Big 12: Baylor Bears

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
1:00
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Not many new commitments to break down this time around in our weekly check-in on Big 12 recruiting, but that doesn't mean these coaching staffs haven't been busy. Here's the latest on who's taking visits and who's impressing so far in their senior seasons:

BAYLOR
Total commits:
12
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Blake Lynch is making the Bears look awfully smart for accepting his early commitment in 2013. The Gilmer, Texas, four-star athlete wowed this weekend against Tatum with 93 rushing yards, 115 receiving yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning score. He played quarterback as a junior but has transitioned into a true offensive weapon since transferring to Gilmer.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: No commitments came in this weekend, but it'll be interesting to see how Iowa State's last-second win over Iowa impacts their in-state recruiting battles going forward. For example, could that win and some positive momentum help ISU's chances with 2016 linemen John Raridon and Jake Heinrich? No doubt Paul Rhoads and his coaches will be talking about that game for the next year while recruiting.

KANSAS
Total commits:
13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: KU has not landed a new commitment in almost a month and a half, and a blowout loss to Duke isn't going to help its efforts on the trail much either. One commit whose season is off to a nice start: three-star RB Taylor Martin has racked up 323 rushing yards and seven TDs this year at Fort Worth (Texas) Dunbar.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: A Thursday night game, no matter how gigantic the opponent, isn't necessarily ideal for bringing in a bunch of official visitors. K-State is reportedly expecting to have three-star RB Alex Barnes and junior college DT Deonte Reynolds in the house when Auburn comes to the The Little Apple. Both are taking midweek official visits, and they're critical targets for the Wildcats on what should be a pressure-packed week.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits:
13
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Sooners hosted their biggest official visit weekend of the season and secured two pledges Saturday, from ESPN 300 safety Will Sunderland Jr. and junior college lineman Jamal Danley. The long-awaited pregame commitment from Sunderland was huge, but so was getting ESPN 300 studs Keisean Lucier-South, Kendall Sheffield, Ricky DeBerry and Neville Gallimore and four-stars Kahlil Haughton and Anthony McKee on campus.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 12
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Pokes added to a promising offensive line class last week with 6-foot-7 offensive tackle Deya Mhiesen, a junior college lineman who can enroll in January. Mhiesen took an official visit to Baylor's season opener, then attended OSU's 40-23 win over Missouri State and decided to pull the trigger. He'll have three years of eligibility at OSU.

TCU
Total commits:
16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Horned Frogs had several commits in the stands Saturday for their 30-7 beatdown of Minnesota, including WR Jarrison Stewart and DT Joseph Broadnax, along with Baylor commit CB Ke'Shawn Somerville, DE Andrew Fitzgerald and several more intriguing recruits in the 2016 class.

TEXAS
Total commits: 15
ESPN 300 commits: 7
The latest: Texas hosted some big-time recruits at AT&T Stadium for its 20-17 loss to UCLA, including top ESPN 300 targets Malik Jefferson and Ryan Newsome, ESPN Junior 300 WR Reggie Hemphill and commits DeShon Elliott, Charles Omenihu and Connor Williams. Two attendees who could end up in this class: three-star center Tyler Moore and Purdue three-star cornerback commit Isaac Warren.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Red Raiders were not able to get Tyron Johnson, the nation's No. 2 receiver prospect, in town this weekend for his official visit due to a scheduling conflict, but he's expected to make it out to Lubbock on Oct. 11 when Tech hosts West Virginia. Tech did have ESPN 300 QB signee Jarrett Stidham, four-star commit OG Conner Dyer and three-star DE Jalen Bates in attendance.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: With Oklahoma coming to town this weekend, expect a lot of talent on the West Virginia sideline before Saturday's big game. Among those reportedly expected to attend on official visits are ESPN 300 CB Jordan Whitehead and four-star ATH Tim Irvin.

Big 12 nonconference rewind

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
11:00
AM ET
The majority of the Big 12 enters a bye week with conference play right around the corner.

We're only three weeks into the season but plenty of things have changed. Preseason expectations are out the window and some dreams of breakout seasons have been shattered while other preconceived notions have been re-affirmed.

Here's a review of nonconference play in the Big 12:

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
J.P. Wilson/Icon SportswireQuarterback Trevor Knight and a stubborn defense have teamed to make Oklahoma the Big 12's best.
Best team: Oklahoma. The Sooners have done nothing to lose their status as the Big 12 preseason favorite. Bob Stoops' squad has been dominant while reeling off three wins over Louisiana Tech (2-1), Tulsa (1-2) and Tennessee (2-1). Quarterback Trevor Knight has taken a clear step forward from his freshman production and the defense could end up among the best of the Stoops era. Baylor has been just as impressive but against lesser competition with its three opponents holding one FBS win (1-5) combined this season.

Biggest disappointment: Texas Tech. Wait, where are the Longhorns? Did you really expect more from Texas? More players have been kicked off the team (eight) than offensive touchdowns scored by Charlie Strong's team (seven). The Red Raiders are another story, however. Tech has never really looked outstanding at any point this season as penalties, turnovers and defensive struggles turning the Red Raiders' Big 12 title dreams into an early nightmare. Saturday's loss to Arkansas -- which included 438 rushing yards by the Razorbacks -- has Kliff Kingsbury looking for answers. Before the season Tech looked like a team that could catapult itself into the top 3 in the Big 12. Now it looks like a squad facing a fight to go bowling.

