Big 12: Texas Longhorns

In today's Black Friday edition of the Twitter mailbag, we discuss Texas talent, the Big 12's playoff hopes and the best way to cook a turkey.

I will be in Arlington, Texas, this weekend to check out Baylor vs. Texas Tech, which is always entertaining.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.

Now, on to the 'bag:
Trotter: That was a poor performance last night. But Tyrone Swoopes is still the odds-on favorite. He's had a bunch of good moments this year, even if none of them came against TCU.

Trotter: Malcom Brown could start for anyone in the country. Jordan Hicks, Cedric Reed and John Harris could start for anyone in the league. Maybe Quandre Diggs, though last night wasn't pretty. After that...

Trotter: I'm not going to answer this. You all know who you are.

Trotter: It's possible. Ross has a role as a returner, and fits as a nice change-of-pace back to Perine. We don't know what Mixon can do yet. Ford would seem like the most likely to fall out of the rotation, especially with his past fumbling issues. Whatever happens, Perine is going to be the primary running back in that backfield for the foreseeable future. At least, he should be.

Trotter: Sure, there's a real chance. If the season ended today, that's exactly what would happen. But if I'm a fan of either TCU or Baylor, I'm more worried about No. 6 Ohio State than No. 4 Mississippi State. The committee seems to be overlooking Ohio State's early loss to Virginia Tech for whatever reason, and the Buckeyes have a chance for a marquee win at the end in the Big Ten championship game. It feels to me like the Big 12 is one more upset away from getting a team in the playoff.

Trotter: It would take us a step in that direction. A Big 12 official told me over the summer that it would take getting left out three years in a row for the league to rethink expansion. But it's going to really sting if two 11-1 teams are left out. I would think that would at least force the league to have a discussion about whether its current format is really the best path to the playoff.

Trotter: Bill Snyder is arguably the greatest coach in college football history. He certainly should be in that conversation. But Gary Patterson should be this season's Big 12 coach of the year for what he's accomplished in Fort Worth.

Trotter: Oklahoma State. The Cowboys should be pretty salty defensively next year. And the emergence of true freshman QB Mason Rudolph offers hope that the offense could get back to business in 2015.

Trotter: Smoked turkey in a landslide. I wish you all could have tried the 13-pounder my pops smoked yesterday. Off the charts.

Trotter: I thought I blocked this guy already. 

Instant Analysis: TCU 48, Texas 10

November, 27, 2014
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Fifth-ranked TCU took care of business Thanksgiving night, knocking off Texas 48-10 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium to improve to 10-1 on the year. Here's how the game was won:

How the game was won: TCU smothered Texas' offense from the start, shutting down its running backs (29 yards on 21 carries) and pressuring Tyrone Swoopes into committing five of the Longhorns' six turnovers, two of which were returned for touchdowns. The Horned Frogs' offense finally got rolling in the second half against a typically stout Texas defense.

Game ball goes to: Josh Doctson and Paul Dawson. Two of TCU's best stepped up in a big way. Dawson racked up 10 tackles and an interception, and was all over the place. Doctson had two of the game's biggest catches, a 38-yarder to set up TCU's first offensive score and a 22-yard TD. He finished with 115 yards on seven catches.

What it means: TCU, now 2-0 in Thanksgiving games at Texas since joining the Big 12, got some good revenge for its 23-point loss to the Horns last year and got a chance to make a statement in front of a national TV audience. Quarterback Trevone Boykin (283 total yards, three TDs) was challenged by this Texas defense but had some nice moments that will help his Heisman hopes.

Playoff implication: There will be a lot of folks comparing Baylor's 28-7 win over Texas on Oct. 4 to this game. Both teams did shut down Texas' offense from start to finish. TCU's showing felt a bit more dominant -- Texas trailed 13-0 after one quarter and never really stood a chance after that -- and a 38-point road win over a team that had won three in a row definitely will look good on the résumé.

What's next: Texas finishes its regular season 6-6. Facing an SEC team in the AdvoCare Texas Bowl or the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, both on Dec. 29, appears to be the Longhorns' most likely destination. TCU has one game left, a home finale against Iowa State on Dec. 6 that could feel a lot like a victory lap for at least a share of the Big 12 title.

Happy Thanksgiving

November, 27, 2014
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Happy Thanksgiving, Big 12 fans.

We'll have coverage of tonight's critical Big 12 bout between TCU and Texas. But until then, it will be a light day on the Big 12 blog. I plan on spending the afternoon fighting through a turkey coma.

Today is a day to be thankful -- especially for all the TCU and Baylor fans out there who have gotten to enjoy two fabulous seasons. We hope all of you have a great Thanksgiving with family and friends.

TCU at Texas primer

November, 26, 2014
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Turkey, Texas and TCU make for a big-time Thanksgiving night in Austin.

