Big 12: Kansas State Wildcats
Almost three weeks later, the list has transformed, much like the Big 12 standings. Here's a look at the overall efficiency of all 10 Big 12 offenses, with the help of ESPN Stats & Information, including each team's points per drive during the past three weeks.
T-1. Kansas State -- 3.11 points per possession overall
Key stat: The Wildcats' success on third down has been a key to their efficiency. They convert 50 percent of their third-down conversion attempts.
Last three games: KSU has been even better in recent weeks, averaging 3.53 points per possession in games against UTEP, Texas Tech and Oklahoma as Jake Waters has gotten comfortable in his dual-threat role.
Future outlook: The Wildcats' running game has been solid but not spectacular, but KSU’s efficient offensive numbers should continue with Waters' ability to provide a run-pass threat and Curry Sexton's emergence alongside Tyler Lockett.
T-1. Baylor -- 3.11
Key stat: Baylor has gained 58 percent of the possible yards on its drives this season, best in the Big 12. The conference average is 46.7 percent.
Last three games: As the competition has stepped up, Baylor’s offense has slowed down. The Bears averaged 2.22 points per drive in games against Texas, TCU and West Virginia.
Future outlook: In recent weeks, the Bears and Bryce Petty haven’t displayed the consistency that made them the conference’s most explosive offense. All the ingredients still remain for Baylor’s elite production to return in the second half of the season.
3. TCU -- 2.79
Key stat: The Horned Frogs are averaging 83.2 plays per game, ranking behind only Baylor and West Virginia in the Big 12. It’s a clear sign TCU has made a smooth transition into its new up-tempo attack.
Last three games: The Horned Frogs' offense has continued to be productive against Oklahoma, Baylor and Oklahoma State, averaging 2.54 points per drive in its last three games. Trevone Boykin has been at his best against increased competition.
Future outlook: There’s no reason to think TCU’s offense will slow down any time soon with Boykin and a roster full of big-play running backs and receivers.
4. Oklahoma -- 2.51
Key stat: The Sooners score touchdowns 73.3 percent of the time in the red zone, second in the Big 12.
Last three games: OU averaged 1.95 points per drive against TCU, Texas and Kansas State as a lack of big plays has resulted in Sooners stumbles.
Future outlook: More playmakers must emerge to join Sterling Shepard or the Sooners could tumble down this list.
5. West Virginia -- 2.43
Key stat: Only 22 percent of WVU’s drives have ended without a first down or touchdown. Only Baylor has a better percentage (21.3), and the conference average is 29.3.
Last three games: The Mountaineers averaged 2.26 points per possession in games against Kansas, Texas Tech and Baylor.
Future outlook: As long as Clint Trickett and Kevin White continue playing like the Big 12’s best quarterback-receiver duo, the sky is the limit for WVU’s offense.
6. Texas Tech -- 2.3
Key stat: The Red Raiders have committed a turnover on 17 percent of their drives, worst in the Big 12.
Last three games: Tech averaged 1.98 points per drive in games against Kansas, Kansas State and West Virginia.
Future outlook: Kliff Kingsbury’s offense would be just fine if it could cut down the turnovers and limit the penalties. Quarterback Davis Webb and a reborn running game make this offense one to keep an eye on.
7. Oklahoma State -- 2.12
Key stat: The Cowboys have settled for field goals on 17 percent of their drives, worst in the Big 12.
Last three games: OSU averaged 1.4 points per drive in games against Kansas, Iowa State and TCU.
Future outlook: As the Cowboys look toward the second half of their season, the offensive line needs to steadily improve if the Pokes hope to rise up this list.
8. Iowa State -- 2.07
Key stat: The Cyclones are averaging 4.96 yards per play, with only Kansas (4.6) averaging less yards per play.
Last three games: ISU is getting better as the season progresses, averaging 2.5 points per drive in its last three games against Texas, Toledo and Oklahoma State.
Future outlook: The Cyclones are starting to find a rhythm under new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino and could rise up this list in the second half of the season.
9. Texas -- 1.58
Key stat: The Longhorns' average drive distance is 25.8 yards per drive, ranking ninth in the Big 12. The Big 12 average is 32.6, with West Virginia leading the conference at 39.5.
Last three games: UT averaged 1.72 points per drive in games against Baylor, Oklahoma and Iowa State.
Future outlook: Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes is coming along behind center after a poor start. If he continues to play like he did against Iowa State last Saturday, UT’s offense could make some noise in the second half of the season.
10. Kansas -- 1.08
Key stat: The Jayhawks have managed a touchdown on just 12.9 percent of their drives, worst in the Big 12. The conference average is 28.7 percent.
Last three games: KU has averaged 1.09 points per drive in games against West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.
Future outlook: The offense is on a upswing with Michael Cummings at quarterback under Clint Bowen. After struggles in Bowen’s first game at WVU, KU averaged 1.33 points per drive against OSU and 1.5 points per drive against Tech in the past two weeks.
What has been the strongest position in the league so far?
Max Olson: I agree it's linebacker right now, but I think we'll be talking about this group of wide receivers as being special by the end of the season. West Virginia's Kevin White is playing at Biletnikoff Award level. Sterling Shepard is a potential All-American. You can make a case that KD Cannon, Tyler Lockett, Josh Doctson, Antwan Goodley, Jakeem Grant and John Harris are playing at an all-conference level or should be soon. Throw in underrated guys such as Mario Alford, Curry Sexton, Kolby Listenbee and Bradley Marquez and this position group looks deep and impressive in 2014.
