Big 12: Iowa State Cyclones

In today's Big 12 Twitter mailbag, we talk plenty about 2015, including changes to the conference format and quarterback battles.

On to the 'bag:

@Jake_Trotter: My top five, as of December 19, would be 1) TCU, 2) Baylor, 3) Oklahoma, 4) Texas, 5) Oklahoma State. But a lot can and will change between now and the preseason that could shake up this top five.

Trotter: Closer? Maybe. Close? No. The only change I see happening is the league clarifying its goofy One True Champion rule, and actually declaring a single champion for playoff purposes. There is a chance the conference could apply for a waiver to hold a championship game with 10 teams. But in talking to people around the league, I don't envision the Big 12 adding such a game, at least for next season.

Trotter: No time soon. The Big 12 still has no plans to expand. If it did, BYU would obviously be in the picture. But again, the Big 12 is not adding teams right now.

Trotter: The decision remains up in the air, but if I had to bet, I would put my money on Dorial Green-Beckham going to the NFL. The decision to transfer to Oklahoma was always about playing this season, not sitting out and playing in 2015. That could still happen. But as a likely Day 1 or Day 2 pick, I see him declaring for the draft.

Trotter: I could see Rushel Shell breaking the 1,000-yard barrier. With a new quarterback, the Mountaineers could pound the ball a little more next season. As for who the quarterback will be, Skyler Howard has generated momentum with the way he performed the last two games, but I still favor William Crest. There was a reason Crest was the No. 2 quarterback as a true freshman coming out of fall camp. Assuming he is healthy and can go through spring ball, Crest would still be my pick to win the job for 2015.

Trotter: The Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Baylor beating Michigan State and TCU handling Ole Miss would do the most for the Big 12's national perception. It certainly wouldn't hurt if the other Big 12 teams win, too. But a sweep in the two New Year's Six bowls is what will count most toward 2015 perception of the conference.

Trotter: Chad President has indicated that he's sticking with Baylor. President also has the ability to play other positions, too, if he gets beat out by Jarrett Stidham. So I would guess he stays pledged to Baylor. By the way, not many better surnames out there than "President."

Trotter: I think it's Seth Russell, at least to start out. Russell has the experience edge both on the field and with reps operating the Baylor offense. Russell struggled a bit in the Texas Tech game, which gives me pause. But he has also had a bunch of good moments as Bryce Petty's backup the past two years.

Trotter: No. Kansas State has first dibs on any Lockett from now until the end of time.

Trotter: This is probably the most random question in this mailbag's history. But I believe the answer is Paul Rhoads. Someone also provided photographic evidence:

Trotter: Thanks for all the questions, guys. Sorry I couldn't include all of them. I hope everyone has a great weekend..

With the 2014 regular season over, we’ve come up with our final Big 12 true freshman power rankings.

This list includes three ESPN freshman All-Americans, and a collection of other players who appear to be budding stars in the league.

So, without further ado, the final top 10 true freshmen of 2104:

1. Samaje Perine, running back, Oklahoma: Perine finishes atop the Big 12 true freshman power rankings as the clear No. 1. The 243-pound, All-Big 12 performer led the conference with 1,579 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. He also averaged 6.6 yards per carry. He also set an FBS single-game record with 427 rushing yards against Kansas. Perine will be the focal point of the Oklahoma offense in 2015, and should open the season on everyone’s list of possible Heisman contenders.

2. KD Cannon, wide receiver, Baylor: Though his production dipped over the final month of the season, Cannon still finished with 50 receptions, 833 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He also had a monster game with six catches and 124 yards receiving in Baylor’s big win over TCU. The Bears will lose Antwan Goodley to graduation, but with Cannon and Corey Coleman leading the way, Baylor will still have a dynamic collection of receivers in 2015.

3. Dravon Henry, safety, West Virginia: Henry won a starting job in the West Virginia secondary in the preseason, and was an integral defender for the Mountaineers all season. His ability to cover the pass allowed hard-hitting strong safety Karl Joseph to help more against the run. And with the Henry-Joseph safety combo leading the way, the Mountaineers finished with the second-best pass defense in the Big 12. Assuming Joseph returns for his senior year, the Mountaineers could boast one of the top safety duos in the country next season.

4 (tie). Patrick Mahomes, quarterback, Texas Tech and Mason Rudolph, quarterback, Oklahoma State: After standing on the sidelines most of the season, Mahomes and Rudolph stole the show in the Big 12 late in the year. Mahomes threw for 598 yards in Tech’s season finale while almost leading the Red Raiders to an upset over Baylor. In his final three games, Mahomes tossed a head-turning 14 touchdown passes to just two interceptions. Rudolph was equally as impressive for Cowboys. After playing well in his first career start at Baylor, Rudolph rallied Oklahoma State to an overtime win over Bedlam rival Oklahoma in Norman while also catapulting the Cowboys to bowl eligibility. Thanks to Mahomes and Rudolph, Tech and Oklahoma State appear to be in great shape at quarterback for 2015 and beyond.

6. Allen Lazard, wide receiver, Iowa State: It wasn’t a good year for the Cyclones, but at least they have a burgeoning All-Big 12-caliber wideout in Lazard, who delivered a series of acrobatic receptions in his first year. Though he never had a 100-yard receiving game, he was a consistent option for quarterback Sam B. Richardson with 45 catches and 593 receiving yards.

