Big 12: Oklahoma State Cowboys

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.
With the opening weekend of college football just a little more than a week away, we make some calls on who some of the top passers, rushers and receivers might be:

After Bryce Petty, Davis Webb, Trevor Knight and Jake Waters, who will lead the Big 12 in passing?

Chatmon: This is a tough one, but I’m going to go with West Virginia’s Clint Trickett. The Mountaineers have the skill-position talent to support Trickett, and the senior has a year of experience in Dana Holgorsen’s offense under his belt. I fully expect to see an improved Mountaineers’ offense and Trickett should play a key role in that improvement.

Olson: Gee, we’ve really narrowed that down, haven’t we? The best way I can put my answer is this: Oklahoma State will finish with more passing yards as a team than Texas, so I guess I have to go with J.W. Walsh. While I can envision Daxx Garman earning a couple starts at some point, I still think Walsh will put up good numbers. David Ash might be a smarter choice here, but his injury history makes it a tough call.

Trotter: I can’t pick any of the quarterbacks from Oklahoma State or TCU, since it’s still unclear how much any of them will play. And I can’t go with Montell Cozart, given that his best asset right now is his wheels. That leaves Ash, Trickett and Sam B. Richardson. Ash has an injury history. Then again, so do Trickett and Richardson.And while West Virginia and Iowa State have other intriguing quarterback options, Texas really does not.This is Ash’s show. And he has shown at times in the past he has the ability to put up big passing numbers.

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Gray
David K Purdy/Getty ImagesJohnathan Gray is a consensus pick to lead the Big 12 in rushing this season.
Who will lead the league in rushing?

Chatmon: Johnathan Gray is a easy choice for me. A healthy Gray is easily the best running back in the Big 12, and Texas’ offense will be built around its running game. Gray, who has a 4.8 yards-per-carry average in his career, will get plenty of opportunities, and he will take advantage of them.

Olson: Gray. It’s a really difficult prediction because I do think Shock Linwood will surpass 1,000 yards. I also think Baylor loves Devin Chafin and Johnny Jefferson enough that there’s going to be a equitable sharing of carries in Waco. Texas, meanwhile, won’t have Baylor’s passing game and should go all-in on a run-first mentality. Gray was on pace for more than 1,100 yards last year before his Achilles tear. He’s healthy again, and I think he can have a huge year.

Trotter: I have to agree with Brandon and Max. When healthy, Gray has proven to be the best all-around back in the league, and he is the best bet here. But keep an eye on Oklahoma State running back Tyreek Hill. If the Cowboys make him their offensive workhorse, he has the big-play ability to have a monster season. Sure, durability would be a question. But speed would not.

After Tyler Lockett and Antwan Goodley, who will lead the Big 12 in receiving?

Chatmon: Jakeem Grant immediately comes to mind here, but I’m going to go with Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard. The Sooners’ passing game should be improved with an improved Knight, and Shepard has the skills to make defenses play for leaving him in one-on-one situations. Grant will garner increased attention from secondaries while Shepard, helped by OU’s running game, should have more chances to make game-changing plays.

Olson: Did you know: In 2013, six of the Big 12’s top eight receivers in yardage played for either Baylor or Texas Tech. So I would be pretty stupid not to go with Grant here. Not only was he one of those six and very productive as a No. 3 option, but he’s also going to get a nice chunk of the 106 receptions (!) and 152 targets (!!!) that went to Jace Amaro last year. Tech’s No. 2 option, Eric Ward, had more catches (83) and targets (122) than Goodley. That’s insane. Grant is going to feast on their leftovers.

Trotter: Grant missed two games and was the third banana in Tech’s passing offense last year. And he still finished sixth in the league in receiving. With Ward and Amaro gone, Grant will take over as the Red Raiders’ primary receiving threat. And with quarterback Webb budding with confidence and the Red Raiders primed to air it out, Grant is easily the best bet here.

Big 12 morning links

August, 20, 2014
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Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A breakfast with morning links? One thousand percent better. In fact, 9 of 10 nutritionists recommend morning links as a healthy companion to your breakfast.
  • The future of Kansas' offense took a downward turn when the Jayhawks announced the loss of Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox to season-ending injuries on Tuesday, writes Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. It's a painful loss for a KU offense that is going to need a strong running game to help take the burden off sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart. Neither Cox or Bourbon come to mind as the top playmakers in KU's offense before injuries took them out of the equation -- Tony Pierson and Nick Harwell top the list -- but it's hard to overlook the impact on KU's offense. The good news is Corey Avery stepped on campus ready to play as a freshman and De'Andre Mann is another option at running back for the Jayhawks.
  • Iowa State safety Kamara Cotton-Moya was shot, yet he insists losing last season to an Achilles injury was worse, writes Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register. The redshirt freshman was says he learned to "try not to be in the wrong place at the wrong time" from the incident, which occurred before he headed to Ames, Iowa, last summer. Cotton-Moya's story is an interesting one but his impact on the field is just as intriguing. He would have likely joined Nigel Tribune as a true freshman to see time in ISU's secondary in 2013 if he hadn't hurt his Achilles, so it should be fun to monitor his impact on a defense that needs to replace its top two tacklers (Jacques Washington, Jeremiah George) from 2013.
  • Who is the active leader in career tackles on Kansas State's roster? Kellis Robinett of the Kansas City Star has the surprising answer: Randall Evans sits atop the list with 146 career tackles. Evans isn't a guy who comes to mind when you think of the most productive defenders on Bill Snyder's team but Robinett's story reminds us just how important the versatile Evans is to K-State's defense, particularly considering the fact he goes head to head with some of the Big 12's best receivers at his slot cornerback position.
  • The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel believes Oklahoma State is a Big 12 heavyweight. Why? The Cowboys' defensive line tells the tale as that group is the best unit on OSU's defense heading into 2014 which is sign things have changed in Stillwater, Oklahoma. It's hard to disagree as quality defensive linemen often help separate teams and are easily the hardest jewel to find on the recruiting trail. Is OSU's defensive line good enough to overcome concerns at linebacker and safety? That's the bigger, unanswered question.
  • Finally, in case you missed it, take a look at Grantland's Big 12 preview by Holly Anderson. It's a fun look at the conference including a outlandish prediction that someone in the conference will score 100 points in a game this season. Yes, you read that right, 100 points. Could it happen? I don't think so, but that's why they call it an outlandish prediction.

