my freshman year, it was a whole new staff. You have to prove your worth again to a whole brand new staff. It was different when Coach Weis got fired. He was the only one let go. So it's been different every time. But it is pretty weird having three coaches in four years.

Did Weis getting fired in the middle of the season blindside you?

Heeney: Yeah it did. It was really weird. After the Texas game, that next morning, that Sunday morning, I woke up to like 50 text messages from friends and random people asking if I had heard the news. I hadn't heard anything. Waking up to all that chaos was really crazy. It was something that I never thought would happen.

How did it make you guys feel Weis getting fired, and what's been different since Clint Bowen took over?

Heeney: Coach Weis was always a good guy to me, a good coach. But we've moved on, and I don't think our team has skipped a beat. It almost has brought us closer as a team. Coach Bowen had been my position coach last two years. Me and him have a really good relationship. He's a player's coach. We love playing for him. We all want him to be our head coach. We want to win for Coach Bowen.

So you guys want to win games to give Bowen a chance at becoming the permanent head coach?

Heeney: Yeah definitely. That's been kinda our goal. We have to win for him, because we all really like him and we want him to stay around as our head coach. That has been our goal, to win for him. It hasn't happened yet. But we definitely think it's going to. We're trying to get wins not only for ourselves, but for Coach Bowen.

What's the story with the beard?

Heeney: I started growing it last year. Everyone really liked it. I shaved it off after football season, and I got crap for it. So this offseason I've brought it back to life. I've been growing it five-six months deep. It's become an image for me I guess now.

West Virginia punter Nick O'Toole has tips for grooming his mustache. Do you have tips for grooming a beard?

Heeney: Yeah, I do. His mustache is awesome by the way. You have to shampoo it daily. You need it get a beard comb or beard brush, either of the two work fine. And then just take care of it, love it, nourish it. If you can grow a beard, you should, because not everyone can grow one. It's pretty special.

You a Royals fan?

Heeney: Yes, big Royals fan. I've been watching the games. I had tickets to the game last Monday night, but it got rained out. We had practice Tuesday, so wasn't able to go. But I've been following them, definitely. I think we're going to win.

What's favorite local place to eat in Lawrence?

Heeney: Jefferson's on Mass. Ave. It's a wing place. They have really good fried food.

Final question: Can you forgive us for leaving you off the midseason All-Big 12 team?

Heeney: Yeah man, I'll forgive you guys this time. Just don't let it happen again, all right?

Big 12 stat check: Week 9

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
2:30
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A closer look at one statistic worth keeping an eye on for each Big 12 team entering Week 9:

Baylor: The problem with penalties is no one-week fluke. Yes, Baylor's 215 penalty yards against West Virginia were the most by any FBS team in the past decade. But the reality is, since 2010, Baylor leads the nation in penalties (8.05 per game), penalty yards (74.6) and offensive penalties (4.12).

Iowa State: E.J. Bibbs is establishing himself as one of the nation's top tight ends this season. After catching two more touchdowns against Texas on Saturday, he now ranks first nationally in TDs (six) and second in receptions (32) among tight ends. He's not putting up Jace Amaro-level numbers, but this year there simply aren't many like Bibbs in the Big 12 or elsewhere.

Kansas: The Jayhawks are showing signs they're going to win a Big 12 game this year. One factor that's helping their cause: stingy goal-line defense. Opponents are scoring touchdowns on just 54.5 percent of their goal-to-go situations. That rate ranks second-best in the Big 12 behind TCU. Kansas has allowed six TDs, forced teams to settle for 12 field goals and recorded one takeaway. For comparison's sake, that's a dozen fewer TDs than Iowa State has given up in those situations.

Kansas State: This one paid off big last week and has continued during Bill Snyder's return to K-State: Since 2009, the Wildcats are No. 1 in the Big 12 at blocking field goals (seven) and extra points (eight). Travis Britz got No. 8 last week on the point-after attempt that would've tied the game against Oklahoma.

Oklahoma: Michael Hunnicutt had a rough day Saturday, but he's still one of the most consistent kickers in Big 12 history. Hunnicutt's 84.5 percent career success rate on field goals ranks No. 3 among kickers in the past decade with more than 70 attempts.

Oklahoma State: Against TCU, the Cowboys had undeniably one of their worst offensive performances of the Mike Gundy era. For only the third time in his tenure, OSU produced zero touchdowns in any phase of the game. The minus-33 scoring margin was OSU's worst since a 56-20 loss to Texas Tech in 2008 and fourth-worst in Gundy's 10 seasons, and the Pokes' 4.03 yards per play ranked fifth-worst.