Jake Trotter: Linebacker is a deep position in the Big 12. But I'm going with wide receiver. White has begun to generate Heisman buzz. Shepard has had an All-American season. And Lockett and Goodley are All-American-caliber players. It doesn't stop there. Doctson had 225 yards receiving over the weekend. Grant could break 100 receptions. Harris could pass 1,000 yards. And true freshmen Allen Lazard (Iowa State) and Cannon are budding stars. There's no better league for the position in the country.
At 3-4, both Texas Tech and Texas are holding out hope of qualifying for a bowl game. Of the two, who has the better shot?
Chatmon: Texas Fight! Or least that's what Charlie Strong's team looks like it will do for the remainder of the 2014 season. The Longhorns' defense is superb and Tyrone Swoopes is looking better and better with each game, surpassing my expectations for the sophomore quarterback. Even with three of its final five games away from Austin, I think Texas will find a way to go bowling in Strong's debut season.
Olson: That Texas Tech schedule just scares me too much. The Red Raiders go to TCU, host Texas, then a bye, home against Oklahoma, on the road at Iowa State and a meeting Baylor at AT&T Stadium to finish that run off. Are there two obvious wins on that slate? That's just a brutal ask. Texas doesn't have it much easier -- they'll probably have to beat Tech, West Virginia and Oklahoma State to win six -- but already having OU and Baylor out of the way at least gives them the upper hand here.
Trotter: Given their remaining schedules, it's possible -- if not probable -- that neither qualifies for a bowl. But even though the Longhorns have to go to Lubbock, I give them the better chance. Texas has been playing better than Tech as of late. The Longhorns have the decidedly superior defense. And Swoopes seems to be gaining confidence with every start. The Red Raiders will have to beat either No. 10 TCU, No. 17 Oklahoma or No. 12 Baylor, just to have a chance at a bowl. And they'll be heavy underdogs in all three.
Chatmon: No. That just changes who will spend the game running for their life. Some Cowboys fans might point the finger at Daxx Garman, but the Cowboys' struggles are rooted in the problems up front with a inexperienced offensive line. OSU is averaging 3.69 yards per carry (96th among FBS teams) and has a 7.5 sack percentage (99th among FBS teams). It doesn't matter who is playing quarterback.
Olson: I'm with Brandon on this. No point in crossing that bridge unless Rudolph begins to consistently and seriously outplay Garman in practice. Mike Gundy says he's getting maximum reps during the week. That's a good start. But you can't throw the rookie in there, behind that offensive line, out of sheer curiosity of whether he's a little better than Garman. I get the whole build-for-the-future viewpoint, but isn't J.W. Walsh still the imminent future? The potential downsides still seem like they outweigh the marginal benefits, at least for now.
Trotter: Rudolph intrigues me. The ESPN recruiting scouts loved his skill set , and he was a winner in high school. But with only five games remaining, I don't see the point in pulling his redshirt. This Oklahoma State team is not contending for a Big 12 championship, regardless, due to other issues, namely along the offensive line. The staff clearly feels he's not ready, or else they would have given him a shot early in the season after Walsh's injury in Week 2. Rudolph might very well be the Cowboys' QB of the future. But it's way too late to squander his redshirt for the last five games of a rebuilding season.
- Gary Patterson didn't think his offense would evolve this quickly. How could he? TCU's head coach has concerns about where this offense was heading after spring ball was up, which makes these impeccable six-game results even more surprising and gratifying. The rise of Trevone Boykin under Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie stands out, of course, but Patterson deserves just as much credit for finding not only the right two guys to install and instill what he wanted, but to also do so while working together seemingly seamlessly.
- Best of luck to Baylor offensive lineman Troy Baker, whose college playing days are over after an MRI revealed the senior suffered a torn ACL against West Virginia. He started in seven games at right tackle and had already gone through this process before after a torn ACL in the spring in 2013. Pat Colbert filled in on Saturday and gets the first shot at keeping that job, but this means Baylor is working with its backup plan at right guard and tackle for the rest of the season.
- You're not going to sucker Bill Snyder into devoting any attention to the College Football Playoff race. Now that his Wildcats are in the national discussion following their upset of Oklahoma, their head coach couldn't care less. Texas is the only thing on his mind, and anything else is a waste of his time. That's the only approach he can take, and to his credit Snyder is going to say that with complete honesty. If K-State does make a run here, though, no doubt he'll have to do some campaigning if they Big 12 ends up with co-champs or tiebreaker drama.
- West Virginia didn't let Baylor turn their Saturday meeting into a track meet. That was essential. How'd they do it? The Mountaineers are dispelling the myth that they prefer finesse over physical, writes Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail. Be sure to read what WVU's coaches said about last year's Baylor game. You can tell how seriously they and their players took being the more aggressive team and how much pride played a role in that upset. WVU showed in its blocking and hitting a lot of things to be encouraged about going forward.
- No word yet on the severity, but Kansas receiver Tony Pierson is being evaluated for an injury in his neck area during KU's bye week. Let's hope it's not serious. Pierson is too fun to watch when he's at his best. If he has to miss time, at least the Jayhawks have the promising connection of Michael Cummings to Nigel King. He's a wideout Cummings definitely seems to trust, even if the numbers last week didn't make that obvious.