Big 12 mailbag

August, 19, 2014
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First of all, thanks for all of your questions. In today’s mailbag we talk Oklahoma’s suspension of Joe Mixon, K-State’s chances against Auburn and some Big 12 quarterbacks.

Let’s jump right in:

David B from Dallas writes: Did David Boren and Oklahoma step way over the line by suspending Joe Mixon from all team activities for the entire year? And do you think this affects recruiting for Oklahoma going forward?

Brandon Chatmon: I don’t think so. The Sooners made the right move with their decision on Mixon. OU clearly wanted to send a message here and they did. I don’t think it will have a major impact on the Sooners' recruiting. Will it be a conversation piece and a question that will be asked? Yes. But once OU explains its reasoning to recruits and parents, it should be fine. I have a hard time believing recruits will leave OU off their list based on Mixon’s suspension.


Cole from Oklahoma City writes: With the Mixon thing finally finished for now, how much more of an impact can Perine have now? I feel like he'll be a 3rd and 1 guy and goal line guy just because he can truck anything in front of him. How many carries and yards do you think he'll have?

Chatmon: Samaje Perine’s chances to make a bigger impact definitely increased with Mixon’s suspension. That’s not to say he wasn’t going to have an impact before but Mixon’s absence means one less competitor for carries and Perine is a guy who looks like he will get some opportunities this fall. I could definitely see him becoming a key asset in short-yardage situations. I think he will finish with between 50-100 carries and 350-450 yards this season.


Mark from Snyderville USA writes: What percentage would you put on K-State's chances to upset Auburn in Snyderville? I give em a 83% chance based on a few stats. 1) KR yards. Auburn gave up an average of 25 YPKR (The only teams in the B12 to allow that many YPKR was TCU and Texas). K-State averages 24 YPKR. 2.) Rushing yards per attempt. Auburn gave up nearly 4.6 yards per Rush attempt. K-state averaged 4.5 yards per rush attempt. What does it all mean, you ask? It means Auburn allows teams to do the things that make K-State successful. Good starting field position and extending drives, eating up the time of possession.

Chatmon: I think 83 percent is pretty high but I’d put it at around 50-60 percent based off the fact it is a night game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium and the Wildcats’ duo of Tyler Lockett and Jake Waters is tough for anyone to handle. I could see KSU’s kick-return prowess coming into play but their yards per rush attempt advantage assumes the Wildcats find a playmaker at running back during the first two games. I’m not so sure the running game will be clicking enough to put that in the “pro” column quite yet. Nonetheless, I’m going with K-State in a close home win.


Joshua Parsons from Lubbock writes: What are the expectations for Texas Tech's Davis Webb in his sophomore season?

Chatmon: They should be high. He’s the second-best returning quarterback in the league behind Baylor's Bryce Petty. Webb was good as a freshman so I’m expecting him to be very good to great as a sophomore with a year under his belt. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Webb alongside Petty at the top of most passing categories in 2014.


Steve from Fresno writes: Who do you think Oklahoma State's starting QB should be?

Chatmon: J.W. Walsh should start against Florida State but I think Daxx Garman will get a shot at some point this season.


Winn Walker from Fort Worth writes: Do you consider TCU as a dark horse team to contend for the Big 12 championship this year? Or are they one year away from really competing for a conference title?

Chatmon: I do, mainly because the Horned Frogs play good defense which always gives you a chance. However, if they don’t get good, efficient quarterback play, their dark-horse status goes out the window for me. I can’t wait to see how TCU’s offense looks in the first couple of games.


Scott from Royce City writes: What is your feeling on OU/Mayfield appealing Tech's block of the transfer? Would it set a troubling precedence if they allow him to transfer (in conference) and not have to sit?

Chatmon: As a walk-on at Texas Tech, Baker Mayfield’s situation is a little different for me. I can see Tech’s side of the argument and I can see Mayfield’s side of things. I’d probably lean toward allowing Mayfield to play, only because he was a walk on at Tech, but I have my doubts it will happen and I don’t view it as a major injustice if he has to sit out this season.
It's Take Two Tuesday time, when we give diverging opinions on a topic related to the Big 12.

Today's Take Two topic: What has been the biggest surprise so far this preseason?

Take 1: Brandon Chatmon – Sam Richardson

Sam Richardson’s return to the top of the Iowa State Cyclones’ depth chart as QB1 has been a surprise.

