Big 12: Baylor Bears

Big 12 viewer's guide: Week 10

October, 31, 2014
Oct 31
All eyes will be on Milan Puskar Stadium in Week 10 as TCU and West Virginia battle to put themselves in prime position to win the conference in their third season as members. Kansas State hopes to strengthen its résumé against Oklahoma State, Oklahoma could face a tough task against Iowa State in Ames, Baylor hopes to shake off injury troubles against Kansas and Texas Tech against Texas could be a classic offense-defense battle.

Here are the storylines to watch in the Big 12 during Week 10:

No. 18 Oklahoma at Iowa State, noon ET (Fox Sports 1): This has the potential to be a scary game for an OU squad looking to rebound after two losses in three games. Iowa State's offense is finding its footing under offensive coordinator Mark Mangino after a season-high 45 points against Texas on Oct. 18. Tight end E.J. Bibbs, who leads all Big 12 tight ends with 32 receptions and six touchdowns, could cause problems for the Sooners' secondary. For Oklahoma, Trevor Knight will be looking to build on his performance against Kansas State, which included 318 passing yards, a 81.3 completion percentage and season-best 92.1 Adjusted QBR. Meanwhile the Sooners' defense will be looking to prove it's better than the 6.2 yards per play and the 2.11 points per drive it has allowed during conference games.

No. 7 TCU at No. 20 West Virginia, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC/ESPN2): The Horned Frogs earned the distinction of the Big 12's top-ranked team in the first edition of the College Football Playoff rankings and visits West Virginia on the heels of an 82-point outburst that was the talk of the Big 12. The Mountaineers feature a much-improved defense and one of the best quarterback-receiver duos in the nation with Clint Trickett and Kevin White. If TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin plans to cement his name in the Heisman race, this is the opportunity to do so with a Heisman moment or two and leading his team to victory over an explosive and confident Mountaineers' squad. It should be an exciting game to watch as Trickett and Boykin are the Big 12's most improved signal-callers, with their increase in Total QBR -- Boykin (plus-29.8, second) and Trickett (plus-27.3, fourth) -- ranking in the top four among Power 5 quarterbacks this season.

Kansas at No. 13 Baylor, 4 p.m. ET (Fox Sports 1): Does Baylor have a problem looking up at TCU in the College Football Playoff rankings after it beat them head-to-head? If so, the matchup with the Jayhawks is BU's first chance to show the committee its No. 13 ranking is too low for the defending Big 12 champion. Quarterback Bryce Petty has watched TCU's Boykin and WVU's White sprint past him in the race to be the Big 12's most legitimate Heisman contender and is looking to regain the production that placed him among the preseason favorites. Petty has been uncharacteristically inconsistent in Big 12 play with Adjusted QBRs of 74.9, 19.5, 74.7 and 41.2 in four conference outings. Meanwhile, KU could make a strong statement in Clint Bowen's candidacy for the permanent head coaching gig with a shocking upset at McLane Stadium.

Texas at Texas Tech, 7:30 p.m. ET (Fox Sports 1): Which team is more deflated? Texas is coming off a shutout loss to Kansas State, which included an average of 3.77 yards per play, the second-worst single game average in a conference game this season. Yet, there sits Texas Tech on the opposite end of the spectrum, having given up 9.13 yards per play in its 82-27 loss to TCU, the largest yards-per-play average allowed in conference play in 2014. Charlie Strong's team will lean on its defense to spark a tough road win, and the Red Raiders will count on Kliff Kingsbury's offense to outscore an subpar Texas attack. Should be fun to see who wins this battle of offensive and defensive minds.

Oklahoma State at No. 9 Kansas State, 8 p.m. ET (ABC): Oklahoma State is still chasing bowl eligibility and faces a difficult final stretch. To get a win in Manhattan, coach Mike Gundy must get more from an offense that has three combined touchdowns in its last three games. K-State knows this could be another win over a team with a winning record to add to the résumé after the Wildcats knocked off OU and UT in back-to-back weeks. With quarterback Jake Waters operating KSU's offense with efficient precision, KSU should feel good about extending its win streak to five before trips to TCU, West Virginia and Baylor in its final four games.

Big 12 morning links

October, 31, 2014
Oct 31
Happy Halloween, everyone be safe tonight!
  • All the ingredients are in place for TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin to be a Heisman Trophy contender, writes Carlos Mendez of the Fort Worth Star Telegram. Gary Patterson, the Horned Frogs head coach, claims he's downplaying it to draw more attention to it but, quite frankly, Boykin will be the decider. His seven-touchdown game catapulted his name into the discussion, so if he continues to produce at a high level and TCU continues winning, he could emerge as a front runner for the award.
  • The lack of a championship game won't hurt the Big 12 when it comes to the College Football Playoff, writes Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star. It's been late losses by the Big 12's top team that has held the conference out of the national title conversation the past few seasons. I couldn't agree more with Kerkhoff. I just don't see a scenario where an undefeated Big 12 team gets left out of the top four, no matter what happens in other conferences.
  • Baylor's third down struggles have handicapped the Bears offense, writes John Werner of the Waco Tribune. As shocking as this seems, BU quarterback Bryce Petty is last in the Big 12 in third-down QBR at 26.4. Last season his 73.2 raw QBR on third down was fourth in the Big 12. It's another sign it's been a subpar senior season for Petty but the good news for Art Briles & Co. is Petty can rewrite the story of his senior season with a strong final stretch of the season.
  • Tom Keegan of has an under-the-radar candidate for Kansas' coaching vacancy in Georgia Southern coach Willie Fritz. A long-time coach at Central Missouri, Fritz has some Kansas ties and is in the midst of a solid season at Georgia Southern. While I still think Clint Bowen is the right choice to take over full time, add another name to the list of candidates to watch in Lawrence.
  • West Virginia's defensive turnaround has been built on good communication and trust, writes Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail. The Mountaineers' defense is much improved but we'll see how much it has improved against TCU, the nation's top scoring offense. I'm expecting a lot of points from both offenses on Saturday, so the key will be good defense in clutch moments (i.e. third down and red zone) and WVU defenders winning their share of the one-on-one battles on Saturday. If they win those battles, I like WVU's chances to win the game.

