Big 12: Iowa State Cyclones

Video: Texas 48, Iowa State 45

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
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Nick Rose's 21-yard field goal with three seconds left gave Texas a 48-45 win over Iowa State.
Here's what we learned about the Big 12 in a wild Week 8:

1. The league race is wide open: By taking down preseason favorites Oklahoma and Baylor, Kansas State and West Virginia completely transformed the Big 12 title race Saturday. With only one loss, the defending champion Bears could still win the Big 12. But they now have plenty of company. TCU (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) bounced back from its heartbreaking loss to Baylor last week to obliterate Oklahoma State 42-9. The Wildcats (5-1, 3-0) have also hopped firmly into the conference championship conversation after an impressive 31-30 victory in Norman. But West Virginia shouldn't be discounted, either, following its 41-27 win over Baylor. The Mountaineers have Oklahoma and Baylor behind them on the schedule, and they get TCU (Nov. 1) and Kansas State (Nov. 20) in Morgantown. The only certainty at this point is the Big 12 race down the backstretch is going to be a fun one to watch.

[+] EnlargeKevin White
AP Photo/Chris JacksonKevin White, who has eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving with five games left, and West Virginia are still very much in the Big 12 title race.
2. Oklahoma is not elite -- again: The most recent time the Sooners seriously contended for a national title past October was 2008, when Oklahoma won a loaded Big 12 and played Florida in the national championship game. After returning the bulk of a team that downed Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, the Sooners believed they had a squad that could break the dry spell and break into the inaugural College Football Playoff. They played up to that hype through the first month of the season. But yet again, Oklahoma was proven to not be elite. The past three weeks, the Sooners lost at TCU, barely escaped Texas, then fell at home to the Wildcats to get all but eliminated from the playoff picture. Quarterback Trevor Knight has been too up and down, while the defense has failed to dominate. Even the kicking game crumbled Saturday when the Sooners needed it most. Oklahoma still has a good team. But for this program, having a good team isn't good enough, especially when this was supposed to be Oklahoma's year to return to national prominence. Bob Stoops and his coaching staff have soul-searching to do. Once again, the team they fielded won't be a contender past October.

3. Oklahoma State is rebuilding after all: After graduating more starters than any other Power 5 program, the Cowboys faced the prospect of having to rebuild this year. But after they took defending national champ Florida State to the wire in the opener, then won five straight games, expectations were raised. Turns out, they shouldn't have been. Oklahoma State's 3-0 Big 12 start turned out to be fool's gold, as the Cowboys were exposed in a game they were never in against TCU. Quarterback Daxx Garman failed to complete a single pass in the second half, while Oklahoma State's beleaguered offensive line was manhandled in the trenches. Defensively, the inexperienced Cowboys surrendered 676 yards of offense, the most TCU had racked up in a game since 2007. Oklahoma State has some good young players, but facing a back-loaded schedule, the Cowboys figure to endure more growing pains -- and losses -- the second half of the season.

4. The Big 12 has some monster WRs: Good luck finding four receivers in college football better than West Virginia's Kevin White, Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard, Kansas State's Tyler Lockett or Baylor's Antwan Goodley. That Big 12 foursome combined for 547 receiving yards Saturday. They were -- as they have been all year -- basically unstoppable. After breaking the 1,000-receiving-yard barrier with five regular-season games to go, White could begin to warrant Heisman consideration. Shepard, who tied a school record with 15 catches against K-State, should be a Biletnikoff finalist. Goodley and Lockett are All-American-caliber players, too. The Big 12 might be as deep as it's been since 2008, and the depth of its blue-chip wide receivers is a big reason for that.

5. Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes is turning the corner: Swoopes followed his breakout performance against Oklahoma last week by engineering a drive in the final seconds to set up a game-winning field goal and give Texas a dramatic 48-45 win over Iowa State. Swoopes got the ball back with 28 seconds to go on the Texas 28 and the game seemingly headed for overtime. Instead, Swoopes floated a bomb into the arms of Jaxon Shipley for 39 yards down the sideline. On the next play, Swoopes hit John Harris along the same sideline for a 29-yard gain to the Iowa State 4. Nick Rose nailed the field goal on the next play with 3 seconds left. All told, Swoopes threw for 322 yards and ran for another 95, and he gave more reason to believe he could be Texas' long-sought answer at quarterback.

Big 12 true freshman power rankings

October, 17, 2014
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Going into the eighth weekend of the season, we've updated our Big 12 true freshman power rankings again:

1. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma (previous rank: 1): Though he’s been held to fewer than 100 yards the last two weeks, Perine has still had an All-Big 12 season with a conference-leading nine rushing touchdowns. He’s also second in the league with 568 rushing yards.

2. KD Cannon, WR, Baylor (2): Cannon showed against TCU that he’s still a major factor in the Baylor passing game even with Antwan Goodley, Corey Coleman and Levi Norwood back from injuries. Cannon had six catches for 124 yards and a 67-yard touchdown.

3. Dravon Henry, FS, West Virginia (3): Henry has been consistently solid all season at the back end of the West Virginia secondary, but he will have his biggest challenge yet facing off against Cannon and Baylor’s loaded receiving corps.

4. Jason Hall, S, Texas (7): Hall could drop in these rankings if his patellar tendon injury lingers. But he has been tremendous so far for a surging Texas defense, with eight tackles most recently in the Oklahoma game.

5. Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State (5): Lazard had his best game yet, with 8 receptions, 96 receiving yards and a touchdown last week in Iowa State’s 37-30 win over Toledo. Lazard is now 15th in the Big 12 receiving, second only to Cannon among true freshmen.