Big (offensive) man on campus: West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett. Raise your hand if you had Trickett as the first Big 12 quarterback to eclipse 1,000 yards in 2014. He's been outstanding for the Mountaineers while leading the Big 12 in passing yards (1,224) and completion percentage (75.4). He's in the top 3 among FBS quarterbacks in both categories. He's the main reason WVU is emerging as the Big 12's surprise team after three games.

[+] EnlargeMalcom Brown
John Albright/Icon SMIYou can't pin Texas' struggles on defensive tackle Malcom Brown, the Big 12's co-leader in sacks.
Big (defensive) man on campus: Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown. The junior defensive tackle is one of the few blameless Longhorns on the roster. He's been dominant as the Big 12's leader in sacks (3.5, tied with Iowa State's Cory Morrissey) and tackles for loss (seven). He has added 16 tackles and has forced a fumble for Strong's defense. In a league overflowing with defensive talent -- like OU's Eric Striker and Baylor's Shawn Oakman -- Brown is second to none.

Fab freshman: Baylor receiver KD Cannon. The ESPN 300 receiver has no idea what it feels like to go into the halftime locker room without a touchdown catch. Cannon has made an amazing impact with an FBS-high 471 receiving yards in his first three games as a college receiver. The true freshman has 14 receptions, an average of 33.6 yards per catch, and five touchdowns. All-Big 12 receiver Antwan Goodley's biggest competition for the conference's most explosive receiver could be sitting alongside him in the receivers' room.

Newcomer to know: Oklahoma State athlete Tyreek Hill. The junior college transfer burst upon the scene with 278 all-purpose yards against Florida State as he buzzed around the turf in Arlington, Texas, while giving Seminoles defenders fits throughout the loss. His production has dropped significantly in OSU's last two games (24 touches for 154 yards) but it's clear the Cowboys are trying to save their top playmaker for their toughest games.

Best performance: It was the only Big 12 Conference game in the first three weeks but Kansas State doesn't escape Iowa State's upset bid without quarterback Jake Waters. Trailing 28-26 with 3:01 left, the senior led the Wildcats on a seven-play, 80-yard march to win the game. Waters accounted for 74 of KSU's 80 yards on the drive including an 8-yard touchdown run. KSU won 32-28.

Worst performance: Kansas laid an egg in its 41-3 loss to Duke last weekend. The Jayhawks opened the season with plenty of hope for a new and improved offense but, after gaining 457 yards in their season opener, KU took a clear step backward with 297 yards including 97 through the air against Duke. To make matters worse, the Jayhawks allowed Blue Devil freshman running back Shaun Wilson to rush for 245 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries. Back to the drawing board.

Dream dashed: It was disappointing to see Iowa State receiver Quenton Bundrage lost for the season with an ACL injury just minutes into the Cyclones' first game. The junior spent the offseason working on becoming more consistent and had the talent to be one of the Big 12's top receivers in 2014. Now he has to wait until next season with an eye on becoming the Big 12 comeback player of the year when he returns to the field in 2015.

Best stat: TCU has held opponents without a first down or touchdown on 60 percent of its drives. In two games, the Horned Frogs have defended 30 total drives and 18 of those drives have ended without a first down including seven of Minnesota's 15 drives last weekend. Gary Patterson's defense is one reason the Horned Frogs cannot be overlooked when Big 12 play reaches high gear next month.

Best quote: "I haven't talked to [kicker] Josh Lambert since he got on campus, and we are going to keep it that way. I know his name and who he is but other than that I'm doing the hands-off approach." -- West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen after Lambert's game-winning kick to beat Maryland 40-37 last weekend.

Big 12 bowl projections: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
8:00
PM ET
Overall, it was a good weekend for the Big 12.

Texas showed some fight, Oklahoma and Baylor cruised, and West Virginia continued to impress. Thursday night's matchup with Auburn looms large for Kansas State while a bye week comes at the perfect time for Texas Tech.

Allstate Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma
Cotton Bowl: Baylor
Valero Alamo Bowl: Kansas State
Russell Athletic Bowl: West Virginia
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Oklahoma State
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: TCU
Cactus Bowl: Texas

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
2:00
PM ET

Big 12 viewer's guide: Week 3

September, 13, 2014
Sep 13
8:00
AM ET
In Week 3 of Big 12 action, Oklahoma and Texas Tech will take on the SEC; West Virginia, TCU and Iowa State will challenge the Big Ten; Kansas will go on the road in the ACC; and Texas will attempt to bounce back against the Pac-12.

How the league fares in those seven games against Power 5 conference opponents will be the major storyline today in the Big 12:

West Virginia at Maryland, noon ET (Big Ten Network): The Terrapins slaughtered West Virginia 37-0 last season. The Mountaineers, however, didn’t have quarterback Clint Trickett in that game. Trickett ranks fourth nationally with a 75.3 completion percentage, and his favorite target, Kevin White, is tied for fourth in the country with 19 receptions.