Big 12 Week 10 predictions

October, 30, 2014
Oct 30
Why TCU will win: The Horned Frogs, playing like one of the nation's best teams, can get better. Trevone Boykin has been lethal, this offense has too much explosive diversity and TCU's defense will get the crucial second-half stops. This will be a fun chess match, a really physical game and another statement win for the Frogs. TCU 48, West Virginia 38. -- Max Olson

Why West Virginia will take it down to the wire: Clint Trickett and Kevin White are a great place to start. Add the Big 12's most improved defense, and WVU is in business. WVU has the playmakers to keep up with Boykin and the Horned Frogs' offense, while an electric atmosphere in Morgantown will make things even more difficult on TCU. Expect a close, high-scoring affair. TCU 49, West Virginia 46 -- Brandon Chatmon

Why Kansas State will win: Oklahoma State's offense is a dumpster fire right now, while K-State is coming off a shutout victory over Texas. The Cowboys again won't be able to move the ball against K-State's defense, which is stout at every level. And Jake Waters & Co. will be able to generate enough offensively to put this game away in the second half. Kansas State 31, Oklahoma State 13 -- Jake Trotter

Why Oklahoma will win: Don't sleep on these Cyclones. They proved against K-State and Texas that they're no easy out. But the Sooners are coming off a bye week, get top back Keith Ford back and know this Big 12 race isn't over for them just yet. OU steps up and gets a much-needed, bounce-back win. Oklahoma 45, Iowa State 20. -- Olson

Why Iowa State will keep it close: The Cyclones have historically played Oklahoma tough in Ames. The Iowa State offense is beginning to find its stride under coordinator Mark Mangino, while the Sooners have been suspect defensively the past month. The Cyclones probably won't be able to make enough stops to win. But they have the offense to make this one interesting. Oklahoma 35, Iowa State 31 -- Trotter

Why Baylor will win: Big plays, big plays and big plays. Injuries have dealt the Bears a blow along the offensive line, but Bryce Petty & Co. should come up with enough big plays to win comfortably against the Jayhawks. Baylor 45, Kansas 14 -- Chatmon

Why Texas will win: Anytime a game seems like a toss-up, I lean toward the team with the best defense. The Longhorns' defense ranks in the top third of the Big 12 in several categories including yards per play and sacks, which should help UT slow the Red Raiders' offense. Texas 24, Texas Tech 13 -- Chatmon

Season records:
  • Trotter: 48-4
  • Chatmon: 46-6
  • Olson: 46-6

Big 12 morning links

October, 30, 2014
Oct 30
Madison Bumgarner is an absolute boss. Still, it was a great ride for K.C. And a great World Series.
  • The Oklahoman's Jenni Carlson caught up with Big 12 commish Bob Bowlsby while he was in OKC to speak at a luncheon. Sorry expansionists, but Bowlsby doesn't see the Big 12 adding schools anytime soon. "We’re distributing about $25 million per school through our distributable revenue, so anybody that would be considered for expansion in our league would have to bring at least pro-rata value," he said. "I don’t know that there are a lot of obvious candidates out there." BYU, possibly. But good luck finding anyone else available out there that meets that standard.
  • The Dallas Morning News' Kevin Sherrington thinks Baylor needs to start scheduling better in the nonconference. I couldn't agree more. Debuting at No. 13 in the College Football Playoff Rankings, the Bears were clearly penalized for a soft nonconference slate that included SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo. With that schedule, Baylor left itself with almost no margin for a loss. And anymore in college football, it's very difficult to go through a season undefeated. The Bears have some work to do with their future scheduling. That is, if they want to be part of the playoff anytime soon.
  • The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Jimmy Burch makes the interesting point that the Big 12 race could easily end in a multi-team logjam at the top of the standings. So much for "One True Champion." It's not unthinkable that TCU, Kansas State, Baylor, West Virginia and Oklahoma could all end up 7-2 in the conference. In that case, the highest-ranked Big 12 co-champion in the final playoff rankings would be sent to the highest-profile bowl, which in all likelihood would not include one of the playoff semifinals. While a 7-2 five-way tie would underscore the impressive depth of the conference, it would be much better for the league if TCU or Kansas State or Baylor or whoever ran the table and made the playoff.
  • Despite a disappointing 5-2 start, nothing is wrong with Oklahoma football, in the opinion of The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel. It's just that the Big 12 has gotten better. Berry is right about the latter. TCU and West Virginia have finally arrived in Year 3 in the league. Oklahoma State and Baylor have ascended in recent years. And Bill Snyder is still doing wizard-like things at Kansas State. That said, my opinion is that the Sooners are at a level as a program that they should seriously contend for the national title every five years. That doesn't mean win it. That doesn't even mean making the playoff. That just means being on the short list of contenders in November, which Oklahoma really hasn't been since 2008. To me, that should be the standard at Oklahoma. Regardless of how good the rest of the Big 12 is.
  • Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy admitted in an interview with Campus Insiders' Seth Davis that he once tried to trademark his legendary catch phrase, "I'm a man. I'm 40." Gundy probably could have made a lot of money, with bumper stickers, birthday cards and T-shirts.

