Big 12: Baylor Bears
- Gary Patterson didn't think his offense would evolve this quickly. How could he? TCU's head coach has concerns about where this offense was heading after spring ball was up, which makes these impeccable six-game results even more surprising and gratifying. The rise of Trevone Boykin under Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie stands out, of course, but Patterson deserves just as much credit for finding not only the right two guys to install and instill what he wanted, but to also do so while working together seemingly seamlessly.
- Best of luck to Baylor offensive lineman Troy Baker, whose college playing days are over after an MRI revealed the senior suffered a torn ACL against West Virginia. He started in seven games at right tackle and had already gone through this process before after a torn ACL in the spring in 2013. Pat Colbert filled in on Saturday and gets the first shot at keeping that job, but this means Baylor is working with its backup plan at right guard and tackle for the rest of the season.
- You're not going to sucker Bill Snyder into devoting any attention to the College Football Playoff race. Now that his Wildcats are in the national discussion following their upset of Oklahoma, their head coach couldn't care less. Texas is the only thing on his mind, and anything else is a waste of his time. That's the only approach he can take, and to his credit Snyder is going to say that with complete honesty. If K-State does make a run here, though, no doubt he'll have to do some campaigning if they Big 12 ends up with co-champs or tiebreaker drama.
- West Virginia didn't let Baylor turn their Saturday meeting into a track meet. That was essential. How'd they do it? The Mountaineers are dispelling the myth that they prefer finesse over physical, writes Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail. Be sure to read what WVU's coaches said about last year's Baylor game. You can tell how seriously they and their players took being the more aggressive team and how much pride played a role in that upset. WVU showed in its blocking and hitting a lot of things to be encouraged about going forward.
- No word yet on the severity, but Kansas receiver Tony Pierson is being evaluated for an injury in his neck area during KU's bye week. Let's hope it's not serious. Pierson is too fun to watch when he's at his best. If he has to miss time, at least the Jayhawks have the promising connection of Michael Cummings to Nigel King. He's a wideout Cummings definitely seems to trust, even if the numbers last week didn't make that obvious.
Total commits: 12
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: There aren't many spots left in Baylor's class, but one of them is presumably being saved for Waco Midway four-star safety Kahlil Haughton. He took an official visit to Arkansas last weekend and could take his official trip to a Baylor game on Nov. 1. Haughton has already taken officials to Oklahoma and Nebraska, and his final two trips are expected to go to BU and Texas Tech.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones' latest pledge came from Itawamba (Mississippi) C.C. -- defensive lineman Xavier Pegues. He committed one day after juco teammate Larry Jefferson picked ISU. Both big men attended Iowa State's win over Toledo this month. Pegues, a 6-foot-3, 270-pound lineman, will likely play defensive tackle next year.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Despite the coaching change, Kansas' recruiting class has stayed intact to this point. The Jayhawks aren't making many new offers under interim coach Clint Bowen, and its committed prospects seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach on how this season and subsequent coaching search play out.
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: One recruit expected to be in Manhattan on Saturday for the Wildcats' game against Texas is Kylan Johnson. The three-star safety from Dallas Skyline is planning to take an official visit and is reportedly also considering Texas Tech and Arkansas.
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Sooners had a surprising star on campus for an official visit this weekend: Texas A&M commit Kyler Murray, the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the nation. The five-star from Allen, Texas, also attended OU's Red River Showdown win last week before taking in A&M's loss to Ole Miss.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 4
The latest: Playing at TCU gave OSU coaches a chance to check in on their DFW-area commitments on Friday night. The Pokes staff got a chance to watch their coveted ESPN 300 running back pledge, Ronald Jones II, rush for 130 yards and two scores (including a 73-yard TD) to help McKinney North beat rival McKinney.
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Horned Frogs had a nice collection of 2016 recruits in the house Saturday for their beatdown of OSU, including No. 1 overall recruit Greg Little and ESPN Junior 300 defensive backs Jared Mayden and Jaylon Jones. Three more important visitors: 2015 three-star corner DeShawn Raymond, LSU commit Hanner Shipley and 2017 athlete Anthony Hines III, who holds more than 50 offers.
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 8
The latest: The Longhorns got a critical opportunity on Saturday to convince receiver John Burt to stick with his commitment. The ESPN 300 receiver from Florida is contemplating flipping his commitment to Auburn after taking an official visit there this season. He returned to Austin this weekend for an unofficial visit to watch Texas' 48-45 win over Iowa State. Burt has been committed to UT since July.
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Red Raiders landed a commitment last Sunday from three-star defensive tackle Courtney Wallace of Monroe (Louisiana) Neville. He turned down a dozen offers to become the fourth defender in Tech's class. This Sunday, TTU extended an offer to ESPN Junior 300 linebacker Dontavious Jackson, the Houston Elsik standout who now holds six offers.