Richardson looked the part as a redshirt freshman, when he burst upon the scene with eight touchdowns and just one interceptions in four games played during his debut season in 2012. He looked like the guy who would be the Cyclones’ main man under center for the next three seasons.

Then he took a step backward in 2013.

True enough the injury bug played a role in Richardson’s regression as a sophomore but that didn’t make his performance any less disappointing. His completion percentage decreased from 58.2 percent to 55.3 percent, his sack percentage increased from 3.7 percent to 9.1 percent and interception percentage increased from 1.3 percent to 2.7 percent.

And Grant Rohach’s strong performance to end the 2013 season made it difficult to imagine Richardson returning to the top of the Cyclones’ depth chart to begin 2014. Rohach won two of the four games he started as Richardson’s replacement and appeared to be a solid bet to open 2014 under center for the season opener in Ames, Iowa.

But Mark Mangino’s arrival, a return to good health and his improved performance have helped Richardson regain his starting spot and made him the Big 12’s surprise of the preseason.

Take 1: Jake Trotter – Oklahoma State QBs

This has been one newsy preseason for the Big 12. The arrest of Devonte Fields. The dismissals at Texas. The limbo players at Oklahoma. And, yes, I too was mildly surprised that Richardson ultimately beat out Rohach for the starting job at Iowa State, considering how well Rohach played at the end of last season.

But the biggest surprise at the moment is the news that hasn’t happened. More specifically, that J.W. Walsh hasn’t won the starting job yet at Oklahoma State.

Sure, coach Mike Gundy might be producing a smokescreen for Florida State by holding back on naming a starter. But his comments and other reports out of Stillwater suggest the Cowboys could be serious about playing former walk-on Daxx Garman, and, who knows, possibly even true freshman Mason Rudolph.

Coming into the preseason, Walsh was the overwhelming favorite to win the job. Even Gundy admitted after Oklahoma State’s final spring scrimmage that Walsh was way ahead of the other quarterbacks. Walsh’s teammates talked glowingly of his leadership and the way he commanded the offense behind the scenes. His passing accuracy also seemed to have improved.

But all of that hasn’t quite carried over into August.

Two years ago, Walsh shined in relief as a redshirt freshman. But last year, some of his physical limitations with arm strength caused the Oklahoma State offense to bog down. The Cowboys have recruited to feature a wide-open spread offense full of capable wide receivers and contingent on a quarterback being able to pepper the ball around downfield. That, however, isn’t Walsh’s forte. He’s a dual-threat quarterback who relies on his wheels as much as his arm to make plays. When defenses discovered that Walsh wasn’t going to beat them downfield with the pass, they crept up to the line of scrimmage to take away the run. And as result, the offense sputtered until the Cowboys reinserted Clint Chelf back into the lineup.

Will Oklahoma State also play Garman this year? Will Rudolph get a shot, too? That remains to be seen. But coming out of the spring, it looked like a lock that Walsh would start out as the guy. So far, it doesn’t look like that’s necessarily going to be the case.
This week we'll be highlighting the key position battles for every program in the Big 12. We continue the series with Oklahoma State’s quarterback derby.

Here's where the battle stands:

Contenders: junior J.W. Walsh, junior Daxx Garman, freshman Mason Rudolph

What happened last season: Departed quarterback Clint Chelf ignited OSU’s offense when he took over as the starter midway through the 2013 season. He played as well as any quarterback in the conference during OSU’s final seven games, playing a major role in the Cowboys' late-season surge. Chelf finished second in the Big 12 with an 82.9 adjusted QBR.

Walsh started five games and played the majority of OSU’s season-opening win over Mississippi State while helping the Cowboys to a 10-3 record. His 74.5 adjusted QBR was fourth in the Big 12, and he rushed for 294 yards and passed for 1,333 yards in 2013. Nonetheless, Walsh hasn’t run away with OSU’s starting quarterback job heading into the 2014 season.

While Chelf and Walsh were running the Pokes' offense each Saturday, walk-on quarterback Garman was beginning to create some buzz in practice while sitting out due to transfer rules after transferring from Arizona.

What they offer: Walsh offers an unquestioned leader who has a proven ability to win Big 12 games. He enters his junior season with 2,897 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions along with 584 rushing yards and 10 scores in 18 games played. Walsh struggled at times during the 2013 season and needs to greatly improve as a passer, but nobody on the roster can match his experience or college production.

Garman’s ability to throw the ball started garnering attention last fall. His passing ability remains one of his top assets, with offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich repeatedly praising his throwing skills. Garman’s play is the main reason Walsh, despite his experience, has not been named the starter, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the former walk-on taking snaps in the season opener against Florida State.

Rudolph appears to be the Cowboys' quarterback of the future. The question is, could the future begin this fall? With OSU featuring two quality options ahead of him, Rudolph faces a long road to earning playing time this fall. And if he does, that’s a terrific sign for the future.

They said it: “As a group, the three of them had as good of a scrimmage at the quarterback position in a number of years.” -- OSU coach Mike Gundy after the Cowboys’ scrimmage on Saturday.

Prediction: The Cowboys’ quarterback battle will wage deep into the season. It would be a surprise if Walsh didn’t start against Florida State, particularly since his running ability could come in handy against an active Seminoles defensive front. But, much like last season, Walsh will have to hold off another quality quarterback behind him in Garman. There will probably be times when Garman is the best option instead of Walsh, and Rudolph’s physical gifts are impressive. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise if all three quarterbacks take snaps for the Cowboys in 2014.