Arkansas at Texas Tech, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC): After starting fast last year, the Red Raiders are off to a sluggish beginning in Kliff Kingsbury’s second season. Only Oregon State has committed more penalties than the Red Raiders, who have 25 through two games. These two old Southwest Conference foes have met 35 times, but haven’t played since 1991.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Collins (55), Brandon Scheriff (68) and Dominic Alvis
Reese Strickland/USA Today SportsIowa State has a chance to get its season on track and win back the Cy-Hawk Trophy on Saturday.
Iowa State at Iowa, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN): Iowa All-American left tackle Brandon Scherff is out for the Cy-Hawk series with an undisclosed knee injury. The Hawkeyes had struggled to move the ball with Scherff in narrow wins over Northern Iowa and Ball State.

Kansas at Duke, 3:30 p.m. ET (ACC Regional Sports Network): Kansas hasn’t won a road game since beating UTEP in El Paso the second week of the 2009 season. The Jayhawks’ 34 points last week, however, tied the highest scoring total of the Charlie Weis era, and their 6.3 yards per play against Southeast Missouri State was the program’s best game average in three years.

Minnesota at TCU, 4 p.m. ET (FS1): The Gophers are one of the only Big Ten teams off to a positive start, but injuries have piled up. Minnesota is hopeful quarterback Mitch Leidner will be able to go after injuring his knee against Middle Tennessee last weekend.

UTSA at Oklahoma State, 7 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Regional): Quarterback Daxx Garman is expected to make his first career start after taking his first competitive snap in five years during last week’s win over Missouri State. The Roadrunners are still looking for the program’s first win over a Power 5 conference opponent.

Texas vs. No. 12 UCLA (Arlington, Texas), 8 p.m. ET (FOX): The Longhorns were woeful on both sides of the ball in a 41-7 loss to BYU last weekend, and this doesn’t have the look of a favorable matchup. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Texas has allowed the fourth-most rushing yards (777) in the FBS to opposing QBs since the start of last season. Excluding sacks, UCLA’s Brett Hundley has run for the sixth-most yards by a quarterback (1,057) during the same span.

Tennessee at No. 4 Oklahoma, 8 p.m. ET (ABC): This is the first regular-season matchup between these teams, which are in the top 10 in the FBS in all-time wins. Recent history, however, favors the Sooners. Bob Stoops is 88-5 at home with Oklahoma, while Tennessee hasn’t won three games to begin a season since 2004.
Although we're just two weeks into the 2014 season, go-to targets are starting to emerge across the Big 12. West Virginia's Kevin White looks like he could fill a playmaking void and Texas Tech's Bradley Marquez has stepped his play up in his final season.

Here's a closer look at the Big 12's leading receivers in several key stats, with the help of ESPN Stats and Information.

[+] EnlargeKevin White, Bradley Sylve
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsWest Virginia's Kevin White has been targeted more than any other Big 12 receiver.
Total targets

  1. Kevin White, West Virginia, 26
  2. Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech, 21
  3. John Harris, Texas, 20
  4. Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma, 19
  5. (Bradley Marquez, Texas Tech, 18

It’s clear White has developed a high level of trust with quarterback Clint Trickett and the Mountaineers are trying to get the ball in the hands of the 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior. … Texas’ John Harris is the surprise name on the list as he has emerged as a go-to target in a struggling Longhorns attack. … As Iowa State searches for someone to replace Quenton Bundrage, no Cyclone has double-digit targets through two games.

Yards per target

  1. Kolby Listenbee, TCU, 32.6
  2. Jhajuan Seales, Oklahoma State, 20.8
  3. Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma, 16.7
  4. KD Cannon, Baylor, 15.4
  5. Nick Harwell, Kansas, 14.9

TCU has only played one game, but it would be a surprise if Listenbee is not a major part of the offense. He proved to be a legitimate deep threat in the Horned Frogs' season opener two weeks ago, and that skill will make quarterback Trevone Boykin and his dynamic running ability even more lethal. … Shepard’s appearance on this list shows the Sooners plan to use him to keep defenses honest while they attempt to establish a physical running game.

Yards after catch

  1. Kevin White, West Virginia, 147
  2. Bradley Marquez, Texas Tech, 103
  3. Brandon Sheperd, Oklahoma State, 98
  4. Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma, 92
  5. Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech, 87

White is starting to fulfill the hype that accompanied him when he arrived as a junior college transfer before the 2013 season. He combines terrific size with run-after-catch ability. He’ll be in the mix for All-Big 12 honors if he remains consistent. … Seeing Marquez, not Grant, lead the Red Raiders in yards after the catch is a surprise, but it shows his versatility and overall importance to Tech’s passing game.

Third-down receptions

  1. Davion Hall, Baylor, 6
  2. Kevin White, West Virginia, 4
  3. John Harris, Texas, 4
  4. Bradley Marquez, Texas Tech, 4
  5. Five receivers tied with 3

Hall has a high third-down reception rate but only three of his six receptions have resulted in first down conversions. The Bears have made a point to get him the ball in space, with 7 of his 11 receptions coming within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. … It’s early, but Harris, White and Marquez appear to have separated themselves as go-to receivers in their offenses.