Total commits: 21
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The latest member of the Mountaineers' class is Longwood, Florida, defensive end Adam Shuler. He committed on Saturday after taking an official visit to WVU earlier this month for the Kansas game. The 6-foot-5 end turned down offers from Cincinnati, Purdue and Indiana.
Team of the week: West Virginia and Kansas State split the honor this week after toppling Big 12 preseason co-favorites Baylor and Oklahoma. The Mountaineers dominated the fourth quarter on their way to a 41-27 victory over the Bears. Quarterback Clint Trickett, whose father was hospitalized over the weekend, led West Virginia with 322 passing yards and three touchdowns, while the Mountaineer defense put the clamps on Baylor’s high-powered attack. Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters was just as impressive, totaling three touchdowns in the Wildcats’ 31-30 victory over the Sooners. With their big wins, West Virginia and K-State emphatically inserted themselves into the Big 12 title race.
Disappointment of the week: With a surging QB, a veteran offensive line and nine returning defensive starters, the Sooners went into the season with expectations of qualifying for the inaugural playoff. Those dreams have been all but dashed after Oklahoma’s second loss in the last three weeks. The Sooners outgained K-State. But they couldn’t overcome numerous miscues, which included Trevor Knight’s pick-six pass, Durron Neal’s interception toss off a reverse and Michael Hunnicutt’s two missed field goals and blocked extra point. Oklahoma is now tied with Texas for sixth in the Big 12 standings.
Big (offensive) man on campus: There were several spectacular offensive performances this weekend, notably by TCU receiver Josh Doctson, Waters, West Virginia receiver Kevin White, Oklahoma receiver Sterling Shepard and Texas Tech running back DeAndre Washington. But the honor here goes to quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, who led the Longhorns on consecutive scoring drives late in the fourth quarter to lift Texas to a dramatic 48-45 win over Iowa State. The first drive, he rushed for 28 yards, then hit Jaxon Shipley on a 22-yard screen to convert a third-and-long, which led to Malcolm Brown’s touchdown plunge on the next play. Swoopes, however, wasn’t done. After Iowa State tied the game with 28 seconds to play, Swoopes came right back with back-to-back bombs to Shipley and Josh Harris to set up Nick Rose’s 21-yard game-winning field goal. All told, Swoopes threw for 322 yards and ran for another 95.
Big (defensive) man on campus: Sunflower State linebackers Ben Heeney and Jonathan Truman were phenomenal this weekend, combining for 38 tackles. Truman was instrumental in K-State’s late goal-line stand in Norman. Heeney added a 37-yard interception return in the Jayhawks’ 34-21 loss at Texas Tech. But the edge here goes to West Virginia defensive end Shaquille Riddick, who sacked Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty three times in a swarming breakout performance. Riddick, who transferred in from FCS school Gardner-Webb in the offseason, added another tackle for loss, as the Mountaineers held Baylor 26 points below its season average.
Special-teams player of the week: The Sooners fell a single point short against the Wildcats, and K-State defensive tackle Travis Britz was the reason why. He busted through the line of scrimmage, and got a hand up to bat away Michael Hunnicutt’s extra-point attempt with 10 minutes to go in the game. Who knows how much the block affected the psyche of Hunnicutt, who later also missed a potential game-winning field goal from 19 yards out. Either way, it was a monumental play by Britz, who led the country in special teams blocks last season.
Play of the week: Even in defeat, Baylor had the hit of the day in college football, as Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman decleated West Virginia cornerback Terrell Chestnut to clear a path for teammate Antwan Goodley’s 63-yard touchdown. Officials initially ejected Coleman for targeting, but reversed the call after viewing replay. Chestnut did not return to the game after taking this violent, but clean hit.
Stat of the week: Baylor broke a Big 12 record with 215 penalty yards at West Virginia, also shattering the previous Baylor record of 157 yards set in 1976. The Bears were flagged 18 times in Morgantown, including seven times for pass interference. As a result, Baylor has overtaken Texas Tech for the national lead in both penalties and penalty yardage.
Quote of the week: "You better get some help." -- West Virginia WR Kevin White, who told Baylor CB Xavien Howard that after burning him for a touchdown in the first quarter. White finished with eight catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Bears.
Welcome to a brave new world of Big 12 football.
Aldous Huxley told us things could get weird. And chaos reigned in a wild Big 12 weekend, as heavyweights Baylor and Oklahoma went down, leaving preseason predictions (and Morgantown) smoldering, the conference race hazy and the league’s hopes for playoff inclusion on the brink.
The depth of teams has boosted the Big 12’s reputation, firmly cementing it as the nation’s second-best conference behind the almighty SEC. But will the self-cannibalization also knock the Big 12 out of the playoff party?
We’re about to find out. And either way, the next six weeks should be fun.