Total commits: 12
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: There aren't many spots left in Baylor's class, but one of them is presumably being saved for Waco Midway four-star safety Kahlil Haughton. He took an official visit to Arkansas last weekend and could take his official trip to a Baylor game on Nov. 1. Haughton has already taken officials to Oklahoma and Nebraska, and his final two trips are expected to go to BU and Texas Tech.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones' latest pledge came from Itawamba (Mississippi) C.C. -- defensive lineman Xavier Pegues. He committed one day after juco teammate Larry Jefferson picked ISU. Both big men attended Iowa State's win over Toledo this month. Pegues, a 6-foot-3, 270-pound lineman, will likely play defensive tackle next year.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Despite the coaching change, Kansas' recruiting class has stayed intact to this point. The Jayhawks aren't making many new offers under interim coach Clint Bowen, and its committed prospects seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach on how this season and subsequent coaching search play out.
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: One recruit expected to be in Manhattan on Saturday for the Wildcats' game against Texas is Kylan Johnson. The three-star safety from Dallas Skyline is planning to take an official visit and is reportedly also considering Texas Tech and Arkansas.
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Sooners had a surprising star on campus for an official visit this weekend: Texas A&M commit Kyler Murray, the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the nation. The five-star from Allen, Texas, also attended OU's Red River Showdown win last week before taking in A&M's loss to Ole Miss.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 4
The latest: Playing at TCU gave OSU coaches a chance to check in on their DFW-area commitments on Friday night. The Pokes staff got a chance to watch their coveted ESPN 300 running back pledge, Ronald Jones II, rush for 130 yards and two scores (including a 73-yard TD) to help McKinney North beat rival McKinney.
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Horned Frogs had a nice collection of 2016 recruits in the house Saturday for their beatdown of OSU, including No. 1 overall recruit Greg Little and ESPN Junior 300 defensive backs Jared Mayden and Jaylon Jones. Three more important visitors: 2015 three-star corner DeShawn Raymond, LSU commit Hanner Shipley and 2017 athlete Anthony Hines III, who holds more than 50 offers.
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 8
The latest: The Longhorns got a critical opportunity on Saturday to convince receiver John Burt to stick with his commitment. The ESPN 300 receiver from Florida is contemplating flipping his commitment to Auburn after taking an official visit there this season. He returned to Austin this weekend for an unofficial visit to watch Texas' 48-45 win over Iowa State. Burt has been committed to UT since July.
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Red Raiders landed a commitment last Sunday from three-star defensive tackle Courtney Wallace of Monroe (Louisiana) Neville. He turned down a dozen offers to become the fourth defender in Tech's class. This Sunday, TTU extended an offer to ESPN Junior 300 linebacker Dontavious Jackson, the Houston Elsik standout who now holds six offers.
Total commits: 21
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The latest member of the Mountaineers' class is Longwood, Florida, defensive end Adam Shuler. He committed on Saturday after taking an official visit to WVU earlier this month for the Kansas game. The 6-foot-5 end turned down offers from Cincinnati, Purdue and Indiana.
Team of the week: West Virginia and Kansas State split the honor this week after toppling Big 12 preseason co-favorites Baylor and Oklahoma. The Mountaineers dominated the fourth quarter on their way to a 41-27 victory over the Bears. Quarterback Clint Trickett, whose father was hospitalized over the weekend, led West Virginia with 322 passing yards and three touchdowns, while the Mountaineer defense put the clamps on Baylor’s high-powered attack. Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters was just as impressive, totaling three touchdowns in the Wildcats’ 31-30 victory over the Sooners. With their big wins, West Virginia and K-State emphatically inserted themselves into the Big 12 title race.
Disappointment of the week: With a surging QB, a veteran offensive line and nine returning defensive starters, the Sooners went into the season with expectations of qualifying for the inaugural playoff. Those dreams have been all but dashed after Oklahoma’s second loss in the last three weeks. The Sooners outgained K-State. But they couldn’t overcome numerous miscues, which included Trevor Knight’s pick-six pass, Durron Neal’s interception toss off a reverse and Michael Hunnicutt’s two missed field goals and blocked extra point. Oklahoma is now tied with Texas for sixth in the Big 12 standings.
Big (offensive) man on campus: There were several spectacular offensive performances this weekend, notably by TCU receiver Josh Doctson, Waters, West Virginia receiver Kevin White, Oklahoma receiver Sterling Shepard and Texas Tech running back DeAndre Washington. But the honor here goes to quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, who led the Longhorns on consecutive scoring drives late in the fourth quarter to lift Texas to a dramatic 48-45 win over Iowa State. The first drive, he rushed for 28 yards, then hit Jaxon Shipley on a 22-yard screen to convert a third-and-long, which led to Malcolm Brown’s touchdown plunge on the next play. Swoopes, however, wasn’t done. After Iowa State tied the game with 28 seconds to play, Swoopes came right back with back-to-back bombs to Shipley and Josh Harris to set up Nick Rose’s 21-yard game-winning field goal. All told, Swoopes threw for 322 yards and ran for another 95.
Big (defensive) man on campus: Sunflower State linebackers Ben Heeney and Jonathan Truman were phenomenal this weekend, combining for 38 tackles. Truman was instrumental in K-State’s late goal-line stand in Norman. Heeney added a 37-yard interception return in the Jayhawks’ 34-21 loss at Texas Tech. But the edge here goes to West Virginia defensive end Shaquille Riddick, who sacked Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty three times in a swarming breakout performance. Riddick, who transferred in from FCS school Gardner-Webb in the offseason, added another tackle for loss, as the Mountaineers held Baylor 26 points below its season average.
Special-teams player of the week: The Sooners fell a single point short against the Wildcats, and K-State defensive tackle Travis Britz was the reason why. He busted through the line of scrimmage, and got a hand up to bat away Michael Hunnicutt’s extra-point attempt with 10 minutes to go in the game. Who knows how much the block affected the psyche of Hunnicutt, who later also missed a potential game-winning field goal from 19 yards out. Either way, it was a monumental play by Britz, who led the country in special teams blocks last season.