The No. 5 Horned Frogs will put their College Football Playoff hopes on the line against a surging Texas team that enters its senior night on a three-game win streak. TCU, fresh off a bye, can move to 10-1 and exact a little revenge after losing to the Longhorns 30-7 last year

Below, Max Olson and I break down this critical Big 12 matchup:

How TCU can control the game: Get off to a quick start. An early lead would not only give TCU immediate control, it would put pressure on Texas to throw the ball more than it would like. The Horned Frogs lead the Big 12 in forced turnovers by a wide margin. If they can force Texas into obvious passing downs, opportunistic playmakers like linebacker Paul Dawson and safety Chris Hackett will have their chances to produce game-changing plays defensively, as they have all season. -- Trotter

How Texas can control the game: Charlie Strong will always answer this question with defense, and his has been responsible for allowing just 16.1 points per game in Big 12 play. The bye week gave his staff more time to find ways to confuse and pressure Trevone Boykin. Takeaways and responsible run defense are a must this week. On offense, a patchwork line has to continue progressing and find a way to win more battles than it loses up front. -- Olson

TCU's X factor: The interior offensive line trio of center Joey Hunt and guards Brady Foltz and Jamelle Naff. They will be facing off against one of the top defensive tackles in the country in Malcom Brown, who has the talent to blow up the middle of opposing lines. The Horned Frogs need to keep Brown at bay so the rest of the offense can function on schedule. That tall task will fall on Hunt, Foltz and Naff, who will have their biggest challenge of the season on Thursday. -- Trotter

Texas' X factor: Tyrone Swoopes, of course. Texas has a few speedsters up its sleeve in Daje Johnson and Armanti Foreman, who change the game in an instant. Keep an eye on them. But ultimately, Texas' hopes of pulling the upset will hinge on Swoopes stepping up in big moments and avoiding costly mistakes and turnovers. It might take an A-game from him to beat these Frogs. -- Olson

What a win would mean for TCU: This will be the final chance for TCU to impress the playoff selection committee. A win, especially a dominant one, would leave a lasting impression in the minds of those 12 committee members. A win would also put TCU a home win over Iowa State away from gaining at least a share of the Big 12 title. -- Trotter

What a win would mean for Texas: A home win over one of the nation's best probably wouldn't greatly alter the Longhorns' bowl destination, but it could be a total game-changer for Strong and his rebuilding efforts. In terms of recruiting, fan support and offseason morale, beating TCU to finish the Big 12 season on a four-game win streak would be monumental and set Texas up to take the next big step in 2015. -- Olson

Big 12 Week 14 predictions

November, 26, 2014
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Why TCU will win: This is going to be a back-and-forth, physical fight in which Texas will throw everything it's got at TCU. All the pressure is on the Frogs -- not that they can't handle it. If Charlie Strong's D can slow down Trevone Boykin, it's anyone's ballgame. A difference that might matter: the kicking game. TCU's Jaden Oberkrom can be trusted with a game-winning kick. Can Texas' Nick Rose? TCU 20, Texas 17 Olson

Why Texas will keep it close: Defense. The Longhorns have the Big 12’s best unit, and their disruptive front will make life hard for Trevone Boykin. UT just won’t score enough points to cement its upset bid. TCU 28, Texas 27 — Chatmon

Other unanimous selections

Baylor over Texas Tech: The Bears won't aim for 82, but they know they need to score a bunch of points. In addition to having a brutal run defense, Texas Tech's secondary is also banged up this week. So, you know, moving the ball should not be terribly difficult for Bryce Petty and his many weapons. Tech can keep up early, but for how long? Baylor 52, Texas Tech 24 Olson

Kansas State over Kansas: The Wildcats have focused on resuscitating their running game, and their instate rival might provide the perfect tonic. The Jayhawks are still reeling from giving up an FBS record 427 rushing yards to Samaje Perine last week. K-State won't get that many on the ground. But the Wildcats will have a big day offensively to prime their trip to Waco in the season finale. Kansas State 38, Kansas 13 Trotter

West Virginia over Iowa State: The Mountaineers will get the losing taste out of their mouths because of their superior offensive firepower, no matter whether Clint Trickett or Skyler Howard is behind center. West Virginia 42, Iowa State 28 Chatmon