As many as five teams could still realistically win the Big 12, making it the tightest conference race in the country according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, and three Big 12 teams still have a shot to make the playoff (though a fourth, Oklahoma, might also have a chance in an Armageddon-level scenario -- more on that later).
But out of the dust from this past weekend, TCU has emerged as the league’s best hope to do both.
According to FPI, the Horned Frogs have a 31 percent chance to win the Big 12, up 22 percentage points from last week on the back of a resounding 42-9 victory over Oklahoma State, coupled with Baylor’s loss at West Virginia.
TCU’s 30-7 nonconference victory over Minnesota (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) looks better and better. And the Horned Frogs’ lone defeat at Baylor, while catastrophic at the time, won’t look bad in the eyes of the playoff selection committee in the long run.
But as dominant as TCU has been, running the table won’t be a cinch, even with the Sooners and Bears in the rearview mirror. And the first two weeks in November should determine TCU’s playoff fate. The Horned Frogs go to Morgantown (assuming it’s still standing) Nov. 1, then welcome No. 11 Kansas State the following weekend. A two-game sweep would all but catapult the Horned Frogs into the playoff. But a loss in either would further the pandemonium.
At the moment, Baylor is the other co-favorite to win the league, even after the loss at West Virginia. FPI also gives the Bears a 31 percent chance of winning the Big 12. Baylor has the head-to-head advantage over TCU. And the Bears have only one road game remaining -- at Oklahoma Nov. 8 in a game everyone pegged as the game of the year in the Big 12 before the season. Baylor will have another chance to impress the playoff committee in the regular-season finale against Kansas State.
But even if the Bears win out (FPI gives them a 17.9 percent chance of doing so), their nonconference schedule could ultimately doom them. Baylor’s two FBS nonconference wins came against teams ranked 114th (Buffalo) and 125th (SMU) in the FPI. When stacked against other potential one-loss teams, that won’t look good. Which is why ESPN playoff guru Brad Edwards says Baylor needs the other Power 5 leagues to produce two-loss champions in order to get back in the mix.
Yet while Baylor might need help to get in the playoff, Kansas State is the lone team in the Big 12 that truly controls its own destiny for an outright conference title. After a 31-30 win at Oklahoma, the Wildcats might control their destiny in the playoff hunt, too.
But that doesn’t mean it will be easy.
Of all the Big 12 contenders, K-State has the toughest remaining road. The Wildcats still have to travel to TCU, West Virginia and Baylor, all games they could be underdogs in. K-State has a 17.1 percent chance to win the league according to FPI but only a 1.9 percent chance of winning out. Having lost to Auburn in nonconference, the Wildcats would likely have to win out, too, to have a chance. And even then, K-State would probably need Auburn to fall out of contention, since the Tigers would hold the head-to-head advantage over the Wildcats in the eyes of the committee.
Still, K-State has a feather-in-cap win in Oklahoma already in its hip pocket. And if the Wildcats were able to somehow topple TCU, West Virginia and Baylor all on the road, their résumé would be formidable.
West Virginia has a feather-in-cap win, too, after its 41-27 victory over Baylor, which has propelled the Mountaineers into the Big 12 title conversation. West Virginia now has a 9.1 percent chance to win the Big 12 according to FPI and a favorable remaining schedule, with both TCU and K-State coming at home.
While the Mountaineers have entered the Big 12 picture, the Sooners haven’t completely exited it even with two conference losses. According to FPI, Oklahoma has the best chance of any Power 5 team of winning out with a 43.8 percent chance. The Sooners get Baylor at home, which gives them an opportunity for a statement victory.
Though it is highly unlikely at this point, Oklahoma (and who knows, maybe even West Virginia?) could get back into the playoff discussion as a two-loss conference champion, should chaos strike elsewhere.
It certainly struck the Big 12 on Saturday, when the league was turned on its head yet again.
- Texas Tech receiver Jakeem Grant was part of a scary situation early Sunday morning. According to Nicholas Talbot and Sarah Rafique of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Grant was injured during an off-campus altercation in which more than 20 rounds were fired from multiple weapons. Grant suffered a laceration and was taken to the hospital, treated and released. It's unclear if Grant will be able to play against TCU this weekend. But the important part is that he's all right. And fortunately, no one else was seriously injured, either.
- The Sooners are a two-loss team for many reasons. Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman detailed one of those problems common in both losses, and that was Oklahoma's poor time management. Against K-State, the Sooners squandered their last timeout with 9:45 left to play, which ultimately allowed the Wildcats to drain four minutes off the clock late to clinch the 31-30 victory. The Sooners also blew their timeouts in the loss at TCU. They took the field with a chance for a game-winning drive with 51 seconds remaining. But without any timeouts, the clock ran out on them. That comes down to communication and coaching, not only on game day, but in the week leading up. And it has cost the Sooners dearly.