Play of the week: Even in defeat, Baylor had the hit of the day in college football, as Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman decleated West Virginia cornerback Terrell Chestnut to clear a path for teammate Antwan Goodley’s 63-yard touchdown. Officials initially ejected Coleman for targeting, but reversed the call after viewing replay. Chestnut did not return to the game after taking this violent, but clean hit.
Stat of the week: Baylor broke a Big 12 record with 215 penalty yards at West Virginia, also shattering the previous Baylor record of 157 yards set in 1976. The Bears were flagged 18 times in Morgantown, including seven times for pass interference. As a result, Baylor has overtaken Texas Tech for the national lead in both penalties and penalty yardage.
Quote of the week: "You better get some help." -- West Virginia WR Kevin White, who told Baylor CB Xavien Howard that after burning him for a touchdown in the first quarter. White finished with eight catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Bears.
Welcome to a brave new world of Big 12 football.
Aldous Huxley told us things could get weird. And chaos reigned in a wild Big 12 weekend, as heavyweights Baylor and Oklahoma went down, leaving preseason predictions (and Morgantown) smoldering, the conference race hazy and the league’s hopes for playoff inclusion on the brink.
The depth of teams has boosted the Big 12’s reputation, firmly cementing it as the nation’s second-best conference behind the almighty SEC. But will the self-cannibalization also knock the Big 12 out of the playoff party?
We’re about to find out. And either way, the next six weeks should be fun.
As many as five teams could still realistically win the Big 12, making it the tightest conference race in the country according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, and three Big 12 teams still have a shot to make the playoff (though a fourth, Oklahoma, might also have a chance in an Armageddon-level scenario -- more on that later).
But out of the dust from this past weekend, TCU has emerged as the league’s best hope to do both.
According to FPI, the Horned Frogs have a 31 percent chance to win the Big 12, up 22 percentage points from last week on the back of a resounding 42-9 victory over Oklahoma State, coupled with Baylor’s loss at West Virginia.
TCU’s 30-7 nonconference victory over Minnesota (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) looks better and better. And the Horned Frogs’ lone defeat at Baylor, while catastrophic at the time, won’t look bad in the eyes of the playoff selection committee in the long run.
But as dominant as TCU has been, running the table won’t be a cinch, even with the Sooners and Bears in the rearview mirror. And the first two weeks in November should determine TCU’s playoff fate. The Horned Frogs go to Morgantown (assuming it’s still standing) Nov. 1, then welcome No. 11 Kansas State the following weekend. A two-game sweep would all but catapult the Horned Frogs into the playoff. But a loss in either would further the pandemonium.
At the moment, Baylor is the other co-favorite to win the league, even after the loss at West Virginia. FPI also gives the Bears a 31 percent chance of winning the Big 12. Baylor has the head-to-head advantage over TCU. And the Bears have only one road game remaining -- at Oklahoma Nov. 8 in a game everyone pegged as the game of the year in the Big 12 before the season. Baylor will have another chance to impress the playoff committee in the regular-season finale against Kansas State.
But even if the Bears win out (FPI gives them a 17.9 percent chance of doing so), their nonconference schedule could ultimately doom them. Baylor’s two FBS nonconference wins came against teams ranked 114th (Buffalo) and 125th (SMU) in the FPI. When stacked against other potential one-loss teams, that won’t look good. Which is why ESPN playoff guru Brad Edwards says Baylor needs the other Power 5 leagues to produce two-loss champions in order to get back in the mix.
Yet while Baylor might need help to get in the playoff, Kansas State is the lone team in the Big 12 that truly controls its own destiny for an outright conference title. After a 31-30 win at Oklahoma, the Wildcats might control their destiny in the playoff hunt, too.
But that doesn’t mean it will be easy.
Of all the Big 12 contenders, K-State has the toughest remaining road. The Wildcats still have to travel to TCU, West Virginia and Baylor, all games they could be underdogs in. K-State has a 17.1 percent chance to win the league according to FPI but only a 1.9 percent chance of winning out. Having lost to Auburn in nonconference, the Wildcats would likely have to win out, too, to have a chance. And even then, K-State would probably need Auburn to fall out of contention, since the Tigers would hold the head-to-head advantage over the Wildcats in the eyes of the committee.
Still, K-State has a feather-in-cap win in Oklahoma already in its hip pocket. And if the Wildcats were able to somehow topple TCU, West Virginia and Baylor all on the road, their résumé would be formidable.
West Virginia has a feather-in-cap win, too, after its 41-27 victory over Baylor, which has propelled the Mountaineers into the Big 12 title conversation. West Virginia now has a 9.1 percent chance to win the Big 12 according to FPI and a favorable remaining schedule, with both TCU and K-State coming at home.
While the Mountaineers have entered the Big 12 picture, the Sooners haven’t completely exited it even with two conference losses. According to FPI, Oklahoma has the best chance of any Power 5 team of winning out with a 43.8 percent chance. The Sooners get Baylor at home, which gives them an opportunity for a statement victory.
Though it is highly unlikely at this point, Oklahoma (and who knows, maybe even West Virginia?) could get back into the playoff discussion as a two-loss conference champion, should chaos strike elsewhere.
It certainly struck the Big 12 on Saturday, when the league was turned on its head yet again.
Chaos reigns as West Virginia's and Kansas State's wins join TCU's domination to result in the Horned Frogs sitting atop the queue. West Virginia could be the sleeper pick to win the conference, while K-State still faces a difficult road to its second Big 12 title in three years with road trips to TCU, West Virginia and Baylor left on the schedule.