7. Jason Hall, safety, Texas: Wondering who will eventually take over for Karl Joseph as the hardest hitter in the Big 12? It might be Hall, who dropped the hammer multiple times in his first season in Austin. He also finished with 47 tackles, and should serve as a cornerstone in Charlie Strong’s defense for years to come.

8. Corey Avery, running back, Kansas: The Jayhawks didn’t have many positive developments this season, but one of the bright spots was Avery, who finished 12th in the league with 631 yards rushing and five touchdowns. Avery and De’Andre Mann should give new coach David Beaty a solid one-two punch at running back to operate with in 2015.

9. Elijah Lee, linebacker, Kansas State: Bill Snyder rarely plays true freshmen, but Lee earned Snyder’s trust as a pass-rushing specialist early on in the season. He placed second only to Ryan Mueller on the team with 4.5 sacks.

10. James Washington, wide receiver, Oklahoma State : Washington ended the season as a starter, and led the Cowboys with five touchdown catches. He also finished with 26 receptions and 423 yards receiving, and figures to be a piece of the foundation in the Oklahoma State receiving corps moving forward.

Big 12 unsung heroes

December, 18, 2014
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From record-setting freshman to Heisman contenders, the Big 12 had plenty of star power in 2014.

Yet each team had players who made a significant impact on their teams that went largely unnoticed as teammates grabbed the headlines. With the help of SIDs around the conference, here's a closer look at the Big 12's unsung heroes during the 2014 season:

Baylor LB/S Collin Brence: A former walk-on, Brence started every game for Baylor, finishing with 49 tackles and adding seven hurries, 3.5 tackles for loss and one interception. On a defense with stars like Shawn Oakman, Andrew Billings and Orion Stewart, Brence was quietly a key contributor as the Bears won a second-straight Big 12 title.

Iowa State WR D’Vario Montgomery: The sophomore transfer from South Florida emerged as the Cyclones’ best receiving threat during the home stretch of the season. Montgomery had 41 receptions for 564 yards and two touchdowns in ISU’s final seven games. His 605 receiving yards led the team and his 13.75 yards per catch average was tops among Cyclones with at least 10 receptions.

Kansas C Joe Gibson: The redshirt freshman took over starting center duties midway through the season and brought solidarity to the Jayhawks' interior line. Making QB Michael Cummings the starter and Eric Kiesau the playcaller were among the noted changes that paid off during Clint Bowen’s time as interim coach but Gibson’s role was just as important.

Kansas State DT Travis Britz: A valuable part of K-State’s defense, Britz was a key member of one of the Big 12’s top defenses before missing the final two games with an injury. The junior provided an anchor for Bill Snyder’s squad with 27 tackles including five tackles for loss and three sacks.

Oklahoma FB Aaron Ripkowski: Samaje Perine doesn’t become the Big 12’s best freshman without the help of the former walk-on fullback. Ripkowski was a driving force behind the Sooners’ running success as teams set out to stop the run yet still failed against the crimson and cream. Ripkowski’s aggressive nature, durability and stellar blocking helped OU rank No. 1 in the Big 12 in nearly every rushing category.

Oklahoma State DT Ofa Hautau: Emmanuel Ogbah grabbed Big 12 defensive lineman of the year honors but Hautau played a key role in OSU’s defensive line. His 28 tackles including 4.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks don’t speak to the value he brought to the table in the interior of the Pokes' defense.

Texas TE Geoff Swaim: The senior brought a consistent physical presence to the Longhorns' running game while the offensive line went through injuries, changes and uncertainty for much of the year. He also played a critical role on the Longhorns’ special-teams units.

TCU DT Davion Pierson: While Chucky Hunter got the headlines, Pierson was just as good along the Horned Frogs' defensive interior. The junior was disruptive with 6.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks for TCU while giving the Horned Frogs arguably the Big 12’s top defensive tackle duo.

Texas Tech HB DeAndre Washington: It’s unusual to consider Washington unsung but he was that good for the Red Raiders in 2014. There was a direct correlation between Washington’s production and Tech’s win total. He rushed for 100 yards in three of Tech’s four wins and he joined Perine and BU’s Shock Linwood as the only Big 12 running backs to surpass 1,000 rushing yards this season.

West Virginia LB Wes Tonkery: The senior brought stability to the Mountaineers defense, finishing with 62 tackles as WVU’s improved defense helped Dana Holgorsen’s squad return to a bowl game after a one-year hiatus. Tonkery also added eight tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

Big 12 teams sign junior college help

December, 18, 2014
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Wednesday, several teams in the Big 12 added immediate help in the form of junior college signings. Kansas and new coach David Beaty led the way with eight such signings.

All told, six players from the ESPN JC 50 signed with Big 12 schools, including a conference-high three to Oklahoma.

Not everyone in the league, however, signed juco help this week. Texas Tech, TCU and Kansas State did not sign any juco players Wednesday.

Below is a roundup of this week's Big 12 juco signees (remember, this list does not include juco players who will sign in February):

Baylor
Iowa State
Kansas
Oklahoma
Oklahoma State
Texas
West Virginia

Reviewing our Big 12 predictions

December, 15, 2014
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We make a lot of predictions here on the Big 12 blog. We make a lot of bad predictions, too.