- The Waco Tribune-Herald's Brice Cherry thinks that Baylor should shed the self-given "America's Top Offense" label for now after struggling in a 41-27 loss at West Virginia. I don't know if that's completely fair. The Bears, no doubt, had an off game in Morgantown. But they still lead the country in scoring. And just a week ago, they put up 61 on a TCU defense many have pegged as one of the best in the league. Baylor's offense is still one to be feared. And it's the biggest reason why I'm nowhere near ready to write off the Bears in the Big 12 title chase.
- The Oklahoman's Josh Helsley suggested that while Oklahoma State is a win away from becoming bowl eligible, the Cowboys might not actually get there. I can't disagree. Oklahoma State looked awful in a 42-9 loss at TCU, and frankly, the Cowboys didn't look impressive beating up on the bottom of the Big 12 to the start the conference season. Now comes the difficult part, as Oklahoma State's final five games are: No. 22 West Virginia, at No. 11 Kansas State, Texas, at No. 12 Baylor and at No. 17 Oklahoma. If the Cowboys don't play a lot better than they did in Fort Worth, they could finish out on a six-game losing streak.
- After beating Iowa State 48-45, the Longhorns were back to talking about winning the Big 12. That's no typo. “When you have two losses in the Big 12, you’re never out of the race,” receiver John Harris told the Austin American-Statesman's Brian Davis. “I think we’re in a great position to win out.” Hey, I'm all for optimism. Speaking of which, I think I'm in great position to win the Pulitzer Prize. Anything is possible, right?
Chaos reigns as West Virginia's and Kansas State's wins join TCU's domination to result in the Horned Frogs sitting atop the queue. West Virginia could be the sleeper pick to win the conference, while K-State still faces a difficult road to its second Big 12 title in three years with road trips to TCU, West Virginia and Baylor left on the schedule.
The conference landscape is full of teams that could stake their claim in the Big 12 title race.
Allstate Sugar Bowl: TCU
Cotton Bowl: Kansas State
Valero Alamo Bowl: West Virginia
Russell Athletic Bowl: Baylor
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Oklahoma
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Oklahoma State
Cactus Bowl: Texas
1. The league race is wide open: By taking down preseason favorites Oklahoma and Baylor, Kansas State and West Virginia completely transformed the Big 12 title race Saturday. With only one loss, the defending champion Bears could still win the Big 12. But they now have plenty of company. TCU (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) bounced back from its heartbreaking loss to Baylor last week to obliterate Oklahoma State 42-9. The Wildcats (5-1, 3-0) have also hopped firmly into the conference championship conversation after an impressive 31-30 victory in Norman. But West Virginia shouldn't be discounted, either, following its 41-27 win over Baylor. The Mountaineers have Oklahoma and Baylor behind them on the schedule, and they get TCU (Nov. 1) and Kansas State (Nov. 20) in Morgantown. The only certainty at this point is the Big 12 race down the backstretch is going to be a fun one to watch.
3. Oklahoma State is rebuilding after all: After graduating more starters than any other Power 5 program, the Cowboys faced the prospect of having to rebuild this year. But after they took defending national champ Florida State to the wire in the opener, then won five straight games, expectations were raised. Turns out, they shouldn't have been. Oklahoma State's 3-0 Big 12 start turned out to be fool's gold, as the Cowboys were exposed in a game they were never in against TCU. Quarterback Daxx Garman failed to complete a single pass in the second half, while Oklahoma State's beleaguered offensive line was manhandled in the trenches. Defensively, the inexperienced Cowboys surrendered 676 yards of offense, the most TCU had racked up in a game since 2007. Oklahoma State has some good young players, but facing a back-loaded schedule, the Cowboys figure to endure more growing pains -- and losses -- the second half of the season.
4. The Big 12 has some monster WRs: Good luck finding four receivers in college football better than West Virginia's Kevin White, Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard, Kansas State's Tyler Lockett or Baylor's Antwan Goodley. That Big 12 foursome combined for 547 receiving yards Saturday. They were -- as they have been all year -- basically unstoppable. After breaking the 1,000-receiving-yard barrier with five regular-season games to go, White could begin to warrant Heisman consideration. Shepard, who tied a school record with 15 catches against K-State, should be a Biletnikoff finalist. Goodley and Lockett are All-American-caliber players, too. The Big 12 might be as deep as it's been since 2008, and the depth of its blue-chip wide receivers is a big reason for that.
5. Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes is turning the corner: Swoopes followed his breakout performance against Oklahoma last week by engineering a drive in the final seconds to set up a game-winning field goal and give Texas a dramatic 48-45 win over Iowa State. Swoopes got the ball back with 28 seconds to go on the Texas 28 and the game seemingly headed for overtime. Instead, Swoopes floated a bomb into the arms of Jaxon Shipley for 39 yards down the sideline. On the next play, Swoopes hit John Harris along the same sideline for a 29-yard gain to the Iowa State 4. Nick Rose nailed the field goal on the next play with 3 seconds left. All told, Swoopes threw for 322 yards and ran for another 95, and he gave more reason to believe he could be Texas' long-sought answer at quarterback.
