Big 12: Kansas State Wildcats

In Friday's Twitter mailbag, we discuss under-the-radar players, storylines this weekend, Texas Tech's chances of starting 8-0 and the best city for food in the Big 12.

To the 'bag:


Trotter: I think people will know the name Tyreek Hill after this weekend. The Oklahoma State running back is going to have a big year. Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman doesn't seem to be talked about much nationally, but he could be a star. Some other names flying under the radar nationally: Texas Tech wide receivers Jakeem Grant and Reginald Davis, West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley, Iowa State running back Aaron Wimberly, TCU cornerback Kevin White, Baylor receiver Corey Coleman and Kansas State's entire roster.
Trotter: Who knows? But Kansas State is being way undervalued nationally, including by some of my colleagues at ESPN. This was a top 15-caliber team at the end of last year. The offensive and defensive lines are going to be very good again, Jake Waters has his footing at quarterback and Tyler Lockett, well, I'm out of superlatives for him. The Wildcats will have to beat Auburn in September to gain some respect. But they are more than capable of doing just that.
Trotter: Probably linebacker Eric Striker. He can already do one thing at an NFL level, and that's rush the passer.
Trotter: That would require them beating Oklahoma State, Kansas State and TCU all on the road. Even if you considered all three of those to be coin-flip games, that, mathematically, would still give Tech only a 12.5 percent chance of winning all three. Possible? Sure. But the odds are very much against it.
Trotter: Even if the Cowboys get blasted this weekend -- and I think they will -- they'll have five winnable games immediately afterward. If they won all five, including that pivotal Thursday night matchup with Texas Tech in Stillwater, I could see them popping up in the Top 25 in mid-October.
Trotter: I see what you did there. I have Oklahoma winning the Big 12. The Sooners get Baylor in Norman, where the Bears have never won, and where Bob Stoops is 87-5.
Trotter: Storylines I will be following: Can Oklahoma State and West Virginia hang tough in tough openers? How will David Ash look in his fourth start since 2012? How will Trevor Knight look coming off that Sugar Bowl performance? Who will get the majority of snaps at QB for TCU? Can Iowa State avoid disaster facing a tricky opponent? And, the return of Mark Mangino and debut of Baylor's new stadium.
Trotter: The odds are we'll see an undefeated Big 12 team over the next five years. Who knows, we could see it this year. Oklahoma will be favored in every game. And if Baylor can topple the Sooners in Norman, the rest of its schedule is fairly manageable.
Trotter: How many Big 12 titles has Texas Tech won? I think Tech is going to have a good and exciting team this year. But until the Red Raiders actually win a championship, I don't see how you can complain about them getting overlooked in the title conversation. Especially when the top five teams in the league last year beat Tech by an average margin of three touchdowns.
Trotter: Richardson is not going to share snaps. They want -- and need -- him to be the guy. It feels like the Cyclones are still trying to replace Seneca Wallace. They're going to give Richardson plenty of opportunities to show he's the long-term answer at quarterback.
Trotter: That's impossible for me to say. All of them are cool in their own way. There's no place in the Big 12 I don't look forward to going to. @mulloy_k: You are a 4-5* recruit, but your only criteria for choosing a school is based on the unlimited snack rule ... and what LOCAL fare would be available (for free) in that city. What Big 12 school do you choose? Appreciate your work! Trotter: Thanks, Kyle. I've been to every campus in the Big 12 multiple times, and I can vouch that in all 10 venues, there are great places to eat. But nowhere in the Big 12 has more great eating options than Austin. That's no slight on the other Big 12 locales. New York City is the only place I've been to that has better food than Austin.

Big 12 morning links

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
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Happy Friday, everybody. Just one more day of work until the best three-day weekend of your year (until next weekend). Hang in there.
  • The Topeka Capital-Journal went long on Bill Snyder's legacy in a package -- entitled "Manhattan Project" -- that you're gonna want to check out. Here's the main piece by Ken Corbitt, and Kevin Haskin came up with a fun list of what-ifs when you think back on Snyder's tenure. One observation from Corbitt's piece that stands out: Had Snyder not come along and rescued the Wildcats, might they have been kicked out of the Big Eight? That's how dire the situation Snyder inherited was becoming. Everything he's achieved in the 25 years since has been flat-out stunning.
  • Texas finally released its depth chart on Thursday. The big news? True freshman Jason Hall is slated to start at strong safety, making him the Longhorns' first opening-day true freshman starter since Blake Gideon in 2008. Hall is one of 10 freshmen who made the depth chart. Another key decision came on the offensive line. With Desmond Harrison suspended for the opener, Texas moved Kennedy Estelle back to right tackle and promoted Marcus Hutchins to left tackle. The former scout-team defensive tackle has never started a game. That makeshift line is going to have to keep David Ash clean against North Texas.
  • Who is Texas Tech's fastest player? Might seem like a silly question, but Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal wisely points out that the number of speedsters the Red Raiders have had has been on the uptick in recent years. I'd put my money on receiver Jakeem Grant, who told the paper he sees speed becoming a real advantage for Tech's offense this year. Its receiving corps is full of guys you'd want in on the fastest-man race. Newcomers Justin Stockton and Mike Mitchell are also getting talked up for their legit speed. If the perception is true, and Tech does have that much speed at each receiver spot, Davis Webb is going to have some fun throwing deep.
  • One team we have admittedly not written about much this week is Kansas. For the second year in a row, the Jayhawks open their season with a bye. The weekend off does provide a strategic advantage for Charlie Weis: He got to watch Week 2 opponent Southeast Missouri State play its season opener last night, a 77-0 win over Missouri Baptist. The week gave KU more time to address its running back situation, and Weis says freshman Corey Avery and juco transfer De'Andre Mann are "1 and 1A."
  • Lastly, I enjoyed this story by Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman on what goes into the groundskeeping crew's efforts to prepare Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium for a ballgame. Bob Stoops, he of so many hot offseason takes, argues grass fields are the best. I don't have a strong feeling either way on that one, but I must say I did not know a field requires up to 300 gallons of paint in one weekend.
The College Football Playoff isn’t the only thing new for the Big 12 this year. The league will welcome new bowl tie-ins, as well as old bowl tie-ins with new names. The playoff is obviously new. The Russell Athletic Bowl and AutoZone Liberty Bowl are new to the league, as well. The Cactus Bowl is the old Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (which before that was the Insight Bowl). Next year, the Champions Bowl, which will pit top teams from the Big 12 and SEC, will jump into the rotation as well.