Time to own it. Now that the regular season is over, we’re looking back on our best and worst picks and prognostications for the 2014 Big 12 season. In some cases, we ended up looking pretty smart. In plenty more, we do not. I’ll start us off with a doozy.

Max Olson: Texas Tech will start 7-0 again: Oops. I shouldn't have overlooked the Arkansas game. Or the Oklahoma State game. Or the Kansas State game. Or the West Virginia game.

[+] EnlargeBob Stoops
AP Photo/The Norman Transcript, Kyle PhillipsOklahoma's surprising struggles made for some Big 12 predictions gone awry.
Jake Trotter: Davis Webb will throw for more yards than Bryce Petty. With a bowl game left, Petty will likely end up throwing for at least 1,000 more yards than Webb, who missed Texas Tech’s final four games. But, technically, this was a solid pick: Webb averaged 317 passing yards per game, and Petty is averaging 300.

Brandon Chatmon: Texas will lead the conference in rushing and finish top 10 nationally. The Horns currently rank sixth in the conference and 85th nationally at a disappointing 148.7 rushing yards per game. Neither Johnathan Gray nor Malcolm Brown will rush for 1,000 yards this season.

Olson: David Ash earns All-Big 12 honors. Concussion issues ended Ash’s season and playing career after one game this season. I want to stand by this take, but Texas’ offensive line was in such bad shape that all-conference honors would’ve been a challenge.

Trotter: Kansas State will beat either Baylor or Oklahoma on the road. Winner. K-State did pull off a 31-30 upset of Oklahoma, the first of the Sooners’ three home losses.

Chatmon: Iowa State's offense will be much improved. Mark Mangino seemed to make a positive impact, but the results were minimal. ISU went from 24.8 points per game to 23.2, and from 363 yards per game to 372.5.

Trotter: Tyreek Hill will lead the league in rushing. Hill finished 15th, accounting for 534 rushing yards in his 12 games as a Cowboy before being dismissed last week. He did lead all Big 12 receivers in rushing yards, for what it’s worth.

Chatmon and Olson: Projecting an 8-win season for TCU. During our game-by-game season predictions series in July, Chatmon and I were relatively optimistic about the Horned Frogs around the same time they were picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 by league media.

Trotter: Predicting KSU over OU and WVU over Baylor in October. Trotter took the lead in our weekly predictions contest thanks to these prescient picks. He ended up finishing with a record of 67-8 on his regular-season picks. That is quite good.

Olson: Predicting TCU over OU and WVU over Baylor in July. The reader comments for these picks were amazing. A sampling: Max Olson is extremely poor at predictions.” “Please lay off the crack pipe.” “TCU scoring 34 points against anyone? Really? How do you figure this?” Best of the best: “Wow ... I legitimately lost all respect for your opinion with the WVU pick over Baylor ... May God have mercy on your soul.”

Chatmon: “Malcom Brown is going to make me regret leaving him off my list.” This was from our preseason All-Big 12 discussion. We’re going to award Chatmon a point for this, even though he did snub Brown at the time.

Olson: Joe Mixon “capable of emerging as an elite playmaker from the get-go.” Unfortunately, he emerged as a troublemaker from the get-go.

Trotter: Curse of the kicker. In a pregame post for Auburn vs. Kansas State, Jake called Jack Cantele the Wildcats’ X-factor and said KSU should “feel good about their chances” if the game comes down to a kick. He also heaped praise on OU’s Michael Hunnicutt one week before the K-State game. College kicking ain’t easy.

All three: Finished 60-4 in our unanimous weekly picks. Give us a little credit here. When we put our heads together and agreed on a result, we rarely misled you this season. The four games we were unanimously wrong on: North Dakota State over Iowa State, Arkansas over Texas Tech, TCU over Oklahoma, Oklahoma State winning Bedlam.

All three: A Big 12 team will make the College Football Playoff. We declared the winner of the Baylor-Oklahoma game on Nov. 8 would go on to represent the league in the inaugural playoff. I guess that means we foolishly thought a head-to-head win would be the tiebreaker that sends a Big 12 team to the playoff.

ESPN.com All-Big 12 second team

December, 12, 2014
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This morning we released our ESPN.com All-Big 12 team. We didn't forget about all those talented, deserving players who didn't earn spots on our first-team list. Here's our take on a second-team All-Big 12 squad.

Between our first and second team, TCU led the Big 12 in all-conference honorees with 12 players selected. Baylor had eight players make the list and Kansas State, Oklahoma and West Virginia tied with seven players honored.

Offense

QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor
RB: DeAndre Washington, Texas Tech
RB: Aaron Green, TCU
WR: John Harris, Texas
WR: Josh Doctson, TCU
WR: Curry Sexton, Kansas State
TE: Jimmay Mundine, Kansas
OL: Daryl Williams, Oklahoma
OL: Mark Glowinski, West Virginia
OL: Joey Hunt, TCU
OL: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
OL: Tayo Fabuluje, TCU
AP: Antwan Goodley, Baylor
K: Jaden Oberkrom, TCU
KR: Mario Alford, West Virginia

Defense

DE: Pete Robertson, Texas Tech
DE: Michael Reynolds, Kansas
DT: Chucky Hunter, TCU
DT: Travis Britz, Kansas State
LB: Jordan Hicks, Texas
LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor
LB: Jonathan Truman, Kansas State
DB: Kevin White, TCU
DB: JaCorey Shepherd, Kansas
DB: Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma
DB: Sam Carter, TCU
P: Nick O'Toole, West Virginia
PR: Cameron Echols-Luper, TCU

ESPN.com All-Big 12 team

December, 12, 2014
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We had some debates along the way, but this year's all-conference team seemed easier to assemble than in most years.