On to the 'bag:
@Jake_Trotter say oklahoma beats baylor(if) and both of them + tcu win the rest of their games (if) what happens? Who do you take?— Isaac (@haas_isaac) October 16, 2014
@Jake_Trotter: So, you're saying all three finish 11-1? The edge in a three-way tie always goes to the team that lost first, and in this case, that would be the Sooners.
@Jake_Trotter If the Big 12 gets left out of the playoff, could that spark the league officials to expand to 12 teams?— Kyle Jacobson (@_KyleJacobson) October 16, 2014
Trotter: It would probably take the Big 12 getting left out three-four years in a row for the league to reconsider expansion. One year won't change anything.
@Jake_Trotter If OU and TCU both win out, do you think style points could somehow vault the Sooners ahead TCU in the committees eyes?— Shane Oltean (@_shane_o_) October 16, 2014
Trotter: I have no idea how the committee would weigh those teams. But if it were me on the selection committee, head-to-head would count for something. And TCU holds the head-to-head advantage. Meaning those Oklahoma style points would have to be considerable.
@Jake_Trotter what is a realistic expectation for OSU's closing schedule? 1-5 or 5-1 or anything in between honestly wouldn't surprise me— Jimmy Shaw (@MCC_Jimmy) October 16, 2014
Trotter: The Cowboys are a hard team to figure out. They haven't looked good these past few games, but is that a case of them not being that good, or is it a case of them playing down to the competition? After all, they did play up to Florida State. Oklahoma State is probably somewhere in between. Based on what I've seen from them, and based on the remaining schedule, which is brutal, 7-5 feels about right. But we will learn a lot more about these Cowboys this weekend. They might be better than that. And they might be worse.
@Jake_Trotter Do my Cowboys have a chance in Cowtown? Will the offense finally look better even tho they're playing best D since FSU?— Nigel Aaron D'Souza (@SQUALLA_WISDOM) October 16, 2014
Trotter: They have a chance, sure. But I don't like this Oklahoma State line against that TCU front, which has been solid, save for the fourth-quarter collapse at Baylor. I think the Cowboys will have a hard time running the ball. I think they will have a hard time protecting Daxx Garman. And when you can't run the ball, and can't protect your quarterback, you usually don't win.
@Jake_Trotter Do you think TCU's defense is down this year, or is Baylor's offense just that destructive?— Conner Morris (@ConnerSaurusRex) October 16, 2014
Trotter: The Baylor offense is just really destructive when it's on. And it was on in the fourth quarter last weekend. This is still a good TCU defense. Chucky Hunter, Paul Dawson and Sam Carter are All-Big 12-caliber players. And Davion Pierson, Marcus Mallet, Kevin White and Chris Hackett are really good, too. When hot, Baylor has the firepower to light up anybody in the country. The Bears just got hot at the wrong time for TCU.
Trotter: I'd have to take the field, because it includes Alabama's Amari Cooper. The national awards are somewhat about name recognition. Coming into the season, Cooper had it. Kevin White did not. And even though White is having a tremendous season and is on track to be a Biletnikoff finalist, Cooper plays for one of the preeminent programs in college football. No matter how many passes White catches, that will be hard to overcome.
Trotter: Since 2009, Kansas football has just three Big 12 wins. But Kansas basketball has been to only one Final Four since 2008. Based on those past performances, I guess I'd have to go with the football team winning a game. But it's close.
@Jake_Trotter is tech going bowling this year?— p@ (@wheresmyoatmeal) October 16, 2014
Trotter: I wouldn't bet on it. The Red Raiders already have four losses and have yet to face TCU, Oklahoma and Baylor. They would have to win one of those games just to have a chance. I don't see it.
@Jake_Trotter Which Big 12 player would you name as your champion in a GoT-style trial by combat?— Chris Perry (@Chris_Perry) October 16, 2014
Trotter: Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown is like "The Mountain" of the Big 12. Let's go with him..
The 133 points. The 1,237 passing yards. The 1,507 total yards. The 70-63 West Virginia win that, for all of its fantasy numbers, was very real and very crazy.
Should we expect a similar outcome this time around? Probably not. But we will be entertained, that's for sure. Max Olson and Jake Trotter break down the matchup of the undefeated Bears and the 4-2 Mountaineers.
