Big 12: Baylor Bears
- Texas players didn't hesitate to speak their minds about Baylor but the Bears' players refused to bite when asked about the comments of John Harris and Quandre Diggs on Monday, reports John Werner of the Waco Tribune. I'm sure the Bears had conversations about not feeding into the comments but somehow I think we will be looking at a different story on Saturday. I'd be shocked if the Bears are as quiet on Saturday as they were this week, there should be plenty of trash talk in Austin, Texas, this weekend. On the field and in the stands.
- Can Iowa State mimic Baylor? Bobby La Gesse of the Ames Tribune thinks the Cyclones can follow BU's blueprint. It makes sense on a bunch of different levels since the Bears were once cemented on the bottom of the Big 12 standings. But BU has a much bigger talent base to tap into, even though they have to hold off nationwide suitors for the top players in their state. The Cyclones just don't have the pool of talent to recruit from like Baylor does, so evaluation and finding hidden gems becomes even more important in Ames, Iowa. That said, ISU does have plenty of assets to offer so a Baylor-like rise is not impossible, it would just have to be done differently.
- The poor quarterback play at Kansas is now Clint Bowen's problem, writes Tom Keegan of the Lawrence Journal-World. Montell Cozart has been bad early this season and the fact the Jayhawks haven't turned to Michael Cummings speaks volumes about the state of the quarterback position in Lawrence. Cozart looked like the quarterback of the future but if he doesn't turn things around immediately the future may never come.
- This was a classy move from Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs. He took the time to write a letter to the editor at Kansas State's student newspaper to thank K-State and its fans for the hospitality when the Tigers visited Manhattan, Kansas, on Sept. 18.
- Oklahoma confirmed the NCAA's denial of Baker Mayfield's eligibility on Tuesday, reports Eric Bailey of the Tulsa World. Mayfield will be allowed to be placed on scholarship. Of all the uncertainty surrounding the Sooners program in the offseason, Mayfield's ineligibility could be the biggest blow. Quarterback Trevor Knight has remained healthy through four games but if anything happens to Knight, OU could be forced to turn to Blake Bell under center or rely on a redshirt freshman Cody Thomas. Bell has moved to tight end and Thomas has only played one game in his career. If Mayfield had been cleared to play, it would have brought peace of mind to the program.
What is the key to Texas pulling off the upset over Baylor?
Brandon Chatmon: If Texas actually decides to walk the walk. The Longhorns players haven’t been bashful in sharing their thoughts on Baylor’s rise. UT hung with Baylor for a while a year ago before the Bears finally pulled away, but that Longhorns squad had rebounded after a horrible start to the season and entered the 2013 meeting with some confidence. That’s not the scenario this time around. Are the Longhorns are trying to talk themselves into believing they can win?
Max Olson: Charlie Strong is the kind of coach who'll tell you Texas just needs to score one more point than Baylor. Well, how many points is that going to take? His track record suggests Strong and his staff will draw up a game plan that gives Texas' defense a chance to slow down Bryce Petty and his infinite weapons. But Tyrone Swoopes and this slow-moving Longhorn offense must find easier ways to run the ball and score and, more important, they must answer whenever Baylor does strike. It's going to take resilience, but Texas can't win unless its offense rises to the challenge in a way we've yet to witness in 2014.
Jake Trotter: The only way Texas will have a chance is if it runs the ball. Swoopes isn’t Blake Bortles or even Clint Chelf, so the Longhorns aren’t going to be able to simply outscore the Bears. That means Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown will have to move the chains to keep Petty and Co. off the field. The Longhorns actually are talented enough defensively to create issues for the Baylor offense. Defensive tackle Malcom Brown has been a beast in the middle, and the back seven is creating turnovers. But they can hold the finger in the dam for only so long. Eventually, the Bears will hit Texas up for big plays. Which is why it’s imperative the Horns grind out some drives and limit Petty’s opportunities to gouge them.
What is the key to TCU pulling off the upset over Oklahoma?
Chatmon: Trevone Boykin. Nobody knows how Boykin will react against the chaos the Sooners defense will create nor do we know just how much Boykin has improved since last season. It could get ugly for the TCU signal-caller. Or he could be the biggest nightmare this Sooners defense will see all season. If he executes TCU’s new offense like a veteran quarterback, Boykin has the ability to stress a defense unlike any other quarterback in the Big 12 with his ability to run like a running back in the open field. A great game from Boykin could be the worst-case scenario for OU.