6. Corey Avery, RB, Kansas (9): Avery scored a 23-yard fourth-quarter touchdown that nearly spurred the Jayhawks to an upset of Oklahoma State. Avery is now 10th in the Big 12 with 348 rushing yards.

7. Nigel Bethel II, CB, Texas Tech (NR): After serving out his three-game suspension, Bethel got the start against West Virginia and the assignment of covering the nation’s leading receiver, Kevin White. Though White had 123 receiving yards, Bethel held up OK and finished with nine tackles.

8. Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech (NR): After doing virtually nothing for three games, Stockton exploded with a 69-yard touchdown run that put Tech up 34-20 in the fourth quarter against West Virginia. With Kenny Williams moving back to running back from linebacker, it will be interesting to see how involved Stockton remains in the offense.

9. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State (6): Washington hasn’t done much since hauling in two touchdowns on Sept. 25 against Texas Tech. Washington has just four catches for 20 yards over the Cowboys’ last two games.

10. Ramon Richards, CB, Oklahoma State (NR): Richards has been starting since Ashton Lampkin injured his ankle. It’s unclear if Lampkin will be able to return Saturday against TCU. Either way, Richards figures to be a core part of the Oklahoma State secondary moving forward.

On the radar: Elijah Lee, LB, Kansas State; Steven Parker II, S, Oklahoma; Dimitri Flowers, FB, Oklahoma; Davion Hall, WR, Baylor; Matthew Boateng, CB, Kansas; Colin Downing, P, Iowa State; Cameron Batson, PR/WR, Texas Tech; Martinez Syria, RB, Iowa State.

Stats that matter: Iowa State vs. Texas

October, 17, 2014
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Ready for some numbers? It's time for our weekly stat digs, in which we team with ESPN Stats & Information to find the numbers that matter most for the Longhorns and their next opponent. Here are the stats to remember going into Texas' meeting with Iowa State on Saturday night (7 p.m. CT, Longhorn Network).

1. 14

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong
AP Photo/Michael ThomasTexas' struggles on offense in the third quarter have frustrated first-year coach Charlie Strong.
If you're looking for little reasons why Texas is 2-4 and not 4-2, start with the third quarter. Texas' defense has struggled after halftime, no doubt, getting outscored by 35 points and outgained by 331 yards in the third quarter. But let's take a closer look at the offense, because some of the numbers are astonishing.

Texas has a brutal streak going on: 14 consecutive third-quarter drives have ended in punts. That stretch includes the entire quarter against UCLA, Kansas, Baylor and Oklahoma -- four straight scoreless third quarters.

Texas' offense has had 22 third-quarter drives this season and 17 have ended with punts, including 10 three-and-outs. These drives are gaining, on average, 16 yards. Only two drives have crossed midfield. Once they passed the 50, they gained a total of minus-11 yards.

The Longhorns are scoring on 9 percent of their third-quarter possessions and punting on 86 percent. Both of those rank worst in the FBS. Charlie Strong says he's looking into it. So is Shawn Watson. I'd imagine it's hard to pinpoint whether that's a halftime problem, a play-calling issue, or something else. But it's something they need to get fixed as soon as possible.

2. 22/29

Texas hasn't been good in third quarters. But its defense was killer on third downs against Oklahoma and Baylor.

You know Oklahoma was 1-of-11 on third downs, not converting one until the fourth quarter. But throw in the Baylor game (6-of-18) and you get the total above: This Texas defense got stops on 22 of its 29 third-down plays against two of the Big 12's best.

A big reason for that success, as you'd expect, is distance. The Sooners and Bears faced third-and-long (7-plus yards) on 15 of those 29 plays. The Sooners' average distance to gain on third downs was 8.5 yards, forcing Trevor Knight to pass on nine of their 11 third-down situations.

Holding those two foes to a combined third-down conversion rate of under 25 percent isn't easy to do, and yet, the result is still two losses. Maintaining this stinginess on third down -- and putting in the work on the first two downs to create those situations -- will pay off big at some point this season.

3. 376

Iowa State quarterback Sam B. Richardson proved against Texas last year, and repeatedly in Iowa State's first six games this season, that he can be a dangerous threat with his legs.

His team-high 283 rushing yards this season rank No. 12 among Power 5 conference quarterbacks, right behind Oregon's Marcus Mariota. And when you ignore sacks, he's actually run for 376 yards this season, a rate of 6.5 yards per carry.

More important, Richardson is picking up first downs on nearly 40 percent of his rushes. He's capable of extending plays and extending drives with his feet, and he's adept at scrambling and grabbing the first down when the pass isn't there. Texas' defense will have to be alert at all three levels on Saturday.

Three more to remember

98.8: Tyrone Swoopes' QBR rating when he throws to John Harris, who's hauled in all five of Swoopes' touchdown passes to wide receivers. His adjusted QBR this season overall stands at 49.5, which is considered average.

4: Iowa State tight end E.J. Bibbs' touchdown receptions this season. He's tied for the national lead among tight ends on Power 5 conference teams and has three TDs in his past two games.

3: The number of remaining games Texas is favored to win, according to ESPN FPI: Iowa State (83 percent odds), at Texas Tech (65) and West Virginia (58). The Longhorns' best shot at an underdog win comes at Oklahoma State (39 percent). They might need that one to hit six wins.

Big 12 viewer's guide: Week 8

October, 17, 2014
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In Week 8 of Big 12 action, the Kansas State-Oklahoma, Baylor-West Virginia and Oklahoma State-TCU showdowns carry conference title implications; Texas Tech will try to get back on track against Kansas after losing four in a row; and Iowa State will attempt to avenge last year's controversial loss to Texas.