There are still a ton of deserving players who did not crack the first team (our second-team choices come later today), but all in all this is a loaded squad of standouts, and nearly every Big 12 team had at least two players make the cut.

Here's the 2014 ESPN.com All-Big 12 Team:

Offense

QB Trevone Boykin, TCU: Boykin emerged as one of the nation's best and led TCU to a Big 12 co-title with 3,714 passing yards and Big 12-high 39 total TDs.

RB Samaje Perine, Oklahoma: The true freshman rumbled for 1,579 yards and 21 TDs, including the best rushing game (427 yards) in FBS history.

RB Shock Linwood, Baylor: The power back behind Baylor's speed attack, Linwood surpassed 1,200 yards in his first season as a starter.

WR Kevin White, West Virginia: The Biletnikoff Award finalist was a breakout star, racking up 102 catches for 1,318 yards and nine TDs.

WR Corey Coleman, Baylor: Led the Bears with 969 receiving yards, 17 yards per catch and 10 scores despite missing the first three games of the season.

WR Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma: Injuries derailed his last five games, but Shepard still put up 957 yards as the Sooners' go-to guy.

TE E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State: Bibbs led all tight ends nationally with eight TDs and was a matchup nightmare in Mark Mangino's offense.

OL Spencer Drango, Baylor: The All-American was dominant again after recovering from back injury with 30-plus knockdown blocks.

OL Quinton Spain, West Virginia: The mammoth guard was impressive again despite playing through injuries throughout the season.

OL B.J. Finney, Kansas State: The Rimington Trophy finalist wrapped up his career as a 51-game starter with another terrific season.

OL Tyrus Thompson, Oklahoma: Oklahoma's left tackle elevated his game during his senior year and brings exceptional size and strength.

OL Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech: All-Big 12 for the second year in a row after he anchored a Tech offensive line that gave up just 13 sacks.

AP Tyler Lockett, Kansas State: Lockett broke dad Kevin Lockett's records while finishing No. 4 nationally in receiving and adding two punt-return TDs.

K Josh Lambert, West Virginia: The Groza Award finalist led the FBS with 27 made field goals, including two game winners.

KR Alex Ross, Oklahoma: Ross went for 30-plus yards on 9 of 22 returns, including scores of 91 and 100 yards.

Defense

DE Shawn Oakman, Baylor: A 6-foot-8 beast, Oakman created problems (10 sacks, 18.5 TFLs) with his length and aggression.

DE Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State: Ogbah broke out big with 11 sacks, including two-sack performances versus Florida State and TCU.

DT Malcom Brown, Texas: He was a disruptive force in the middle who produced 6.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss.

DT Andrew Billings, Baylor: The sophomore helped Oakman upgrade BU’s defensive line while finishing with 11.5 TFLs.

LB Paul Dawson, TCU: Dawson made big play after big play for the Frogs, logging at least one TFL in TCU’s final eight games.

LB Ben Heeney, Kansas: The sideline-to-sideline stud capped off his KU career with 127 tackles, including 88 solo stops.

LB Eric Striker, Oklahoma: Striker created problems off the edge in one-on-one battles and finished with 7.5 sacks.

DB Quandre Diggs, Texas: Diggs did it all. He hit, covered and tackled while playing a key role as the heart of UT's defense.

DB Chris Hackett, TCU: The junior showed up big in big games, grabbing six interceptions and 73 stops.

DB Karl Joseph, West Virginia: Joseph blossomed into a complete safety while remaining among the conference’s most physical defenders.

DB Dante Barnett, Kansas State: Sliding right into the void left by Ty Zimmerman, Barnett became a playmaker on the back end for KSU.

P Trevor Pardula, Kansas: Yes, Pardula had plenty of chances, but 44.25 yards/punt average and 38.9 punting average are nothing to sneeze at.

PR Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State: The Cowboys don’t go bowling without Hill, whose blazing speed helped beat KU, ISU and OU.