Olson: Brandon is right, it's Boykin and the way he responds to the pressure of this Oklahoma defense. But I'm curious about the other side of the ball, too: How will the Horned Frogs attack Trevor Knight, make him uncomfortable and force him to make difficult throws? Against Tennessee and West Virginia, Knight was efficient when passing against blitzes. TCU needs to get after him and throw off the timing of this offense. OU will take this game over if Knight gets off to a sharp start.
Trotter: The TCU offensive line has to hold up against Oklahoma’s swarming front seven. The Horned Frogs’ defense traditionally has fared well against the Sooners, but TCU has been unable to win in its two Big 12 meetings with the Sooners because of its inability to move the ball. The Horned Frogs opened last year’s game against Oklahoma with seven three-and-outs. TCU got dominated at the line of scrimmage and finished with only 44 yards rushing in that game. That didn’t cut it last year, and it won’t Saturday, either. Gary Patterson switched up his coordinators in the offseason to jump-start the offense. But it won’t amount to much if TCU gets obliterated up front again.
Under Bowen, will Kansas win another game?
Chatmon: Sure, why not? It only takes one team to slip up against the Jayhawks, and KU’s defense has actually been pretty good this season. But it has been overshadowed by the lackluster performance of its offense and sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart. The Jayhawks could find themselves hanging in a game thanks to their defense then getting one or two big plays to somehow pull out a win. I can’t say who should be on upset alert, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they pull off an win.
Olson: You would think that Texas Tech will have its house in order by the time KU plays in Lubbock on Oct. 18, though clearly at this point that's a team with some vulnerabilities. Realistically, though, Kansas' best chance comes at home against Iowa State on Nov. 8. And I think Bowen will treat the season finale at Kansas State like the Jayhawks' bowl game. That's going to be a throw-the-kitchen-sink game and a prime chance for Bowen to prove he deserves a shot at the job.
Trotter: I want to say yes, but look at the schedule and tell me who Kansas is going to beat? The Jayhawks have only three more home games. I don’t see Kansas being able to score against TCU on No. 15. I don’t see them being able to score with Oklahoma State on Oct. 11. That leaves Iowa State on Nov. 8. And if I had to pick that game today, I’d pick the Cyclones, who, by the way, slaughtered Kansas last year, 34-0. I think the Jayhawks will compete harder under Bown than they did under Charlie Weis. I’m just not sure this Kansas offense is competent enough for it to matter.
Both offenses have been dominant, too, with the Sooners running through opponents, and Baylor running past them.
But the next three games will be telling for both programs.
Beginning this weekend with challenging road tilts against a pair of tough defenses.
Oklahoma heads to Fort Worth for a showdown with TCU, which debuted in the Top 25 this week after a strong start to the season. Baylor travels south to Austin, where the Bears have won just once since 1991.
Next weekend, the Sooners have the Red River Showdown, which they lost as heavy favorites last season. Then, Oklahoma will have to bounce back quickly for Bill Snyder and a tenacious Kansas State defense, which will be coming off a bye with an extra week to prepare for the Sooners.
But Oklahoma and Baylor, especially their offenses, can set the tone for these key three-game stretches on Saturday.
The Sooners have struggled to move the ball on the Horned Frogs in the past, with TCU losing both games by a total of 10 points. Even without preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Devonte Fields, the Horned Frogs have been stifling on the defensive side yet again, allowing just a single touchdown in their last two games. TCU was especially impressive in a 30-7 win over Minnesota, which moved to 4-1 after stomping Michigan in Ann Arbor last weekend.
“TCU looks really, really good and has played really well to this point,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Monday.
Oklahoma’s seasoned offensive line has overpowered opponents this season, but the Horned Frogs appear to be one of the few teams in the league capable of matching up with the Sooners in the trenches. Davion Pierson and Chucky Hunter form one of the best one-two punches at defensive tackle in the league, and defensive end James McFarland is coming off a three-sack performance in TCU’s 56-0 victory over SMU.