Those, among others, will be the storylines to watch in the league on Saturday:

No. 14 Kansas State at No. 11 Oklahoma, noon ET (ESPN): Oklahoma wideout Sterling Shepard is having an All-American-caliber season, ranking sixth nationally in receiving. But to get the offense back on track, the Sooners need to get other receiving weapons involved. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Shepard has accounted for 47 percent of Oklahoma's receiving yards, the highest percentage for any receiver in the country. While the Oklahoma passing game has sputtered, the K-State air attack has thrived of late. Jake Waters is completing 50 percent of his passes of 15 or more yards, the best rate of any Big 12 quarterback. To hold off the Wildcats, the Sooners will have to be better than they've been at defending passes downfield. Oklahoma has allowed the league's most receptions (20) and touchdowns (7) on throws of 15 yards or more.

[+] EnlargeSterling Shepard
AP Images/Sue OgrockiSterling Shepard has 34 catches for 714 yards, but the Sooners need to get production from elsewhere as well.
No. 4 Baylor at West Virginia, noon ET (FS1): If any game can outdo last weekend's TCU-Baylor shootout, it's this one. Baylor leads the country with 90.2 plays per game. West Virginia is second with 87.8 plays per game. Like last year, Baylor QB Bryce Petty has been lethal going over the top of opposing defenses. He leads the FBS with 11 touchdown passes of 20 yards or more, including six against TCU -- the most in a game by any Power 5 quarterback in the last four seasons. While Baylor has relied on the long ball, West Virginia has been efficient with quick passes and broken tackles. The Mountaineers top the Big 12 and rank second among Power 5 offenses with 212.5 yards after the catch per game.

Kansas at Texas Tech, 3:30 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Regional): The Jayhawks led Texas Tech 10-0 early in Lawrence last year before giving up 54 unanswered points. Tech leads the all-time series 14-1, with Kansas' only victory coming in Lubbock in 2001. The Jayhawks have not won a Big 12 road game since defeating Iowa State in 2008. At 2-4, Tech is off to its worst start since 1994.

No. 15 Oklahoma State at No. 12 TCU, 4 p.m. ET (FS1): Cowboys QB Daxx Garman has flashed a big-play arm so far. He's averaging 14.4 passing yards per attempt, according to ESPN Stats & Information, the best of any Power 5 QB. In fact since Garman became the starter in Week 3, 72 percent of Oklahoma State's passing yards have come on passes of 15 yards or longer -- the highest percentage of any Power 5 offense. Though he's been inconsistent at times, Garman could have success against the Horned Frogs, who couldn't keep Baylor from throwing over their heads last weekend. But Oklahoma State's defense will have its hands full, too. TCU has 10 touchdown drives of three plays or fewer, tied for third-most in the country.

Iowa State at Texas, 8 p.m. ET (Longhorn Network): The Longhorns lead the all-time series against Iowa State 10-1, including a 31-30 win on a disputed no-fumble call in Ames last year. Both Iowa State QB Sam B. Richardson and Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes are coming off career outings. Swoopes passed for 334 yards, rushed for 50 and accounted for three touchdowns in Texas' narrow loss to Oklahoma. Richardson threw for a career-high 351 yards and three second-half touchdowns to rally Iowa State to a win over Toledo.

Big 12 players in Week 8 spotlight

October, 16, 2014
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Our weekly quest to predict which players are due for a breakout game went better than ever last week, with KD Cannon, DeAndre Washington, Michael Cummings, B.J. Catalon and Steve Edmond all enjoying big performances. Who's going to step up in Week 8? A look at 10 players to watch this weekend:

Baylor CB Xavien Howard: He's quietly racked up nine pass breakups this season and faces probably his best one-on-one threat of the season in Kevin White. Ryan Reid got lots of attention last week -- good and bad -- but I have a feeling Howard will rise to the occasion in Morgantown.

Iowa State DE Cory Morrissey: With no Desmond Harrison (suspension) back for Texas, it's likely Morrissey has one of Iowa State's most advantageous matchups this week when he takes on left tackle Marcus Hutchins, who hasn't been great. This Texas offensive line, while improving, is still vulnerable and Morrissey has a chance to remind us he's one of the league's more underrated defenders.

Kansas LB Ben Heeney: Inspired by the fact we made the mistake of snubbing him for our midseason All-Big 12 team, Heeney will rack up 30 tackles against Texas Tech and makes us look like a bunch of fools. I really wouldn't be shocked. He is playing at an All-Big 12 level, no doubt; we simply ran out of linebacker spots.

Kansas State QB Jake Waters: He got a huge stage against Auburn and made some uncharacteristic mistakes. Here's another big one against Oklahoma, and with the advantage of a bye week, surely this staff has cooked up some good stuff the Sooners won't see coming. Waters is one of the Big 12's best QBs but rarely receives that praise. He'll earn it this week.

Oklahoma RB Alex Ross: Despite his game-changing kick return for a TD, Ross recorded just five touches on offense against Texas. Let's see what he can do with a little more of a workload, and especially some more opportunities in space, as the lightning to Samaje Perine's thunder.

Oklahoma State WR David Glidden: He has a 20-plus yard reception in five of the Pokes' six games this season and is a sneaky dangerous member of what's becoming a fairly diverse receiving corps. There's no one significant go-to guy among those wideouts, at least not statistically, but Glidden can be on Saturday.