How Baylor can control the game: Points and stops, early and often. That's how the Bears took it to WVU in Waco a year ago. By the time BU's defense finally gave up a score, it was already 42-7 and the Bears were well on their way to a 56-point first half. The Mountaineers won't fold so quickly this time, but it's imperative that this Baylor team, considering its past road issues, throw punches early and put all the pressure on the home team. -- Olson
How West Virginia can pull off the upset: In whatever form they come, the Mountaineers have to get stops. Punts, turnovers, even field goals. This game has shootout written all over it. But it’s not one the Mountaineers can win with their offense alone. West Virginia’s young secondary has to come up with some big plays. And the Mountaineers’ undersized defensive front can’t allow Shock Linwood and the Baylor running game to maul them like Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine did last month. – Trotter
Baylor's X factor: The pressure is on for Baylor cornerbacks Ryan Reid and Xavien Howard. Baylor has the best receiving corps in the country, so the Bears' cornerbacks have plenty of practice against elite pass-catchers. That doesn't mean they're going to be able to shut out both Kevin White and Mario Alford, but keeping the ball out of their hands is critical. These days, White calls a 100-yard game a quiet day. Can Reid and Howard show him an actual quiet day? -- Olson
West Virginia’s X factor: White has gotten all the midseason accolades, and for good reason. After all, he leads the country in receiving. But Alford is the Mountaineer that can change the game in more ways than one. He’s ninth in the Big 12 in receiving to go along with his two kickoff return touchdowns. The Mountaineers will need a bevy of big plays to keep up with Baylor. – Trotter
What a win would mean for Baylor: Every road wins helps when it comes to the résumé that Baylor is assembling for its run to the College Football Playoff. This could be a prime opportunity, too, to send a message to those who are doubting this Bears defense after the 61-58 drama last Saturday. Art Briles is dead serious about Bryce Petty winning the Heisman, too, so here's a good platform to put up some big numbers. -- Olson
What a win would mean for West Virginia: The Mountaineers are off to a phenomenal 4-2 start for a program that was picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 in the preseason. Yet despite playing Alabama and Oklahoma tough, West Virginia has yet to pull off that program-changing win. An upset of Baylor would constitute just that, giving the Mountaineers a ton of momentum going into the second half of the season and a chance at the Big 12 title. – Trotter
1. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma (previous rank: 1): Though he’s been held to fewer than 100 yards the last two weeks, Perine has still had an All-Big 12 season with a conference-leading nine rushing touchdowns. He’s also second in the league with 568 rushing yards.
2. KD Cannon, WR, Baylor (2): Cannon showed against TCU that he’s still a major factor in the Baylor passing game even with Antwan Goodley, Corey Coleman and Levi Norwood back from injuries. Cannon had six catches for 124 yards and a 67-yard touchdown.
3. Dravon Henry, FS, West Virginia (3): Henry has been consistently solid all season at the back end of the West Virginia secondary, but he will have his biggest challenge yet facing off against Cannon and Baylor’s loaded receiving corps.
4. Jason Hall, S, Texas (7): Hall could drop in these rankings if his patellar tendon injury lingers. But he has been tremendous so far for a surging Texas defense, with eight tackles most recently in the Oklahoma game.
5. Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State (5): Lazard had his best game yet, with 8 receptions, 96 receiving yards and a touchdown last week in Iowa State’s 37-30 win over Toledo. Lazard is now 15th in the Big 12 receiving, second only to Cannon among true freshmen.
6. Corey Avery, RB, Kansas (9): Avery scored a 23-yard fourth-quarter touchdown that nearly spurred the Jayhawks to an upset of Oklahoma State. Avery is now 10th in the Big 12 with 348 rushing yards.
7. Nigel Bethel II, CB, Texas Tech (NR): After serving out his three-game suspension, Bethel got the start against West Virginia and the assignment of covering the nation’s leading receiver, Kevin White. Though White had 123 receiving yards, Bethel held up OK and finished with nine tackles.
8. Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech (NR): After doing virtually nothing for three games, Stockton exploded with a 69-yard touchdown run that put Tech up 34-20 in the fourth quarter against West Virginia. With Kenny Williams moving back to running back from linebacker, it will be interesting to see how involved Stockton remains in the offense.
9. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State (6): Washington hasn’t done much since hauling in two touchdowns on Sept. 25 against Texas Tech. Washington has just four catches for 20 yards over the Cowboys’ last two games.
10. Ramon Richards, CB, Oklahoma State (NR): Richards has been starting since Ashton Lampkin injured his ankle. It’s unclear if Lampkin will be able to return Saturday against TCU. Either way, Richards figures to be a core part of the Oklahoma State secondary moving forward.
On the radar: Elijah Lee, LB, Kansas State; Steven Parker II, S, Oklahoma; Dimitri Flowers, FB, Oklahoma; Davion Hall, WR, Baylor; Matthew Boateng, CB, Kansas; Colin Downing, P, Iowa State; Cameron Batson, PR/WR, Texas Tech; Martinez Syria, RB, Iowa State.