The conference landscape is full of teams that could stake their claim in the Big 12 title race.
Allstate Sugar Bowl: TCU
Cotton Bowl: Kansas State
Valero Alamo Bowl: West Virginia
Russell Athletic Bowl: Baylor
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Oklahoma
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Oklahoma State
Cactus Bowl: Texas
WR Josh Doctson, TCU: The game-changer in TCU's 42-9 beatdown of Oklahoma State. His 77- and 84-yard touchdown catches broke the game open, and Doctson's 225 receiving yards came 1 short of tying the Horned Frogs' single-game school record. He led all of FBS in receiving this week and only needed seven receptions to do so.
DT Travis Britz, Kansas State: Sometimes it only takes one play to earn your Helmet Sticker. Britz gets a bravo for an unexpected game-changer: He blocked Michael Hunnicutt's extra-point attempt in the fourth quarter to ensure K-State kept its 31-30 lead over Oklahoma. Thanks to another Hunnicutt miss, this time a field goal, that proved to be the final score in Norman.
LB Ben Heeney, Kansas: We hear you, Ben. You know you belong on our midseason All-Big 12 team. We should've known, too. Heeney racked up a career-high 21 tackles (his previous best was 15) and added a 37-yard interception return in KU's 34-21 loss to Texas Tech. To suggest he's not playing at an All-Big 12 level ... that's just ignorant.
QB Trevone Boykin, TCU: The nation's leading passer in Week 8, Boykin only played three quarters and finished with a career-best 410 passing yards and three scores plus 41 rushing yards. He's playing at an unreal level right now and ranks top-five nationally in total offense at nearly 370 yards per game.
QB Jake Waters, Kansas State: Got a little dinged up but just keep going. Waters threw for 225 yards on 15-of-23 passing, the best of the bunch a 62-yard TD to Glenn Gronkowski on a delayed pop pass, and he added 51 rushing yards and a key 4-yard score to retake the lead late in the third quarter. In production, versatility and leadership, Waters is right there with the Big 12's best QBs.
WR Kevin White, West Virginia: All-American all the way. White racked up 132 receiving yards and two touchdowns on eight catches in the 41-27 upset win over Baylor. He needed just seven games to surpass 1,000 receiving yards and is up to seven touchdown catches. Everyone knows the ball is going to him, and still nobody has stopped him.
QB Tyrone Swoopes, Texas: This kid is getting good. Swoopes threw for 321 yards and a touchdown and rushed for a career-best 95 yards and another score. But that's not what was impressive. His 39-yard pass to Jaxon Shipley and 29-yard pass to John Harris on back-to-back plays, both with under 30 seconds left, set Texas up for the game-winning field goal and 48-45 victory over Iowa State.
DE Shaquille Riddick, West Virginia: The Gardner-Webb transfer came to WVU to play in big games and played big Saturday: Five tackles, four tackles for loss, and three sacks. He got consistent pressure on Bryce Petty and is quite a weapon in WVU's scheme.
RB DeAndre Washington, Texas Tech: The Red Raiders' run game is enjoying a revival thanks to the steady Washington, whose 164 rushing yards in the win over Kansas were the most by a Tech running back in a game since Taurean Henderson in 2004.
WR Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma: Had to give him a shout-out for a career day in an excellent career. Shepard tied the OU school record with 15 receptions against Kansas State and took them for 197 yards, including a 47-yard score.
1. The league race is wide open: By taking down preseason favorites Oklahoma and Baylor, Kansas State and West Virginia completely transformed the Big 12 title race Saturday. With only one loss, the defending champion Bears could still win the Big 12. But they now have plenty of company. TCU (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) bounced back from its heartbreaking loss to Baylor last week to obliterate Oklahoma State 42-9. The Wildcats (5-1, 3-0) have also hopped firmly into the conference championship conversation after an impressive 31-30 victory in Norman. But West Virginia shouldn't be discounted, either, following its 41-27 win over Baylor. The Mountaineers have Oklahoma and Baylor behind them on the schedule, and they get TCU (Nov. 1) and Kansas State (Nov. 20) in Morgantown. The only certainty at this point is the Big 12 race down the backstretch is going to be a fun one to watch.
3. Oklahoma State is rebuilding after all: After graduating more starters than any other Power 5 program, the Cowboys faced the prospect of having to rebuild this year. But after they took defending national champ Florida State to the wire in the opener, then won five straight games, expectations were raised. Turns out, they shouldn't have been. Oklahoma State's 3-0 Big 12 start turned out to be fool's gold, as the Cowboys were exposed in a game they were never in against TCU. Quarterback Daxx Garman failed to complete a single pass in the second half, while Oklahoma State's beleaguered offensive line was manhandled in the trenches. Defensively, the inexperienced Cowboys surrendered 676 yards of offense, the most TCU had racked up in a game since 2007. Oklahoma State has some good young players, but facing a back-loaded schedule, the Cowboys figure to endure more growing pains -- and losses -- the second half of the season.
4. The Big 12 has some monster WRs: Good luck finding four receivers in college football better than West Virginia's Kevin White, Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard, Kansas State's Tyler Lockett or Baylor's Antwan Goodley. That Big 12 foursome combined for 547 receiving yards Saturday. They were -- as they have been all year -- basically unstoppable. After breaking the 1,000-receiving-yard barrier with five regular-season games to go, White could begin to warrant Heisman consideration. Shepard, who tied a school record with 15 catches against K-State, should be a Biletnikoff finalist. Goodley and Lockett are All-American-caliber players, too. The Big 12 might be as deep as it's been since 2008, and the depth of its blue-chip wide receivers is a big reason for that.
5. Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes is turning the corner: Swoopes followed his breakout performance against Oklahoma last week by engineering a drive in the final seconds to set up a game-winning field goal and give Texas a dramatic 48-45 win over Iowa State. Swoopes got the ball back with 28 seconds to go on the Texas 28 and the game seemingly headed for overtime. Instead, Swoopes floated a bomb into the arms of Jaxon Shipley for 39 yards down the sideline. On the next play, Swoopes hit John Harris along the same sideline for a 29-yard gain to the Iowa State 4. Nick Rose nailed the field goal on the next play with 3 seconds left. All told, Swoopes threw for 322 yards and ran for another 95, and he gave more reason to believe he could be Texas' long-sought answer at quarterback.
NORMAN, Okla. -- Bill Snyder sat behind the table with his arms crossed above it and legs crossed below. Unenthusiastically, he spoke as if Kansas State had just completed a successful Tuesday practice.
But after a stunning 31-30 victory at Oklahoma, Snyder's players couldn't keep up the ruse.
"I'd be lying if I said this was just another win," K-State wide receiver Curry Sexton said. "It's a humongous win."
On Saturday, K-State -- with some assistance from West Virginia, which toppled Baylor a few minutes later -- turned the Big 12 title race upside down and grabbed one of the most humongous wins of the Snyder era. Not only did the Wildcats (5-1, 3-0 Big 12) all but eliminate Oklahoma (5-2, 2-2) from the playoff picture, but they also inserted themselves right into the thick of it -- whether Snyder wanted to admit it or not.
"[Playoff selection] is a hundred years from now, which is about my age," said Snyder, who turned 75 this past week. "It's way down the line."
As usual, Snyder isn't wrong. K-State has one of the most difficult remaining schedules in the country, with trips to TCU, West Virginia and Baylor looming at the end of the season. But in a hostile environment, against a more talented team that almost everyone had penciled into the playoff just a month ago, the Wildcats flashed a championship-caliber mettle that could take them far.
"You match us up on paper against a lot of teams, and you'll say they have better athletes and better players, but at the end of the day, we have a bunch of guys who just go out there and play football and make plays," said Sexton, one of K-State's many current or former walk-ons who fills a major role. "This team is full of gritty, tough guys who simply know how to win. You can't beat that."
The Wildcats were dominated in the box score, from yardage gained (533-to-385) to first downs (30-to-17). But after they missed three field goals in the loss to Auburn this past month, the special teams breaks went K-State's way. Kicker Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma's all-time scoring leader who had earned the nickname "Moneycutt" for his reliability, had an extra point blocked and missed two chip-shot field goals, including a 19-yarder late in the fourth quarter that would have given Oklahoma a 33-31 lead with 5:39 to go.
But before and after the last missed field goal, the Wildcats demonstrated the grit that could make them the team to beat in the Big 12.
Uncoverable wideout Sterling Shepard and Oklahoma's rugged running game had finally worn down the Wildcats in the fourth quarter. The Sooners rammed Samaje Perine between the tackles 68 yards to the K-State 2-yard line and set up first-and-goal and a potential go-ahead touchdown. But Oklahoma would get no farther.
Perine was stuffed on the next three plays, which forced the Sooners into a field-goal attempt.
"OU's offense is very physical and fast," K-State defensive end Ryan Mueller said. "But we got some tough guys, too."
After Hunnicutt hooked the field-goal attempt, the K-State offense did the rest.
"We were thinking, Let's get two first downs and get out of here," Sexton said.
Quarterback Jake Waters, who played through an injury to his throwing shoulder after a 53-yard run to open the third quarter, hit Sexton on a quick out for the initial first down on third-and-3. Two plays later, Charles Jones dashed through the Oklahoma front for the second first down to seal the win.
"You keep sawing wood, keep rowing the boat," Snyder said. "All the numbers were against us, and they were having their way with us. But when we had to stiffen up ... we did."
While K-State entered the season under the radar, Oklahoma came in with national championship expectations after they returned the bulk of a team that beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
Oklahoma started with a dominating 4-0 start. But in the past three weeks, the Sooners have stumbled on the field and tumbled out of the playoff conversation.
Just as they had in the loss at TCU two games ago, the Sooners couldn't convert late when they had to, and they couldn't overcome catastrophic mistakes.
Despite missing a series with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight played his best overall game since the Sugar Bowl. He threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns. But he also threw a mindless pick-six to Danzel McDaniel from his own end zone, which gave K-State a 14-7 second-quarter lead.
The Sooners kept moving the ball at will in the second half. But from the K-State 17 in the third quarter, Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel dialed up a Durron Neal reverse pass that was intercepted by Morgan Burns in the end zone.
"We did a lot of good things today, but those major mistakes, you can't overcome it," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.
The Sooners had a chance to overcome those mistakes at the end, but they couldn't punch the ball through the K-State defense. They couldn't make a field goal. And the defense couldn't get the ball back.
As a result, for the sixth consecutive season, Oklahoma bowed out of the national championship chase by mid-October.
"This game doesn't define us," Knight said. "We're not a losing ball club. There's no chance we're going to take that mentality. We've been in this position before. Everyone doubted us when we were in this position [in 2013], and we ended up having that pretty incredible end of the year."
While the Sooners will now be playing merely to finish strong, K-State will be playing for a chance at the conference title -- and perhaps a spot in the playoff, too -- thanks to its grit, which conquered all when it mattered most.
"We're a real tough team," Jones said. "And we feel like we're a real contender."