TCU DE Mike Tuaua: We didn't hear a whole lot from Tuaua last week -- to his credit, his lone tackle was a sack -- but the Frogs' rising defensive end will need to be impactful this week. Daxx Garman is capable of challenging TCU deep repeatedly, but not if he doesn't have time in the pocket to make the right decisions.

Texas DE Naashon Hughes: The redshirt freshman, a converted linebacker with a great frame, earned his first career start against Oklahoma and is proving to be an ideal fit for Texas' Fox end spot. He was sound in tackling and coverage last week and should get some nice chances to blitz and cause trouble in the backfield against ISU.

Texas Tech CB Nigel Bethel II: After serving his suspension for Tech's nonconference slate, Bethel is back and stepped up in defending Kevin White last week, notching nine tackles. That should be one heck of a confidence-booster for the always-confident true freshman. The big plays are coming soon for him.

West Virginia RB Wendell Smallwood: You can't ask for more from a change-of-pace back than what Smallwood gave last week, rushing for 123 yards on just 15 carries against Texas Tech. WVU needs to be able to keep Baylor's defense honest by attacking with Rushel Shell and Smallwood. Keep an eye on him this week.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Did Iowa State get robbed against Texas a year ago? Jordan Hicks couldn't help but crack a sly grin after hearing the question.

"No," Texas' senior linebacker said. "No, we won that game."

You won't hear Paul Rhoads delving into that topic this week. It's a safe bet that Cyclones AD Jamie Pollard, already out $25,000 this season, isn't touching it either. They've already said plenty in the past, and a full 12 months have now passed.

But it's clear, based on Pollard's comments earlier this month, that there's still somewhat of a scar. Don't expect the Cyclones to forgive and forget when it comes to the controversial goal-line fumble in Ames last season.

"We've been on the short end of several controversial calls," Pollard said on Oct. 4, "and it's hard to sit idle and watch ESPN, Fox, other announcers not debate but feel sorry for Iowa State because maybe there will be another apology for a call."

The play on a Thursday night in Ames on Oct. 3, 2013, was high up on Pollard's list of grievances. Iowa State fans will tell you that Jeremiah George clearly stripped Johnathan Gray at the goal line before he went down, forcing a fumble that could've sealed the deal for Iowa State and its 30-24 lead in the final minute.

Gray will tell you his forward progress was halted, and he was down before the ball came out. That's the story the game officials were sticking to, and replay upheld the call due to a lack of indisputable evidence. Case McCoy stuck in the go-ahead score on the next play, and Jackson Jeffcoat clinched victory with a game-ending interception.

The Gray play rightfully evoked fire from Rhoads in his postgame comments. He expressed his outrage over having his potential game-winning play "taken away" when a fumble should've been "clear to everybody." Rhoads also took a not-too-veiled shot at game officials for the number of penalties (10 for 118 yards) his team received. He later received a public reprimand from the Big 12.

Another source of frustration that week: the cut block by former Texas receiver Mike Davis on ISU's Deon Broomfield also elicited a few days of controversy and, eventually, an apology delivered via one uncomfortable video.

So, yeah, the Cyclones have reason to want a little revenge on Saturday.

"I think they're going to come in here with a chip on their shoulder," Hicks said. "I know their coach is probably preaching that right now, that we shouldn't have won last year and this and that. Whatever it may be, we've got to be ready to match their intensity and exceed that."

Iowa State players have not taken the bait this week when it comes to that questionable call. They've moved on and recognize that the 31-30 game wasn't decided on just that one play.

"You can talk about that [controversial play]," Cyclones defensive end Cory Morrissey said, "but there were plays throughout the game we should have won the game with."

He's right about that. Had the Cyclones not settled for a field goal on their previous possession, after driving all the way down to the Texas 6-yard line, they could've led 34-24 and taken control of the game for good. But, again, that's the past now.

The stakes are much different this time around -- both teams are currently 2-4 -- but this much hasn't changed: Iowa State gave Texas a four-quarter fight in 2013 that UT didn't see coming. They can do so again this weekend.

"Those guys are going to come out and play their tails off. They have a phenomenal coach," Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs said. "I have a lot of respect for him because he gets the most out of those guys.

"They're going to try to upset us and try to beat us. It's going to be a fun game, because those guys are always coming to play us, and it's always been like that since I've been here."

Big 12 Week 8 predictions

October, 16, 2014
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Why Oklahoma will win: The Sooners' defense has the ability to overwhelm KSU’s defense with its speed and athleticism, allowing OU to harass Jake Waters into a mental mistake or two, and Trevor Knight will play better at home than he did against TCU and Texas as the Sooners get things back on track with a tough home win. Oklahoma 28, Kansas State 23 Brandon Chatmon

Why Kansas State will win: Texas Tech burned me with my upset pick last week, but I'm taking another shot. Kansas State is coming off an invaluable bye week, just like it did in 2012 before its upset of the Sooners, and the teams played a terrifically close game a year ago. I think it's a toss-up, so I'm taking the team with the better quarterback. Kansas State 28, Oklahoma 24 – Max Olson

Why Baylor will win: This game comes down to whoever can get a few stops, right? WVU will have the right answers early on, just as it did against Alabama and Oklahoma, and Kevin White will get his. But Baylor pulls away late on the strength of its run game and gets those few needed stops from its D. Baylor 52, West Virginia 38 – Olson

Why West Virginia will win: Underscoring the depth and balance of the Big 12, I’m going heavy on the underdogs this week. The Mountaineers have come close to pulling the upset in their first two tries against top-five opponents. This time, Clint Trickett and Kevin White (and Josh Lambert?) get it done in another wild Big 12 shootout that goes down to the wire. West Virginia 52, Baylor 49 – Jake Trotter