Percentage of receptions for a first down or touchdown

  1. Nick Harwell, Kansas, 100 percent
  2. Kolby Listenbee, TCU, 100 percent
  3. Ja'Juan Story, TCU, 100 percent
  4. KD Cannon, Baylor, 87.5 percent
  5. Tyler Lockett, Kansas State, 85.7 percent

Harwell was solid in his first game as a Jayhawk with four receptions for 46 yards and two touchdowns. He’ll be a major part of KU’s offense. … Listenbee and Story have five receptions combined so it remains to be seen if their ability to make key plays continues throughout the season. … Lockett should be a staple on this list with his ability to change games each time he touches the ball.
KD Cannon was caught off guard.

“KD!” said Baylor coach Art Briles.

“What?” came the response from the freshman receiver.

“Go in!”

[+] EnlargeK.D. Cannon
Tony Gutierrez/Associated PressFreshman wide receiver KD Cannon has been off to the races for Baylor, averaging 35.3 yards per catch.
Seconds later, Cannon was on the field in the first game of his collegiate career.

What happened next wasn’t even a dream come true, as Cannon streaked past the SMU defense for a 46-yard touchdown on his first catch in a Baylor uniform.

“I wasn’t expecting to get the ball,” Cannon said. “I thought I’d work my way in, but he was like, ‘High-low go.’ I was like, ‘That’s me!’

“It’s something I couldn’t even have dreamed of. It felt great scoring on your first play.”

Welcome to Baylor, where Briles runs a program that consistently takes the approach, “Why do something later when we can do it now?” It applies to the Bears' use of freshmen and their approach to every season, and it can be found at the foundation of the mindset that has helped the program rise to prominence in the Big 12.

The sequence that led to Cannon’s first college touchdown catch is a perfect example. Injuries during the Bears' first two games have thrust Cannon and fellow freshman Davion Hall among the team's leading receivers.

With All-Big 12 receiver Antwan Goodley, Clay Fuller and Levi Norwood on the shelf with various injuries, Briles and Baylor didn't hesitate to turn to their true freshmen to help fill the void. The future became the present and they’ve performed like savvy veterans, not newcomers suiting up for the first time. Cannon has eight receptions for a Big 12-best 282 yards and four touchdowns, while Hall has a team-high 11 receptions for 164 yards and a score of his own.

“It just affirmed what we felt like we knew coming in -- both those guys are really good football players that are ready for prime time,” Briles said of his freshman receiving duo. “A lot of time it transfers from high school to college, college to the NFL. A great player in high school is going to be a great player in college, and eventually the NFL.”

Since last year's deep threat, four-year standout Tevin Reese, no longer calls Waco, Texas, home, Cannon has been an exceptional deep threat while averaging 35.3 yards per reception. He gives defenders fits with his acceleration and top-end speed.

“We're always going to have a guy that can stretch the field, or try to,” Briles said. “And when you get more than one, which is what we're on the verge of developing right now, that's when you really have a chance. Because if you've got one guy, they'll put a guy over the top of him. If you've got more than one, then they can't do that.”

Hall hasn’t proven to be the consistent deep threat that Cannon is but has shown signs he could become a dependable third-down target, with six of his 11 receptions coming on third down. He’s also shown he can be a deep threat when called upon, with his lone touchdown coming on a 57-yard bomb from Seth Russell against Northwestern State last weekend.

The thought of Briles adding more speed, versatility and youth to his receiving corps should make Big 12 defensive coordinators shudder. Yet it isn't these traits that Briles likes most about his freshman receiving duo.

“They’re serious about being good football players,” Briles said. “That’s what I like about them; they want to be good.

“All they’ve done is come out and made plays. First in practice, now in games.”

Big 12 morning links

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
8:00
AM ET
Where can I get one of these?
  • The game between Texas Tech and Arkansas is a great contrast in styles, writes Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News. The Red Raiders love up n tempo offense and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema does not. With all the talk about how the offenses match up with the defenses, I have a feeling this game is going to be decided by a big special teams play or turnover.
  • West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen insists he has a different team with more experience and a higher confidence level heading into its rematch with Maryland, reports Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail. WVU is averaging 38.5 points, 499.5 yards, and 6.1 yards per play after two games in 2014. In 2013, WVU averaged 15.5 points, 398 yards, and 5.9 yards per play after two games.
  • Iowa State is turning up the pressure on defense, writes Bobby La Gesse of the Ames Tribune. Cyclones defensive coordinator Wally Burnham recognized the need for change after ISU's season-opening loss and it paid off with a much better performance against Kansas State last weekend. It will be interesting to see if ISU is able to continue making the blitz a staple in its defensive game plan. With some of the explosive offenses in the Big 12, it might be easy to return to a safe approach if the Cyclones get burned later on this season.
  • Here's a interesting story from Rustin Dodd of the Wichita Eagle. If you ever meet JaCorey Shepherd ask him how Tank is doing It's always good to see positive stories about college football players going out of their way to make a positive impact on the world. All of us, young or old, can learn from guys like Shepherd.
  • I'd be lying if I said I don't expect Baylor to cruise to a comfortable win over Buffalo tonight. But the Bulls have taken an interesting approach to preparing for the Bears' offense including having receivers begin plays with a running start, according to this story from Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News.