"Who knows how far we can go."
NORMAN, Okla. -- Kansas State stunned the Oklahoma Sooners with a 31-30 victory on the road. Here is what happened:
How the game was won: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma’s all-time leading scorer, missed an extra point and two chip-shot field goal attempts, including a 19-yarder with 5:39 to go. The Sooners had first-and-goal from the K-State 2-yard line before the 19-yard miss, but running back Samaje Perine couldn’t punch it in on three straight carries.
Game ball goes to: Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters, who was sensational with 225 yards passing and 51 yards rushing. He also accounted for three touchdowns despite having to go to the locker room momentarily with an undisclosed injury.
What it means: With two losses in the past three weeks, Oklahoma is out of the playoff conversation, and maybe the Big 12 title chase, too. With its second straight win in Norman, Kansas State is right in the thick of both.
Playoff implications: The Wildcats have replaced the Sooners as a Big 12 possibility for a playoff spot. The Wildcats do have a loss, but it was to Auburn. And though K-State has a tough remaining schedule with trips to Baylor, TCU and West Virginia remaining, those games also offer the Wildcats chances to land more marquee victories.
Best play video embed: Waters got the K-State offense rolling with this 62-yard strike to fullback Glenn Gronkowski, the younger brother of NFL star Rob Gronkowski.
What's next: The Sooners have a week off to lick their wounds before traveling to Iowa State on Nov. 1. The Wildcats face Texas in Manhattan next weekend.
On to the 'bag:
@Jake_Trotter say oklahoma beats baylor(if) and both of them + tcu win the rest of their games (if) what happens? Who do you take?— Isaac (@haas_isaac) October 16, 2014
@Jake_Trotter: So, you're saying all three finish 11-1? The edge in a three-way tie always goes to the team that lost first, and in this case, that would be the Sooners.
@Jake_Trotter If the Big 12 gets left out of the playoff, could that spark the league officials to expand to 12 teams?— Kyle Jacobson (@_KyleJacobson) October 16, 2014
Trotter: It would probably take the Big 12 getting left out three-four years in a row for the league to reconsider expansion. One year won't change anything.
@Jake_Trotter If OU and TCU both win out, do you think style points could somehow vault the Sooners ahead TCU in the committees eyes?— Shane Oltean (@_shane_o_) October 16, 2014
Trotter: I have no idea how the committee would weigh those teams. But if it were me on the selection committee, head-to-head would count for something. And TCU holds the head-to-head advantage. Meaning those Oklahoma style points would have to be considerable.
@Jake_Trotter what is a realistic expectation for OSU's closing schedule? 1-5 or 5-1 or anything in between honestly wouldn't surprise me— Jimmy Shaw (@MCC_Jimmy) October 16, 2014
Trotter: The Cowboys are a hard team to figure out. They haven't looked good these past few games, but is that a case of them not being that good, or is it a case of them playing down to the competition? After all, they did play up to Florida State. Oklahoma State is probably somewhere in between. Based on what I've seen from them, and based on the remaining schedule, which is brutal, 7-5 feels about right. But we will learn a lot more about these Cowboys this weekend. They might be better than that. And they might be worse.
@Jake_Trotter Do my Cowboys have a chance in Cowtown? Will the offense finally look better even tho they're playing best D since FSU?— Nigel Aaron D'Souza (@SQUALLA_WISDOM) October 16, 2014
Trotter: They have a chance, sure. But I don't like this Oklahoma State line against that TCU front, which has been solid, save for the fourth-quarter collapse at Baylor. I think the Cowboys will have a hard time running the ball. I think they will have a hard time protecting Daxx Garman. And when you can't run the ball, and can't protect your quarterback, you usually don't win.
@Jake_Trotter Do you think TCU's defense is down this year, or is Baylor's offense just that destructive?— Conner Morris (@ConnerSaurusRex) October 16, 2014
Trotter: The Baylor offense is just really destructive when it's on. And it was on in the fourth quarter last weekend. This is still a good TCU defense. Chucky Hunter, Paul Dawson and Sam Carter are All-Big 12-caliber players. And Davion Pierson, Marcus Mallet, Kevin White and Chris Hackett are really good, too. When hot, Baylor has the firepower to light up anybody in the country. The Bears just got hot at the wrong time for TCU.
Trotter: I'd have to take the field, because it includes Alabama's Amari Cooper. The national awards are somewhat about name recognition. Coming into the season, Cooper had it. Kevin White did not. And even though White is having a tremendous season and is on track to be a Biletnikoff finalist, Cooper plays for one of the preeminent programs in college football. No matter how many passes White catches, that will be hard to overcome.
Trotter: Since 2009, Kansas football has just three Big 12 wins. But Kansas basketball has been to only one Final Four since 2008. Based on those past performances, I guess I'd have to go with the football team winning a game. But it's close.
@Jake_Trotter is tech going bowling this year?— p@ (@wheresmyoatmeal) October 16, 2014
Trotter: I wouldn't bet on it. The Red Raiders already have four losses and have yet to face TCU, Oklahoma and Baylor. They would have to win one of those games just to have a chance. I don't see it.
@Jake_Trotter Which Big 12 player would you name as your champion in a GoT-style trial by combat?— Chris Perry (@Chris_Perry) October 16, 2014
Trotter: Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown is like "The Mountain" of the Big 12. Let's go with him..
1. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma (previous rank: 1): Though he’s been held to fewer than 100 yards the last two weeks, Perine has still had an All-Big 12 season with a conference-leading nine rushing touchdowns. He’s also second in the league with 568 rushing yards.