Why TCU will win: Sure, the Horned Frogs are coming off a heartbreaking loss. But remember, they were up 21 at Baylor for a reason. Despite being 5-1, Oklahoma State has struggled to run the ball or protect QB Daxx Garman. TCU has a stout front seven and leads the Big 12 in sacks. Garman’s second career road start could be a painful one. TCU 34, Oklahoma State 24 Trotter

Why Texas Tech will win: Kliff Kingsbury’s squad finally gets a much-needed win against the Jayhawks. The Red Raiders' offense will simply score too many points for KU’s offense to keep up, with Davis Webb having one of his best games of the season. Texas Tech 35, Kansas 21 Chatmon

Why Texas will win: Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes seemed to turn a corner in the Red River Showdown, as he outplayed Trevor Knight. The Texas defense, meanwhile, has been downright dominant in Big 12 play. The Cyclones would love to avenge last year’s controversial loss to the Longhorns. But an improving Swoopes and a dominant Texas defense will be the difference. Texas 27, Iowa State 16Trotter

Season records:
  • Chatmon: 40-4
  • Trotter: 40-4
  • Olson: 39-5

Big 12 morning links

October, 16, 2014
Oct 16
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Saw "Gone Girl" last night and I was not expecting the movie I saw.
  • TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin indeed injured his non-throwing wrist on Saturday, coach Gary Patterson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Travis L. Brown. But it didn't keep him from playing against Baylor. Even though he's worn a soft cast, it hasn't kept him from practicing this week. And it won't keep him playing Saturday against Oklahoma State. The TCU SB Nation site Frogs' O War initially reported Tuesday that Boykin had undergone surgery and would miss 4-6 weeks due to the injury, before later retracting the report. Patterson said Boykin's injury happened early in the Baylor game and that he's been "awesome" in practice. So it doesn't sound like the injury will have any bearing Saturday against the Cowboys.
  • The Longhorns will be without safety Jason Hall on Saturday against Iowa State. He suffered a patellar tendon injury against Oklahoma last week. Hall has been one of the best true freshmen in the league while developing a reputation as a heavy hitter. The Longhorns will miss Hall for as long as he's out, though they have a tailor-made replacement ready in Josh Turner, who was the projected starter at safety before getting suspended in the preseason.
  • Speaking of true freshmen, Iowa State wideout Allen Lazard has lived up to expectations so far in the opinion of the Des Moines Register's Tommy Birch. No disagreement here. He had his best game yet last weekend against Toledo with eight catches for 96 receiving yards. Lazard, who ranks eighth among all true freshmen in receiving according to Birch, is firmly behind Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine and Baylor receiver K.D. Cannon in the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year race. But Lazard has the makings of becoming an excellent receiver in the Big 12 for the next several years.
  • The win over Oklahoma two years ago was the spark in Kansas State's Big 12 championship season. The Wildcats are hoping their return trip to Norman can ignite another charge at the Big 12 crown, writes the Manhattan Mercury's Joshua Kinder. The Wildcats have probably the most difficult remaining schedule of any Big 12 contender. After visiting Oklahoma, K-State still has road trips looming to TCU, West Virginia and Baylor in the regular-season finale. Still, if the Wildcats can prevail in Norman, they have the chance to be a major factor in the Big 12 race.
  • Communication breakdowns have been putting the Oklahoma defense in tough spots, according to the Norman Transcript's Jon Shinn. As a result, the Sooners rank eighth in the Big 12 in third down defense. "It's very hard to stomach," said defensive end Charles Tapper. The Sooners better work out their communication issues this week. Guess who leads the Big 12 in third down offense? That's right, Oklahoma's next opponent in Kansas State, which is converting third downs at a 50 percent a clip.

 

Big 12 stat check: Week 8

October, 15, 2014
Oct 15
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A closer look at one statistic worth keeping an eye on for each Big 12 team entering Week 8:

Baylor: When it comes to the big-play passing game, Bryce Petty is as good as it gets: His 11 touchdowns on passes thrown 20 yards or longer leads the nation. He scored six of those against TCU. A total of 30 of his 48 career passing touchdowns have come on those 20-plus yard throws.

Iowa State: The Cyclone can make a case that they've played one of the toughest schedules this season. Their six opponents thus far have a combined winning percentage of 83.3 percent, highest in the nation. The first five teams they faced -- North Dakota State, Kansas State, Iowa, Baylor and Oklahoma State -- are now a combined 26-3.

Kansas: Michael Cummings' 288 passing yards against Oklahoma State were the most by a Kansas quarterback since Dayne Crist threw for 303 in a loss to TCU on Sept. 15, 2012. That means Kansas has now gone 27 games since its last 300-yard passer. Cummings could be the guy to snap that streak soon.

Kansas State: You know a Bill Snyder-coached team is going to be disciplined. This group is upholding that reputation: K-State's 20 penalties and 162 penalty yards on the season are fewest among all Power 5 conference teams. Its underrated defense has only accounted for four of those mistakes.

Oklahoma: Against Texas, the Sooners became the nation's first team in two years to win despite a -250 yardage margin. The last time a Big 12 team pulled that off was 2004, when Colorado beat Washington State despite being outgained by 277 yards. The last time we've seen anything close to that in a Big 12 game was Kansas State's 41-34 win over Texas Tech in 2011 (-241 yards).

Oklahoma State: Give Kansas a little credit. Oklahoma State finished with 275 yards of total offense on Saturday, their fewest in a game since the 2010 Cotton Bowl. In fact, OSU snapped its 57-game streak of at least 300 total yards, a run that had ranked second-longest nationally behind Oregon (59).