Big 12 Week 3 predictions

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
9:00
AM ET
 

Why Oklahoma will win: The Sooners have a decisive advantage in the trenches, highlighted by a powerful running game and a swarming defensive front seven. Bob Stoops is also 88-5 at home and will be looking to send another message to his friends in the SEC. Oklahoma 44, Tennessee 16 – Jake Trotter

Why Tennessee will keep it close: The Vols appear to be on the upswing under Butch Jones' better recruiting. UT has several receivers with size (four receivers 6-foot-3 or taller) and could try to test the coverage ability of OU's secondary. If the Vols are able to force mental mistakes from Trevor Knight, all bets are off. Oklahoma 35, Tennessee 21
Brandon Chatmon

 

Why UCLA will win: Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes actually played alright in his first career start last week -- and Texas still couldn't score. With the offensive line and receiving corps completely decimated, the Longhorns have what amounts to a popgun offense. UCLA counters with quarterback Brett Hundley, who entered the season on the short list of Heisman contenders. UCLA 28, Texas 9 – Trotter

Why Texas will keep it close: Defense. Until Swoopes and a patchwork offensive line get some momentum, Texas' defense will have to win the day. They'll get pressure on Hundley, but they'll need turnovers. The Longhorns played three quarters of solid defense against BYU. If they can wreak havoc for four, this game could be close late. UCLA 27, Texas 17
-Max Olson

 

Upset special: The Cyclones showed it is too early to write them off during a close loss to Kansas State. Meanwhile, Iowa hasn't looked like an elite team during its first two games. There were times the Cyclones were dominating K-State, and ISU could carry that momentum into a win over its rival. Iowa State 31, Iowa 27 Chatmon

MORE UNANIMOUS PICKS

Baylor over Buffalo 56-20: Buffalo is going to black out its stadium, but the Bears will light it up in Bryce Petty's return. — Chatmon

West Virginia over Maryland 28-26: The Terrapins hammered the Mountaineers 37-0 last season, but this is a completely different West Virginia team manned by a completely different quarterback in Clint Trickett, who is completing 75 percent of his passes. – Trotter

Texas Tech over Arkansas 38-24: Tech cleans up its penalty problems, and Davis Webb picks apart a D that gave up nearly 600 yards against Auburn. – Olson

Duke over Kansas 38-24: Kansas looked good in the first 45 minutes of its win over Southeast Missouri, but Duke quarterback Anthony Boone will prove simply too much for the Jayhawks. — Chatmon

TCU over Minnesota 17-13: A close game finally goes the Horned Frogs' way. Minnesota's uncertain QB situation is the difference-maker, and TCU's underappreciated defense steps up. – Olson

Oklahoma State over UTSA 42-24: Having a full week to tailor the offense around the arm of quarterback Daxx Garman should do wonders for the Oklahoma State offense. – Trotter

Big 12 morning links

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
8:00
AM ET
Please take the time to remember what happened on this day 13 years ago.
  • Two years ago, Tyrone Swoopes appeared to be the quarterback of the future for Texas, but now that he's the starter, writes the Associated Press' Jim Vertuno, Swoopes resembles more of a project while yet another hotshot freshman waits behind him. Though he is raw, I didn't think Swoopes played poorly in his debut start against BYU. Swoopes showed some poise and delivered the ball with authority on several occasions. But he got virtually no help from his offensive line or wide receivers. The coaching staff also appeared hesitant to open up the game plan with him behind center. For Texas to have any chance against UCLA, all of that will have to change.
  • Iowa State offensive coordinator Mark Mangino's move from the press box to the sideline sparked the Cyclones offensively, in the opinion of the Des Moines Register's Tommy Birch. The Cyclones lost to Kansas State, but responded to Mangino's sideline presence with four unanswered touchdowns during a first-half scoring splurge. If Iowa State can execute offensively the way it did against K-State, it will have a chance to win some games this season, including Saturday at Iowa.
  • Tennessee secondary coach Willie Martinez told The Oklahoman's Ryan Aber that he harbors no hard feelings about his time at Oklahoma. Martinez was essentially the very first assistant to be fired in some form during the Bob Stoops era. Stoops didn't exactly fire Martinez. But he hired his brother Mike Stoops to replace him before Martinez had gotten a job elsewhere. The move marked the start of the revival of Oklahoma's defense. It will be interesting to see Martinez back in Norman this weekend.
  • After missing three field goals in two games, Oklahoma State kicker Ben Grogan told the Tulsa World's Mark Cooper that he has pinpointed the problem. Apparently, Grogan's mechanics with his plant foot have been off. Whatever the case, Grogan has to be sharper for the Cowboys to produce the kind of season they hope to have. Grogan had a shaky freshman season last year, missing seven field goals on 18 attempts. Oklahoma State has usually held a decisive special teams edge against its opponents during the Mike Gundy era. That wasn't the case last year, and the Cowboys paid for it.
  • Baylor coach Art Briles said he prefers to avoid certain labels for players not necessarily considered first-teamers in his fast-paced, big-play offense. It's no wonder why. Many of his backups -- like freshman wide receivers K.D. Cannon and Davion Hall -- could start for several teams in the Big 12. Cannon leads the league in receiving despite technically starting out the season as a reserve. And Bryce Petty's backup, quarterback Seth Russell, leads the Big 12 in QBR. This is an offense that's going to be good for a very long time, thanks to the players who are not first-teamers at the moment.