Big 12 morning links

December, 11, 2014
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  • Great job of Allen Taylor of West Virginia MetroNews with this profile on Mountaineers receiver Kevin White, told by talking to his high school and junior college coaches. They certainly aren't surprised that White put in the work to become one of the nation's best receivers. A lot of kids in his situation might not have hung in there for those three years in juco ball. Funny to hear, too, that a year ago he wondered if he'd have to go into coaching after his senior season.
  • You knew this was coming: Ryan Teeples of the Desert News makes the case for why BYU should join the Big 12. I'm intrigued by the writer's suggestion that, from a logistics standpoint, the easiest compromise might be for BYU to become a football-only member of the conference. He makes a good point, too, about the flexibility the Cougars could have involving TV rights. If you're interested in expansion talk, give this a read.
  • In a column on Baylor and the Big 12 drama over the weekend, Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News mentions that he thinks Art Briles should "pay handsomely" for his outburst on Saturday. Do you readers agree with that? No word on whether the Big 12 is sending him a bill for going after Bob Bowlsby and the league. Sherrington also gets into expansion but rightfully argues the next league champion would also benefit greatly if Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech can return "to some semblance of themselves."
  • Perhaps the most under-the-radar player to receive a major Big 12 award on Wednesday was Iowa State safety Kamari Cotton-Moya, the league's Defensive Freshman of the Year. We probably haven't written enough about the redshirt freshman who led ISU with 77 tackles and added eight pass breakups. As you can imagine, that honor was a pretty present for the day before his 20th birthday.
  • Lastly, a cool idea by Kyle Fredrickson of The Oklahoman to round up a brief oral history of Tyreek Hill's punt return TD, one of the all-time great Bedlam shockers, as retold by fans. Shoutout to the guy who busted up his own ceiling in excitement, as well as the mother throwing up the pistols from the hospital. What an unforgettable finish. This was a nice way to capture the moment.

All-Big 12 honors, teams released

December, 10, 2014
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The Big 12 released its All-Big 12 honors on Wednesday with TCU sweeping the biggest individual honors, as voted on by the league's coaches.

Here’s the rundown of the individual honors and first team: (You can find the entire list including the second team and honorable mention here.)

Coach of the Year: Gary Patterson, TCU
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Trevone Boykin, TCU
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Paul Dawson, TCU
Special Teams Player of the Year: PR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
Offensive Freshman of the Year: RB Samaje Perine, Oklahoma
Defensive Freshman of the Year: S Kamari Cotton-Moya, Iowa State
Offensive Newcomer of the Year: ATH Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State
Defensive Newcomer of the Year: DE Shaq Riddick, West Virginia
Co-offensive Lineman of the Year: T Spencer Drango, Baylor and C B.J. Finney, Kansas State
Defensive Lineman of the Year: DE Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State

All-Big 12 First team
Offense
QB Trevone Boykin, TCU, Jr.
RB Samaje Perine, Oklahoma, Fr.
RB Shock Linwood, Baylor, Soph.
FB Glenn Gronkowski, Kansas State, Soph.
WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State, Sr.
WR Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma, Jr.
WR Kevin White, West Virginia, Sr.
TE E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State, Sr.
OL Spencer Drango, Baylor, Sr.
OL B.J. Finney, Kansas State, Sr.
OL Daryl Williams, Oklahoma, Sr.
OL Tyrus Thompson, Oklahoma, Sr.
OL Le’Raven Clark, Texas Tech, Jr.
K Jaden Oberkrom, TCU, Jr.
KR/PR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State, Sr.

Defense
DL Andrew Billings, Baylor, Soph.
DL Shawn Oakman, Baylor, Jr.
DL Ryan Mueller, Kansas State, Sr.
DL Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State, Soph.
DL Malcom Brown, Texas, Jr.
LB Ben Heeney, Kansas, Sr.
LB Eric Striker, Oklahoma, Jr.
LB Paul Dawson, TCU, Sr.
DB JaCorey Shepherd, Kansas, Sr.
DB Randall Evans, Kansas State, Sr.
DB Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma, Soph.
DB Chris Hackett, TCU, Jr.
DB Karl Joseph, West Virginia, Jr.
P Trevor Pardula, Kansas, Sr.

Thoughts and observations
  • Lockett, Drango and Mueller are the only back-to-back first-team selections.
  • TCU’s sweep of the Coach of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year was well-deserved. Patterson did an exceptional job, both in the offseason with his hires of Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie, as well as during the season with TCU's defense. Boykin is a no-brainer and would have won the most-improved award if there was one. Dawson had plenty of competitors for DPOY including Billings, Ogbah, Striker, Brown and Oakman. But it's hard to go wrong with Dawson, who consistently showed up big in TCU's biggest games.
  • The biggest surprise was Ogbah as defensive lineman of the year. I’ve been on the Ogbah bandwagon since before the season began but Texas’ Brown was the guy I expected to walk away with that honor.
  • If the OPOY is not Boykin who could it possibly be? Boykin’s honor joins Perine as the Offensive Freshman of the Year as the easiest picks.
  • Riddick is a good choice for Defensive Newcomer of the Year, although I felt like K-State's Danzel McDaniel deserved that honor. Both are quality options so no major beef with Riddick getting the nod.
  • It’s good to see Cotton-Moya get the recognition he deserved. He’s been good for Paul Rhoads' team all season. The redshirt freshman led the Cyclones with 77 tackles including 55 solo stops.
  • It was a bit of a surprise to see Mueller on the first team after his production dropped as a senior. He had 11.5 sacks in 2013 before recording 5.5 sacks this season.
  • Lastly, I'm not a fan of more than 11 first-teamers on offense or defense, make a decision and live with that decision. It cheapens the honor when you add spots to fit people into the team.

Hopes and concerns: Iowa State

December, 10, 2014
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Three Big 12 teams already are looking toward 2015.

After disappointing seasons that ended without a bowl game, Texas Tech, Kansas and Iowa State won’t see the field again until the fall of 2015. There are plenty of reasons for concern but some glimmers of hope at each school. For the next three days, we’ll take a look at three reasons for hope and three reasons for concern at Tech, KU and ISU as they look toward 2015.