Big 12 stat check: Week 10

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
A closer look at one statistic worth keeping an eye on for each Big 12 team entering Week 10:

Baylor: The Bears had a bye week to address their penalty problems. One stat to put that issue in perspective: The Bears have more 10-plus penalty games this season (five) than the entire Big Ten conference combined (three). Then again, Big 12 teams have combined for 16 such games. That suggests style of play and the league's refs are probably important factors in the Bears' penalty woes.

Iowa State: The breakthrough is coming for Allen Lazard and D'Vario Montgomery. Both were impressive against Texas and have been targeted a combined 51 times by Sam B. Richardson in the Cyclones' past three games. In fact, Lazard was targeted a season-high 15 times against the Longhorns, one more than team receptions leader E.J. Bibbs.

Kansas: When interim head coach Clint Bowen says running back Corey Avery isn't being properly appreciated, he might be right. Avery's 417 rushing yards rank No. 11 in FBS among true freshmen on Power 5 conference teams and second most in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma's Samaje Perine, and he's already surpassed 500 total yards in his debut season.

Kansas State: ESPN Football Power Index data ranks the strength of Kansas State's record so far as No. 10 in the country and best in the Big 12. That's a good snapshot of both KSU's tough schedule and its impressive showings against ranked foes. But FPI still projects K-State will lose to TCU and Baylor, and that its road test at West Virginia is almost a 50-50 game (KSU's odds of winning are currently pegged at 46.8 percent).

Oklahoma: Getting running back Keith Ford back is good news for this Oklahoma offense, but tip your cap to his young understudies. In the four games Ford missed, Perine and Alex Ross combined to average 4.99 yards per carry and 156 rushing yards a game. All three offer different skill sets, giving the Sooners one dangerous trio if they can stay healthy the rest of the way.

Oklahoma State: After impressing in his first two starts, quarterback Daxx Garman has shown regression in his past four. His adjusted QBR of 40.2 in the month of October ranks No. 99 nationally and ninth in the Big 12. His QBR for those first starts against UTSA and Texas Tech was a combined 74.1, but he finished this month with a TD-to-INT ratio of 3-7.

TCU: The aerial attack stole most of the attention, but here's a big reason why TCU was capable of scoring 82 against Texas Tech: The Horned Frogs rushed for 224 yards on first downs against Tech. When you're getting 8.3 yards per carry on first down, you have the opportunity to do pretty much anything on offense.

Texas: Here's something you couldn't have expected entering the season: Texas is eight games in and hasn't had a running back surpass 100 rushing yards in any games. In fact, since losing David Ash in the opener, Texas has not had a back surpass 80 rushing yards in a single game. Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes' 95 rushing yards against Iowa State remains the team high.

Texas Tech: Following last week's record-setting debacle, Texas Tech's defense ranks No. 123 nationally and last among Power 5 conference teams in defensive efficiency, according to ESPN Stats & Info. But really, after a game like that, there's nowhere to go but up from here.

West Virginia: Clint Trickett continues to rank No. 1 in the Big 12 in passing, completion percentage, yards per attempt, completions of 20-plus yards, passer efficiency and QBR. He has more passing yards (2,763) and a better completion percentage (68.3 percent) than Bryce Petty had through the first eight games of his prolific Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year season last year.

Q&A: Baylor DE Shawn Oakman

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
Shawn Oakman is a monster of a man. So much so, the hashtag #Oakmanissobig became a trend during Big 12 media days.

The 6-foot-9, 280-pound Oakman has become a starter on Baylor's defense recording 28 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and five sacks from his defensive end spot. The Penn State transfer took some time to chat with about his basketball background, second chances (Oakman was kicked off the PSU team after he allegedly tried to steal a sandwich) and playing style.

You have a basketball background, how do you think that helps on the football field?

[+] Enlarge Shawn Oakman
Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY SportsJunior DE Shawn Oakman cracked the top 10 of Mel Kiper Jr.'s Big Board, which ranks the best NFL prospects.
Shawn Oakman: Definitely helps a lot with footwork. As a big man, to have that footwork helps fight off people chopping at my knees. Just the overall athletic ability.

Being such a big, tall guy how do you try to keep good leverage since the low man wins but you’re starting at such a higher point?

SO: You’re right. I’m as flexible and limber as the lowest man on the field, so it really doesn’t affect me too much.

Has it been natural or something you had to work on?

SO: It’s a steady process, you stay working [on it] on the sleds and trying to keep your pads down, but my height is my height, ain’t no hiding from it. I steadily work at it but it’s always going to be a process. I try to have the best leverage possible, plus, tackles aren’t that short either.

When did you decide football was the game for you or your love for the game develop?

SO: Probably in high school, when I started to foul out of basketball games.

You were just too physical?

SO: It was different. It was definitely the “Shaq Attack” effect for me in high school and I really didn’t like that too much. So if you’re going to give me the ability to compete at a competitive level and not foul out a game or get penalties and flags thrown at you, football was an easy call.

You’ve made a jump from last year to this year; what has been the key?