Season records:
  • Trotter: 61-7
  • Chatmon: 60-8
  • Olson: 58-10

Big 12 morning links

November, 26, 2014
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Awesome, simply awesome.
  • It's looking more and more like the Big 12 could be on the outside looking in when the College Football Playoff committee releases the final rankings on Dec. 7, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. I had previously believed Baylor or TCU would be in if they won out and finished 11-1. Not anymore. There's a real chance that both teams finish 11-1 and neither makes the College Football Playoff based off the committee's current rankings. Ohio State is looming and Mississippi State remains in the top four. It looks like the Big 12 will definitely need help if it hopes to cement a spot in the top four.
  • West Virginia's starting quarterback against Iowa State remains unknown, reports Bob Cohn of the Pittsburgh Tribune. Starter Clint Trickett didn't practice on Tuesday but is expected to return to practice on Wednesday after suffering a concussion against Kansas State last weekend. Skyler Howard impressed while replacing Trickett against the Wildcats but Holgorsen maintains Trickett will start if healthy. As good as Howard was against KSU, I agree with Holgorsen's commitment to Trickett. The senior is a big part of WVU's return to a bowl game this season and should be rewarded by remaining the starter (if healthy) despite his recent struggles (5 interceptions during WVU's three-game losing streak).
  • It's been a tough season at Iowa State but Sam B. Richardson could set a school record for touchdown passes in a season in the Cyclones' final two games, writes Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register. The record is 20 and Todd Bandhauer, the current record holder, didn't even realize he still holds the record. It's shocking to think 20 touchdown passes is a season record for a Big 12 school considering 34 FBS quarterbacks passed for more than 20 touchdowns in 2013. Richardson has 16 through 10 games and would need to average more than two touchdown passes per game in ISU's final two contests to secure the record.
  • Kansas coach Clint Bowen is making a point to educate his players about the Sunflower Showdown rivalry with Kansas State, reports Jeff Deters of the Topeka Capital-Journal. The Jayhawks interim coach has set aside some time this week to make sure his players understand why the rivalry matters in the state of Kansas. I don't know that it will help KU's motivation when they take on K-State, but it couldn't hurt.
  • Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown was named a finalist for the Outland Trophy Award (nation's top interior lineman) on Tuesday. There's no doubt in my mind Brown should be the clear favorite for the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. He's been disruptive in the middle of Charlie Strong's defense and is one reason I wouldn't be surprised to see the Longhorns upset TCU. And in case you missed it on the Big 12 blog on Tuesday, Max Olson had a terrific read on why football is not Brown's No. 1 priority.

Big 12 bowl projections: Week 13

November, 25, 2014
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The fourth College Football Playoff rankings were revealed Tuesday night, and the Big 12 was left outside the top four for the second consecutive week.

TCU remained at No. 5; Baylor stayed at No. 7.

As a result, nothing changed from last week's bowl picture.

Oklahoma State is the only Big 12 team that can still play its way to bowl eligibility. But the Cowboys will have to upset Oklahoma in Bedlam on Dec. 6 to get to six wins.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl: TCU
VIZIO Fiesta Bowl: Baylor
Valero Alamo Bowl: Kansas State
Russell Athletic Bowl: Oklahoma
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Texas
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: West Virginia
Cactus Bowl: None eligible

Big 12 Tuesday mailbag

November, 25, 2014
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In Tuesday's mailbag, we talk postseason honors, and the Baylor-TCU debate rages on. As always, thanks for your questions. To submit questions for next Tuesday's mailbag, click here.

Sic Everyone in Frisco, Texas, writes: Assuming Baylor would jump TCU eventually based on head to head if they win out, who should the Bears root for Thursday? Would a Texas win possibly move them into the top 25 giving Baylor four wins over top 25 teams and an unshared conference title? Or does a win over a Top 5-6 TCU help them more?

[+] EnlargePetty
AP Photo/LM OteroBryce Petty has had a solid season (23 TDs, five interceptions), but he probably shouldn't book a flight to New York for the Heisman ceremony.
Brandon Chatmon: I lean towards BU becoming TCU fans on Thanksgiving, particularly in this scenario. A win over a top 10 TCU should carry more weight than a win over Texas for the Bears. That said, it could be hard to assume Baylor jumps TCU based on how the committee has viewed things thus far.

Bryce Petty in Midlothian, Texas, writes: What are my chances of going to NYC with my buddies Marcus Mariota and Melvin Gordon? Also, will Jameis Winston be there?

BC: I don’t like your chances, Bryce. You lead the Big 12 only in yards per completion and touchdown percentage and rank outside of the top 10 nationally in pretty much every category. You’ve had a great season, but I don’t see a trip to New York in your future.

Dave Clouse: How many yards and TDs does Samaje Perine need to be an All-American (not just freshman All-American)?

BC: Roughly 427 rushing yards and five touchdowns against Oklahoma State in Bedlam. Perine has had a great season, but he’s not a first-team All-American quite yet. He has rushed for more than 100 yards in just four of OU’s 11 games so consistent greatness appears to be the next step for the Sooners’ freshman.

Luke in Fort Worth writes: What does TCU need to move back in the No. 4 spot to get into the playoffs when the final rankings are released on Dec. 7?

BC: The Horned Frogs need to win out and Baylor needs to lose to Texas Tech or Kansas State. If they do that, while they’ll need some help from other upsets around the nation, I think they will finish in the top four.

Leadfoot in Kansas writes: What do you think the chances are that the Big 12 amends the conference policy of co-champions?

BC: I don’t see it happening anytime soon, but I hope it does. The whole co-champions thing is silly to me.

Double Dan in Austin, Texas, writes: Will more teams be taking the Baylor scheduling route or the Kansas State/Auburn Michigan State/Oregon scheduling route in the future? I bet Kansas State would love to have that extra win right now no matter who it was against, and Baylor's weak schedule certainly hasn't seemed to hurt it in the playoff rankings.