But, without further ado, here are our preseason bowl projections for the Big 12, which, like the bowl tie-ins themselves, are sure to change before long:

Allstate Sugar Bowl, New Orleans (Jan. 1): Oklahoma vs. College Football Playoff semifinal
Cotton Bowl, Arlington, Texas (Jan. 1): Baylor vs. at-large
Valero Alamo Bowl, San Antonio (Jan. 2): Kansas State vs. Pac-12 No. 2
Russell Athletic Bowl, Orlando, Fla. (Dec. 29): Texas vs. ACC No. 2
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl, Houston (Dec. 29): Texas Tech vs. SEC
AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tenn. (Dec. 29): TCU vs. SEC
Cactus Bowl, Tempe, Ariz. (Jan. 2): Oklahoma State vs. Pac-12 No. 7

Big 12 players in Week 1 spotlight

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
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Are you guys ready? We're less than 48 hours away from the first kickoff of the Big 12 season. (There are some good games tonight, too, if you can't wait that long.) Once we finally get rolling, the guys worth watching closely won't just be the All-Americans like Bryce Petty and Tyler Lockett. We know what they can do, and they'll probably be even better.

But this is our first real chance, after months of speculation and projection, to see how newcomers and players in new roles fare. Here are 11 players we'll be keeping an eye on Saturday and Sunday.

Matt Joeckel and Trevone Boykin
Getty ImagesGary Patterson won't reveal who his starting quarterback is -- Matt Joeckel or Trevone Boykin -- until the Horned Frogs take the field Saturday.
Matt Joeckel, QB, TCU: Will he be the starter? Did Trevone Boykin do enough to regain the job? Gary Patterson won't reveal a thing until his Horned Frog offense takes the field Saturday against Samford. The guy who sets foot on the field won't matter as much as which one thrives, because it seems likely both will get a fair shot. TCU just needs a capable distributor.

Devin Chafin, RB, and Johnny Jefferson, RB, Baylor: Both backs dealt with injuries in fall camp but should be good to go. And if you ask Baylor players, they'll tell you Chafin and Jefferson are about to be stars on the rise. This should be a true stable of backs led by Shock Linwood, but you're going to see Chafin and Jefferson a lot -- especially if Baylor's second team gets a lot of playing time in a blowout.

DeAndre Washington, RB, Texas Tech: We could still see Kenny Williams in short-yardage opportunities, but otherwise, Tech is ready to roll with the 5-foot-8, 201-pound junior leading its run game. Freshmen Justin Stockton and Demarcus Felton are intriguing, but Washington has a chance to establish himself as the feature back and a sneaky good one.

Deandre Burton, WR, Kansas State: The local kid from Manhattan was named a starter this week and is about to get his first meaningful action on offense. The redshirt sophomore has good size and will be one of a few wideouts getting reps with Lockett and Curry Sexton. The competition for his spot will be ongoing, so a big play or two against Stephen F. Austin could go a long way.

Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State: Cyclones fans can't wait to see what Lazard, listed as the backup to Quenton Bundrage at X receiver, can do in his first career day. After all the boasting Paul Rhoads did on signing day (and rightfully so), expectations are awfully high. Let's see Sam B. Richardson lob a few up to him and see if the 6-foot-5 stud can make a splash.

Tyreek Hill, WR/RB, Oklahoma State: What more can we say? We've hyped him up as much as anybody in the Big 12 this offseason. OSU will get the ball in his hands as much as possible. Florida State will do whatever it can to stop him. Can Hill be the game-changer the Pokes need to keep up with the defending champs?

Julian Wilson, CB, Oklahoma: Wilson's transition from nickel to cornerback, where he'll replace a big-time player in Aaron Colvin, has received good reviews. Louisiana Tech will no doubt test him and new starting safety Ahmad Thomas early on to see if they can handle the pressure.