TCU: A few of the more impressive gains when you compare TCU's offense through five games to TCU's first five games of 2013: The Horned Frogs' total offense is up 188.6 yards per game, scoring is up 17.8 points per game and passing is up 132 yards per game. It helps that TCU has run 100 more plays through five games than at this point last season.

Texas: One of the more impressive aspects of Texas' play on defense: its effectiveness in the first half of games. Texas' defense has been responsible for allowing just 12 points in the first half this season and is holding foes to 57.8 first-half passing yards (No. 2 in FBS in that category) and 54.7 rushing yards.

Texas Tech: It's been a rough run for the Red Raiders, but one area they don't get enough credit for: They're keeping Davis Webb clean. Webb has been sacked only two times this season and Tech's offensive line has given up five sacks, allowing them on 1.7 percent of their snaps. That rate ranks No. 3 nationally. Freshman Patrick Mahomes took the other three sacks.

West Virginia: Baylor's comeback against TCU was incredible, but West Virginia's rally in Lubbock was nearly just as improbable. According to ESPN Stats & Info's win probability data, the Mountaineers' odds of victory with 7:32 left in the fourth quarter (after giving up a Justin Stockton 69-yard touchdown run) was only 4.2 percent.
In our weekly Big 12 roundtable, we examine the biggest snubs from our midseason All-Big 12 team, as well as prognosticate the most important Big 12 matchup in the second half of the season:

Who is the offensive snub with the biggest gripe on our midseason All-Big 12 team?

Brandon Chatmon: Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty immediately comes to mind with his stellar production and playmaking, but Texas Tech's Jakeem Grant is quietly having a superb campaign for the disappointing Red Raiders. He leads the Big 12 in all-purpose yards per game (163.8), averages 15.9 yards per touch and ranks second in the conference with 7.3 receptions per game. Grant's excellence hasn't transformed into wins, but the 5-foot-6 dynamo is one of the Big 12's top playmakers.

[+] EnlargePetty
AP Photo/LM OteroBaylor QB Bryce Petty still has time to make a name for himself as one of the Big 12's best players.
Jake Trotter: I had the most difficult time settling on a vote for quarterback. Because Petty and TCU's Trevone Boykin have been awesome, too. Boykin is the league's most improved player, and has fueled TCU into Big 12 title contention. Petty had a game for the ages in the Baylor's 61-58 comeback win against the Horned Frogs last weekend. Clint Trickett has the best body of work so far. But only slightly. The race for All-Big 12 QB honors will be a fun one.

Max Olson: Making a case for Petty as Big 12's top quarterback at midseason obviously isn't difficult, even if he missed a game and a half with a back injury. He made up for his showing at Texas with a phenomenal finish against TCU and we probably haven't seen his best yet. Trickett has been better by most measures, with a far better completion percentage, but realistically if Petty had been able to pad his stats in non-conference play he'd be right there with him. There's still plenty of time for him to push his way back into the Heisman discussion and win Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year again.

Who is the defensive snub with the biggest gripe?

Chatmon: Oklahoma State cornerback Kevin Peterson has been a rock in the Cowboys' secondary. He could be the Big 12's top cornerback and tends to make teams think twice before testing him. The junior has eight pass breakups (second in the Big 12) and one interception while setting the standard for an inexperienced OSU defensive backfield.

Trotter: The only defensive player I had a hard time being left off was Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney. The Jayhawks have played good defense again this season. And Henney, who is third in the league in tackles and first in tackles for loss, has been at the forefront of that. But with the return of Jordan Hicks and the emergence of Paul Dawson, linebacker has turned into a deep position in the league. That edged out "Captain Heeney," who will surely be in the running for end-of-season honors.

Olson: Two guys who were in the mix: TCU linebacker Marcus Mallet and Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs. Mallet continues to play at an extremely high level and made game-changing plays against Oklahoma and Baylor. It's not inconceivable that the Frogs could have two All-Big 12 linebackers in Mallet and Dawson by the end of the season. Diggs is having a nice senior season, too, with 31 tackles, two INTs and two sacks. He too should be a strong all-conference candidate by season's end.

What will be the most important game the second half of the season?

Chatmon: Baylor's November visit to Oklahoma and Kansas State's late season trip to Waco, Texas, are games to watch, but I have a feeling Bedlam will be big again. Big 12 title implications have become commonplace when Oklahoma State takes on Oklahoma and there's no reason to expect that to change this season with those two squads entering the season's second half with a 10-2 combined record. Even if one or both teams stumble before the early December meeting, last season proved you can never assume anything when the Sooners and Cowboys face off.

Trotter: Before the season, I predicted the Nov. 8 clash between Baylor and Oklahoma would be the league's most important game. And I'm sticking with it as the most important game of the second half. The Big 12 is way more wide open at this point than anyone could have predicted. But if the Sooners beat Baylor they'll have a good chance to win the league and make the playoff. The same goes for Baylor.

Olson: Baylor's season finale stands out to me. Just like last season, I think it could come down to the final week. This time, it's a Dec. 6 matchup of BU and Kansas State in Waco. You remember how much better K-State was playing by the end of the year last season, right? Nobody wanted to play them. It's a terrific matchup from a talent and scheme standpoint, and after what the Bears did to then-No. 1 KSU in Waco in 2012, I'm sure Bill Snyder's squad would like nothing more than to spoil some playoff hopes.

ESPN.com midseason All-Big 12 team

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
11:00
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We're halfway through the season, which means it's time for our midseason All-Big 12 team. There's plenty of football still to play. And this midseason team might be very different from the end-of-season one. But this list recognizes the players who have distinguished themselves thus far.