BC: Baylor’s weak schedule has definitely hurt the Bears. The committee has pointed to “quality wins” week after week. I must say all the talk about scheduling and how it will changed based on the committee’s final rankings is odd for me. The committee isn’t about sending messages about scheduling. It is about finding the “best teams”. Just ask Marshall.

Lillian in Austin, Texas, writes: Is it possible Texas will be a playoff contender by 2016? Earlier? Later?

BC: I could definitely see Charlie Strong’s program battling for a playoff berth next season. TCU turned everything around this season, why can’t Texas in 2015?

Tyler J in Nashville writes: Kansas State gained a grand total of 1 yard on the ground against WVU. KU gave up 510 against Oklahoma! Something has to give during the Sunflower Showdown. Is this the week that K State finally reestablishes even a hint of a running game?

BC: At this point in the season, you are who you are. I don’t see K-State becoming a running force anytime soon, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Wildcats have running success against KU. I’d be surprised if that is what ultimately decides that game however.

Jeff in Rockwell, Texas writes: West Virginia now has five losses. WVU's home wins? Towson, Kansas, Baylor. To me it's becoming more clear, not less, why Baylor is behind TCU. It's simple, TCU's lone loss is a quality loss (top 5 team at the time, on the road by three points) and Baylor's lone loss is to a now five-loss team. However, it seems all of the attention is on the fact Baylor beat TCU rather than evaluating the entire season and comparing losses. Oh, and then there's the OOC games. What am I missing? How many losses does WVU have to have before people notice that Baylor lost to an average team?

BC: We must travel in different circles because I have yet to hear or see someone point to Baylor’s loss to West Virginia as the reason why Baylor should be ahead of TCU. Nobody thinks that’s a better loss than TCU’s loss. The committee’s job is to find the best teams. If two teams play against each other and one team wins and one team loses, that should give you the answer, right?

Loyal all over writes: Which would you say has had the biggest impact to Oklahoma State offensive line: assistant coach Joe Wickline leaving, fresh faces, or injuries?

BC: Wickline leaving. And it’s not close.

Big 12 stat check: Week 14

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A closer look at one statistic worth keeping an eye on for each Big 12 team entering Week 14:

Baylor: Baylor leads the FBS in points, yards and first downs per game, but the Bears’ remarkable ability to protect the football really stands out. BU ranks fifth among FBS teams and No. 1 in the Big 12 with a 6.0 turnover percentage. The top five teams in the FBS in that category-- BU, Rice, Oregon, Georgia and Northern Illinois -- have combined for 44 wins this season.

Iowa State: The Cyclones' defense will need to be much better on third down if ISU hopes to knock off West Virginia. ISU is allowing conversions on a Big 12-worst 47.1 percent of opponent’s third-down attempts. But last week’s 34-31 loss to Texas Tech proves some hope as ISU held the Red Raiders to 36.4 percent on third-down conversion attempts, which was a season low for Cyclones’ opponents.

Kansas: Big plays have been lacking for Kansas’ offense for much of the season. The Jayhawks have gained 10 or more yards on 16 percent of their plays this season, ranking last in the conference and No. 115 among FBS teams. New offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau has helped increase that number with some personnel changes, but KU will need several big plays if it hopes to upset Kansas State.

Kansas State: Is Jake Waters the Big 12’s top clutch signal-caller? The senior has a Big 12-best 79.8 raw QBR on third down. He completes 63.1 percent of his passes, averages 12.42 yards per completion and is sacked just 2.3 percent of the time on third down. Waters is a key reason the Wildcats’ offense is so efficient and productive.

Oklahoma: Baylor, TCU and Kansas State are well renowned for their offensive firepower. Yet Oklahoma sits atop the conference rankings in yards per play. The Sooners 6.72 yards per play has been built upon a running game that is averaging 265.4 yards per game and 6.3 yards per carry to lead the Big 12 in both categories.

Oklahoma State: The Cowboys averaged 1.87 points per possession in Mason Rudolph’s first start. With the true freshman at the helm, OSU’s offense was far more explosive in the 49-28 loss to Baylor than its previous four games. TCU (0.6), West Virginia (0.71), KSU (0.5) and Texas (0.58) each held the Cowboys below one point per possession in OSU's four losses before last weekend.

Texas: Opponents have converted just 5 of 30 third-down conversions against Texas’ defense in the Longhorns last two games. West Virginia (3 of 17) and Oklahoma State (2 of 13) struggled to continue drives. Winning the third down battle could be key if the Longhorns hope to slow Trevone Boykin and TCU on Thanksgiving night.

TCU: Gary Patterson’s team has outgained opponents by at least 330 yards on four different occasions this season, joining Alabama as the only FBS team to achieve this feat. The Horned Frogs outgained FCS opponent Samford (412), SMU (369), Oklahoma State (418) and Texas Tech (339) by that margin. It has been a part of a damatic change in TCU’s offensive fortunes under new offensive coordinator Doug Meacham.