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

August, 18, 2014
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We're less than two weeks away from the season and only 170 days away from national signing day. Here's your weekly update on where each Big 12 program stands on the recruiting front:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: ESPN 300 WR Chad President made it official: He's now a Baylor Bear. President, who's been committed since last summer, inked financial aid papers with the Bears this week. Coach Art Briles appears intent to let the 6-foot-3, 195-pound standout from nearby Temple, Texas, play quarterback when he enrolls early.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: ISU will soon get a visit from one of their top targets, junior college CB Antoine Albert of Diablo Valley College in California. The 6-foot-2 defender has seen his offer list grow considerably -- now including Tennessee and Arizona -- but Iowa State got in the mix early and has to like its chances.

KANSAS
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Jayhawks are having a hard time winning recruiting battles within their own state. That'll make the guys KU can get even more important. Keep an eye on safety Darreon Jackson from Derby, Kansas. He's a move-in who came from a big-time Texas program, Mesquite Horn, where he earned all-district honors at linebacker. Charlie Weis' staff should like its chances with him.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats continue to do an impressive job of locking down their backyard. Their latest pledge came from three-star OT Evan Applegate, who's listed at 6-foot-7 and 280 pounds. Applegate turned down offers from Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Nebraska to join a KSU class that's off to a nice start.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: The Sooners have missed on a bunch of big-time offensive line targets, but they got a good one last week in Cody Ford. OU coaches convinced the three-star offensive guard from Pineville, Louisiana, to back out of his six-month pledge to TCU and join fellow linemen Bobby Evans and Dominique Hearne in their class.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: OSU beefed up its offensive line class last week with the addition of three-star tackle Joshua Jones and junior college tackle Brandon Pertile. Jones, one of the top linemen in the Houston area, chose the Pokes over Texas Tech and TCU. Pertile spent one year at Georgia State before enrolling at Mesa Community College in Arizona.

TCU
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: TCU has joined what should end up being a long list of suitors for 2016 DE Erick Fowler. The ESPN Junior 300 defender from Manor, Texas, went up to Fort Worth last week to watch a fall practice and went home with an offer. He now has at least six, and that list will continue to grow.

TEXAS
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 7
The latest: The Longhorns are among the top contenders for Mesquite (Texas) Poteet teammates LB Malik Jefferson and ATH DeAndre McNeal, and both have decided to announce their decisions in late December. McNeal might project out best as a linebacker in college, but he now says he wants to play offense. They'll take their official visit to out-of-state schools, and one lucky program could snag both for Christmas.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The leaders of Tech's class, ESPN 300 recruits Jarrett Stidham and Breiden Fehoko, are both set to enroll early and have now signed financial aid papers with the school. The ability to unofficially sign in August is a beneficial deal for all involved, because Tech coaches are now permitted unlimited calls and visits (and even public tweets) with their top two committed guys.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: The Mountaineers already have two QBs committed for their 2015 class, but they could be chasing another in Lamar Jackson. The three-star dual-threat passer from Boynton Beach, Florida, reportedly intends to take an official visit to Morgantown this fall and will also check out Nebraska. With David Sills and Chris Chugunov already on board, it'll be interesting to see how seriously WVU pursues him.

Big 12 morning links

August, 18, 2014
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Big 12 coaches over the weekend partook in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, including Kliff Kingsbury, Charlie Weis, Charlie Strong and Gary Patterson.
  • The Iowa State quarterback derby appears to be nearing a conclusion, and the Des Moines Register's Randy Peterson writes that Sam B. Richardson will be named the starter. Grant Rohach, who finished off last season as the starter, seemed to be the front-runner to hold on to the job going into the offseason. Rohach also outplayed Richardson and Joel Lanning in Iowa State's spring game. But Richardson, who opened last year as the starter, has re-emerged this preseason. He also gives coordinator Mark Mangino the threat of a running quarterback, which Mangino successfully utilized with Todd Reesing at Kansas. The Cyclones have long been searching for a long-term answer at quarterback. Perhaps Richardson will finally be that answer.
  • While Iowa State is close to settling on one quarterback, Oklahoma State seems to be heading the other direction. The Oklahoman's Kyle Fredrickson reports that the signs are pointing toward the Cowboys playing more than one quarterback this season. If that's indeed the case, it doesn't bode well for J.W. Walsh. He entered the year as the unequivocal leader of the offense and the overwhelming favorite to win the job. But Walsh's lack of arm strength led the Cowboys' wideout-heavy offense to bog down last year. If Mike Gundy is seriously considering giving Daxx Garman or even true freshman Mason Rudolph snaps, that's a signal the offense is still sputtering with Walsh behind center.
  • Oklahoma’s fight to keep starting linebacker Frank Shannon off the field this season will go before the Oklahoma Supreme Court this Wednesday, according to The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey. The Shannon saga has created the most awkward of situations for Shannon and the school. As the university seeks to suspend him after concluding he violated the university’s sexual misconduct policy, the Sooners continue to give their returning leading tackler first-team reps in practice. The situation will get even more awkward if it lingers into the season, which is why the school appealed the case to the state Supreme Court.
  • The West Virginia defense has been showing improvement, in the opinion of the Charleston Gazette's Dave Hickman. It's difficult to remember now, but the Mountaineers played good defense early last season before injuries ravaged the roster. West Virginia has quality players on that side of the ball, notably cornerback Daryl Worley and safety Karl Joseph. Under new coordinator Tony Gibson and assistant Tom Bradley, this has a chance to be one of the more improved units in the league.
  • Lastly, this piece by the San Antonio Express-News' Mike Finger on Texas coach Charlie Strong is outstanding. Read it.