Dravon Henry, FS, West Virginia: Mountaineer coaches have been excited about Henry all year long, and the true freshman seemingly had no trouble earning a starting job. He'll get lots of help from veteran safety Karl Joseph, but you just know Lane Kiffin will take some shots deep to see if the young dude has instincts. He would be wise to keep an eye on Amari Cooper, one of the nation's best wideouts.

Jason Hall, SS, and Dylan Haines, SS, Texas: Hall, a true freshman and former three-star recruit, was named the starter on Texas' depth chart released Thursday. But Haines, a walk-on, will play and so should Adrian Colbert. With safety Mykkele Thompson likely being used as Texas' top nickel, the Longhorns will have a lot of inexperience on the back end on passing downs. They need to play up to the considerable praise they received in camp.

Who are you excited to scout this weekend? Let us know any players we missed in the comments below.

Poll: Team most on upset alert?

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
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Last year, North Dakota State marched into Manhattan, Kansas and then marched down Bill Snyder Family Stadium in the fourth quarter with a game-winning touchdown drive to stun Kansas State.

The good news for the Wildcats is they open with a far less frightening opponent this weekend in Stephen F. Austin. While North Dakota State was capturing a third consecutive FCS national title, Stephen F. Austin was going 3-9 in the Southland Standings.

SportsNation

Which Big 12 team should be on upset alert Saturday?

  •  
    64%
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    8%
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    4%
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    19%
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    5%

Discuss (Total votes: 6,451)

 Who in the Big 12 should most be on upset watch Saturday?

Iowa State is certainly a candidate. The Cyclones play the same Bison team that toppled K-State last fall. Sure, North Dakota State lost its head coach to Wyoming and the quarterback who engineered the game-winning drive to beat the Wildcats. The Bison, however, have reloaded before. And just last season, Iowa State fell in the opener to FCS opponent Northern Iowa.

North Dakota State, however, isn’t the only capable FCS team coming to Big 12 country this weekend. Central Arkansas, which travels to Texas Tech, received votes in the FCS Top 25 after winning seven games in 2013. So did TCU’s opponent, Samford, which finished in a tie for first with Chattanooga and Furman in the Southern standings. The Horned Frogs, meanwhile, will be debuting a new offense without a clear-cut starting quarterback. Texas Tech has the clear-cut starter at quarterback in Davis Webb, but it will be starting four underclassmen in its secondary.

The two traditional powers in the Big 12 both have curious games, as well. North Texas, which will head to Austin, went 9-4 last season. The Longhorns are still big favorites, but this will be just the fourth start quarterback David Ash has made since the 2012 season.

Oklahoma too is a heavy favorite to dispose of Louisiana Tech. The Sooners are riding high after taking down Alabama their last time out. But Oklahoma has a tradition under Bob Stoops of sputtering at times in openers. And while the Bulldogs struggled last season, they are only two years removed from going 9-3 and taking Texas A&M to the wire in a 59-57 shootout.

Now, we put it to you in our weekly Big 12 poll: Of these five teams, pick one to put on upset alert for this weekend.

Big 12 Week 1 predictions

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
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Why Alabama will win: The Crimson Tide don't have a quarterback with a career start, but that seems to be the only question with this team. The losses to Auburn and Oklahoma are fresh on everyone's mind, but before those two games, Alabama had allowed an FBS-low 9.3 points per game last season. Coach Nick Saban's defense will be formidable again. Though the Mountaineers feature several intriguing skill players, it's unlikely they will be able to move the ball the way the Tigers and Sooners did. -- Jake Trotter

Why Florida State will win: Last week, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy called Florida State the best team he had ever faced as a player or a coach. The Seminoles are loaded, headlined by the return of Heisman winner Jameis Winston. The Cowboys, meanwhile, will be fielding almost a completely new squad after losing 28 seniors and returning the fewest starters among any program in a Power 5 conference. Those factors do not equal a recipe for an upset. -- Jake Trotter

More consensus picks: Iowa State over North Dakota State; TCU over Samford; Texas Tech over Central Arkansas; Oklahoma over Louisiana Tech; Kansas State over Stephen F. Austin; Texas over North Texas; Baylor over SMU.

Big 12 mailbag

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
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Thanks for submitting questions for this week's mailbag. In today's mailbag we talk about Kansas State's running back situation, the big games of the week -- Oklahoma State-Florida State and Alabama-West Virginia -- as well as a potential new look for Texas. By the way, you can submit questions for next week's mailbag here.

On to the 'bag:

Doug T. from Philly writes: Am I the only one who think the perfect storm for an upset may be brewing in Atlanta this Saturday?

Chatmon: I would be surprised, not shocked, if the Mountaineers find a way against the Crimson Tide. I have reservations about WVU’s ability to win in the trenches and I need to see Clint Trickett take his game to another level and play consistently for Dana Holgorsen’s offense. But I like what WVU has at the skill positions and don't see any scenario where Holgorsen's crew will back down against the Crimson Tide.