Texas Tech: The inability to finish has handcuffed the Red Raiders this season. Tech has converted 58.8 percent of its goal-to-go attempts into touchdowns, the worst percentage in the Big 12 and tied for No. 115 among FBS teams. With Baylor on the horizon, Tech will need to capitalize on every single scoring opportunity it gets.

West Virginia: Dana Holgorsen’s team heads into its final game with six wins and bowl eligibility, a pretty remarkable feat for the Mountaineers considering their carelessness with the ball. WVU has a minus-15 turnover margin, worst in the Big 12 and tied for No. 120 among FBS teams. No FBS team at minus-15 or higher has more than three wins this season.
In this week’s Big 12 roundtable, we discuss which was the most impressive feat this Big 12 season, who has the tougher road to 11-1 between TCU and Baylor, and whether this season should still be considered a successful one for West Virginia:

Which was more impressive, Samaje Perine's 427 rushing yards or Baylor's 21-point comeback vs. TCU?

[+] EnlargeCorey Coleman
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsBaylor's historic comeback against TCU might yet play a factor in the College Football Playoff race.
Brandon Chatmon: The Bears 21-point comeback in 11 minutes against the nation’s No. 5 team is far more impressive. The margin for error was minimal for Art Briles’ team. The offense got the credit for scoring 24 points, but the defense stepped up just as much by getting three straight stops against Trevone Boykin and the Big 12’s most improved offense. Perine’s performance was history-making, but it was an individual performance that had no impact in the Big 12 title race. The same cannot be said about BU’s comeback.

Max Olson: I have to agree with Brandon on this one. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the chances of Baylor pulling off its 24-point rally were only 2 percent. That game should have been over. It took a perfect sequence of events for the game to fall apart for TCU. The odds of Perine breaking Melvin Gordon's FBS single-game rushing record one week later are probably near-impossible, sure, but this was the No. 94 total defense in FBS and 300 of his rushing yards came on eight plays. Baylor needed 41 plays to pull off the comeback.

Jake Trotter: The Baylor comeback was stunning. But I have to go with Perine's record-breaking day. That was a record that had stood for 15 years until Gordon topped it the week before. Think about all the great running backs that have come through college football who haven't come close to sniffing 400 yards. Think about all the great Oklahoma running backs over the years who had never even touched 300 yards. Gordon's record may have lasted just a week. But if history before that is any indication, Perine's 427-yard day will be remembered for a very long time.

Who has the tougher road to 11-1, Baylor or TCU?

Chatmon: TCU’s trip to Texas won’t be easy. Baylor’s home finale against Kansas State is even tougher. Bill Snyder’s program has more to play for than the Longhorns, with a Big 12 title likely to remain within reach in their first trip to McLane Stadium. The Wildcats were the first team to make Baylor’s offense look somewhat human in 2013 and will bring the same sound defense to Waco on Dec. 6.

Olson: As weird as this sounds, I actually think Texas has a slightly better chance of beating TCU than K-State does of pulling the upset in Waco. The Horns have momentum, a bye week of extra prep, play great defense and are playing at home. So for that reason, I'd say the Horned Frogs have a little tougher path.

Trotter: Winning on the road is always tougher than winning at home. And even though K-State is better than Texas and could give Baylor a fight in Waco, I think TCU has the tougher road. Texas has quietly been playing good football the last month to get bowl eligible. The offensive line has come together, while the defensive line has emerged as the best in the league. The Longhorns will be a difficult out for TCU on their home field on Thanksgiving night.

Do you still consider this season to be a successful one for West Virginia, in light of the three-game losing streak?

Chatmon: Since competing for a championship should always be the goal, successful is not the word I would use. But the Mountaineers, without a doubt, have taken several steps towards becoming a force in the Big 12. The defense is much improved, and the overall depth on the roster is light years ahead of where it was when WVU entered the Big 12 in 2012. Dana Holgorsen shouldn’t be satisfied with the Mountaineers return to a bowl game, but he should be pleased with the direction his program is heading.

Olson: It's an important question. Let's be honest, though. There are a bunch of people (and I might've been one of them) who wondered if a step in the wrong direction this season would've spelled the end of Holgorsen's stint in Morgantown. I think he has proven himself to some extent in 2014. He's building something good, and this season still feels like a positive step.

Trotter: Provided the Mountaineers win at Iowa State, yes. The season might feel disappointing to West Virginia fans at the moment. But remember, this was a team nobody gave much of a chance of getting to a bowl game before the season. The Mountaineers not only achieved that, they were ranked for a good chunk of the year, hosted College GameDay and came within a hair of sweeping Baylor and TCU to become a serious factor in the Big 12 title race. After slugging it out against such a brutal slate, West Virginia has run out of steam this last month. But if the Mountaineers rally to beat Iowa State and win a bowl game, they will finish 8-5, with momentum going into 2015. In August, every rational West Virginia fan would have taken that.
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Malcom Brown doesn't watch football in his spare time. Not that he has spare time.