 
Today, we debut our Big 12 true freshman power rankings, which we’ll update occasionally through August and the season. This list combines the factors of playing time and potential impact.

Without further ado, the Big 12 freshman power ranks:

1. Dravon Henry, FS, West Virginia: After just a few months in Morgantown, Henry is pushing to be the starting free safety for the opener against Alabama, another team that also recruited him hard. The ultra-athletic Henry could also be a factor in the return game. He and cornerback Daryl Worley give the Mountaineers potentially two of the best young defensive backs in the Big 12.

2. Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State: The gem of Iowa State’s recruiting class has not disappointed this preseason. He is already getting first-team reps alongside Quenton Bundrage and E.J. Bibbs. If he continues to progress, Lazard could round out a dynamic pass-catching trio.

3. K.D. Cannon, WR, Baylor: Cannon is behind Lazard, but only because the Bears are loaded at wide receiver. Cannon has been equally as impressive. Baylor coach Art Briles acknowledged that Cannon has proved to be even faster than he thought while recruiting him.

4. Armanti Foreman, WR, Texas: Foreman has taken full advantage of the injuries and dismissals Texas has endured at the wide receiving position this preseason. He might even have a chance to start the opener against North Texas.

5. Corey Avery, RB, Kansas: Avery could be heir in the Kansas backfield to departed All-Big 12 running back James Sims. Avery has wowed with his ability to make defenders miss and has recently begun to receive first-team snaps.

6. Dimitri Flowers, FB, Oklahoma: The Sooners raved about Flowers in the spring before he suffered an injury in the spring game. The 220-pound Flowers, who has drawn comparisons to former Oklahoma fullback Trey Millard, is healthy again and figures to be a big part of the Sooners’ pistol attack.

7. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State: Up until late in the recruiting process, this small-school Texas standout’s only other offer was from Texas State. But the Cowboys have apparently uncovered a diamond in the rough in Washington, who has been turning heads with his knack for catching any pass in his direction. Oklahoma State is deep at receiver, but Washington has played himself into a rotation role.

8. William Crest, QB, West Virginia: Clint Trickett was named the starter over the summer, but Crest is vying to become West Virginia’s second-team quarterback. That could be a critical role, considering Trickett’s injury history. Dana Holgorsen also has hinted at installing a special offensive package for his athletic quarterback.

9. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech: Davis Webb is the clear-cut starter in Lubbock, but Mahomes is showing he might be ready to be a reliable backup. Mahomes tossed five touchdown passes during a scrimmage over the weekend. That might also be an indictment of Tech’s second-team defense. But even against air, five touchdowns is impressive.

10. Emanuel Porter, WR, TCU: With Trevone Boykin still working at quarterback, the Horned Frogs need help at receiver. They’ve been getting it from Porter, who has impressed the coaching staff with his penchant for making big plays downfield.

On the radar: Dalvin Warmack, RB, Kansas State; Jeffery Mead, WR, Oklahoma; Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech

Big 12 morning links

August, 15, 2014
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Happy Friday everybody. The first glorious Saturday of the season is now two weeks and a day away. Hang in there, we're just so close. Here's what happening in Big 12 country:
  • The Oklahoman is reporting the Joe Mixon case is finally seeing some progress: The alleged victim is believed to have interviewed with police Thursday. Even if, as hoped, the case is turned over to a DA by the end of the week, Jenny Carlson points out that this isn't your typical "Law & Order" episode. OU obviously wants some clarity with the season two weeks away, but this process is going to take time, and who knows how it might play out? Still, after a relatively quiet three weeks, it's good to hear we're getting a little closer.
  • Now that quarterback Davis Webb is in his second year and the uncontested starter, Kliff Kingsbury is ready to entrust him with more duties. Kingsbury told Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal he's giving Webb more responsibility to change the play at the line. "He’s always had freedom," Kingsbury said. "I just feel like with his comfort level, he’ll take more risk as far as believing what he sees out there and getting us into a play." That's what makes the prospect of three more years of the Kingsbury-Webb duo scary: Once he gets confident with running the show on his own, look out.
  • This is my favorite fall camp position battle in the Big 12 and it's not even close: LaQuan McGowan vs. Blake Muir. The competition to replace Cyril Richardson at left guard on Baylor's line is still rolling. McGowan is the 6-foot-8, 400-pound monster we wrote about earlier this week, the one Art Briles calls "2034" because he assumes linemen will be that big in 20 years. He'll have to beat out Muir, the Australian who has a year of starting experience under his belt from his time at Hawaii. Whoever wins has to work well alongside Spencer Drango and keep Bryce Petty clean, so it's a critical job.
  • Now this is a wonderful story: Kansas defensive lineman T.J. Semke was put on scholarship this week. If you happen to skip a court date in the Kansas City area, you could have a chance to meet him. Semke is a bounty hunter in his spare time who made the Jayhawks' roster after seeing an ad for a tryout in the college newspaper. Now he's a second-string defensive tackle tasked with hunting quarterbacks. Hard not to root for that dude.
  • As Mike Gundy maintains his relative silence about his quarterback plan, Mason Rudolph has to be wondering where he stands. His high school coach told Kyle Fredrickson of The Oklahoman that Rudolph "wants to be the starter right now." That same coach also hopes he redshirts, for the betterment of his development. Gundy has been coy about his plans for using the true freshman from South Carolina. Considering how fellow backup Daxx Garman has raised his game lately, I think the redshirt is probably a safe bet at this point.
Last year Kansas joined the alternate uniform craze, which gave the Jayhawks triple-digit uniform possibilities. Wednesday, Kansas released another alternate option, dubbed the Crimson Chrome, which includes a gigantic Jayhawk beak on the helmet.