TCU: The Horned Frogs are now 91-3 under Gary Patterson when they hold a team to 17 points or fewer. After last Saturday's 42-9 win over Oklahoma State, the Frogs have now won their last 10 games against Big 12 teams when achieving that 17-or-under feat defensively.

Texas: Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson's efforts to script the first 15 to 25 plays of a game are paying dividends for quarterback Tyrone Swoopes. He's completing 77 percent of his passes in the first quarter this season, connecting on 40 of 52 attempts for 426 yards and 10.6 yards per completion. That's certainly helping him get into an early rhythm.

Texas Tech: DeAndre Washington is quietly putting together one of the best seasons by a Tech running back in years. He's averaging 5.55 yards per carry (No. 2 in Big 12), 88.8 yards per game (No. 3) and is on pace to become Tech's first 1,000-yard rusher since 1998. Texas Tech is still passing on nearly 63 percent of its snaps, but Washington is making this run game go when he gets his touches.

West Virginia: There are a ton of numbers we can throw around for Kevin White, the nation's leading receiver, but here's an impressive one: If he surpasses 100 receiving yards against Oklahoma State, he'll become just the second FBS receiver in the last decade to start a season with eight straight 100-yard games. The other guy? Another Dana Holgorsen prodigy, Justin Blackmon. He put up 100-plus in every game of his 2010 season.
Kevin White has made himself impossible to ignore.

The West Virginia receiver has started garnering votes on our Heisman Watch and, make no mistake, the NFL has noticed the improvement of the Big 12's best receiver during his second season in Morgantown, West Virginia.

White debuts on Mel Kiper's Big Board this week as a member of the weekly 25-player list of the top NFL draft prospects in college football. The ESPN NFL draft expert had high praise for White's development from his junior to senior year.

Here's a snippet of Kiper's thoughts on White.
"White lacks elite quick-twitch explosiveness, but he's able to create space, and has good length at 6-3, the ability to make the contested catch, and he's been far more consistent with his hands this year."

Through seven games this season, White has 69 receptions for 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns. He has at least 100 receiving yards in every game and four games with at least 10 receptions. As a junior, White had 35 receptions for 507 yards and five scores in 11 games.

Texas at Kansas State primer

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
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Both Texas and Kansas State are coming off dramatic wins that came down to the final possession. Will this game go down to the wire, too?

The Wildcats have won five out of the last six in the series. But Texas has begun to surge after a rocky start.

Max Olson and Jake Trotter break down this key Big 12 matchup between the Wildcats, who hope to keep their playoff dreams alive, and the Longhorns, who need a big win to improve their chances of becoming bowl eligible:

How Kansas State can control the game: The Bill Snyder formula to winning is pretty simple. Stop the run. Avoid mistakes. And wait for the opposition to shoot itself in the foot. That formula worked wonders in the win over Oklahoma, and it should work here, too. The Longhorns can play defense, but a shifty Jake Waters ought to be able to exploit them the way dual-threat Iowa State QB Sam B. Richardson did last week. Defensively, K-State should be able to control the Texas running attack, which will put pressure on QB Tyrone Swoopes to make plays. Swoopes was able to do that against the Cyclones. But doing the same in Manhattan against these Wildcats will be a far different task. -- Trotter

How Texas can pull off the upset: After confidence-boosting games against Oklahoma and Iowa State, Swoopes needs to bring his A-game on Saturday. Texas will need consistently good line play and play calling on offense. Based on how Texas showed up against UCLA, Baylor and OU, you'd think Charlie Strong and Vance Bedford will have a comprehensive plan for slowing down Waters, Tyler Lockett and the things they do well. But that won't matter if players don't execute. Like Jake said, KSU isn't going to make many mistakes. Texas had some bad ones against Iowa State -- a Swoopes red zone INT, a fumbled sweep returned for a TD -- and can't afford those flubs this week. -- Olson

Kansas State’s X factor: Defensive end Ryan Mueller has had a very quiet season so far with only 1.5 sacks. This could be the game the 2013 All-Big 12 performer could break out. The Texas offensive line has improved over the last month, but it’s hardly a formidable unit. And K-State’s run defense has been stout all year, meaning Texas will probably have to throw to move the chains. That could give Mueller plenty of opportunities to get to Swoopes while facing off against Texas’ susceptible tackles. -- Trotter