SO: The great coaching I get. I worked my butt off in the offseason to get where I am today but the work doesn’t stop. It’s great coaching and me being hungry along with the whole defense being hungry at the same time. We’re a family, we’re a team and we’re going to go as far as the weakest link goes.

As a defense do you start to feel like you’re getting the respect you deserve?

SO: Naw, we feel like we don’t get any respect but it’s perfectly fine. You want your defense to have that chip on their shoulder and I feel like everyone on defense comes to practice with that chip on their shoulder. It doesn’t matter if they don’t respect us, it’s more so ‘We’re going to make you respect us’ then you giving us respect. We’re going to show you and prove to you week in and week out.

If you had to describe your style of play in one word, what would it be?

SO: Dangerous.

Why dangerous?

SO: Because no matter what I’m coming off the ball and that threat of violence and physicality that I’m bringing every play of every game is a dangerous thing. We play the only sport where you’re able to put your hands on another man and violate them in a way that’s only legal between those lines.

If you didn’t play football what would you be doing?

SO: I really don’t know. This is my calling, this is what I’m here for, to play football and help my family.

Football has been a life saver for you?

SO: Most definitely. Without this game, I’d probably be another statistic, that’s for sure.

At what point did you realize football could help you?

SO: I’m not sure what year but as a kid I was always hungry, I was always a hustler, I was always trying to find a way to help my mom out, help my brothers out in any way I could. That lifestyle was never comfortable for me growing up, I never accepted having nothing. I wanted it all, and I was going to work for it.

So it feels good to see some results of that hard work?

SO: Definitely. To see some of the smiles on my family’s faces and having somebody they can actually look up to, smile for and be happy for without all the bad that goes with it.

Seems like your family is what drives you.

SO: Family is definitely a big part of it, being the youngest member of my family, I always felt I had a bigger role because I watched so many people do it the wrong way. I was determined not to go down that path. But, honestly, probably getting kicked out of Penn State had the biggest effect on me in my life.

Anything else that pushes you?

SO: Knowing this is my last chance. Everybody doesn’t get a second chance and I was truly blessed with a second chance. I’m going to make the best out of this second or last chance I’m going to get. You don’t get the opportunity to do it twice at two big levels, you know, everybody doesn’t get that chance. Most people, when they leave a big-time school, they go down a level. I was blessed to come from the Big Ten to the Big 12 and produce on such a high level.

Big 12 playoff tracker: Oct. 29

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
The first College Football Playoff Rankings were unveiled Tuesday night, and five Big 12 teams made the Top 25 cut. Here's a deeper look at what those rankings mean for the Big 12 and its hope of placing a team in the inaugural College Football Playoff:

Record: 6-1 (3-1 Big 12)
Playoff committee rank: No. 7
Next big obstacle: Nov. 1 at West Virginia
Reason for optimism: Assuming the SEC West starts to knock itself out, TCU is in pretty good shape after the first unveiling of the playoff rankings. Playoff committee chairman Jeff Long said the gap between No. 6 Alabama and No. 7 TCU was a “small” one. The Horned Frogs also have the chance to notch a pair of marquee wins these two next weeks against No. 20 West Virginia and No. 9 Kansas State.
Cause for concern: The Horned Frogs are ranked ahead of every Big Ten team, but not No. 5 Oregon. Assuming the playoff committee ends up with Florida State and two SEC West teams, that final playoff spot could come down to the Ducks and the Horned Frogs, and the Ducks appear to have the slight advantage at the moment. TCU could win out and still get snubbed if Oregon won out, too.
Whom they’ll be rooting for this week: Stanford to knock off Oregon for a third straight year.

Kansas State
Record: 6-1 (4-0)
Playoff committee rank: No. 9
Next big obstacle: Nov. 8 at TCU
Reason for optimism: The Wildcats are ranked higher in the playoff rankings than they are in the polls, which means K-State is getting more respect where it counts. The committee also seems to be valuing quality losses, which is one reason K-State is ranked seven spots ahead of Ohio State, whose lone loss to Virginia Tech looks worse and worse. With road games at No. 7 TCU, No. 20 West Virginia and No. 13 Baylor still ahead, the Wildcats have as much upside as any team outside the top four.
Cause for concern: At No. 3, Auburn is currently in the playoff. The committee is putting an emphasis on head-to-head, which is the primary reason Ole Miss got the edge for the fourth spot ahead of Alabama. If the final spot came down to Auburn and K-State, the committee would probably be compelled to favor Auburn, which won in Manhattan, Kansas, last month.
Whom they’ll be rooting for this week: Ole Miss to give Auburn its second loss.

Record: 6-1 (3-1)
Playoff committee rank: No. 13
Next big obstacle: Nov. 8 at Oklahoma
Reason for optimism: The Bears are ahead of four one-loss teams, including three spots ahead of No. 16 Ohio State. Baylor also has two remaining games against ranked teams, including Oklahoma and No. 9 Kansas State in the regular-season finale. The timing of the K-State game could be significant for Baylor to make a late surge.
Cause for concern: Even if they go 11-1, the Bears are going to need a lot of help. The nonconference schedule is going to weigh them down like an albatross. That’s one significant reason there are 10 other one-loss teams ranked ahead of them.
Whom they’ll be rooting for this week: TCU to take down West Virginia. The Bears have the head-to-head advantage over TCU. They don’t have it over the Mountaineers. The better TCU does, the better it looks for Baylor.