Today we look at Iowa State.

Reasons for hope

Offensive coordinator Mark Mangino: Despite dealing with injuries all over the roster, the Cyclones' offensive coordinator had a solid first year, highlighted by a stellar showing against Texas’ stout defense in a 48-45 loss on Oct. 18. The Cyclones rolled up 524 yards and five touchdowns against one of the Big 12’s best defenses. Mangino is a main reason the Cyclones’ third-down conversion rate jumped from 34.5 percent in 2013 to 42.3 percent this season.

[+] EnlargeJosh Doctson
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsNigel Tribune (34) has the look of a future All-Big 12 cornerback after posting three interceptions and 13 pass breakups.
Sophomore Nigel Tribune and redshirt freshman Kamari Cotton-Moya: The gems of the Cyclones’ recruiting class of 2013, Tribune and Cotton-Moya have blossomed into the foundation of ISU’s secondary and two of the conference’s top defensive backs. Both three-star prospects, Tribune and Cotton-Moya are examples of how the Cyclones can have Big 12 success through good evaluation and development as neither guy was an elite prospect yet both are on the road to all-conference honors.

A receivers room full of talent: With Allen Lazard and D'Vario Montgomery set to return, the Cyclones will have two of their top four receivers back in 2015. Add Quenton Bundrage, who appeared poised to be one of the conference’s top pass catchers before his ACL injury in the season opener, and quarterback Sam B. Richardson should have plenty of talented options in 2015.

Reasons for concern

Has Paul Rhoads stayed around too long? It’s a question that must be asked after the Cyclones have won five combined games during the past two seasons. ISU athletic director Jamie Pollard has been vocal in his support of the veteran coach, but both men understand college football is a results-driven business. Yet, there is a direct correlation between the Cyclones’ injury struggles and bowl-less campaigns during the past two seasons. Rhoads has proven he can get ISU into bowl games and his teams consistently play hard, a sign he has never lost the locker room. But until the Cyclones start winning more games this question could linger.

Lack of defensive playmakers in the front seven: Quite frankly you could see a winless Big 12 season coming for the Cyclones after Rhoads' team was left with a hole in the middle following the dismissals of defensive tackles Rodney Coe and David Irving. Defensive end Cory Morrissey was a shining light in his final season, but the rest of the front seven left plenty to be desired. Hope could be on the way with the recent commitment of four-star junior college defensive tackle Demond Tucker, the No. 23 player in the ESPNJC50, but this remains a major concern for the Cyclones.

Lack of roster depth: ISU was crippled by injury in 2014, from Bundrage’s ACL injury to linebacker Jevohn Miller’s ACL injury, it seemed like luck was never on the side of Rhoads' team as only four Cyclones started every game. And when the injury bug hit the drop-off was apparent. It’s a tall task to have minimal drop-off from starter to backup, but if the Cyclones can add more talent and competition on the roster, it would help minimize the impact of injuries, which have been the driving force behind the Cyclones' recent slide down the standings.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 15

December, 7, 2014
Dec 7
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video
FORT WORTH, Texas -- TCU completed its body of work in the regular season by handling its business with a 55-3 win against an overmatched Iowa State team (2-10) on Senior Day at Amon G. Carter Stadium. The third-ranked Horned Frogs (11-1) rested their case for a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff in impressive fashion.

Let's take a look at how it happened.

How the game was won: After a first half that TCU dominated everywhere but the scoreboard (17-3), the Frogs slammed on the gas in the third quarter. Quarterback Trevone Boykin found running back Aaron Green for a 54-yard touchdown strike on the fourth play of the second half. Safety Derrick Kindred added a 44-yard pick-six later as TCU finished with 31 points in the quarter.

Game ball goes to: Trevone Boykin. The Frogs junior completed 15 of his first 19 pass attempts and finished the game 30-of-41 passing for 460 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. He also had his first career touchdown catch to put TCU on the board. Boykin, who broke Andy Dalton's single-season team record for touchdown passes, won't win the Heisman Trophy, but he might get an invitation to New York as a finalist.

Playoff implication: TCU did nothing to hurt its position at No. 3 in the playoff rankings on the eve of the selections. If the Frogs somehow fall, it's because of what Baylor and Ohio State do later today in games against superior competition. TCU has impressed the selection committee for months and continued to do so Saturday.

Best play: The Frogs went razzle dazzle minutes into the game, as wide receiver David Porter caught a lateral from Boykin, then threw back to Boykin, who followed a convoy of linemen 55 yards to the end zone.

video What's next: TCU will play close attention to tonight's Kansas State-Baylor game in Waco, as a Baylor loss would settle the Big 12 playoff debate between the teams. Gary Patterson's squad then will await its College Football Playoff fate, as the selections are announced Sunday at 12:45 p.m. ET about 30 miles from here at the Gaylord Texan Resort.

Big 12 viewer's guide: Week 15

December, 5, 2014
Dec 5
10:00
AM ET
Three Big 12 teams take the field Saturday with conference title hopes and chances -- big or small -- at College Football Playoff berths on the line. And then there's Bedlam, which rarely disappoints.