Brenna from Stillwater writes: Maybe I'm just looking at it from a true "black and white" perspective, but isn't Baylor returning nine starters, as is Oklahoma State? According to Phil Steele, that's the case. Does Bryce Petty's return compensate for Baylor's loss on defense? Does the quality of Baylor's limited returning starters truly peg them as the team (alongside Oklahoma) to beat in the Big 12 and to make a legitimate run at the four team playoff?

Chatmon: Petty goes a long way in changing the expectations for the Bears. He’s a Heisman Trophy candidate and returning Big 12 offensive player of the year. Oklahoma State’s issue is youthful players all over its defense and uncertainty at quarterback and offensive line. Baylor’s question marks aren’t as widespread as the Cowboys. To cap it all off, the Bears young players will get a chance to ease into the season while OSU faces the defending national champion. That’s what separates the two teams before Week 1 in my eyes.




Sean from Stillwater writes: Give us [OSU] hope for an upset this weekend.

Chatmon: There are plenty of reasons for hope. OSU’s receivers and defensive line should be among the Big 12’s best and Tyreek Hill looks like a playmaker. And, talent-wise, the Cowboys have upgraded from a year ago, but hearing Mike Gundy say his team could play 20 newcomers against FSU is a scary thought.




Theylo from Snyderville writes: Who is going to be the K-State running back?

Chatmon: It looks like Charles Jones has won the job as he sits atop the Kansas State depth chart heading into the season opener. But this will be decided between the lines on several Saturdays this fall. Jones may get the initial nod but if DeMarcus Robinson outperforms him on game day then he could end up being the guy. I think we may not know who John Hubert’s replacement is today, despite the Wildcats’ releasing their depth chart, but we will know by the time October rolls around.




Jon in Tulsa writes: If OSU beats FSU, OSU doesn't become favorite for national championship, then why does OU become contender just because last year's team beat Bama? How do you know that UCF wasn't better than Bama and that mostly returning Baylor shouldn't be favorite in Big 12?

Chatmon: Why are you assuming OSU does not become a national championship favorite if they beat Florida State? I find that odd because the Cowboys will be in the College Football Playoff if they go undefeated. Regardless, Oklahoma is a national title contender because they have a good young defense that carried them to 11 wins a year ago. And the Sooners are the Big 12 favorite, for me at least, because they host Baylor in Norman. It’s not all about the Sooners' Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Alabama.




Jacob Jones from Lubbock writes: Iowa State and Texas Tech will both do better then what experts picked. Watch out for Texas Tech going 9-3 and Iowa State 6-6. West Virginia could be a sleeper as well. I still think Oklahoma holds off the competition and reclaims the Big 12 championship. Bold prediction: Texas Tech upsets OU in Lubbock.

Chatmon: I could see it happen with Tech, but I’m worried about ISU’s defensive line. I need to see them first before I can get on that train. I agree with West Virginia as well but where are those wins coming from? TCU, OSU? I think the Big 12 has a chance to be as competitive as ever this fall, particularly after OU and Baylor at the top. Also, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Sooners fall at Tech; Lubbock has been unkind to the Sooners in the past.




Shaun Rucker from Shawnee, Kansas writes: Why does the media insist on bringing up the fact that the Big 12 doesn't have a championship game every chance they get? Our teams have only ever been hurt by the title game, with the exception of Nebraska not playing in it and getting a title shot in 2001. What's your take?

Brandon Chatmon: I don’t think the Big 12 needs a championship game. I don’t see a scenario where a Big 12 team goes undefeated and finds itself on the outside looking in at the College Football Playoff bracket. Thus, the destiny of every Big 12 team is within its control. That’s good enough for me.




Andy from Austin writes: This past mailbag someone asked, "Why doesn't Texas have alternate unis?'' I love that Texas usually just has subtle tweaks instead of major overhauls. But how awesome would it be to have a solid burnt orange uni for home, like the road ones, but reversed, including the helmets? Any chance of getting that look planted in the minds of those who could make it happen?

Chatmon: I love the idea, Andy. But I don’t see it happening anytime soon. Texas has a good look, and the Longhorns have tried to meet recruits/players halfway with their practice uniforms. I wish I was wrong though.

Big 12 fearless predictions

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
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Today, Ivan Maisel offered up his bold predictions for the college football season. We figured we'd get in on the fun, too. Here's what we're comfortable forecasting in what should be a crazy Big 12 season.

Jake Trotter's bold predictions

Davis Webb will throw for more yards than Bryce Petty. This is no slight against Petty, who himself should be in for another monster season. But Petty will also be handing off plenty to Shock Linwood, Devin Chafin and Johnny Jefferson. Webb, meanwhile, will be airing it out virtually every down to his big-play trio of Jakeem Grant, Bradley Marquez and Reginald Davis. As long as Webb stays healthy, 4,500-plus passing yards isn't out of reach.