Record: 5-2 (2-2)
Playoff committee rank: No. 18
Next big obstacle: Nov. 8 vs. Baylor
Reason for optimism: The Sooners are the highest-ranked two-loss team. There’s still a lot of football to be played, and if a two-loss team can make a run, it might be Oklahoma.
Cause for concern: The Sooners would need a minor miracle to surge that far. Even though Oklahoma’s two losses came against top-10 teams, the playoff committee is not giving the Sooners the edge over one-loss teams. Oklahoma will need a bunch of losing from those teams ranked ahead in the coming weeks.
Whom they’ll be rooting for this week: West Virginia to beat TCU. The Sooners would need to win the Big 12 to have a chance, and they have the head-to-head advantage over West Virginia.

West Virginia
Record: 6-2 (4-1)
Playoff committee rank: No. 20
Next big obstacle: Nov. 1 vs. TCU
Reason for optimism: The Mountaineers are the third-highest-ranked two-loss team, just behind Oklahoma and LSU. They have a chance to climb higher in the month of November with home bouts against No. 7 TCU and No. 9 Kansas State.
Cause for concern: West Virginia still has a giant mountain to climb to get in the playoff mix. A lot can happen here over the next few weeks. But the Mountaineers are going to need a bevy of upsets elsewhere in college football.
Whom they’ll be rooting for this week: Kansas State to throttle Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers need K-State to be ranked as high as possible when it visits Morgantown on Nov. 20 for a Thursday night clash.

Big 12 bowl projections: Week 9

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28
The initial College Football Playoff rankings have brought changes in the Big 12 bowl projections.

With the Allstate Sugar Bowl serving as a semifinal site and TCU on the outside of the top 4 at No. 7, the Horned Frogs slide over to another New Year's Day bowl (Fiesta, Cotton or Peach). Ninth-ranked Kansas State, as one of the top 12 teams in the initial rankings, joins TCU in a New Year's Day bowl.

Additional movement this week features Charlie Strong's Texas squad dropping out completely. UT would have to win three of four games in the final weeks of the season to reach six wins and bowl eligibility. With TCU, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech remaining on the schedule, the odds aren't on the side of the Longhorns.

Cotton Bowl: TCU
Fiesta Bowl: Kansas State
Valero Alamo Bowl: West Virginia
Russell Athletic Bowl: Baylor
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Oklahoma
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Oklahoma State
Cactus Bowl: None eligible
In Tuesday's mailbag we discuss Baylor and West Virginia's playoff hopes, Big 12 parity and Kliff Kingsbury. As always, thanks for your questions. To submit questions for next Tuesday's mailbag, click here.

Lennon Coley in Temple, Texas, writes: I’m still not sure why when it comes to playoff discussions, TCU is the only one ever mentioned. Kansas State occasionally gets a little love. But why is Baylor all of a sudden out of it? People act like they have nothing left on the schedule. Oklahoma was a catapulting win for both TCU and Kansas State. Does Baylor not get that luxury? Also a win over K-State has been cited as a quality win for Auburn, but doesn't provide Baylor with an opportunity should they win that game? If Baylor wins out, which won't be easy, what gives TCU the edge? A win over Minnesota? That definitely shouldn't do it, especially when Baylor has the head-to-head win. Both nonconference schedules were extremely weak.

Brandon Chatmon: A loss to two-loss West Virginia doesn’t help and is one reason why Baylor sits behind TCU and Kansas State on the Big 12 queue of College Football Playoff contenders. BU’s best potential remaining wins are at two-loss Oklahoma and home against one-loss Kansas State. Is that enough to get them in the College Football Playoff? Not without some help. Baylor is not out of it by any stretch, particularly if the Bears take care of business, but TCU and K-State should be ahead of the Bears right now.

William Mills in Dunkirk, Ohio, writes: What are the odds of a two-loss West Virginia (if it can win out) making it to the playoff?

Chatmon: Slim. Dubious. Tenuous. All those words apply. Dana Holgorsen’s squad would need some serious help to find its way into the College Football Playoff conversation. Basically, nationwide chaos needs to occur. But, the resume would look pretty solid with wins over TCU, Baylor and Kansas State. But I think two losses is just too much for WVU to overcome without chaos reigning to help out the Mountaineers.

Corey in Allen, Texas, writes: I know it takes a while for a young coach to relinquish the reins as a play-caller, but do you think it's time for Kliff Kingsbury to let go of the offensive play-calling? Seems he needs to focus more on whole team strategy and mentoring his coordinators than just the offense and quarterbacks.

Chatmon: No. I don’t think the problems in Lubbock are related to Kingsbury’s play-calling. In fact, that’s way down the list. The No. 1 problem is lack of depth and overall playmakers in the program. As Kingsbury increases the overall depth and talent on the roster, Tech will improve. We’re starting to see just how much rebuilding was needed when he arrived. The 7-0 start to his head coaching career was a mirage in many ways. So, no, I don’t see any reason for Kingsbury to make that change in his gameday approach.

Chelsea in Pineville, West Virginia, writes: ESPN and the College Gameday crew have clearly recognized what a momentous day it will be in Morgantown on Saturday when the 10th-ranked Horned Frogs roll into town. What is the absolute No. 1 thing the Mountaineers need to do this weekend to send the TCU back to Fort Worth with a loss?