“They always have played great defense,” Stoops said.
This, however, could be the best overall team Gary Patterson has fielded since joining the Big 12. Patterson’s revamped hurry-up, no-huddle offense hasn’t been tested much yet, but has shown signs of improvement under new coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham. Quarterback Trevone Boykin’s Adjusted QBR is up 30 points from last year, and behind a more sturdy offensive line, the Horned Frogs are third in the league at the moment in rushing. That has taken some of the pressure that has been on Patterson’s defense in the past.
“They’re doing a great job of route running and (Boykin) is throwing the football really well, accurately,” Stoops said. “You can tell he’s comfortable in the offense and is playing really well.”
With a new quarterback and a diminished line, Texas, meanwhile, has struggled offensively again this season. But the Longhorns have also been formidable defensively in their past two games.
Texas picked off Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart four times on the way to a 23-0 shutout. Two weeks before, the Longhorns hung tough behind their defense in a 20-17 loss to now eighth-ranked UCLA, which dropped off 62 points on Arizona State last week.
Baylor is rightfully a two-touchdown favorite to win in Austin. But the Longhorns still have the talent on the defensive side to surprise anyone, as Oklahoma found out last year as a two-touchdown favorite.
Defensive tackle Malcom Brown has been a menace on the inside. And the Texas defensive backs -- led by preseason All-Big 12 selection Quandre Diggs and Duke Thomas, who had two picks last weekend -- are better equipped than most Big 12 teams to deal with Baylor’s prolific array of wide receivers.
“They always play good defense, and this year is no exception,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “That’s always what you’ve seen from their staff and it’s something you expect.”
The Baylor and Oklahoma offenses have been exceptional so far. But their playoff mettle is about to be tested.
"They're really good," Strong said of Baylor on Monday. "I don't know, what's the spread? How big is it?"
A couple touchdowns, he was told. In fact, the line has already moved from 13.5 to 16.
Strong looked down and raised his eyebrows. Then he had to grin and laugh.
"Wow, there's something," he said. "They deserve every bit of it!"
"It's almost like watching a video game," Strong said.
Strong isn't one to cling to the underdog mentality -- he was a double-digit dog just four times as head coach at Louisville -- but he'll take anything he can get this week as he prepares his defense for the Bears' onslaught.
"We're going to have to play really well," he said. "We will have to play really well to be in the ballgame."
He's seen the numbers -- Baylor's nation-leading 56.8 points and 641 yards per game -- and he's seen the film. Texas has a top-20 defense thus far, both in scoring and yardage, but Strong admitted coming up with ways to slow down this particular offense is "going to keep us up at night." Especially when it comes to disrupting Bryce Petty.
"He's the leader of that team, he releases the ball and hasn't taken any sacks," Strong said. "He's just so heady and he knows exactly where to put it."
Strong said he's reminded of former Heisman Trophy winner Danny Weurffel when he watches Petty run the show, citing "just how smart he is and where he places the ball. He doesn't make mistakes with the football."
As for the loaded group of Baylor receivers, what impresses Strong isn't just their explosiveness and big-play capability. He's noticed strategies on tape that he'd never seen before.
"It's amazing to watch them," Strong said. "You can watch one side (of the field) and the receivers do nothing, they don't run off the ball and they stop. They'll work you to the front side. It's almost like, ‘Stop us. The ball is coming over here and we're just seeing if you're good enough to go cover us and stop us.'"
Though Strong has never faced Art Briles in his career, he's quick to recognize the system's intent: Exploit mismatches, cause confusion, blend inside power and outside speed and do it all as fast as possible.
And few defenses handled that attack in 2013 as well as Texas did, at least in the first half.
Baylor finished with 3 points through two quarters despite 232 total yards. The Longhorns forced three punts. The Bears had two missed field goals. They had a tied ballgame at the half. But Texas couldn't finish, and didn't have the firepower on offense to keep up despite holding Baylor to 30 points that night.
Strong doesn't know how many points it'll take to beat Baylor this time. He just knows his offense, averaging 21.3 points per game, isn't ready for a high-scoring affair.
"We can't get into a track meet, and we know that as a staff," Strong said. "There's no way. We can't generate the points to get into a track meet."