After careful consideration and friendly debate, our midseason All-Big 12 team:

Offense

QB: Clint Trickett, West Virginia: Baylor's Bryce Petty had the Big 12's best game last weekend, but Trickett has had the better season so far. He leads the Big 12 in QBR and completion percentage and is third nationally in passing, fueling the Mountaineers' surprising 4-2 start.

RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor: The Big 12's top rusher has 326 rushing yards over Baylor's last two games, including 104 in the fourth quarter of the Bears' monumental comeback win against TCU.

RB: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma: This true freshman is second in the league in rushing, first in rushing touchdowns and delivered an historic performance at West Virginia with 242 yards and four scores.

WR: Kevin White, West Virginia: White has been as dominant as any player in the league. He easily leads the country with an average of 148 yards receiving per game, and has come up with a hundred yards receiving in every game.

WR: Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma: It's hard to imagine where the Oklahoma passing game would be without Shepard. He has accounted for 48 percent of Trevor Knight's passing yards.

WR: K.D. Cannon, Baylor: The true freshman might already be the most dangerous big-play receiver in the league, averaging 62.5 yards per catch on his six touchdowns.

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State: The senior has been a big part of the Cyclones' offense with 22 receptions for 190 yards and four touchdowns, including a one-handed scoring grab at Oklahoma State.

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor: The Bears' franchise left tackle is thriving again after a return from a season-ending back injury. He has graded out the highest on the offensive line of the nation's top scoring offense.

OL: Joey Hunt, TCU: Hunt is the best offensive lineman on the Big 12's most improved offense, which is second in the league in scoring with almost 46 points per game.

OL: B.J. Finney, Kansas State: Finney is well on his way to a third consecutive All-Big 12 season as the lynchpin of the K-State offensive line.

OL: Quinton Spain, West Virginia: He and Mark Glowinski form one of the top guard duos in the country for the league's second-best passing offense.

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech: Arkansas coach Bret Bielema singled out Clark's prowess after facing him. Despite throwing the ball on almost every down, Tech leads the league in fewest sacks allowed with Clark protecting Davis Webb's blindside.

AP: Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State: The speedy Hill has kick return touchdowns the past two weeks, and has proven to be tough and durable as well as really fast.

Defense

DE: Shawn Oakman, Baylor: The freaky 6-foot-9 end is second in the league with five sacks and fourth with eight tackles for loss.

DT: Chucky Hunter, TCU: Hunter has been the anchor of the TCU defensive line, joining Davion Pierson to give Gary Patterson's squad one disruptive duo up front.

DT: Malcom Brown, Texas: This 320-pound monster has been unblockable, and the most disruptive defensive player in the league.

DE: Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State: Ogbah has broken out with five sacks, including two on defending Heisman winner Jameis Winston in the opener. In addition to being tied for second in the Big 12 in sacks, he's also second with 9.5 tackles for loss.

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma: Striker has 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss, and his relentless pass-rushing ability makes him the primary focus of opposing offensive coordinators.

LB: Jordan Hicks, Texas: The Longhorns' fifth-year senior is racking up 10 tackles per game, and is bringing leadership to the Texas defense after an injury-plagued career.

LB: Paul Dawson, TCU: The Big 12's leading tackler is on pace for the most single-season tackles in the Gary Patterson era. He also had the game-winning pick-six to upset the Sooners.

CB: Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma: Sanchez has given up some big plays, but he's countered with big plays of his own. He's second nationally with five interceptions, including a pick-six against Texas.

CB: Danzel McDaniel, Kansas State: McDaniel hits more like a linebacker than a cornerback. He's been another impressive junior-college find for Bill Snyder.

S: Sam Carter, TCU: Carter doesn't have eye-popping numbers, but he's once again been the heart of the TCU defense.

S: Karl Joseph, West Virginia: The enforcer of the West Virginia secondary is second among Big 12 defensive backs with 45 tackles.

Special teams

K: Josh Lambert, West Virginia: All he's done is nail two game-winning field goals as time has expired to beat Maryland (47 yards) and Texas Tech (55 yards) on the road.

P: Trevor Pardula, Kansas: He's gotten plenty of chances, but he's made the most of them, averaging 44.8 yards per punt, while putting 37.8 percent of them inside the opponents' 20.

PR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State: Lockett, who is second in the nation in punt returns, once again has been an electric all-around playmaker. He's also sixth in the league in receiving.

KR: Alex Ross, Oklahoma: Ross leads the nation in kickoff returns, taking two of his nine kick returns to the house for touchdowns.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
10:00
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Texas Tech picked up a commit at a key position, and Iowa State managed to lure away a commit from a conference foe over the weekend.

October is the perfect month for more and more commitments to take place, as recruits are taking official visits and finalizing their college plans. Recruiting could get even more interesting as we get further into the month.

Here’s a recap of what happened in Big 12 recruiting:

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
2:30
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Here’s the latest around the Big 12 on the recruiting trail this week:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 12
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Several recruits were on hand to watch the Bears’ 61-58 victory over TCU, including Gilmer, Texas, athlete Blake Lynch, a current Baylor commit. He is one of four commitments who are considered four-star prospects.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Junior college defensive end Larry Jefferson committed to Iowa State after a weekend visit. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound prospect flipped from a previous commitment to West Virginia after watching the Cyclones knock off Toledo 37-30 during homecoming weekend.