Chatmon: Win the turnover battle. Overshadowed by TCU’s explosive offense has been the Horned Frogs ability to win the turnover battle. TCU is plus-12 in turnover margin, best in the Big 12 and double the plus-six of second-place Oklahoma. West Virginia, meanwhile, is ninth in the conference at minus-9. If the Mountaineers’ can flip the script and win the turnover battle, it takes the ball out of Trevone Boykin’s hands while giving more opportunities to Clint Trickett, Kevin White and the WVU offense. That would be a great recipe for an upset.

rtXC in Denison, Texas, writes: Last week you asked, "All the positives of the offensive change makes you wonder, why didn't TCU make this change earlier?" Well, remember in 2010 when TCU had the most balanced offensive attack possible? That offense worked in the MW, and it might've in the Big 12 too had Pachall played for those two full seasons. Especially with Pachall returning last year, would it really have made as much sense to make the change that quickly?

Chatmon: Yes. Remember why Gary Patterson says he made the move. Not to score more points, not to be more entertaining, he made the move for recruiting. He felt he could attract and keep more talented skill players in the Dallas metro area with this offense. Had he made the move years ago those players would already be in the system. Not to mention the personnel at TCU hasn’t changed much but the results have changed dramatically. Why wouldn’t that have been the right move? But hindsight doesn’t really matter, I’m sure Patterson and the Horned Frog faithful are pretty happy about the change.

Mike in Goldsby writes: I'd like to hear your thoughts on two things. First, I love the drama around the Big 12 round robin title hunt. It seems to produce a down-to-the wire competition regularly, and I think it's much more exciting than the old championship game. How do you feel about it? Second, we've had five different champions in the last five years, and two new teams with a legitimate chance at winning the title this year. What does this say about the depth and parity of the Big 12?

Chatmon: I agree, Mike. I like the Big 12’s scheduling approach, and it has made the homestretch pretty exciting in recent years. I don't think the Big 12 needs a championship game just to say it has one. As far as your other question, the depth of the conference as a whole is pretty awesome. I’m sure it’s not ideal for die-hard fans, because it makes conference and national titles more difficult to achieve, but for a someone who doesn’t care who wins, it’s great to watch. It’s way better than having one or two dominant teams and one or two “title-deciding” games each season. Where’s the fun in that?
In our weekly Big 12 roundtable, we examine the league's most surprising and disappointing offensive and defensive units so far this season:

Which offense has been the most surprisingly effective so far this season?

Brandon Chatmon: TCU is the most surprising offense in the nation, not just the Big 12. The Horned Frogs’ new attack leads the Big 12 at 6.86 yards per play and undoubtedly has made Gary Patterson wonder why he didn’t turn to this high-tempo, pass-happy attack sooner.

Max Olson: We knew West Virginia probably had the firepower to score points. We didn't really know if TCU did. It's not just the play calling, which has been superb. It's the instant adaption by Trevone Boykin and all of his backs and receivers that has made this unit killer.

Jake Trotter: To me, it’s TCU, and it’s not close. The Horned Frogs have gone from having the nation’s 88th-best scoring offense to its No. 1. Even in Gary Patterson’s wildest dreams, I don’t think he envisioned such a turnaround when he hired coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie.

Which offense has been the most disappointing?

Chatmon: I expected more from Texas’ offense with its bevy of talented running backs. True enough the offensive line has been playing musical chairs, sparked by departures, but 137.6 rushing yards per game is a surprising number from Charlie Strong’s team.

Olson: Has to be Texas. Neither Malcolm Brown nor Johnathan Gray has had a 100-yard game and Texas' offensive line is playing like one of the nation's worst. Tyrone Swoopes is doing the best he can with what he's got.

Trotter: You knew Oklahoma State would endure growing pains with so many new starters. But I never thought the offense would fall off a table the way it has. The Cowboys still have explosive playmakers. But the offensive line has been dreadful and the quarterbacking has been inconsistent. As a result, this is the worst Oklahoma State offense since Mike Gundy’s first season in 2005.

Which defense has been the most surprisingly effective?

Chatmon: Baylor had to replace several starters on its 2013 title-winning defense, yet there the Bears are, atop the Big 12 rankings in yards per play for a second straight season (4.4). And their 5.03 yards per play in conference games ranks second in the Big 12. BU’s offense gets the headlines but its defense continues to be the main reason for its title hopes.

Olson: Baylor deserves a ton of credit for not taking a noticeable step back despite losing so many veteran studs. They've had a tough loss and one awfully close call, but you do get the sense they're poised to elevate their play for this stretch run.

Trotter: I thought the Mountaineers had a chance to be better defensively. But I never thought they would be this much better. Tony Gibson and Tom Bradley have done a tremendous job turning around a unit that had been among the Big 12’s worst the previous two years.

Which defense has been the most disappointing?

Chatmon: Oklahoma’s defense looked like it could be one of the nation’s best early this season but has struggled in conference play, allowing 6.2 yards per play, ninth in the Big 12. The Sooners have talent all over the field but haven’t been as dominant as expected in Big 12 stadiums.

Olson: I'll agree with BC that it's the Sooners, but you do have to mention Texas Tech. This was already the Big 12's worst scoring D before giving up 82. Coaching, scheme, execution, talent -- Tech is not in good shape in any area.

Trotter: Oklahoma has a good defense, but it’s not the dominant one we all expected with nine starters back. The Sooners have been exposed these last three weeks. Honorable mention honors here go to Tech, whose defense has gone from bad last year to worse this season.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28
Even while Texas is losing ball games, it’s managing to find the silver lining in the dark clouds. The Longhorns lost to Kansas State and were shut out for the first time in 10 years, but they won on the recruiting trail, as another ESPN 300 athlete committed Sunday.