Ground game boosts Baylor, OU

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
2:30
PM ET
The season remains in its infancy yet there are early signs that some Big 12 teams will feature running games that can carry them to a conference title.

With the help of ESPN Stats & Information, here’s a closer look at Big 12 rushing leaders in several categories and what it means for the future.

Rushing yards

1. Baylor 526
2. Kansas State 472
3. Oklahoma 444

For the second straight season, Baylor sits atop the league in rushing yards. The Bears haven’t been tested in easy wins over SMU and Northwestern (La.) State but their unyielding commitment to the running game doesn’t look like it is going to change anytime soon. Expect all three teams to remain among the Big 12 rushing leaders as the season progresses. Notable: Texas Tech is fourth at 410 rushing yards per game.

Yards per carry

1. Texas Tech 6.4
2. Oklahoma 6.3
3. Kansas 5.3

It’s a bit of a surprise to see the Red Raiders atop the conference in yards per carry which was boosted by Tech's 28 rushes for 226 yards against UTEP last weekend. True freshman Justin Stockton is at the core of his team’s success with 14 carries for 173 yards (12.4 ypc) and two touchdowns. OU has a trio of running backs (Keith Ford, Alex Ross and Samaje Perine) to thank for its strong yards per carry numbers. Notable: West Virginia is averaging 3.67 yards per carry despite having a bevy of talented running backs.

Rushing yards before contact

1. Baylor 348
2. Texas Tech 304
3. Kansas State 286

It seems like BU has done a solid job replacing All-Big 12 guard Cyril Richardson along its offensive front with the Bears running backs gaining over half their yardage before contact. Center Kyle Fuller and guard Blake Muir have slid into the starting offensive line with relative ease but it remains to be seen how well they can hold up as the level of competition increases. A combination of scheme and solid line play means plenty of open space for BU running backs. Notable: Despite playing two games, Iowa State (59) is the only Big 12 team that hasn’t gained at least 100 rushing yards before contact. TCU (101) and Kansas (155) each eclipsed that mark in their lone game thus far.

Rushing yards after contact

1. Oklahoma 231
2. Oklahoma State 190
3. Kansas State 186

Bob Stoops and OU’s coaching staff have praised the physical running style of Ford, Ross and Perine so it’s no surprise to see the Sooners atop the conference in yards after contact. OU entered the season with uncertainty at running back but all three backs appear to be quality options. Notable: Tech leads the Big 12 with 6.4 yards per carry but is recording just 1.8 yards after contact per carry (116 total yards after contact).

Percentage of runs for negative or zero yards

1. Baylor 11 percent
2. Oklahoma 11.3 percent
3. TCU 15.2 percent

The Bears were second in the Big 12 in this category at 19.3 percent in 2013. Limiting negative yards is an overlooked key to great offense. Seeing BU and OU atop the conference is no surprise but TCU at No. 3 is a surprise. The Horned Frogs have played one game with their new offense so it will be something to keep an eye on in the future. Notable: Texas has seen 29.3 percent of its rushes result in zero or negative yardage in its first two games. That speaks volumes about the slow start of the Charlie Strong era in Austin, Texas.

Big 12 Tuesday mailbag

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
4:00
PM ET
In today's mailbag we talk the lack of love for West Virginia and Oklahoma, Texas' quarterback situation and pride at Iowa State. As always thanks for your questions, you can submit questions for next Tuesday's mailbag here.

On to the mailbag:


Brandon Wilder in Manchester, Tennessee writes: Why do you think it is that the media is reluctant to show Oklahoma any love? All the analysts want to talk about is Bama, Oregon, FSU and Georgia.

Brandon Chatmon: This sits among the top-5 questions I didn’t expect to find in the mailbag. The Sooners have gotten plenty of love.


Raymond Boggess in Charleston, West Virginia writes: WVU has outplayed every BIG 12 team I have watched except OU. Where is the love?

Chatmon: I’m right there with you. That’s why WVU jumped Oklahoma State in our bowl projections. The Mountaineers still have a ways to go, but I like what I’m seeing thus far.


Michael Hess in Dallas writes: I need good news about Texas Tech ... Go.

Chatmon: True freshman running back Justin Stockton looks like a star. ... Outside of that, um, Kliff Kingsbury has some work to do. But Tech is still 2-0 and a strong performance in a win over Arkansas on Saturday would erase some of the concerns that emerged in the first two games.


Alex in Ames writes: Quenton Bundrage was literally on the field for three plays before tearing his ACL. I know he’s only a junior, but is there any chance he is granted medical redshirt for the year by the NCAA?

Chatmon: I see no reason Bundrage, Iowa State's standout receiver, wouldn’t be eligible for a medical redshirt. I've seen other guys play a lot more before their injury and be granted a medical hardship.