He was asked this season which pro players he idolizes. He had no idea. He doesn't follow the NFL.

Brown wants to be the best defensive tackle in the nation. He might be. But that's just his job.

"I don't want to be all about football, you know what I mean?" Brown said after a Texas practice last week. "I come up here, I study film, I do what I have to for the game. But once I leave, I feel like if I study it too much, it'll get boring. I love football and I'm happy to be playing. God gave me good talent. But I have to find some kind of balance in between."

For a 6-foot-2, 320-pound lineman, he's showing remarkable balance. Brown has juggled being a student, a newlywed husband to his wife, Faith, and a father to their two young daughters throughout his All-America caliber season. Somehow, he's making it all look too easy.

While his girls are relying on him to provide for their new family, Charlie Strong relies on "Big Malcom" as the centerpiece of his defense, a consistently unstoppable force up the middle. But the football talk stops the moment he goes home.

• • •


Brown prefers watching cartoons. He grew up on "Dragon Ball Z" anime. Still enjoyed it in high school. Now his children do, too. Three-month-old Mayah lays on her belly and stares. Four-year-old Rayna, too energetic to sit still, stands and playfully tries to mimic the action. Just like Malcom did when he was a kid.

He stopped being a kid right around the time he met Faith Osborne on Texas' campus, in the summer of 2012 before freshman year. Back then, he jokes, "she wasn't giving me the time of day."

[+] EnlargeMalcom Brown
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesDespite facing double-teams all season, massive Malcom Brown has 6.5 sacks, and is a force on the Texas defense.
Their paths crossed a few more times. Eventually they started texting. By the middle of his freshman season, they began dating. Faith didn't want to unless he was serious. When she first told Brown she had a daughter from a previous relationship, he excitedly said: "Bring her around!"

He was ready for the responsibility. Brown doesn't go out. Texas coaches say they never have to worry about him getting in trouble. And he loves kids. Faith and Rayna were in good hands.

"Right when I got in their life," Brown said, "I tried to do my best."

Faith, a psychology major at UT, knows just how to straighten him out. She got on him once, while they were dating, for always wasting money the minute he got it. "You're not ready for this," he remembers her saying. He went back to his dorm and thought it over. She was right. She's usually right.

"No question who the head coach is in that house," Texas defensive line coach Chris Rumph said.

Malcom and Faith married on May 14, soon after spring practices wrapped up. They honeymooned on the beach in Galveston, Texas. Three months later, in the middle of fall camp, Brown took a rare day off. He was too worried he might miss the birth of Mayah, who arrived Aug. 15 at 8:36 a.m.

"He's always all smiles," Rumph said, "but he smiled a little bigger that day."

• • •


The next day, Brown got back to practice and back to proving he's perhaps the Big 12's best defensive player.

His team-high 6.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss as a 3-technique tackle have come despite constant double teams and chop blocks. Under the tutelage of Texas' new staff, the junior has become a dominant force against the run and pass.

"The way he's playing, it's amazing," Strong said. "It's fun to watch."

Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford put it another way: "I think he's the best player in this conference, period."

When Brown has parenting questions, he turns to Rumph, who likes to pepper in life lessons with his film sessions. Strong, meanwhile, likes to lovingly pepper Brown with taunts and teases, like asking "You got that?" after a sack. How much time has he spent in the coaches' offices this season? Enough that Rumph can tell it's Malcom by the knock on his door.

How does he find time for it all? Brown has never led a more demanding life than right now. His two worlds collide constantly. After the season opener against North Texas, he was up all night with a crying Mayah. Might've slept two hours. On road trips, Brown is constantly texting Faith and crossing his fingers that their daughters behave.

"He's such a mature young fella. Nothing really fazes him," cornerback Quandre Diggs said. "He has something he's competing for and that makes him work harder. He wants to succeed for his family."

Rayna has made it to a few Texas home games. She might not get it just yet. Brown laughs when recalling the time she asked her parents: "Daddy play football?"

"They know I'm on TV," Brown says with a grin, "but they don't know how good I'm playing."

• • •


Rayna, now in pre-kindergarten, knows her numbers. Brown is teaching her the alphabet before bedtime. Mayah just started sleeping through the night. Won't be long before she's crawling. For now, she likes to sit in her daddy's lap and stick out her tongue at him.

He's getting into cooking -- Brown watches Food Network when the cartoons aren't on -- and spending far too much time cleaning. He gets out of class by 10 a.m. three days a week just to buy extra time at the house. On the days he feels overwhelmed, he leans on Faith.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong, Malcom Brown
AP Photo/Eric GayCharlie Strong has leaned on Malcom Brown, who defensive coordinator Vance Bedford contends is the best player in the Big 12.
"Like people always say, she's my better half," Brown said. "She makes me laugh when I'm down. Even when I have a bad game -- I mean, this year, I really haven't had any -- she's always there for support. Always."