Baylor also added to its 2015 class over the weekend. The Bears have some outstanding skill-position players on their current roster, and they have studs within its 2015 class. They added another top skill-position player on Sunday.

Here’s an in-depth look at how the weekend finished in Big 12 recruiting.

Big 12 morning links

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28
Worried about your injured star and/or sued coordinator? We've got you covered today.
  • No clarity emerged Monday on what Texas Tech plans to do with Davis Webb this week. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports Kliff Kingsbury wants to see how Webb practiced Monday -- and, specifically, how he moves around in the pocket and handles the rush -- before knowing whether Webb is good to go or if freshman Patrick Mahomes should make his first career start. So Webb is considered day-to-day for now after exiting the loss to TCU with an injured left ankle.
  • Texas coach Charlie Strong and athletic director Steve Patterson said Monday they're not concerned about the lawsuits between offensive coordinator Joe Wickline and Oklahoma State. Both say they're leaving that issue to lawyers and trust a resolution will be reached. They don't see a nearly $600,000 suit hanging over the head of Texas' co-OC as a potential distraction. They could be right, since Wickline has been dealing with this since March. And, really, Texas has a lot more issues after a 23-0 loss to K-State than the play of its Wickline-coached offensive line.
  • Iowa State is getting arguably its top playmaker back this week just in time to take on Oklahoma. Receiver Jarvis West is back to full speed after missing two games and completing his recovery during ISU's bye week. If you watched his 207-yard performance against Kansas State earlier this season, you know how dangerous West can be and how much he opens up the Cyclones' offensive game plan as well as its special teams. With how Allen Lazard, E.J. Bibbs and D'Vario Montgomery are playing right now, that receiving corps might be sneaky good.
  • Kansas will need all the help it can get against Baylor, so it's a good thing Tony Pierson is fine and ready to return. Having essentially a sprain in the upper neck sounds like a brutal way to get hurt, but Kansas' speedy rusher/receiver got a few days off during the bye and is back in practice. Like West, he's the guy who can really make his offense go and can get his touches in a variety of ways.
  • Coach Art Briles says Baylor did some real soul searching during its bye week. Two important topics: The Bears' conference-record 215 penalty yards in the loss to West Virginia as well as the next step for BU's offensive line, which has lost its right guard and right tackle for the season. A little time off and two weeks of practice is probably the best possible remedy for those challenges as Baylor preps for its run at a Big 12 title.

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

October, 27, 2014
Oct 27
Here's what happened on the recruiting trail around the Big 12 this week:

Total commits: 12
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Houston (Texas) Lamar prospect J.W. Ketchum made it a good bye week for the Bears with his Sunday commitment to Art Briles' program. The four-star athlete picked BU over Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Alabama and others.

Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Defense has been the focus of this recruiting class for the Cyclones. Eight of its 13 commitments are defenders including four defensive linemen. Paul Rhoads squad dealing with small numbers along its defensive front heading into this season but hopes to address some of those issues with a pair of junior college defensive linemen in Larry Jefferson and Xavier Pegues.

Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: It’s been an interesting dynamic in Lawrence, Kansas, where interim coach Clint Bowen landed Olathe (Kansas) North tight end Josh Moore picked KU last week. Moore spurned offers from the majority of the Big 12, Auburn and Ohio State to pledge to the Jayhawks.

Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Bill Snyder’s program dipped into Texas for its latest commitment with McKinney (Texas) North safety Bryce Balous picking the Wildcats last week. The three-star prospect turned down Texas Tech and Iowa to verbal to K-State. The Wildcats also added Pittsburg (Kansas) running back Alex Barnes, who committed to KSU on Monday. The three-star prospect picked KSU over Kansas, Minnesota, Rutgers and others.

Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Sooners sent out some offers to Class of 2016 pass-catchers last week with La Canada (California) St. Francis receiver Dylan Crawford and West Hills (California) Chaminade receiver Dymond Lee reportedly receiving offers last week. Both receivers are ESPN Junior 300 members and four-star prospects.

Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 4
The latest: It wasn’t a great day on the field but one ray of light came to Oklahoma State during Saturday’s 34-10 loss to West Virginia as ESPNJr300 member Mike Williams appeared to love his unofficial to OSU, tweeting about his visit multiple times on Saturday.

Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Not only did TCU score big on the field, putting up 82 points against Texas Tech, the Horned Frogs could have scored big on the recruiting trail as well. Gladewater (Texas) defensive tackle Daylon Mack, the No. 15 player in the ESPN 300, loved his official visit to TCU. He’s currently committed to Texas A&M but it appears Gary Patterson’s program definitely gave the elite defensive tackle something to think about.

Total commits: 18
ESPN 300 commits: 9
The latest: ESPN 300 member Cameron Townsend picked Texas on Sunday, becoming the 18th commitment for Charlie Strong’s program. The Missouri City (Texas) Ridge Point linebacker picked UT over Oklahoma, Baylor, TCU, USC, Michigan and others. He is the No. 284 player in the ESPN 300.

Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Could it get any worse for Kliff Kingsbury’s program? Not only did Tech give up 82 points to TCU, its top 2015 commitment, quarterback Jarrett Stidham, broke his hand over the weekend. The injury shouldn’t impact his future as a Red Raider but there doesn’t seem to be much good news in Lubbock, Texas, right now.