Texas’ X factor: Two guys up front: Steve Edmond and Cedric Reed. Edmond played some of the best football of his life against Baylor and OU, but did not start last week for reasons that are unclear. He did eventually enter the ISU game, and Texas is going to need the senior linebacker this week for his blitzing and play in the box as well as reliable run D. We haven't heard much from Reed so far (four TFLs, 1.5 sacks), but he can capitalize off the double-teams Malcom Brown draws. Now is as good a time as any for Reed's breakout. -- Olson

What a win would mean for Kansas State: The Wildcats are coming off an emotional win in Norman, so it will be interesting to see how they respond. They obviously have to keep winning to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot and to keep pace in the Big 12 title race. But with the toughest remaining schedule of the Big 12 contenders, K-State also needs to keep the momentum rolling. A convincing win over Texas would do just that. -- Trotter

What a win would mean for Texas: That would be the Longhorns' second-ever win in Manhattan. They haven't pulled this off since 2002. After coming so close against UCLA and Oklahoma, beating a top-15 K-State team would provide the first signature win of the Strong era and help propel this team onto the path to six wins and bowl eligibility. -- Olson
video

Offenses are getting harder and harder to defend.

Big receivers are becoming common, slot receivers are as quick as ever and quarterbacks can use their arm or their feet to create nightmares for defensive coordinators. Add the creative game-planning from Big 12 offenses and it can leave opposing coordinators at a loss for words.

Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops is not at a loss for words but he is looking for answers, sounding off against the rule that allows offensive linemen to block three yards downfield even when the ball is thrown.

Several teams have done a great job of putting defenses in lose-lose situations by utilizing the rule with creative schemes used by multiple offensive systems from “Air Raid” offenses to run-based spread attacks. He never referenced any team specifically but Stoops clearly remains frustrated with how to defend teams that use run-pass plays that include offensive linemen past the line of scrimmage after OU’s 31-30 loss to Kansas State, a team that has used the rule to create chaos for opposing defenses during the past few years.

“The linemen running down the field and trying to throw a pass when they’re five yards down the field, to me is ridiculous,” Stoops said on Tuesday evening. “Football has gotten to where it is stupid, letting guys run [running] plays then throw the ball. I’m just not a big fan of it -- it’s lenient and all of a sudden it’s three, four, five yards.

“Once you get to a certain point it’s not even fair.”

OU’s disappointing loss to Kansas State included a Wildcats touchdown pass to Glenn Gronkowski (see below), so Stoops' words sound like sour grapes that lingered into OU’s bye week even though he never referenced the Wildcats or any specific team while expressing his frustration with how the rule has been interpreted in recent years.



Rule 7, article 10 in the NCAA rulebook states:
Ineligible Receiver Downfield
ARTICLE 10. No originally ineligible receiver shall be or have been more than three yards beyond the neutral zone until a legal forward pass that crosses the neutral zone has been thrown.
PENALTY—Five yards from the previous spot.

“We’re having a hard enough time [stopping it] and it just keeps expanding,” Stoops said. “It’s not supposed to be more than three yards but it seems like a very lax three yards.”

The architect of the Sooners’ defense is adamant about his hopes that the rule and issue will be revisited in the offseason as several different teams have been able to use the three-yard rule to their advantage in recent years, including Auburn in 2013, which ran a similar play to tie Alabama before the Tigers’ field goal return that shocked the Crimson Tide.

The run-pass option package that K-State and quarterback Jake Waters uses to stress defenses creates a lose-lose scenario for safeties and linebackers, who must choose to stop the run with Waters or cover the pass while Waters simply reads the defender and choses whatever option the defender leaves free.

Stoops admitted there’s not much any defense can do to stop the creative schemes like the ones KSU and Auburn built upon the rule and used with success.

"Complain … until they do something about it,” Stoops said when asked how to stop it. “What is the gray area? They’re allowed to be down there three yards but at three there should be a flag, that’s how I look at it. It can’t be gray, it’s black or white.”
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The updated ESPN 300 player rankings are now live, and one of the primary Big 12 targets is the newly crowned top-ranked running back.

Soso Jamabo said in September that he was gunning for the No. 1 spot at running back, and after several huge games, Jamabo has earned that spot, bypassing Kentucky running back Damien Harris. The hunter, however, is now the hunted, as Jamabo looks to maintain that spot. He'll have to fight off Harris, Oklahoma State commit Ronald Jones II, fast-rising Chris Warren III -- who jumped from 183 to 102 in the new rankings -- and several others.

Here are five things to know involving Big 12 recruiting:


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