Total commits: 12
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Bears didn't land a recruit this past week, but plenty of Lone Star State prospects will be paying attention to Baylor’s trip to Austin. The Bears have been winning recruiting battles for the state top’s talent, and they have a chance to make another statement on the field.
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones landed a commitment for the first time in more than a month in Kissimmee, Florida, cornerback Stephon Brown, who had offers from NC State, Hawaii, Marshall, South Florida and Southern Miss.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The first order of business for interim coach Clint Bowen was calling all of Kansas’ commitments Sunday and telling them they are still wanted in Lawrence. Despite his troubles on the field, Charlie Weis had put together another decent recruiting class that Bowen needs to hold together.
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats have been quiet on the trail lately, after landing seven commitments from June to August. More will be on the way once Bill Snyder figures out which junior-college players he wants to target in this class.
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Sooners landed their third commitment in the month of September in McAlester, Oklahoma, tight end Dalton Wood, who jones Midwest City safety Will Sunderland and Jenks defensive tackle Marquise Overton as Oklahoma's three in-state commitments.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 4
The latest: The Pokes pulled off one of the better recruiting steals of the year last week in convincing ESPN 300 safety Kevin Henry to flip from LSU to OSU. Henry had been committed to the Tigers, where he projected as a safety/linebacker since January but started reconsidering his other options in July. Henry joins WR Jalen McCleskey as the second Louisiana recruit in OSU's class.
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: No new pledges for the Horned Frogs this week, but they get a chance to impress visitors this Saturday when Oklahoma comes to Fort Worth. One TCU commit worth keeping an eye on is WR J.F. Thomas, the Frogs' highest-rated pledge. He received an offer from Texas recently, and two of his Dallas South Oak Cliff teammates -- Jamile Johnson and Jordan Stevenson -- are already committed to UT.
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 8
The latest: Texas picked up a pledge from Austin Westlake LB Breckyn Hager, a three-star recruit who was committed to Baylor. The previous staff passed on Baylor's Bryce Hager in 2010, even though he's the son of Texas all-time leading tackler Britt Hager. Stevenson, who committed nearly a year ago, took an official visit to Wisconsin this weekend but remains solid with Texas.
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Red Raiders' staff made an intriguing find in East Texas last week. Longview's Broderick Washington committed soon after he received his Texas Tech offer. He's playing offensive tackle right now for Longview, but Tech loves his toughness and mean style of play and plans to develop him as a nose guard at the next level.
Total commits: 19
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: West Virginia locked up a huge commitment last Monday when ESPN 300 CB Tyrek Cole flipped from Florida State. You don't see that too often. WVU defensive line coach Damon Cogdell coached Cole at Miramar High School in Florida last year. The Mountaineers also received a commitment from three-star ILB David Long on Sunday. This 2015 class is in terrific shape so far.
Team of the week: Baylor. Any time you go to Iowa State and come up with a win, it’s a big deal -- even if three teams have already done it now this season. Ames traditionally has not been an easy place to play, and Baylor made it look easy with a four-touchdown halftime lead on the way to a 49-28 win. The Bears dominated with 32 first downs and 601 yards of offense.
Disappointment of the week: Kansas. The Jayhawks played Texas tough its last trip to Lawrence, and had every opportunity to give the offensively challenged Longhorns another tough fight. Instead, Montell Cozart threw four interceptions, and Kansas squandered away every scoring opportunity in a 23-0 defeat. The lackluster performance was the final straw in the Charlie Weis era.
Big (offensive) man on campus: Corey Coleman. Baylor insiders had been touting the sophomore as the next great Baylor wide receiver during the offseason. But when Coleman suffered a preseason hamstring injury, true freshman K.D. Cannon stole that hype. Coleman got it back in Ames with a monster debut to the season. He had 12 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown, leading the Baylor scoring barrage.
Big (defensive) man on campus: James McFarland. Sure, SMU might be inept offensively. Really inept, in fact. Still, the TCU defensive end had a huge afternoon in the Horned Frogs’ 56-0 stomping of the Mustangs. McFarland finished with three of TCU’s nine sacks. It was a career-high for McFarland, and the most sacks for the Horned Frogs in a game since 2002. McFarland also forced two fumbles, and produced a pass-breakup on a fourth down at the TCU 1-yard line to preserve the shutout.