Those, among others, will be the storylines to watch in the league on Saturday:
No. 14 Kansas State at No. 11 Oklahoma, noon ET (ESPN): Oklahoma wideout Sterling Shepard is having an All-American-caliber season, ranking sixth nationally in receiving. But to get the offense back on track, the Sooners need to get other receiving weapons involved. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Shepard has accounted for 47 percent of Oklahoma's receiving yards, the highest percentage for any receiver in the country. While the Oklahoma passing game has sputtered, the K-State air attack has thrived of late. Jake Waters is completing 50 percent of his passes of 15 or more yards, the best rate of any Big 12 quarterback. To hold off the Wildcats, the Sooners will have to be better than they've been at defending passes downfield. Oklahoma has allowed the league's most receptions (20) and touchdowns (7) on throws of 15 yards or more.
Kansas at Texas Tech, 3:30 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Regional): The Jayhawks led Texas Tech 10-0 early in Lawrence last year before giving up 54 unanswered points. Tech leads the all-time series 14-1, with Kansas' only victory coming in Lubbock in 2001. The Jayhawks have not won a Big 12 road game since defeating Iowa State in 2008. At 2-4, Tech is off to its worst start since 1994.
No. 15 Oklahoma State at No. 12 TCU, 4 p.m. ET (FS1): Cowboys QB Daxx Garman has flashed a big-play arm so far. He's averaging 14.4 passing yards per attempt, according to ESPN Stats & Information, the best of any Power 5 QB. In fact since Garman became the starter in Week 3, 72 percent of Oklahoma State's passing yards have come on passes of 15 yards or longer -- the highest percentage of any Power 5 offense. Though he's been inconsistent at times, Garman could have success against the Horned Frogs, who couldn't keep Baylor from throwing over their heads last weekend. But Oklahoma State's defense will have its hands full, too. TCU has 10 touchdown drives of three plays or fewer, tied for third-most in the country.
Iowa State at Texas, 8 p.m. ET (Longhorn Network): The Longhorns lead the all-time series against Iowa State 10-1, including a 31-30 win on a disputed no-fumble call in Ames last year. Both Iowa State QB Sam B. Richardson and Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes are coming off career outings. Swoopes passed for 334 yards, rushed for 50 and accounted for three touchdowns in Texas' narrow loss to Oklahoma. Richardson threw for a career-high 351 yards and three second-half touchdowns to rally Iowa State to a win over Toledo.
Look for some major targets in the following three games to not only be in attendance but also take mental notes of what they see over the weekend. There’s no guarantee, but one or two may even give their verbal commitments.
Kansas State at Oklahoma
Fresh off its Red River Showdown victory against Texas, Oklahoma returns home in hopes to put on a show that will attract a couple of top visitors. ESPN 300 outside linebacker Cameron Townsend and four-star defensive tackle Darrion Daniels will be in Norman on official visits. The additions of both players would be huge for the Sooners. Additionally, quarterback commit Dalton Wood said he will be in Norman for an unofficial visit, as will players like ESPN Junior 300 running back Z'Quan Hogan and 2016 dual-threat quarterback Terry Wilson.
Baylor CB Xavien Howard: He's quietly racked up nine pass breakups this season and faces probably his best one-on-one threat of the season in Kevin White. Ryan Reid got lots of attention last week -- good and bad -- but I have a feeling Howard will rise to the occasion in Morgantown.
Iowa State DE Cory Morrissey: With no Desmond Harrison (suspension) back for Texas, it's likely Morrissey has one of Iowa State's most advantageous matchups this week when he takes on left tackle Marcus Hutchins, who hasn't been great. This Texas offensive line, while improving, is still vulnerable and Morrissey has a chance to remind us he's one of the league's more underrated defenders.
Kansas LB Ben Heeney: Inspired by the fact we made the mistake of snubbing him for our midseason All-Big 12 team, Heeney will rack up 30 tackles against Texas Tech and makes us look like a bunch of fools. I really wouldn't be shocked. He is playing at an All-Big 12 level, no doubt; we simply ran out of linebacker spots.
Kansas State QB Jake Waters: He got a huge stage against Auburn and made some uncharacteristic mistakes. Here's another big one against Oklahoma, and with the advantage of a bye week, surely this staff has cooked up some good stuff the Sooners won't see coming. Waters is one of the Big 12's best QBs but rarely receives that praise. He'll earn it this week.
Oklahoma RB Alex Ross: Despite his game-changing kick return for a TD, Ross recorded just five touches on offense against Texas. Let's see what he can do with a little more of a workload, and especially some more opportunities in space, as the lightning to Samaje Perine's thunder.
Oklahoma State WR David Glidden: He has a 20-plus yard reception in five of the Pokes' six games this season and is a sneaky dangerous member of what's becoming a fairly diverse receiving corps. There's no one significant go-to guy among those wideouts, at least not statistically, but Glidden can be on Saturday.