Here are the storylines to keep on eye on during Week 15:

Iowa State at No. 3 TCU, noon ET (ABC): It sure seems like a "win-and-in" scenario for TCU after the Horned Frogs jumped to No. 3 in the next-to-last College Football Playoff rankings earlier this week. Gary Patterson's team sent a message with an impressive win over Texas on Thanksgiving and needs to continue that momentum by leaving no doubt with another strong showing against the Cyclones. And the Horned Frogs can secure a Big 12 co-championship with a victory, regardless of any other result. While TCU has plenty of motivation, Iowa State gets the chance to be the ultimate spoiler by capturing its first conference win and ruining TCU's season with one epic performance that would likely only be outdone by the Paul Rhoads postgame locker-room celebration video that would go viral afterward.

Oklahoma State at No. 20 Oklahoma, 3:30 p.m. ET (Fox Sports 1): There are no Big 12 title implications when the Sooners and Cowboys meet for their late-season Bedlam rivalry. Nonetheless, Bedlam tends to live up to its name, as unexpected moments have become second nature for this in-state duel. OSU can become bowl-eligible and give itself one of the few positive memories of the 2015 season with a win. OU would keep alive its hopes for another 10-win season -- which would be the fifth consecutive year with double-digit wins for Bob Stoops' program -- with a victory.

No. 9 Kansas State at No. 6 Baylor, 7:45 p.m. ET (ESPN): The Big 12 schedule-makers got it right yet again, with one team to leave McLane Stadium as a conference champion and the other pondering what could have been after this matchup of top-10 outfits. And each team has a chance -- significant (Baylor) or small (K-State) -- to force its way into a playoff berth with an impressive triumph over the other. Baylor and Kansas State will each look to dictate the tempo, so keep an eye on the number of possessions for each team. The Wildcats will want to shorten the game while scoring efficiently; the Bears will look to score quickly, get the ball back and score quickly again.
AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State's Jacob Gannon is like a lot of seniors preparing for their final games this weekend: nostalgic, reflective, grateful.

During Senior Day last week, Gannon recalled all the memories he had at Jack Trice Stadium, including the team's upset of No. 2 Oklahoma State in 2011, when he started his second game as a redshirt freshman guard. The 2-9 Cyclones end their season Saturday at TCU.

"I'm definitely going to miss it, my teammates, my coaches," Gannon said Wednesday night. "I like football again."

Those four words seemed unlikely to ever come out of Gannon's mouth after the way his season began, walking off the field in the middle of a practice, never turning back.

He hadn't felt right since last fall. He was irritable. His thoughts raced. He worried constantly. He struggled to focus at times. His chest tightened and his stomach turned.

[+] EnlargeJacob Gannon
Courtesy of Iowa StateIowa State's 6-7, 306-pound right tackle Jacob Gannon briefly left the team after suffering a panic attack.
Still, he made it through spring practice, summer conditioning and fall camp, just as he had the past four years. He started Iowa State's opener, a loss to North Dakota State, at right tackle. Four days later, during a pass-protection drill in the middle of practice, Gannon hit his breaking point.

"I felt in my mind like I was going to die," Gannon told ESPN.com in his first extensive interview about the incident. "I hadn't had a full-on panic attack [before]. There was no escape. I was trapped.

"I had to get out of there, so I did."

The 6-foot-7, 306-pound Gannon stepped out of the drill, then announced to line coach Brandon Blaney and the group that he was done. Not done with the drill or with practice. Done with football. Forever.

Gannon wasn't sure exactly what had happened. But he knew, or at least thought he knew, the trigger.

"I couldn't even watch football," he said. "It made me think of all the mistakes I made. I hated going to practice because I got anxious. During the games, I would be stressed out full-time.

"I thought I hated the game."

The attack lasted about 20 minutes -- the first 10 were torture -- but the tension subsided as Gannon sat with ISU's strength coach and teammate Tom Farniok in the locker room. It provided affirmation that he had made the right decision. He felt "weightless."

When ISU coach Paul Rhoads found Gannon leaving the team's facility, Gannon told him, "I'm done. I can't do this anymore."

"It was the general feeling about football," Rhoads recalled. "Hated it. Couldn't stand watching it. Didn't want to be around it any more. At the same time, there was, 'I don't want to let my teammates down.'

Gannon waited for the relief to return over the next few days.

"I felt like I was being yanked in half," he said. "I was all tangled up, all these emotions happening. I knew I had to talk to somebody."

Gannon met with Marty Martinez, a psychologist with ISU's student counseling service who had worked with athletes like star wrestler Cael Sanderson. Martinez immediately suspected Gannon had anxiety and possibly an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety ran in Gannon's family, but since he never had discussed his symptoms, his parents, like his coaches and teammates, never suspected it. Hearing about the likely cause of the problem gave Gannon the relief he sought.

"I wasn't going crazy," he said. "Something was really going on."

Football hadn't caused this. No one thing had. Gannon pushed himself in school, majoring in computer science and earning Academic All-Big 12 honors. He soon had to find a job after college and a place to live.

"It's not so much, 'I don't like football anymore,'" Martinez explained. "But because it's happening there, he couldn't escape it. I picked up something deeper, a loyalty that caused him to leave. 'I'm letting my team down. I can't keep doing that.'"