Special-teams player of the week: Tyler Lockett. Another game, another big day for K-State’s do-it-all playmaker. In a 58-28 win against UTEP, Lockett finished with 143 yards on punt returns, the second-most in school history and 29 short of tying the school record of 172 set by David Allen in 1998. Lockett also caught four passes for 84 yards. He now leads the country in punt return yards per game.
Play of the week: It’s not easy to fumble and throw an interception on the same play. But that is what happened to backup Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes in relief of injured starter Davis Webb. Early in the fourth quarter, Mahomes had the ball stripped away. He then scooped it up and tossed it to his right wildly as he was falling down. The ball deflected off running back Quinton White and into the arms of Seth Jacobs for an interception. The Cowboys scored four plays later to go up 45-28 and put the game away.
Stat of the week: Texas Tech was flagged 16 times for 158 yards in the 45-35 loss to Oklahoma State. As a result, the Red Raiders now lead the nation with 105.5 penalty yards per game.
Quote of the week: "We have not made the on-the-field progress we believe we should." -- Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger, on why he fired coach Charlie Weis.
- After winning just one Big 12 game as coach of the Jayhawks, Charlie Weis was fired over the weekend on the heels of a 23-0 loss to Texas. Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger told the Lawrence Journal-World's Matt Tait that the "program had lost support at all levels." Though it was a tad surprising that Zenger pulled the trigger after just one Big 12 game, you can hardly blame him. Kansas had showed no signs of improvement this season, scoring a combined three points in losses to Duke and Texas. Attendance was plummeting again this season, even after an 8 percent drop the year before. Under Weis, there was just no excitement surrounding Kansas football whatsoever.
- After two disastrous hires, the pressure is on Zenger and the Jayhawks to get this next hire right. Zenger, remember, fired Turner Gill after just two seasons; Weis, the man Zenger hired to clean up Gill's mess, lasted 33 months. CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd throws out some possible candidates that Zenger might look at, including Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. The Jayhawks had success previously hiring an Oklahoma offensive coordinator, as Mark Mangino took Kansas to the 2007 Orange Bowl. The Lawrence Journal-World's Tom Keegan, meanwhile, writes that interim coach and Kansas alum Clint Bowen brings some much-needed passion to the program. The Jayhawks are in some definite need of that.
- Embattled NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent interestingly met with Texas coach Charlie Strong on Sunday to discuss the coach’s five core values and his approach to building the Longhorns. Vincent was very complimentary of Strong's disciplinary stances following their meeting, telling Yahoo Sports' Eric Adelson that "this is a model that should be emulated across the country in both amateur and professional football." Vincent gave Strong and his staff plenty of ammo to use when meeting with parents on the recruiting trail. If opposing coaches try to negatively recruit against Texas because of its suspensions and dismissals, the Longhorns will be able to counter with the ultimate trump card, as defensive coordinator Vance Bedford points out.
- There were some actual games over the weekend, too, and Baylor got a huge boost from the returns of wideouts Antwan Goodley and Corey Coleman from injuries, as the Waco Tribune-Herald's John Werner details. Back from a hamstring injury he suffered in preseason camp, Coleman caught a career-high 12 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown in the 49-28 win at Iowa State. Goodley returned from a quadriceps injury suffered in the early minutes of the season opener against SMU to catch six passes for 114 yards. Clay Fuller also came back from a preseason collarbone injury and made two fourth-quarter catches. Levi Norwood could be back as soon as this weekend from a fractured wrist. After an injury plagued non-conference, the Baylor offense is operating at full strength again. Just in time for Texas, too.
- The next two weeks will provide an opportunity for Oklahoma State to grow, writes The Oklahoman's John Helsley. The Cowboys get Iowa State at home this weekend, then travel to Kansas. In other words, Oklahoma State has a great chance to get off to a 5-1 start to the season after dispatching of Texas Tech last week. With so much inexperience coming into the season, coach Mike Gundy has to be pleased with the way the 2014 season has begun. At one point, Oklahoma State had five true freshmen on the field at once defensively in the Tech game. Those young players have a chance to develop even more over the next two weeks before the Cowboys hit the heart of their Big 12 schedule with an Oct. 18 road trip to TCU.