 Tyler Weidler in Weatherford, Texas writes: If Oklahoma and Florida State played today, how would you see that game unfolding??

Chatmon: Good question, Tyler. I think it would all come down to the quarterbacks, Jameis Winston and Trevor Knight. Winston has proven to be clutch -- and a proven championship quarterback --so I’d probably give Florida State the slight edge, based on the fact their players have done it before. I think it would be similar to last year's national title game with FSU pulling out the win late in the game. It’s a game I’d love to watch.


Matt Barnett in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania writes: Would a big win for WVU this weekend against Maryland give the Mountaineers enough momentum to go into Morgantown the following weekend and possibly shock Oklahoma?

Chatmon: Yes. And even if WVU doesn’t win against Maryland that visit to Morgantown, West Virginia is looking like a stern test for Bob Stoops' squad. Oklahoma has been as impressive as any team in the nation during the first two weeks of the season, but the Mountaineers have lost two games by a 10 combined points to the Sooners since they joined the Big 12 in 2012. WVU has the talent to beat OU, and they aren't scared of anyone.


Big12erinACCCountry writes: Just how grossly overrated is Baylor after two no-name, lousy opponents?

Chatmon: I’m not sure, but I think I saw Art Briles polishing his Big 12 championship ring during the second half the other day though.


JP in Mebane, North Carolina writes: Given the godlike awesomeness that is Jake Waters, have your expectations for KSU changed any?

Chatmon: Not really. I’ve always felt K-State would end up third behind Oklahoma and Baylor. Nothing has really changed for me with regards to the Wildcats. Waters and Tyler Lockett are the main reason I felt the Wildcats would find themselves near the top of the Big 12 heading into the season.


 Tom in Austin, Texas writes: Short question but it needs to be asked: Should the Longhorns stick with Swoopes when facing UCLA? What about Jaxon Shipley. Didn't he play QB in high school?

Chatmon: I think Jerrod Heard is the future for Texas offense. And if he’s not quite ready, UT should start getting him ready, no matter what it takes. I get that Tyrone Swoopes wasn’t the problem against BYU so the quarterback position shouldn’t be the No. 1 priority, but that doesn’t change the fact I think Heard will end up being the better long-term option under center. As far as Shipley, I'd only try that if Texas can figure out a way he can throw it to himself.


Derek in Lubbock, Texas: Regarding Big 12 expansion, everyone seems to like this "round robin" schedule right now, but I think we need to expand for numerous reasons. Some people say let's just add BYU, but then we'd need another team. I know who the other team should be. North Dakota State University. BYU and NDSU to the Big 12 for 2015-2016! Let's make it happen.

Chatmon: I’m on the train for adding BYU (eventually) but the plan to add NDSU knocks me off your bandwagon. And even BYU doesn’t change my belief that the Big 12 won’t -- nor needs to -- expand anytime soon. Why add more mouths to feed if you aren’t significantly increasing the overall meal?


Andrew in Phoenix, Arizona writes: So how about them Cyclones, not sure if I can handle the roller coaster of being a fan for them. Which team will show up more this season, the floppers against NDSU or the pride against KSU?

Chatmon: Paul Rhoads’ history makes me think we’ll see Iowa State’s pride showing up more often than not this fall. The two losses aren’t what the Cyclones wanted, but I’ve never watched a Rhoads team and felt like they quit. Pride seems to be a staple of his teams, and I don’t think that will change. I still have questions about their bowl chances, but I feel a lot better about those chances today than I did at this time last week.

Roundtable: Most intriguing matchup

September, 9, 2014
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With seven games against Power 5 conference opponents, this is a huge week for the Big 12. We examine that and other storylines in our weekly Big 12 roundtable:

Which Big 12 matchup are you most looking forward to this weekend?

Max Olson: While watching UTSA give Arizona all it could handle last week, I had to wonder if the rising Roadrunners were playing well enough to beat Kansas or Iowa State. Well, we get to find out on Saturday when UTSA travels to Stillwater. Larry Coker's bunch doesn't have much star power besides a stout defensive line, but they play sound football and can keep it close against an OSU team that might not have J.W. Walsh. An upset win would be absolutely gigantic for this upstart.

Brandon Chatmon: Texas Tech’s battle with Arkansas is intriguing. The Red Raiders will look to rebound after a slow start, albeit two wins, to start the season. Arkansas will try to pound the ball and control the clock so whichever team controls the tempo is likely to win the game. The key for Tech is to start showing some improvement by limiting turnovers and penalties, otherwise it could be looking at a potential loss against an SEC foe.

Jake Trotter: I’m interested to see how West Virginia fares in a payback game against Maryland. The Terrapins returned 17 starters from a squad that throttled the Mountaineers 37-0 last season. But West Virginia has the look of a different team so far. If the Mountaineers also go to Maryland and win, it will be a signal West Virginia might actually be for real this season.

In light of its performance against BYU, does Texas has have hope for the rest of the year?