TCU DE Mike Tuaua: We didn't hear a whole lot from Tuaua last week -- to his credit, his lone tackle was a sack -- but the Frogs' rising defensive end will need to be impactful this week. Daxx Garman is capable of challenging TCU deep repeatedly, but not if he doesn't have time in the pocket to make the right decisions.
Texas DE Naashon Hughes: The redshirt freshman, a converted linebacker with a great frame, earned his first career start against Oklahoma and is proving to be an ideal fit for Texas' Fox end spot. He was sound in tackling and coverage last week and should get some nice chances to blitz and cause trouble in the backfield against ISU.
Texas Tech CB Nigel Bethel II: After serving his suspension for Tech's nonconference slate, Bethel is back and stepped up in defending Kevin White last week, notching nine tackles. That should be one heck of a confidence-booster for the always-confident true freshman. The big plays are coming soon for him.
West Virginia RB Wendell Smallwood: You can't ask for more from a change-of-pace back than what Smallwood gave last week, rushing for 123 yards on just 15 carries against Texas Tech. WVU needs to be able to keep Baylor's defense honest by attacking with Rushel Shell and Smallwood. Keep an eye on him this week.
That conversation started and ended with Baylor's Bryce Petty.
Midway through the 2014 season, the argument can be made that Petty hasn't been the best quarterback in the league. Several other quarterbacks have challenged Petty for the title of Big 12's best so now is the perfect time to ask: Who has been the Big 12's best quarterback thus far?
West Virginia's Clint Trickett has been the surprise of the group, looking like a different quarterback in his second season playing for Dana Holgorsen. His 2,203 passing yards and 68.5 completion percentage lead the Big 12 but his six turnovers (four interceptions, two fumbles) are a major drawback.
TCU's Trevone Boykin is a nightmare for defenses in the Horned Frogs' new system. He's developing as a passer and pairing that skill with running back-like explosiveness when he escapes the pocket. He's a big reason TCU has risen to No. 12 nationally and his Big 12-low two interceptions is just what Gary Patterson wants from his signal caller. But, much like Petty, his 57.7 completion percentage leaves plenty of room to improve.
Jake Waters has done it all for Kansas State, leading Big 12 quarterbacks with 320 rushing yards while connecting on 65 percent of his passes. His ability to keep defenses honest with his arm or his legs is a big reason why the Wildcats are 4-1.
Other quarterbacks like Texas Tech's Davis Webb, Oklahoma's Trevor Knight and Oklahoma State's Daxx Garman have had their moments as well.
Should Petty be dethroned? Is Boykin the guy? Do Trickett's numbers overcome all? Vote now and weigh in with your comments below.
Why Kansas State will win: Texas Tech burned me with my upset pick last week, but I'm taking another shot. Kansas State is coming off an invaluable bye week, just like it did in 2012 before its upset of the Sooners, and the teams played a terrifically close game a year ago. I think it's a toss-up, so I'm taking the team with the better quarterback. Kansas State 28, Oklahoma 24 – Max Olson
Why Baylor will win: This game comes down to whoever can get a few stops, right? WVU will have the right answers early on, just as it did against Alabama and Oklahoma, and Kevin White will get his. But Baylor pulls away late on the strength of its run game and gets those few needed stops from its D. Baylor 52, West Virginia 38 – Olson
Why West Virginia will win: Underscoring the depth and balance of the Big 12, I’m going heavy on the underdogs this week. The Mountaineers have come close to pulling the upset in their first two tries against top-five opponents. This time, Clint Trickett and Kevin White (and Josh Lambert?) get it done in another wild Big 12 shootout that goes down to the wire. West Virginia 52, Baylor 49 – Jake Trotter
Why TCU will win: Sure, the Horned Frogs are coming off a heartbreaking loss. But remember, they were up 21 at Baylor for a reason. Despite being 5-1, Oklahoma State has struggled to run the ball or protect QB Daxx Garman. TCU has a stout front seven and leads the Big 12 in sacks. Garman’s second career road start could be a painful one. TCU 34, Oklahoma State 24 – Trotter
Why Texas Tech will win: Kliff Kingsbury’s squad finally gets a much-needed win against the Jayhawks. The Red Raiders' offense will simply score too many points for KU’s offense to keep up, with Davis Webb having one of his best games of the season. Texas Tech 35, Kansas 21 – Chatmon
Why Texas will win: Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes seemed to turn a corner in the Red River Showdown, as he outplayed Trevor Knight. The Texas defense, meanwhile, has been downright dominant in Big 12 play. The Cyclones would love to avenge last year’s controversial loss to the Longhorns. But an improving Swoopes and a dominant Texas defense will be the difference. Texas 27, Iowa State 16 – Trotter
- Chatmon: 40-4
- Trotter: 40-4
- Olson: 39-5