[+] EnlargeDavis Webb
Donald Miralle/Getty ImagesDavis Webb passed for 2,718 yards as a freshman and could compete with Baylor's Bryce Petty for most passing yards in the Big 12 this season.
Kansas State will beat either Baylor or Oklahoma on the road. Two years ago when the Wildcats traveled to Norman, they toppled Oklahoma, 24-19. Last year, nobody played Baylor tougher -- at least when the Bears were still at full strength -- than K-State (which at the time was missing Tyler Lockett). Bill Snyder teams usually come to play in big games. This season, that will come at the expense of one of the league's two co-favorites.

Tyreek Hill will lead the league in rushing. The Longhorns have the Big 12's best one-two punch at running back in Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown. And West Virginia has the league's deepest backfield. But Hill has the tools to be the best big-play back in the conference. He also figures to be the focal point of the Oklahoma State attack. Up until last season, the Cowboys had enjoyed a 1,000-yard rusher in six consecutive seasons. Hill will start another 1,000-yard rushing streak for the Pokes in a big way in 2014.

Brandon Chatmon's bold predictions

Iowa State's offense will be much improved. After finishing in the bottom two in most offensive categories a year ago, Iowa State will finish no lower than sixth in most of those categories, with a clear jump forward in points, yards per play, total yards and third-down conversion rate during its first season with Mark Mangino as offensive coordinator. The Cyclones have plenty of skill-position talent, led by receiver Quenton Bundrage and tight end E.J. Bibbs, and may have a healthy offensive line after a 2013 season full of injuries up front.

Oklahoma safety Ahmad Thomas will emerge as an All-Big 12 candidate. The sophomore safety has continued to develop and improve for the Sooners and looks like a future star in the defensive backfield. He's versatile and gives the Sooners plenty of options with his ability to line up all over the field. Coaches and teammates have raved about his ability, so he could emerge as an All-Big 12 performer, particularly if the Sooners defense becomes a dominating force this fall. Thomas is not a household name right now but he could be by the time December rolls around.

Texas will lead the conference in rushing and finish top 10 nationally. Charlie Strong plans to run the football and the Longhorns have the horses to get it done in the backfield. Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown are a terrific foundation to build UT's offense around, and the offensive line should be solid. Add Strong's insistence that the Longhorns' “soft” label is a thing of the past, and it's a recipe for UT to grab a spot among the nation's top ground games this fall.

Max Olson's bold predictions

Texas Tech will start 7-0 again. The only major hurdles in a pretty favorable early-season schedule are back-to-back road games at Oklahoma State and Kansas State. I like Tech's chances of surviving both games so long as Webb is healthy. If the defense has come together by then and shows up in the big games, look out. From there, Kliff Kingsbury's squad will have a tough slate but a huge opportunity.

Kansas State beats Auburn. Go ahead, call me crazy. This just feels like it's going to be a weird ballgame, almost akin to KSU's 24-19 win over No. 6 Oklahoma in 2012. Kansas State's coaches have the brainpower to come up with answers to Auburn's dangerous option attack. They recruited Nick Marshall hard out of junior college and know his weaknesses. And Tyler Lockett can score on anybody. In a crazy Thursday night home game atmosphere, I think KSU can get it done.

David Ash earns All-Big 12 honors. I didn't say first team! I'm not necessarily saying second-team honors, either. But Texas' fourth-year quarterback remains one of the league's most underrated players and someone who's going to make a breakthrough if he can play all 12 games. Ash was a top-25 passer in 2012, and with quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson's tutelage and the aid of Texas' impressive run game, he can do it again.

Our boldest prediction

A Big 12 team will make the College Football Playoff. Oklahoma and Baylor will meet on Nov. 8 in Norman, Oklahoma. The winner will go on to represent the conference in the inaugural playoff. You'll see.

Big 12 teleconference rewind

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
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Monday morning, the Big 12 held its first weekly coaches teleconference of the season.

Here is what was said, and my thoughts:

Jake Trotter: The Longhorns won't need Jaxon Shipley this week. But they will need him the following weekend against BYU. With quarterback David Ash working his way back into form, he will need Texas' most experienced and accomplished wideout on the field.

Trotter: The injuries to Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox hurt Kansas' depth. But De'Andre Mann and Corey Avery were pushing for the top spots on the depth chart before the injuries. The depth took a hit. But the Jayhawks should be fine at running back, provided they suffer no more injuries.

Trotter: The BCS was kind to the Sooners over the years, notably in 2003 and 2008. It remains to be seen whether the playoff committee will look favorably on Oklahoma as well.

Trotter: That is high praise. As a player and coach, Mike Gundy played against some formidable opponents, including some powerhouse Oklahoma and Nebraska teams as a player, then a pair of national championship teams at Oklahoma and Texas as a coach. The combination of Florida State's prominence and Oklahoma State's inexperience is hardly an ideal combination for an opener.

Trotter: Bill Snyder traditionally has preferred to utilize one primary running back, and Charles Jones evidently will get the first shot to replace John Hubert. Whoever emerges from the competition will have the opportunity to shine playing alongside quarterback Jake Waters, receiver Tyler Lockett and behind an offensive line with a pair of all-conference performers.

Trotter: The loss off Icky Banks, a starter last season, in the non-conference hurts, but at least they get him back for the conference portion of the season. The Mountaineers have senior Travis Bell and Terrell Chestnut to at least bridge the gap. The good news is West Virginia has a reliable cover man at the other cornerback in Daryl Worley.