The Jayhawks are hardly alone in the Big 12 in donning alternative uniforms.

SportsNation

Which team in the Big 12 does alternate uniform combinations the best?

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    21%
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    4%
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    23%
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    22%
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    30%

Discuss (Total votes: 7,363)

Oklahoma introduced an alternative concept this summer, with cream helmets and crimson pants. Iowa State has been known to wear throwbacks. And TCU unveiled special helmets for last year’s opener with two streaks of red flamed on either side of a purple helmet.

Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas Tech, West Virginia and now Kansas, however, have been the most aggressive in changing up their looks from week to week.

Oklahoma State was on the cutting edge of the alternative uniform trend, and has been utilizing combinations of orange, black, white and gray dating back to 2011.

 
Baylor’s digs have also been brash, highlighted by a golden chrome helmet.

 
West Virginia still has its classic blue-blue-gold look, but the Mountaineers have introduced several other combinations since joining the Big 12, including a white helmet with an old-school WVU logo.

 
Texas Tech opened up its options last year under coach Kliff Kingsbury, who had creative authority designing the Red Raiders' many new alternate looks.

 
Now, in light of Kansas’ latest uniform addition, we put this question to you: Which team in the Big 12 does alternate uniform combinations the best?

Let us know what you think in our weekly Big 12 poll.

Big 12 morning links

August, 14, 2014
Aug 14
8:00
AM ET
I had Peanut Butter Crunch while writing these morning links. What will you have while reading them?
  • I've always felt that Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel would eventually emerge as the starter in TCU's quarterback competition. Maybe that assertion was wrong. Coach Gary Patterson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Travis L. Brown that after TCU's second scrimmage Tuesday, Trevone Boykin holds a slight edge over Joeckel in the quarterback battle. I still contend it makes sense to start Joeckel at quarterback and Boykin at wide receiver. Joeckel has more experience in the offense TCU is attempting to install, and Boykin instantly would become one of TCU's best receivers. But if Boykin is clearly the better quarterback this preseason, Patterson will have to start him. By the way, kudos to TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte for adding California to the future schedule. The Horned Frogs now have home-and-homes coming up with Minnesota (2014-15), Arkansas (2016-17), Ohio State (2018-19) and Cal (2020-21). That's solid.
  • Several times we've written about the talent and potential of the Big 12's true freshman skill class. But one player we've overlooked is Kansas running back Corey Avery, who has been turning heads in Lawrence this preseason, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal's Jesse Newell. Avery has been getting carries with the first-team offense, and could be the instant successor to James Sims in the Kansas backfield. Maybe this shouldn't be so surprising. Avery was one of the gems of Charlie Weis' signing class in February, choosing the Jayhawks over Baylor, LSU and Ohio State.
  • Iowa State's already-thin defensive line has taken yet another hit. Junior college defensive end Gabe Luna might have to redshirt after injuring his back, the Ames Tribune's Bobby La Gesse reports. The Cyclones have already lost incoming defensive tackle Terry Ayeni to a torn ACL, as well as tackles David Irving and Rodney Coe, who were booted from the team in the spring. The Cyclones still have good players up front. End Cory Morrissey was an honorable mention All-Big 12 pick last year. Noseguard Brandon Jensen has started to come on again after rejoining the team after spring ball. But Iowa State's depth up front has been decimated. That's a scary way to begin the season for a unit that finished last in the league in 2013 in sacks and rushing yards allowed.
  • When it comes to his quarterbacks, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy likes to keep things mysterious. This year is no different, writes The Oklahoman's Kyle Fredrickson. Gundy has yet to name veteran J.W. Walsh his starter. And he curiously said at a booster event last week that former walk-on Daxx Garman would get 10-15 snaps in the Florida State game. Who knows what will happen with Oklahoma State's QB situation, given the track record of the last two seasons. But it's worth keeping an eye on Garman. Because of his leadership and experience, Walsh remains the front-runner to start the opener. But Garman's superior arm strength could ultimately be a better fit for this Oklahoma State offense, which is loaded with wide receivers that can make plays in the passing game downfield.
  • Kansas State's Tyler Lockett and Baylor's Antwan Goodley are the league's only returning 1,000-yard receivers. But don't sleep on West Virginia's Mario Alford being a contender to pass the 1,000-yard barrier in Dana Holgorsen's offense. As the Charleston Gazette's Dave Hickman points out, Alford really came on late last season with 450 receiving yards in the Mountaineers' final four games after being moved from the slot to the outside. With better quarterback continuity and a year of experience behind him, Alford could be in for a big season.
Don't blame Mike Yurcich if he settles in for some down time this week, turns on The Discovery Channel's Shark Week and feels like he can relate.