She'll support whatever he decides to do next. Brown is expected to go pro early if he gets a first- or second-round draft projection. His Thanksgiving home game against TCU could be his last.

Can you blame him? The Browns are college students without paying jobs. They have two young mouths to feed and an apartment that isn't getting any bigger.

"We're not rich or anything, but we're making it," Malcom said. "I want to give them everything."

Someday soon, he will. But Brown refuses to complain. He's having the best season of his life. He has a loving wife. He has happy, healthy children.

And he has to go. Practice ended an hour ago. He's done thinking about football.

It's time to pick up the girls from their babysitter. Time to go home.

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

November, 24, 2014
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Here’s what's been cooking on the recruiting trail in the last week around the Big 12:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Baylor had a big weekend, hosting a pair of its 2016 commits in four-star running back Kameron Martin and four-star receiver Tren'Davian Dickson. 2015 ESPN 300 wideout Devontre Stricklin was in McLane Stadium for the Oklahoma State game as well. The Bears also bolstered their trenches for 2015 by snagging a commitment from 6-foot-7, 300-pound City College of San Francisco offensive tackle Dominic Desouza, who had offers from Big 12 foes Oklahoma State, TCU and Kansas.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Community College defensive tackle Demond Tucker visited Iowa State over the weekend. Tucker holds offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Arizona State and Big 12 rival Kansas State. He would be a huge pickup for the Cyclones, who badly need to fortify their defensive line.

KANSAS
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Jayhawks are in a battle with Minnesota for three-star Kansas City, Kansas, inside linebacker Colton Beebe. Two weekends ago, Beebe visited Minnesota, and though he’s visited Kansas unofficially several times, Beebe has indicated he will set an official visit with the Jayhawks after they name a head coach.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats have a big visit coming up this weekend in junior-college wideout DeDe Westbrook, who was at Oklahoma this past weekend and Oklahoma State the weekend before that. With Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton both set to graduate, Westbrook would fill a big firepower void at receiver for K-State.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 15
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Sooners got some much needed junior college cornerback help with William Johnson of Rochester (N.Y.) Monroe Community College committing after visiting Norman over the weekend. Oklahoma, however, missed out on one of its top targets, as 4-star defensive end Keisean Lucier-South stayed in state and committed to UCLA on Sunday.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Oklahoma State had a tough week on the trail, as the Cowboys parted ways from ESPN 300 cornerback Jaylon Lane after he was arrested. Earlier in the week, three-star safety Kenneth McGruder decommitted from the Pokes and reopened his recruitment. Oklahoma State turned McGruder’s spot into a commitment from Kilgore Junior College safety Jordan Burton, who had previously been committed to Memphis.

TCU
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: TCU remains in the mix for the top wide receiver in Texas in Cedar Hill’s DaMarkus Lodge. The former Texas A&M commit is also looking at Baylor, Ole Miss, LSU and USC and might not pick a school until signing day. The way the Horned Frogs have been throwing the ball around this season hasn’t hurt their chances with Lodge.

TEXAS
Total commits: 19
ESPN 300 commits: 9
The latest: Cistercian (Irving, Texas) quarterback Matthew Merrick committed to Texas, but will grayshirt and delay his enrollment by a year. Merrick had offers from Colorado State and Nevada. Merrick would give the Longhorns a fourth quarterback for 2016, along with starter Tyrone Swoopes, redshirting freshman Jerrod Heard and incoming freshman Zach Gentry.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: After missing the last month with a broken hand, Texas Tech QB commitment Jarrett Stidham returned with a vengeance Saturday, throwing for 318 yards, rushing for 193 and accounting for nine touchdowns in leading Stephenville to a 69-60 win over Estacado in a playoff game.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 22
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Former Iowa State defensive end commit Larry Jefferson could be on the cusp of pledging with the Mountaineers. His Itawamba (Miss.) Community College defensive end teammate Xavier Pegues has already made that switch, and the two have indicated they want to continue playing together.

Big 12 FPI rankings: Week 13

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
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ESPN's Football Power Index is a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of performance going forward for the rest of the season. Every week, ESPN will be updating its FPI to compile a ranking based on 10,000 simulations of the rest of the season using results to date and the remaining schedule.

This past weekend brought little change to the Big 12 FPI data.

After beating Oklahoma State 49-28, Baylor remained at No. 4. The Bears now have a 70.6 percent chance to win out, and a 72.7 chance to be the Big 12's representative champion. FPI also gives Baylor a 94 percent chance to beat Texas Tech in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday.

TCU's chance of winning out, meanwhile, stands at 64.2 percent, but FPI gives Texas a 33 percent chance of upsetting the Horned Frogs on Thanksgiving night. The Horned Frogs stayed at No. 11 in FPI rankings after having the weekend off.

Despite beating West Virginia on the road last week, Kansas State remained 18th in FPI. The Wildcats' chances of knocking off Baylor in the season finale, however, bumped up slightly to 25 percent.