This week provides TCU and Texas the opportunity to stake their claim in the conference race with games against Big 12 favorites OU and Baylor. If the Horned Frogs knock off the Sooners or the Longhorns shock the Bears, either team would skyrocket up our projections.
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
DE James McFarland, TCU: McFarland led the nine-sack TCU barrage against SMU with three himself, as the Horned Frogs rolled 56-0. It was a career-high for McFarland, and the most sacks for TCU in a game since 2002. McFarland also had two forced fumbles, and his pass breakup on a fourth-and-1 at the TCU 1-yard line in the second quarter helped preserve the 11th shutout of the Gary Patterson era.
WR Corey Coleman, Baylor: Coleman had a monster outing in his first appearance of the season, hauling in 12 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown in the Bears 49-28 win at Iowa State. Coleman had missed the first three games of the season with a hamstring injury. He showed no signs of being slowed down in Ames.
CB Duke Thomas, Texas: After getting burned for the game-deciding touchdown against UCLA, Thomas bounced back with a monster performance in a 23-0 win over Kansas. Thomas grabbed two of Texas’ four interception, and could have had a third had it not been for penalty. Thomas also broke up a fade attempt on fourth-and-goal in the third quarter. The Jayhawks never came close to scoring a touchdown again.
LB Ben Heeney, Kansas: Don't blame Heeney or the Kansas defense for the Jayhawks' loss to Texas. Heeney had 10 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery at the Kansas 2-yard line that thwarted a Texas scoring opportunity. It was actually the All-Big 12 performer's first career fumble recovery. Behind Heeney, the Jayhawks also limited Texas to just 111 yards rushing.
RB Charles Jones, Kansas State: Jones scored three of the Wildcats’ first five touchdowns, as K-State demolished UTEP, 58-28. Jones finished with 76 yards on just 12 carries, as K-State held a 45-point lead over the Miners heading into the fourth quarter.
WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State: In another tantalizing performance, Lockett put up 143 punt return yards, the second-most in school history and 29 yards short of tying the school record of 172 set by David Allen in 1998. Lockett also hauled in four passes for 84 yards.
WR James Washington, Oklahoma State: The Cowboys’ true freshman wideout torched Texas Tech in Oklahoma State’s 45-35 win Thursday. Washington reeled in a 33-yard touchdown in the first quarter, then a 39-yard score in the second. Three of Washington’s five catches this season have resulted in touchdowns.
2. Pokes can beat you deep: Oklahoma State won the Big 12's first primetime fight because it wasn't afraid to take big shots. Daxx Garman connected on eight passes of 20-plus yards, and even better, they were hauled in by six different receivers over the course of the 45-35 victory on Thursday. It's time to stop underestimating Marcell Ateman and James Washington after the underclassmen combined for 217 yards and two TDs, and OSU put something plenty scary on tape when Tyreek Hill beat his defender by a good 7 yards for a 50-yard scoring bomb. It wasn't easy, and it sure wasn't pretty -- 287 combined penalty yards on 26 flags -- but OSU found out Garman can handle the bright lights just fine.
3. K-State defense rallies in big way: Kansas State was missing two starters on defense but had no trouble taking out its Auburn-inspired anger on UTEP, a team that proved against Texas Tech it's no pushover. In the 58-28 win, KSU held the nation's No. 2 rusher, Aaron Jones, to nine yards in the first half and 47 on the day. The Miners couldn't get anything going for the three quarters KSU's starters played -- it was 52-7 when Bill Snyder sent in the backups -- and UTEP ended the first half down 31 points with just 23 total yards and one first down. KSU got right back on track and still looks like a legit contender for the Big 12 crown.
4. TCU's Air Raid keeps making it look ... too easy? The Horned Frogs are 3-0 with wins over Samford, Minnesota and now SMU, a team that’s been outscored 202-12 through four games. If there's an FBS team playing worse football than the Mustangs, I would not like to see it. So it’s tough to confidently make conclusions about TCU after this 56-0 victory. But Trevone Boykin (six total TDs) still looks incalculably more polished than a year ago. He has a diverse array of receivers and backs at his disposal, and the Frogs' 614 total yards were their most since 2011. To TCU's credit, Minnesota was solid in a 30-14 win against the dumpster fire in Ann Arbor. The Horned Frogs' offense couldn't have asked for a better start to 2014. It's time to find out what they're made of against the Sooners.