After all, the Oklahoma State Cowboys offensive coordinator had to feel like he was thrown to the sharks during his debut campaign in the Big 12 after leaving Division II Shippensburg (Pa.) University to become main man at the helm of one of college football's most explosive offenses in 2013.

[+] EnlargeMike Yurcich
Brandon Wade/AP PhotoAs Mike Yurcich enters his second season at Oklahoma State, the offensive coordinator says he has finally settled in to the job.
"If you think about it, he went from the local hometown newspaper to USA Today," Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. "It's a little different."

Different life. Different home. Different region of the country. Everything changed for Yurcich after Gundy's surprising decision to hire a coach with zero experience as an offensive coordinator at an FBS school.

Now, heading into his second season, it is Yurcich who has changed.

"He's taken control in practice," Gundy said. "He's involved in every step, in the huddle and coaching everybody on the field.

"He's just different now than he was."

Yurcich was aiming to keep his head above water in a lot of ways a year ago. Heading into the 2014 season, the Pokes' OC feels more prepared for the task at hand with a year of experience as a Big 12 offensive coordinator under his belt.

"Anytime you're able to look at defenses the second year, their schemes and look at your game plan from a year ago, now you have something to balance it with," Yurcich said. "When we were in 2013 and I'd look back at 2012, you're still looking at that defense, so you are, in essence, looking at it for a second time. But you weren't there, you didn't experience it. And I think that experience, the second time around, is invaluable."

It's not like Yurcich's debut season was a flop. As the Cowboys' offense grew into its identity, so did Yurcich. The Cowboys finished second in the Big 12 in points per game (39.1), third in yards per play (5.91) and first in red zone efficiency (75 percent) during his first season in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

"He did a good job last year," Gundy said. "We had a couple issues here and there that kept us from being as good as we needed to be, but with his presence we got better on offense. Games 4, 5, 6 he started to get a feel for exactly who we were. I think he grew with the team."

Now Yurcich feels like the offense is his. And the Cowboys' players can sense a new level of confidence and conviction in the words of the second-year OC.

"His confidence overall [has increased]," junior receiver David Glidden said. "Being able to take control of the offense and take control of what he wants done. Last year was more of a group effort as far as getting things done, he was obviously the top guy and running it, but this year there's a little more of a sense of control of what he wants to get done and accomplished."

Heading into preseason camp, Yurcich had a pair of goals for his offense.

"(First) becoming a smart offense, an intelligent offense," he said. "That's really about repetition and being organized on my end. As a coordinator I feel like that's my responsibility to make sure everybody is on the same page to know what we're doing and why we're doing it so there's a purpose behind it."

Another focus for Yurcich is laying the foundation for any success the Pokes' offense will have in 2014.

"[Secondly] having a great effort when we hit the field, having good attitudes and learning to practice with a purpose," he said. "We don't practice at 3:30 on a Tuesday because it's 3:30 on a Tuesday, we practice at 3:30 on a Tuesday because it's the next opportunity to get better. We understand that, we did last year and those things are the building blocks to understanding how important ball security is, to understanding what tempo means and when we go faster to play really fast without any hesitation.

"Those are the building blocks then you go from there."
Trevor Knight, OklahomaStreeter Lecka/Getty ImagesThere's reason for optimism in the Big 12 following Oklahoma's win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

The last time a Big 12 team won a national championship, Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty was still in junior high. And the last national title game that merely included a Big 12 program, Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight had just passed his driver's test.

Yet with the BCS era dead and gone -- and conference realignment in the rearview mirror -- the Big 12 is out to re-establish its legitimacy in the debut season of the College Football Playoff.

And, most importantly, get back to contending for national championships again.

"We have excellent programs in the Big 12," said Kansas State coach Bill Snyder. "Is there any reason why this conference couldn't play somebody in the national championship?

"I don't see why not."

At the turn of the millennium, the Big 12 forged an identity on playing for BCS national championships an almost annually. Between 2000 and 2009, in fact, the Big 12 pushed a team into the national title game seven times.

But since Vince Young led Texas to that thrilling Rose Bowl win over USC nine years ago, the league has gone without a national title. And since Colt McCoy quarterbacked the Longhorns to the BCS national championship game five years ago, the Big 12 has not played in one.

[+] EnlargeStrong
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsCharlie strong is hoping to return Texas, the last Big 12 school to play for and win the national title, to its former national standing.
The title drought can be attributed, in part, to bad luck. But it can also be attributed to Oklahoma slipping a bit and Texas slipping a bunch over the past few years.

After hitting grand slams with Young and McCoy, Texas whiffed in its quarterback recruiting, and has failed to reach double-digit victories since 2009 as a result.

After winning six Big 12 titles early in the Bob Stoops era with dominating defense, the Sooners softened on that side of the ball and consequently have won only one outright conference title since 2008.

But there are signs the league could finally be breaking out of its recent malaise. None bigger than Oklahoma's Sugar Bowl smashing of Alabama behind a resurgent defense under coordinator Mike Stoops and the emergence of quarterback Trevor Knight, who torched the Crimson Tide in just his fifth career start.

Texas also took steps to revive its program by bringing in Charlie Strong, who already has installed a no-nonsense approach his first year in Austin.