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsCharlie Strong's Longhorns get a tough test against UCLA on Saturday.
 Olson: Let's not call them dead just yet, but a 2-4 start seems like a distinct possibility now. If UCLA blows them out of the water, it's hard to envision a scenario in which the Longhorns trip up Baylor or Oklahoma without an absolutely perfect day of defense. The hope rests on the defense coming together as one of the nation's best and, in either Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard, the discovery of a quarterback who can lead this team in 2015 and beyond if David Ash is indeed done.

Chatmon: Yes, just look at last year. The loss to BYU was bad, really bad. But the same thing happened in 2013 yet UT still found itself playing for a Big 12 title on the final day of the regular season. I don’t expect them to match that feat again, but I still think 6-8 wins is possible if the Longhorns can get things turned around and somehow survive this four-game stretch of UCLA, Kansas, Baylor and Oklahoma.

Trotter: I don’t have a lot of hope for Texas. Yeah, the Longhorns bounced back after last season’s BYU debacle. But that offense wasn’t gutted to the point this one has been. I just don’t see Texas scoring enough points to avoid a 2-4 start. And after that, the Longhorns would still have road trips to Kansas State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. It’s not unthinkable that Texas misses out on a bowl game, which would be a disappointing start to the Charlie Strong era in Austin.

What player has impressed you most so far this season?

Olson: Just from an instant-impact standpoint, KD Cannon and Justin Stockton come to mind. But I covered their recruitments and watched them play live in high school at Mount Pleasant and Cibolo Steele, respectively so their play early on hasn't shocked me at all. Two guys who have my respect two weeks in are Clint Trickett and Jake Waters. They're underrated gamers, they've gotten sharper, and they're leading their teams at a high level right now.

Chatmon: This one’s easy. Somehow, someway, Tyreek Hill has been even better than advertised for Oklahoma State. I had my reservations about the track star heading into the season, but his performance against Florida State proved he is a football player not a track guy having fun on the gridiron. And OSU’s use of Hill has been smart as the Cowboys have looked to get him the ball in several different ways. Hill looks poised for a all-conference season.

Trotter: Trickett has impressed me the most so far. He ranks 22nd nationally in QBR, and I’m not sure that rating does justice to how well he’s played. Through two games, he’s completing 75 percent of his passes, a year after he connected on only 53 percent of his throws. As a result, Dana Holgorsen’s offense has been humming. He still has more to prove, including this weekend against Maryland. But if he plays this way the rest of the season, West Virginia will win a lot of games.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

September, 9, 2014
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It was a relatively slow week in regards to big-game matchups between Big 12 opponents, but Oklahoma State and Texas each landed commits last weekend. The Cowboys picked up a big commit -- figuratively and literally -- who could help the offensive line immediately next season.

Planning for success: Baylor

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For the first time this season, Baylor will play a game away from McLane Stadium on Friday night. The Bears travel to Buffalo to take on the Bulls in BU’s lone non conference road game this season.

And they might do it without Bryce Petty.

[+] EnlargeSeth Russell
Tony Gutierrez/Associated PressSeth Russell's first start was a great one, but he might have his first road test Friday at Buffalo
A back injury forced the Heisman candidate to miss BU’s 70-6 win over Northwestern (La.) State last weekend, and the standout quarterback's status remains unclear with game No. 3 on the horizon.

“If he is able to go, he will go,” coach Art Briles said Monday.

If Petty isn’t able to go, the Bears seem to have a pretty good backup option. Big 12 co-offensive player of the week Seth Russell seems prepared to run the offense again after finishing 16 of 25 for 438 yards and five touchdowns in his first career start. He added one rushing touchdown and finished with a 98.3 adjusted QBR in the dominating win against NSULA.

“Every week is a different week,” Briles said. “Russell, he was good last week, and as the future goes on when he has his opportunity again we will judge him again. He was exceptional in how he handled himself, and the decisions that he made. That is the thing that I told him I was proud of. I have always known that he can throw.”

As BU is planning for success against Buffalo, Briles and company will do so with increased confidence in Russell, who had never attempted double-digit passes in a game before Petty’s injury in the season opener against SMU. Russell was 13 of 23 for 124 yards with one touchdown and one interception against the Mustangs, but his breakout game against Northwestern State has taken his self-confidence to another level.

"It definitely helped me a lot,” Russell said. “It raised my confidence. I think I put more trust in the coaches because I think they weren't sure what I could do. I think it definitely helps in the long run."

Decision-making has been the missing link for Russell, but things started to click last weekend and the Bears are hopeful it continues to click if Petty is unable to play on Friday.

“He can jump, he can run, and he has great body control, but can he make great decisions?” Briles said of Russell. “That is the part where he sometimes has not been where he needs to be if he is going to be a starting quarterback for us. He did that the other night. His decision-making was on cue.”

Friday night could be a different animal. The friendly confines of McLane Stadium will be in the rearview mirror as Buffalo is set to breakout new all-black helmets with all-black uniform and is encouraging fans to blackout UB Stadium.

“It is a Friday night ESPN football game, and they are having a blackout,” Briles said. “To me that is good. It challenges us to some extent, and I like that part of it because we are not going to be in any comfort zone. We are going to have to go out there and depend on the guys we look around and see. That part of it is kind of inspiring to me."

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