5. Texas still has issues: If Texas plays against Baylor next Saturday the way it did in Lawrence, Kansas, it probably doesn't stand much of a chance. Charlie Strong won't get too mad about a 23-0 victory that snaps a two-game slide, but he won't spend much time celebrating it, either. Texas never had to sweat too much, thanks to Montell Cozart's four interceptions, but its patchwork offensive line remains a work in progress (Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray combined for 73 rushing yards), and scoring points is still a struggle. Still, Texas did at least do what it needed to and gave Strong his first Big 12 win. KU showed some nice things in the run game and has a better defense than you think, but its offensive execution in many trips into Texas territory was fruitless.
Baylor’s Art Briles was voted as the nation’s best offensive head coach in ESPN’s weekly college football poll of the FBS head coaches, #1QFor128.
Briles received 22 percent of the votes, edging Auburn’s Gus Malzahn (18 percent), in the poll, conducted by ESPN’s Brett McMurphy.
Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin was third (14 percent), followed by South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier (8 percent) and Oregon’s Mark Helfrich (6 percent). Rounding out the top 10: Duke’s David Cutcliffe, Washington State’s Mike Leach, Stanford’s David Shaw and Oregon State’s Mike Riley (each with 4 percent) and Washington’s Chris Petersen (3 percent).
In all, 22 coaches received votes.
The coaches from the Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12) actually voted Briles third with 13 percent. Malzahn was the top vote-getter among the Power 5 coaches who voted with 20 percent, followed by Sumlin at 18 percent. Cutcliffe, Helfrich and Spurrier (with 8 percent each) tied as the fourth-most popular pick among the Power 5 coaches.
The coaches from the Group of 5 conferences (American, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt) voted Briles first (28 percent), followed by Malzahn (17 percent), Sumlin (12 percent), Spurrier (9 percent) and Helfrich, Leach and Shaw (each with 5 percent).
Of the 128 FBS coaches, 98 participated in this week’s poll.
Who the Power 5 coaches voted for
Gus Malzahn, Auburn: 20 percent
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M: 18 percent
Art Briles, Baylor: 13 percent
David Cutcliffe, Duke: 8 percent
Mark Helfrich, Oregon: 8 percent
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina: 8 percent
Mike Riley, Oregon State: 5 percent
Who the Group of 5 coaches voted for
Art Briles, Baylor: 28 percent
Gus Malzahn, Auburn: 17 percent
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M: 12 percent
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina: 9 percent
Mark Helfrich, Oregon: 5 percent
Mike Leach, Washington State: 5 percent
David Shaw, Stanford: 5 percent
Mike Riley, Oregon State: 3 percent
Chris Petersen, Washington: 3 percent
Those, among others, will be the storylines to follow Saturday in the Big 12:
TCU at SMU, noon ET (CBS Sports Network): TCU coach Gary Patterson said he expects to get SMU’s best shot. That still might not amount to much. The Mustangs are a complete mess, having been outscored 146-12 in their first three games. SMU is expected to start its third different quarterback already this season, walk-on Garrett Krstich, who opened the year fourth on the depth chart. The Horned Frogs ought to be able to keep the Iron Skillet trophy in Fort Worth while keeping the game plan relatively vanilla as they gear up for next weekend’s crucial home showdown against fourth-ranked Oklahoma.
UTEP at No. 25 Kansas State, noon ET (Fox Sports Regional): It will be interesting to see how the Wildcats bounce back after their gut-wrenching loss to Auburn last week. This, however, figures to be a good matchup for K-State. UTEP running back Aaron Jones ranks second in the country with 182 rushing yards per game, but the Wildcats appear to have a formidable run defense, which snapped Auburn’s 13-game streak of producing at least 200 rushing yards. Meanwhile, K-State coach Bill Snyder has indicated that Jack Cantele will remain the Wildcats' place-kicker despite missing all three field goals against the Tigers. Getting Cantele back on track will be paramount for the Wildcats on Saturday before they resume conference play next week.