But unlike the early 2000s, the conference flagships won't have to carry the Big 12 banner alone in the playoff era.

Oklahoma State has won 59 games over the past six years. Kansas State was ranked No. 1 in the polls at one point late in 2012. And Baylor ascended under coach Art Briles, who last season delivered the program its first Big 12 title.

"Name me two leagues that are better," said Briles. "You might could name one. But on a week in, week out basis, name me two. I ain't got them."

The Big 12's mettle, however, will be put to the test in the playoff era. With five major conferences and only four playoff spots, at least one league will be left out every year.

But the Big 12 believes its unique, nine-game, round-robin league schedule -- the same format that doomed the conference during the BCS -- will be a strength in the eyes of the playoff selection committee.

"I think we're in great position," said Bob Stoops. "When you play nine conference games, it's challenging. The more you play, the more you knock each other out. That's what happens generally. That's why it's difficult playing nine conference games. No matter what, it's easier to play eight conference games."

[+] EnlargeArt Briles
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports"If those other (conferences) round-robined it, there'd be a bunch more bruises on some bodies," Art Briles said. "I can tell you that right now."
The Cowboys were ranked second in the BCS standings in 2011 before losing on the road in double overtime at Iowa State in its fifth conference road game.

Kansas State was also undefeated two years ago heading into its fifth Big 12 road game, but ran out of steam at Baylor. Those same Bears went on to win 13 straight, but fell at Oklahoma State last November.

"If those other [conferences] round-robined it, there'd be a bunch more bruises on some bodies," Briles said. "I can tell you that right now."

Even though Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Baylor each won 11 regular-season games in those seasons, none wound up playing for the national championship. All three Big 12 champs, however, might have been strong contenders for a playoff spot.

"I think people across the country have a lot of respect for our league," said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy. "I think they're aware that teams that come out of this league at the top ... not only can compete, but they can win."

The Big 12 sent such a message during the last bowl season.

Baylor lost to Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl. But on top of the Sooners defeating Alabama, Kansas State destroyed Michigan while Texas Tech manhandled Arizona State.

Fresh off its banner bowl season, the Big 12 will have several more opportunities to send a message this nonconference season.

Oklahoma State will take on defending national champ Florida State in the opener. That same day, West Virginia will play Alabama.

Later in September, Kansas State will get reigning SEC champion Auburn in Manhattan. Texas will meet seventh-ranked UCLA. Oklahoma will face Tennessee. And Texas Tech will host Arkansas.

"Those games are big," said Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters. "To be able to play those teams and beat them would really solidify the Big 12.

"We're a great conference. We just need to get over the hump."

Big 12 morning links

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
8:00
AM ET
Kick off your morning with some beef and a laugh. No, not that kind of beef.
  • It's odd to see Collin Klein and Kansas State assistant coach in the same sentence. We're just a couple years removed from watching Klein destroy Big 12 defenses while leading K-State to a Big 12 title. Yet Klein has joined the Wildcats' coaching staff and, while it's not his dream job, Klein is already starting to make an impact as a part of Bill Snyder's staff, writes Kellis Robinett of the Kansas City Star. Leave it to Bill Snyder to recognize Klein's potential as a coach and give him an opportunity to return to Manhattan, Kansas, this fall. Even though Klein doesn't like the thought of his playing days being over, something tells me he could experience a meteoric rise up the coaching ranks if he decides coaching is his future.
  • Running backs DeVondrick Nealy and Aaron Wimberly are poised to share carries in Iowa State's backfield this season. ISU coach Paul Rhoads believes both guys are "good enough for us to win in the Big 12" reports Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register. Wimberly averaged 4.02 yards per carry in 2013, while Nealy averaged 3.85 yards per carry. Neither running back averaged more than five yards per touch from scrimmage last season, so Wimberly or Nealy would need to separate themselves from the competition if making big plays is going to be a consistent part of their resume this fall.
  • As good as true freshman Dravon Henry has looked during his first few weeks at West Virginia, sophomore Jeremy Tyler won't be giving up his spot in the Mountaineers' secondary without a fight, writes Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail. It looks like WVU will be using both players in the secondary, and they hope for minimal dropoff from last season. Henry has been one of the stars of WVU's preseason camp but don't overlook Tyler, who was overshadowed by fellow freshman Daryl Worley in 2013 and now seems to be overshadowed by Henry. Yet Tyler was really starting to come on late in his freshman campaign, recording 13 of his 17 tackles in the final two games of the season.
  • Offensive success at Oklahoma State could be defined by the Cowboys' offensive line. And center Paul Lewis finds himself in the spotlight after a couple of early departures from the program. New offensive line coach Bob Connelly wants Lewis to be "a direct reflection of me" reports Kyle Fredrickson of The Oklahoman. A strong season from the offensive line will be critical for a Cowboys' squad overflowing with skill position talent on offense. If Lewis can become an anchor of the offensive front, the Cowboys have the skill talent to surprise.
  • Oklahoma has high expectations for linebacker Jordan Evans, particularly if Frank Shannon cannot play this season, writes The Oklahoman's Ryan Aber. Evans was late addition to the Sooners' Class of 2013 and played several different positions at Norman (Oklahoma) North High School, including kick returner. Shannon led OU in tackles last season, but Evans is an upgrade athletically. He was one of OU's standouts during the offseason, which should give Sooners fans peace of mind if Shannon is unable to play.

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