2. KD Cannon, WR, Baylor (2): Cannon showed against TCU that he’s still a major factor in the Baylor passing game even with Antwan Goodley, Corey Coleman and Levi Norwood back from injuries. Cannon had six catches for 124 yards and a 67-yard touchdown.
3. Dravon Henry, FS, West Virginia (3): Henry has been consistently solid all season at the back end of the West Virginia secondary, but he will have his biggest challenge yet facing off against Cannon and Baylor’s loaded receiving corps.
4. Jason Hall, S, Texas (7): Hall could drop in these rankings if his patellar tendon injury lingers. But he has been tremendous so far for a surging Texas defense, with eight tackles most recently in the Oklahoma game.
5. Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State (5): Lazard had his best game yet, with 8 receptions, 96 receiving yards and a touchdown last week in Iowa State’s 37-30 win over Toledo. Lazard is now 15th in the Big 12 receiving, second only to Cannon among true freshmen.
6. Corey Avery, RB, Kansas (9): Avery scored a 23-yard fourth-quarter touchdown that nearly spurred the Jayhawks to an upset of Oklahoma State. Avery is now 10th in the Big 12 with 348 rushing yards.
7. Nigel Bethel II, CB, Texas Tech (NR): After serving out his three-game suspension, Bethel got the start against West Virginia and the assignment of covering the nation’s leading receiver, Kevin White. Though White had 123 receiving yards, Bethel held up OK and finished with nine tackles.
8. Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech (NR): After doing virtually nothing for three games, Stockton exploded with a 69-yard touchdown run that put Tech up 34-20 in the fourth quarter against West Virginia. With Kenny Williams moving back to running back from linebacker, it will be interesting to see how involved Stockton remains in the offense.
9. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State (6): Washington hasn’t done much since hauling in two touchdowns on Sept. 25 against Texas Tech. Washington has just four catches for 20 yards over the Cowboys’ last two games.
10. Ramon Richards, CB, Oklahoma State (NR): Richards has been starting since Ashton Lampkin injured his ankle. It’s unclear if Lampkin will be able to return Saturday against TCU. Either way, Richards figures to be a core part of the Oklahoma State secondary moving forward.
On the radar: Elijah Lee, LB, Kansas State; Steven Parker II, S, Oklahoma; Dimitri Flowers, FB, Oklahoma; Davion Hall, WR, Baylor; Matthew Boateng, CB, Kansas; Colin Downing, P, Iowa State; Cameron Batson, PR/WR, Texas Tech; Martinez Syria, RB, Iowa State.
Those, among others, will be the storylines to watch in the league on Saturday:
No. 14 Kansas State at No. 11 Oklahoma, noon ET (ESPN): Oklahoma wideout Sterling Shepard is having an All-American-caliber season, ranking sixth nationally in receiving. But to get the offense back on track, the Sooners need to get other receiving weapons involved. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Shepard has accounted for 47 percent of Oklahoma's receiving yards, the highest percentage for any receiver in the country. While the Oklahoma passing game has sputtered, the K-State air attack has thrived of late. Jake Waters is completing 50 percent of his passes of 15 or more yards, the best rate of any Big 12 quarterback. To hold off the Wildcats, the Sooners will have to be better than they've been at defending passes downfield. Oklahoma has allowed the league's most receptions (20) and touchdowns (7) on throws of 15 yards or more.
Kansas at Texas Tech, 3:30 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Regional): The Jayhawks led Texas Tech 10-0 early in Lawrence last year before giving up 54 unanswered points. Tech leads the all-time series 14-1, with Kansas' only victory coming in Lubbock in 2001. The Jayhawks have not won a Big 12 road game since defeating Iowa State in 2008. At 2-4, Tech is off to its worst start since 1994.
No. 15 Oklahoma State at No. 12 TCU, 4 p.m. ET (FS1): Cowboys QB Daxx Garman has flashed a big-play arm so far. He's averaging 14.4 passing yards per attempt, according to ESPN Stats & Information, the best of any Power 5 QB. In fact since Garman became the starter in Week 3, 72 percent of Oklahoma State's passing yards have come on passes of 15 yards or longer -- the highest percentage of any Power 5 offense. Though he's been inconsistent at times, Garman could have success against the Horned Frogs, who couldn't keep Baylor from throwing over their heads last weekend. But Oklahoma State's defense will have its hands full, too. TCU has 10 touchdown drives of three plays or fewer, tied for third-most in the country.
Iowa State at Texas, 8 p.m. ET (Longhorn Network): The Longhorns lead the all-time series against Iowa State 10-1, including a 31-30 win on a disputed no-fumble call in Ames last year. Both Iowa State QB Sam B. Richardson and Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes are coming off career outings. Swoopes passed for 334 yards, rushed for 50 and accounted for three touchdowns in Texas' narrow loss to Oklahoma. Richardson threw for a career-high 351 yards and three second-half touchdowns to rally Iowa State to a win over Toledo.
Look for some major targets in the following three games to not only be in attendance but also take mental notes of what they see over the weekend. There’s no guarantee, but one or two may even give their verbal commitments.
Kansas State at Oklahoma
Fresh off its Red River Showdown victory against Texas, Oklahoma returns home in hopes to put on a show that will attract a couple of top visitors. ESPN 300 outside linebacker Cameron Townsend and four-star defensive tackle Darrion Daniels will be in Norman on official visits. The additions of both players would be huge for the Sooners. Additionally, quarterback commit Dalton Wood said he will be in Norman for an unofficial visit, as will players like ESPN Junior 300 running back Z'Quan Hogan and 2016 dual-threat quarterback Terry Wilson.