Trotter: Whether Texas Tech makes a big jump defensively will hinge heavily on how big an impact the junior-college defensive linemen make. The Red Raiders were gashed against the run last season. They need some of these big men up front, notably, 340-pound nose guard Rika Levi, to help shore that up.

Trotter: This is interesting. The Baylor Bears were formidable last season defensively, headlined by All-American safety Ahmad Dixon and All-Big 12 linebacker Eddie Lackey. But there is no doubt the defensive line is going to be better this season. If the secondary comes around the way coach Art Briles think it will, Baylor might not suffer the downturn defensively many are predicting.

Trotter: It was an uncharacteristically poor season for the Iowa State defense, which ranked last in the league in rushing defense, and seventh in pass defense. Improving those numbers won't come easy, but the Cyclones have some experienced pieces in the front seven to work with in tackle Brandon Jensen, ends Cory Morrissey and Mitchell Meyers, and linebackers Jared Brackens, Alton Meeks, Jevohn Miller and Luke Knott.

Trotter: No surprise here. My money is on Trevone Boykin getting the first snap. But as coach Gary Patterson has hinted, this competition could linger into September.

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Big 12 recruiting scorecard

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
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Here's the latest around the Big 12 on the recruiting trail:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Bears commitment Chad President appears ready to start his season for Temple (Texas) High School, throwing for four touchdowns in a scrimmage on Friday. President is an ESPN 300 receiver whom the Bears will give a shot to play quarterback when he arrives on campus in January after enrolling early.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Lawton (Oklahoma) athlete Darreyl Patterson will make his official visit to Iowa State this weekend. The three-star prospect has offers from ISU, Kansas State, Washington State and others.

KANSAS
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Junior college players represent the bulk of KU’s class with eight of its 13 current commitments from the juco level. The Jayhawks continue to do a terrific job in North Texas, with four of their five high school commitments from the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats added arguably their top commitment of the class with a verbal from Tucker (Georgia) cornerback Duke Shelley last week. The three-star prospect turned down Clemson, Tennessee, Wisconsin and others to commit to Bill Snyder’s program.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: The Sooners added more bulk to their recruiting class with a pledge from three-star guard Dru Samia of Danville, California/San Ramon. Samia, who turned down offers from Texas Tech, UCLA, Oregon State, Cal and Washington State, is the fourth offensive lineman on OU’s commit list.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 8
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Cowboys will get the chance to impress receiver offer Ryan Newsome of Aledo, Texas, who plans to attend OSU’s season-opening tilt with Florida State on Saturday. Newsome tweeted his plans to join Cowboys commit Ronald Jones at the game. Newsome also has plans to officially visit OU and Texas, with Oregon, Tennessee and UCLA rounding out his official visit list.

TCU
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: One name to keep an eye on for the Horned Frogs could be Euless (Texas) Trinity defensive end Tipa Galeai. He doesn’t have an offer but visited the school last week and could be a long-term, developmental prospect to keep an eye on at 6-foot-6, 206 pounds. The three-star prospect boasts offers from Utah, Utah State and Washington State.

TEXAS
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 7
The latest: Long Beach (California) Poly cornerback Iman Marshall, the No. 8 player in the ESPN300, started a buzz on Twitter last week by asking fans of OU and UT to help him decide where to go for his fifth official visit. He already plans to visit Florida State, LSU, Notre Dame and Michigan with his other officials.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Red Raiders reportedly offered Class of 2016 prospect Keith Corbin last week. The Beaumont (Texas) West Brook receiver also has an offer from Ole Miss. A big, athletic target at 6-2, 175 pounds, Corbin could see his offer list reach double digits.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: WVU quarterback commitment David Sills had a terrific weekend, accounting for seven touchdowns in his team’s 58-56 overtime win over Spartanburg, South Carolina.
In today's mailbag, we discuss what team should be on upset alert Week 1, Baylor's front seven, Oklahoma's linebackers, Kansas' running backs and "College GameDay" possibilities this year for the Big 12.

As an aside, the season starts next week, which means we'll be looking to select our first guest picker of 2014. Click here and sell us on why you should be the Week 1 guest picker. And, as always, creativity counts.

Now, to the 'Bag:

Trotter: Iowa State. The Cyclones face the three-time defending FCS champs in North Dakota State, which toppled Kansas State in Manhattan last year. The Bison lost their coach, Craig Bohl, to Wyoming. Several key starters from last year are gone, too. But North Dakota State opened No. 2 in the FCS polls for a reason. Don't forget, Iowa State lost to Northern Iowa last season, as well. This is not a game the Cyclones can afford to play poorly in. Trotter: Eventually, yes. When, who knows? But it will happen. Trotter: Yes. Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox reportedly performed well this preseason, but so have De'Andre Mann and Corey Avery. I think the Jayhawks will be fine at running back -- provided nobody else there gets injured. Trotter: This has more to do with Trevone Boykin -- and the work he's put in this offseason -- than it does anyone else. Obviously Boykin has responded well to having Sonny Cumbie as his position coach. But Boykin has gotten into phenomenal shape and really focused on becoming a better quarterback. As result, it appears that he has. Trotter: Oklahoma is going to be fine at linebacker. Obviously the depth took a hit. But Jordan Evans showed as a true freshman last year that he can play at a high level. The Sooners would be better with Shannon on the field. But they're not going to be that much worse off without him, either. Trotter: I'm not sure Baylor is going to have the best front in the country, as Art Briles suggested in the spring. But it has a chance to be one of the three-best in the Big 12. Andrew Billings is one of the best young tackles in the league. Shawn Oakman has the ability to become a star. And Bryce Hager is one of the most proven linebackers in the conference. This has the potential to be a special group. Trotter: That would be tough. The Baylor loss would happen late in the season. It would rob Oklahoma of its best chance for landing a marquee win. And Baylor, by defeating the Sooners, would theoretically surge ahead in the Big 12 playoff pecking order. So I don't see Oklahoma making the playoff without a win over the Bears. Trotter: I can't see it, not this year at least. This isn't the Big 12 of 2008. Let's assume that the playoff would at the least include Florida State and the SEC champ. The Big 12 then getting two teams in would entail the playoff committee leaving out the champs from the Pac-12 and Big Ten, plus a potential second team from the SEC. There are a couple scenarios, however, where it might be feasible. Say Kansas State beats Auburn, loses at Oklahoma, but beats Baylor in the season finale. An 11-1 K-State would be an attractive second Big 12 playoff possibility (along with, say, an undefeated Oklahoma) because of the marquee non-conference victory over Auburn and the marquee win at the end of the season in Waco. So it's not impossible. Then again, it's probably more likely that the Big 12 gets left out completely than it gets two teams in. Trotter: Deante Burton is the player to watch. He had a big spring, and has the size and strength to go up and get the ball downfield. With every defense focused on containing Lockett, Burton should get plenty of one-to-one opportunities. Trotter: Some possibilities include: Baylor-Oklahoma on Nov. 8; the Red River Showdown on Oct. 11; Kansas State-Oklahoma on Oct. 18; Baylor-Texas on Oct. 4; and Oklahoma-Texas Tech on Nov. 15. Trotter: The fact that neither DeMarcus Robinson nor Charles Jones nor Jarvis Leverett seized the job in the spring gives Dalvin Warmack the chance. It's been radio silence in Manhattan the last week or so. But if Bill Snyder (who likes redshirting his freshmen) announces before the opener he's not going to redshirt Warmack, that will be the sign that Warmack is going to play a lot. Trotter: If West Virginia gets back to a bowl game facing such a difficult schedule, I would consider it to be a successful season. Especially with what the Mountaineers would have coming back for 2015. Trotter: Texas has one of the most iconic looks in all of college football. Many schools need alternate uniforms to grab the attention of recruits and generate energy in their programs. Texas is not one of them.

Big 12 preseason recruiting report card 

August, 22, 2014
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Currently, 119 athletes in the 2015 class have announced their verbal commitments to play college football in the Big 12. Of those players, 23 are ESPN 300 athletes -- and there’s still plenty of time for the conference to land more of the nation’s best.

Look for an uptick in conference recruiting as the fall approaches, but here’s an analysis on how Big 12 teams are looking as of now for the Class of 2015.

Big 12 morning links

August, 22, 2014
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Kevin Durant offered $265 million? Is he worth it? The answer may surprise you.
  • Lane Kiffin's arrival at Alabama creates some uncertainty for West Virginia, writes Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail. A new quarterback and new offensive coordinator is making it difficult for the Mountaineers' new defensive coordinator Tony Gibson to prepare for the Crimson Tide. Even with all the uncertainty, nothing will matter if WVU cannot stop the run. If Alabama wins the battle up front and the Crimson Tide's exceptional running backs find room to roam, it won't matter who is taking the snaps or calling the plays.
  • Texas coach Charlie Strong detailed the Longhorns' starters on Thursday, with multiple freshman and walk-ons showing up in the mix for a starting role in Strong's first season. Safety Jason Hall, tackle Darius James are among the freshman who could become starters while sophomore walk-ons Dylan Haines, a safety, and Ty Templin, a receiver, could end up earning roles. It's a clear sign everyone began with a clean slate under Strong and the new coach is willing to give anyone, no matter class or scholarship status, a chance to contribute if they show the commitment he's requiring from his players.
  • On Thursday, Mike Gundy did everything but name J.W. Walsh the starting quarterback for Oklahoma State's opening game against Florida State, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. If indeed Walsh does start for the Cowboys it would be the right move for Gundy's squad. The junior has the most experience and he's the best runner of the quarterbacks on campus. With relatively an unproven offensive line set to battle the defending national champions, Walsh brings traits that could allow OSU to test the Seminoles ability to handle a game plan full of quarterback run game.
  • The bulk of Kansas' freshman class talked to the media for the first time on Thursday, with running back Corey Avery getting plenty of attention after the Jayhawks lost a pair of senior running backs earlier this week. But fellow freshman Kyron Watson, a linebacker, sounds like he's been just as impressive as Avery on the defensive side of the ball. Weis calls Watson a "sideline-to-sideline" player and the ESPN300 linebacker is expected to play as a true freshman for the Jayhawks. So keep an eye on Watson as KU could have its understudy for Ben Heeney already on campus.
  • Last but not least, this terrific read from Kellis Robinett of the Kansas City Star reveals Ryan Mueller's journey from overlooked prep recruit to sack master at Kansas State. Mueller has become known for hard work, on and off the field. He is the Big 12's leading returning sack leader with 11.5 in 2013, more than Texas' Cedric Reed, Oklahoma's Eric Striker and other Big 12 defenders who enter the season with more preseason hype. Bold prediction: Mueller reaches double-digit sacks for the second season and makes those who think he is a flash in the pan regret questioning his ability.
This week we'll continue highlighting the key position battles for every program in the Big 12. We continue the series with Kansas State’s running back derby.