KANSAS
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Jayhawks landed a commitment from Class of 2016 running back Aubrey White. The highly regarded White spurned offers from Oklahoma, TCU, Arkansas, Nebraska and others to pledge to Kansas. It will be interesting to see how KU’s coaching situation impacts White’s recruitment before February 2016.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats reportedly offered Class of 2016 athlete A.J. Taylor from Kansas City (Missouri) Rockhurst. It’s the first offer for the 5-foot-11, 185-pound prospect.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Sooners reportedly offered Class of 2016 defensive end Amani Bledsoe. The three-star prospect from Lawrence (Kansas) High School also has offers from Kansas, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and others.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 4
The latest: Solidifying the safety position has been a clear focus for the Cowboys during this recruiting cycle. ESPN 300 safety Kevin Henry joins Kenneth McGruder and Za’Carrius Green to give Oklahoma State three safety commitments who are rated 78 or higher by ESPN Scouts Inc.

TCU
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: All 16 of TCU’s current commitments are from Texas but the Horned Frogs, surprisingly, have not secured a member of the ESPN 300 and four-star receiver J.F. Thomas is the lone commitment with more than three stars. TCU has signed at least one member of the ESPN 300 in every class since 2011.

TEXAS
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 8
The latest: The Longhorns reportedly offered Class of 2016 prospect Derrick Brown. The Sugar Hill (Georgia) Lanier defensive tackle is the No. 141 player in the ESPN Junior 300.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: It was a disappointing weekend on the field, but things could be looking up as the Red Raiders hosted several recruits, including elite receiver Tyron Johnson, the No. 24 player in the ESPN 300. Johnson tweeted that he enjoyed his Tech visit and would be a huge get for Kliff Kingsbury’s squad if he picks Tech. The four-star prospect from New Orleans Warren Easton has a large list of offers, including Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Alabama, Auburn and others.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 21
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Dana Holgorsen’s squad leads the entire Big 12 in total commits with 21. Quarterback David Sills is easily the Mountaineers' most interesting commitment. You might remember him as the player who committed to Lane Kiffin and USC when he was in a 13-year-old in the seventh grade. He decommited from the Trojans earlier this year and plans to enroll at West Virginia in January.

Best of the visits: Big 12

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12
3:31
PM ET
If you were looking for football entertainment, the Big 12 delivered Saturday.

All five scheduled games featuring conference teams finished with winning margins of seven points or fewer. Saturday included a ridiculous, fourth-quarter comeback by Baylor, a last-second field goal for West Virginia and Oklahoma holding off Texas in one of college football’s most storied rivalries.

And, of course, rowdy home crowds. And many big-time recruits were present to see it all.

The matchup between Baylor and TCU was one of the most-anticipated games in college football. It was expected to be good; it wasn’t, however, expected to be borderline epic. Baylor beat TCU, 61-58, by scoring 24 unanswered points in the final 11 minutes of the fourth quarter.

The comeback performance pleased many Baylor recruits and commits, including three-star ATH pledge Tony Nicholson.


Four-star ATH commit Blake Lynch was in attendance with Gilmer High School teammates Quinn Fluellen, Chase Tate and Dimitri Fort. The experience, Lynch said, was one to remember, and it further solidified his pledge to the Bears.


Lynch, ESPN 300 RB Ja'Mycal Hasty and ESPN Junior 300 QB Zach Smith were among the players in Waco to see Baylor’s victory. LB Baron Browning also had a chance to take in the game. Browning, expected to be one of the nation’s top targets in the Class of 2017, took pictures with a couple of the Baylor players, including 6-foot-9 defensive lineman Shawn Oakman, who makes everybody look small -- including the 6-3 Browning.


The Red River Showdown between Oklahoma and Texas lived up to its expectations. ESPN 300 offensive lineman Josh Wariboko, once a Sooners commit who reopened his process to explore other options, was in Dallas and described the atmosphere on Twitter with five words -- and an Oklahoma-favorable hashtag.


ESPN 300 LB Malik Jefferson was at the Cotton Bowl, and although the Longhorns didn’t win, he enjoyed the experience. Jefferson tweeted about chatting with Longhorns fans hoping he’ll choose Texas on Dec. 19 and then gave them a message via Twitter.


One player keeping an eye on the game from start to finish was Oklahoma commit Bobby Evans, who, after the game, showed his love to the Sooners in “Breakfast of Champions” fashion.


In Lubbock, West Virginia snatched a victory away from Texas Tech with a 55-yard field goal with no time on the clock. While it left an always-loud Jones AT&T Stadium somewhat quiet, the loss didn’t affect how ESPN 300 WR Tyron Johnson felt about the atmosphere. Johnson was on an official visit and thoroughly enjoyed what Lubbock has to offer.


Johnson in a tweet added that there is “way more to life outside of New Orleans.” That could be good news for the Red Raiders, who are in a recruiting battle with LSU to land Louisiana’s top-ranked player and the nation’s No. 2 receiver.


Also in Lubbock over the weekend was ESPN 300 DT Breiden Fehoko, the Red Raiders’ top-ranked defensive commit. Fehoko had a chance to reconnect with coaches and players, but the trip also was a chance to be reunited with family. Older brother V.J. is a senior linebacker for Texas Tech. Another older brother, Sam, played at Texas Tech and is now a graduate assistant for the Red Raiders.


Iowa State didn’t play a conference foe, but the Cyclones managed to hold off Toledo, 37-30. Iowa State had a few visitors in Ames, including their top-ranked commit in RB Devine Ozigbo, who enjoyed everything from the game atmosphere to taking pictures with fans and cheerleaders to eating at the well-revered Hickory Park Restaurant.

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World Famous Hickory Park Restaurant !!!

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