No. 7 Baylor at Iowa State, 8 p.m. ET (Fox): Baylor handed the Cyclones a 71-7 whupping last season, the worst margin of defeat in Iowa State history. The Cyclones, however, have been a much tougher team at home under Paul Rhoads. Iowa State, in fact, defeated the Bears 35-21 in their last visit to Ames two years ago. Since falling to North Dakota State in the opener, the Cyclones have played much better, but Baylor will be getting a couple of key offensive weapons back in its lineup. Starting receivers Antwan Goodley and Corey Coleman are expected to return from injuries on an offense that has led the country in every major statistical category without them.
On to the 'bag:
@Jake_Trotter if Texas Tech can get rid of all the flags and turnovers do you think they can win enough games to make a bowl game?— Brad Sullivan (@B_Sullivan944) September 26, 2014
@jake_trotter: Definitely. Look at last night alone. Forget the three turnovers, the Red Raiders left 10 points off the board directly because of penalties. Jakeem Grant's kickoff return touchdown. And the delay of game that pushed Tech out of field-goal range. Add those 10 points, and the game would have been tied. Tech is explosive enough offensively for this to be a bowl team. But when you shoot all the toes off your feet, it's hard to beat anyone. And Tech is going to have a hard time beating anyone as long as they lead the nation in penalties and lose the turnover battle.
@jake_trotter: I hear Garman Airlines will be taking plenty of flights this fall.
@jake_trotter: I would be deflated too if my team led the country in penalties. That said, everyone needs to show a little patience with Kingsbury, just like they need to show a little with Charlie Strong. Kingsbury has recruited well. He needs time for more of those prospects to make an impact. It hasn't been pretty so far this season, but it's way to early to judge Kingsbury.
@jake_trotter: Iowa State still has a chance to be a good, solid team in my opinion. But we're also talking about a squad that got run out of its own stadium by North Dakota State in the opener. So no, a win in Ames won't exactly quiet the doubters. But if the Bears win the following three games at Texas, TCU and at West Virginia, you won't hear a peep from the Baylor doubters.
@jake_trotter: If anyone deserves a break, it's West Virginia. In facing Alabama, Maryland and Oklahoma, the Mountaineers have played the toughest schedule in the country so far. So the open week comes at the perfect time. West Virginia can reset, heal and gear up for the final two-thirds of the season. If the Mountaineers play like they did the first third, they will win a bunch of games the rest of this season.
@Jake_Trotter with it being such a deep position, who all would you say have been some of the best defensive linemen in the league so far?— Zach Evans (@ZEvans_7) September 26, 2014
@jake_trotter: The player who has really impressed me so far this is Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown. He has been the most impressive defensive linemen in my opinion, despite the Longhorns' troubles elsewhere. Other guys who have caught my eye so far: Kansas State's Ryan Mueller and Travis Britz, Baylor's Shawn Oakman, Oklahoma State's Emmanuel Ogbah, Iowa State's Cory Morrissey, Oklahoma's Jordan Phillips and Charles Tapper, Kansas' Keon Stowers and TCU's Davion Pierson.
@jake_trotter: Well, yeah. If the Horned Frogs defeat Oklahoma, they have to be considered a legitimate Big 12 contender. That is going to be a huge game for the Frogs. Perhaps, in fact, the biggest of the TCU Big 12 era.
@jake_trotter: Anything is possible, but I have a hard time seeing K-State winning in Norman and Waco. That said, before the season, one of my bold predictions was that K-State would win one of those road games. I see no reason to back off that prediction just yet, either.
Will you shave Cy into your head if ISU wins tomorrow? RT @Jake_Trotter: Still taking Twitter questions for today's Big 12 mailbag.— Austin Narber (@austinnarber) September 26, 2014
@jake_trotter: I asked my wife about this and she vetoed it. However, she said if Iowa State knocks off Baylor and Oklahoma in Ames, then I can do it. So we're on, provided you find me a barber familiar with the Cy logo..
Of the four games, only one involves a Big 12 team on the road. TCU travels toward the eastern Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to face rival SMU. Here are two home games pitting Big 12 foes to keep an eye on, as it could be a big weekend for recruiting.
Texas at Kansas