Total commits: 21
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: It could be a critical recruiting weekend with TCU and ESPN’s "College Gameday" heading to Morgantown, West Virginia, on Saturday. Expect several prospects to take advantage of the opportunity with ESPN 300 defensive tackle Tim Settle, ESPN 300 athlete Jordan Cronkite and Army All-American Tim Irvin among the early list of prospects who could be on campus.
With the College Football Playoff selection committee set to issue its first rankings on Tuesday night, fans in Texas can only hope the committee members will be influenced by their surroundings. Because even though a program like TCU might be racking up style points lately, it hasn’t seemed to impress poll voters.

The committee members will meet Monday and Tuesday in Grapevine, Texas, and determine whether Big 12 teams like TCU, Baylor or Kansas State currently deserve one of the four playoff spots. If they include one of those teams in the Big Four, it would be a departure from the Associated Press Top 25 and USA Today Coaches’ Poll, which both rank TCU 10th, Kansas State 11th and Baylor 12th.

After setting multiple school and conference records with Saturday’s 82-27 win against Texas Tech -- a week removed from a 42-9 win against Oklahoma State -- TCU’s Horned Frogs are probably wondering what they have to do to make a dent in the top 10. They didn’t move up a single spot in Sunday’s newest rankings despite the offensive show that quarterback Trevone Boykin and company put on at Amon G. Carter Stadium.

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In Friday's Twitter mailbag, we talk playoff chances, Heisman odds and the Big 12 title race.

Speaking of the Big 12 title race, we’ll be at all three Big 12 games this weekend.

I’m on my way to Manhattan, Kansas, for K-State’s clash with Texas. Brandon will be at West Virginia-Oklahoma State. And Max will be manning Texas Tech-TCU.

Even with only three games, it should be a compelling weekend in the league.

Now, on to the ‘bag:

Trotter: I'm starting to wonder if the Big 12 is going to cannibalize itself out of the playoff. In terms of depth, this is the best this league has been in awhile. But in turn, I'm not sure anyone is going to be able to get through it without two losses. In part because of schedule, TCU is probably the league's best chance. Even then the Horned Frogs would still have to go win in West Virginia next weekend. That won't be easy. Trotter: He probably already would be appearing on straw polls had TCU held on to beat Baylor. All the Big 12 Heisman love went to Bryce Petty after that game. Now, it's going to West Virginia wideout Kevin White. But if the Horned Frogs beat Tech on Saturday, West Virginia next weekend then K-State on Nov. 8, I think you'll see Boykin surge into the Heisman conversation. He has had an amazing season. Trotter: I rank it second, behind the SEC (really, behind the SEC West, because the SEC East stinks outside Georgia). I've caught flak from West Coasters for writing earlier in the week that the Big 12 was second. But other than Oregon, does anyone in the Pac-12 finish in the top four of the Big 12? Trotter: While it would take a minor miracle, Oklahoma is not completely eliminated from the playoff mix yet. If you went back in time with the playoff, there would be teams that would have been selected with two losses. But the Sooners would need an awful lot of help. And quite frankly, Oklahoma will have to play better than it has the last three weeks to run the table anyway. Trotter: This is an impossible question to answer, because it fluctuates based on how each team is doing. And the word "fanbase" could mean many different things. I will say the best game I've been to this year in terms of crowd was the K-State-Auburn game last month. The K-State crowd was awesome for that game, especially the student section. Trotter: FPI gives West Virginia about a 10-percent chance of winning the league. I'd actually peg it a little higher. If the Mountaineers can escape Stillwater this weekend, they have a favorable schedule the rest of the way, with both TCU and K-State having to travel to Morgantown. The Mountaineers would also have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Baylor. So no doubt, at the moment West Virginia has to be considered a contender. Trotter: I'm a huge Curry Sexton fan. Honestly, if he and I walked into a room together, you might have a hard time determining which of us was a college football player -- and that's no compliment to me. But Sexton is a ballplayer. He has incredible hands, deceiving speed and a knack for coming up with big plays in key moments. Sexton is also one of the sharpest guys I've interviewed in the Big 12. And he has filled a major need on the Wildcats as the primary wingman for Tyler Lockett. Sexton is having a tremendous season. Trotter: It's a troubling stat. Eventually it's going to cost the Mountaineers, if they don't clean it up offensively. It was stunning how it didn't doom them early in that game against Baylor. But West Virginia also needs to be more opportunistic on defense. Only Michigan has forced fewer turnovers than the Mountaineers, who have only four takeaways. Turnovers are a big part in determining the outcome of a game. It's hard to see West Virginia overcoming that trend the rest of the season. Trotter: Both have been second-team All-Big 12-caliber players. As I wrote earlier today, Washington is quietly having a terrific year, but Shock Linwood and Samaje Perine will be tough to topple for first-team all-conference honors. Robertson is having the best season on Tech's defense, but Tech's defense is arguably the worst in the league. Plus, linebacker is a loaded position this year. Still, both players have been bright spots in what has been a tough season so far for the Red Raiders. Trotter: The reason is the schedule is so brutal. K-State still has to go win at TCU, West Virginia and Baylor. As well as the Wildcats have played, the chances of them sweeping those three games aren't good. Then again, if the Wildcats did run the table, they would obviously be the Big 12's best - and only -- chance of putting a team in the playoff. Though the Auburn loss would be tricky -- what if the final playoff spot came down to K-State and Auburn? -- the Wildcats at 11-1, with four monster road wins, would be a formidable playoff contender.



Saturday, 11/1