Here's where the battle stands:

Contenders: senior DeMarcus Robinson, sophomore Jarvis Leverett, sophomore Charles Jones, freshman Dalvin Warmack.

What happened last season: KSU’s departed senior running backs, John Hubert and Robert Rose, combined for 1,152 of the Wildcats’ 2,314 rushing yards last season.

Hubert was outstanding as a centerpiece of the Wildcats' offense, rushing for 1,048 yards (5.3 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns. He was one reason the quarterback-receiver connection between Jake Waters and Tyler Lockett became so lethal, particularly on deep throws when the safeties found themselves unable to help cornerbacks because of Hubert’s running prowess.

His departure leaves a major void in KSU’s running game.

What they offer: It seems not much has changed since the end of spring with Jones and Robinson looking like the favorites to get the bulk of the early season carries.

Jones has never carried the ball in a collegiate game, so there are plenty of unknowns with the sophomore but he should get the chance to prove himself in the first few games of 2014.

Robinson is the veteran in the running back battle and the lone running back on the roster who has carried the ball for the Wildcats with five carries for 20 yards last season. He spent the past few seasons as an understudy to Hubert, understands the offense and provides a veteran presence in the running backs room.

Leverett had a solid spring game and should be in the mix for carries alongside Jones and Robinson.

Warmack is the newcomer of the group and has impressed enough to emerge as a candidate to play as a true freshman. Though he’s not on the road to securing a starting spot, his talent and football smarts have put him in the position to play if the Wildcats need another option at running back.

At this point K-State’s running back situation looks very much like a running back-by-committee.

Prediction: No single running back will follow in Hubert’s footsteps by eclipsing 1,000 rushing yards this fall. It wouldn’t be a major surprise to see all four Wildcats’ running backs get at least one carry in 2014 if nobody steps up and secures the job early in the season.
The Wall Street Journal took an interesting look at how college football’s coaches have fared against AP Top 25 teams during their careers. Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops has the best overall record at 50-23, a clear sign of the program’s consistency and success in big games under the veteran coach. He’s earned the nickname “Big Game Bob.”

Here’s a look at how each Big 12 coach has fared against the AP Top 25 at their current school. For a look at their career record, you can go to the original piece on The Wall Street Journal’s website.

Art Briles at Baylor: 7-19

Paul Rhoads at Iowa State: 4-19

Charlie Weis at Kansas: 0-8

Bill Snyder at Kansas State: 23-43

Bob Stoops at Oklahoma: 50-23

Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State: 15-20

Gary Patterson at TCU: 14-14

Charlie Strong at Texas: 0-0 (2-2 at Louisville)

Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech: 2-3

Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia: 5-6

A few quick thoughts:
  • These numbers just reinforce Stoops' ability to win games against top competition. People like to point at OU’s Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Alabama as the return of “Big Game Bob” but that conveniently overlooks road wins at Florida State and Notre Dame in games that garnered plenty of national attention in the past three years.
  • It shouldn’t be a surprise to see Gary Patterson join Stoops as the lone current Big 12 coaches with a record of .500 or better against AP Top 25 teams. A couple of substandard seasons in the Big 12 shouldn’t completely erase years of dominating performances from the Horned Frogs under Patterson.
  • It’s quite revealing to see Kingsbury has faced more AP Top 25 teams than Strong. In one season at Tech, Kingsbury saw a Top 25 squad five different times yet Strong coached four games against AP Top 25 teams in four seasons at Louisville. It will be interesting to see how Strong handles the clear step up in competition, week in and week out.
  • Four wins against AP Top 25 teams shows the ability of Paul Rhoads to get the best out of his Iowa State teams. His 4-19 record isn’t great but it could be a lot worse.
  • Bill Snyder and Mike Gundy rank second and third in total wins against AP Top 25 teams which is to be expected as Snyder at KSU and Gundy at OSU have taken their programs to previously unseen levels during their time as head coach at their respective schools.
  • Holgorsen's 5-6 record is solid, particularly for a coach on the hot seat heading into the season. His five wins against AP Top 25 teams in three seasons at WVU could be one reason not to overlook the Mountaineers' chances to surprise in 2014.

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