Martinez knew treatment would help Gannon, but he didn't think Gannon would return to the team. Most of the athletes he counsels come before they've quit.

As ISU hosted Kansas State that Saturday, Gannon sat in the house he shares with three teammates. At first he didn't want to watch the game. Waiting for his parents to arrive from Iowa City, he flipped through channels. Nothing was on TV. Eventually, he turned to the game.

"I realized I love football, I miss football," Gannon said. "I wanted to be there with my teammates. That was kind of the turning point. I realized, 'Wow, I want to be back.'"

Blaney received a text-message from Gannon after the game.

"I knew at that point how much he missed being with the guys," Blaney said. "I knew in that text we were going to make headway. Whether or not he was ever going to play another snap for us, it was never important."

Gannon met with Rhoads and Blaney on Sunday and explained what likely had caused his meltdown. He met with Martinez again Monday and then with team physician Marc Shulman on Tuesday morning.

Shulman diagnosed Gannon with generalized anxiety disorder. They set up a treatment plan, which included medication, counseling and biofeedback, a technique that uses electrical sensors to help people better control their breathing.

"It helped him realize football wasn't the problem," said Shulman, who helped basketball star Royce White with his anxiety while at ISU. "You just have anxiety. He said, 'Being able to realize what I was feeling, I've been suffering with this for years. I just never knew how to express it.'"

Gannon continued his treatment and exercising, while talking to the coaches daily. After ISU's win against Iowa nearly two weeks after Gannon first left, Rhoads decided he could return.

He addressed the team at a meeting the next day, tearing up at the end.

"I told the team, 'Jake realizes and I do, not all 125 of you are going to welcome him back. And he's OK with that,'" Rhoads said. "The team responded with instantaneous applause when he got done. It was a true welcome back."

Several teammates told Gannon they had similar symptoms. Rhoads soon referred several players to Martinez for counseling.

"Jacob's opened the door for them," Rhoads said, "that it's not a big deal."

Gannon also re-opened the door to football. He first worked strictly on special teams in his first game back, against Baylor, then regained his starting job the next week at Oklahoma State.

He had a panic attack before the Oklahoma State game, on the bus ride to the stadium. His breathing exercises didn't help.

"What saved him is, 'I'm going to be OK. We know where it's coming from. It's not about football. It's not because I'm not ready,'" Martinez said.

Gannon hasn't had a panic attack for about six weeks. He meets weekly with Martinez and continues his other treatment. He has started the past seven games and has played "at a very high level," Rhoads said.

NFL scouts are noticing and Rhoads thinks Gannon will be in a pro camp, if not a late-round draft pick. He thinks about Sept. 3 almost daily, but he has moved on.

"It's been refreshing just to put away some of that stress and negative feelings, wipe the slate clean," he said. "It was really important to get back to football and enjoy what I'm doing."

Big 12 morning links

December, 5, 2014
Dec 5
8:00
AM ET
Mike Riley, huh? Didn't see that one coming, well done, Nebraska, well done.
  • The Oklahoman's Ryan Aber and Kyle Fredrickson give you five reasons to watch Bedlam between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Let's be honest, the biggest reason is to see if Mike Gundy can, somehow, leave Oklahoma Memorial Stadium with a win for the first time as head coach. Gundy is 1-8 against the Sooners and a segment of the Cowboys fan base believes that is a reason to think Gundy is not the man to lead the Cowboys to the promised land. I couldn't disagree more with that type of thinking. In fact, it's a revealing glimpse at what some Cowboys fans consider most important. And it's not competing for championships apparently.
  • Here's a great way to get ready for the weekend and the implications of the various games across the country including the Baylor-TCU debate from Grantland's Matt Hinton. Hinton falls on the side of head-to-head ruling in favor of the Bears but is willing to give the committee the benefit of the doubt until a final decision is made. That's pretty much my take on the debate, although even if the committee ultimately puts TCU in the playoff with BU on the outside looking in, I'll disagree with overlooking the head-to-head result but I won't have a major problem with either team making it and leaving the other on the outside looking in.
  • Iowa State could have an overload at the quarterback position with the potential to have five quarterbacks on the roster heading into 2015, writes Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register. Sam B. Richardson seems to have cemented his hold on the starting quarterback spot, Peterson says, leaving the potential for Grant Rohach and Joel Lanning to transfer or change positions. I'd tell those guys "not so fast" if I was Paul Rhoads. ISU is heading into the final weekend of the regular season still searching for its first Big 12 win, so if I was Rhoads, I would make it clear. Every position is open and we're looking for a starting quarterback. Richardson has been great at times but 0-8 in conference play is still 0-8 in conference play. Nobody's job should be safe.
  • It's an unusual scenario for the Alamo Bowl, with a bunch of different options but plenty of uncertainty, reports Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News. In the past the Alamo Bowl would have had a pretty good feel for how the pecking order might play out heading into the season's final weekend. This time around, with the committee's rankings determining a lot of bowl matchups, the bowl is looking at Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma as potential teams from the Big 12. Everyone is talking about the top four but seeing how the rest of the bowl matchups pan out this weekend is yet another reason to look forward to Saturday's action.
  • We've got a burger joint weighing in on the TCU-Baylor debate. I have one question: Where is Ja? Can someone get a hold of him so we can make sense of all this?

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