Oklahoma State was better offensively at Baylor with freshman QB Mason Rudolph than it had been the previous month, making the Cowboys the Big 12's biggest riser in this week's FPI. Still, the metric only gives the Cowboys an 8.3 percent chance of upsetting Oklahoma on Dec. 6.

Iowa State tied Kansas for the Big 12's biggest FPI drop of the week. The Cyclones fell three spots after losing at home to Texas Tech. FPI only gives Iowa State an 18.7 percent chance to get off its Big 12 winless schneid this Saturday at home against West Virginia.

Big 12 morning links

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
8:00
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Baylor running back Devin Chafin is one tough hombre.
  • What a weekend it was for Oklahoma true freshman running back Samaje Perine, who broke Melvin Gordon's week-old FBS single-game rushing record. There were a bunch of good reads on Perine's 427-yard rushing effort in the rain. The Tulsa World's Eric Bailey tracked down Greg Pruitt, who had previously held the OU single-game rushing record for 43 years. Pruitt didn't know his record had been broken until former Sooner coach Barry Switzer called to tell him. The Oklahoman, which ran the headline "Reign Man," had several articles on Perine, including this one from Jason Kersey on Perine's mother, and this one from Jenni Carlson on how Perine turned a miserable day in Norman into a memorable one.
  • After struggling offensively pretty much the entire season, Oklahoma State finally showed life in a 49-28 loss at Baylor. The difference was true freshman QB Mason Rudolph, who made his collegiate debut in Waco. Before the game, The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel wondered why Mike Gundy pulled Rudolph's redshirt in Week 13. After the game, Tramel was left wondering what took Gundy so long? I had the same thought watching the Cowboys, which looked completely different offensively after almost two wayward months. Why didn't Gundy give Rudolph a shot earlier in the season, when it became apparent the offense would be limited with Daxx Garman's immobility behind a shaky offensive line? The decision to start Rudolph so late squandered a season of his eligibility. But the decision to wait until now to do it could wind up costing 5-6 Oklahoma State a bowl trip.
  • The Austin American Statesman's Brian Davis conducted an interesting Q&A with Texas athletic director Steve Patterson. Among the topics Davis broached was if Patterson still wants to stage a Texas football game overseas (it sounds like he still does). Davis also asked whether Patterson would want to play Texas A&M if the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl sought to match up the old rivals. Patterson dodged the question, more or less. Seriously, why can't one person in power at either Texas or Texas A&M come out and admit he or she would like to see this game be played? What are both sides so afraid of? By the way, on a neutral site, I would pick the Longhorns to beat A&M. Texas should want to play this game. What better way to boost the Longhorns back to running the state again.
  • The Cyclones have become all too accustomed to heartache, the Ames Tribune's Bobby La Gesse writes. Including the 34-31 loss to Texas Tech on Saturday, Iowa State has lost three Big 12 games by four points or less. The Des Moines Register's Randy Peterson added that the Tech loss underscored where the program is right now. Always one play away. The Cyclones have to figure out how to come up with that one final play. Otherwise, more heartache will lie ahead for a program already filled to the brim with it.
  • Kansas State is focused on fixing its running game for the backstretch after rushing for one yard last week at West Virginia, and 34 yards the week before that at TCU. The Manhattan Mercury's Joshua Kinder points out that the Wildcats haven't had a running back rush for more than 100 yards in a game all season. Not since Bill Snyder's first year in 1989 has K-State gone an entire season without a running back reaching 100 yards. The Wildcats are capable of upsetting Baylor in two weeks to grab at least a share of the Big 12 title. But to do it, they'll need to run the ball a lot better than they have of late.
In today's Twitter mailbag, we examine TCU and Baylor's playoff possibilities, the future of Texas and the chances of Bob Stoops and Mike Gundy going to Florida.

Max will be in Waco this weekend covering Oklahoma State-Baylor. I will be in Norman to see if Kansas can give another ranked team a scare.

Now, on to the 'bag:

Trotter: I don't think so. Nobody in the top eight plays a noteworthy opponent.

Trotter: The one thing to keep in mind is the playoff committee has said that it's viewing teams individually and not through the prism of what conference they play in. In other words, the committee is examining Ohio State when it does these rankings. Not the Big Ten. So in the eyes of the committee this is about TCU and Baylor vs. Ohio State. Not the Big 12 vs. the Big Ten. What can TCU and Baylor do? Annihilate their upcoming opponents and hope for the best.

Trotter: Russell Athletic Bowl against Notre Dame?

Trotter: I put it at less than 10 percent. But the only place Stoops would ever leave for would be Florida. And if he was ever going to do it, it would be now. He loves the weather there, he always talks fondly of his time as a defensive coordinator at Florida and he has a great relationship with Florida AD Jeremy Foley. That said, my money is on him staying at Oklahoma. He has the full support of the president and athletic director. He has 100 percent job security. He has his brother Mike coaching with him. He just built a multimillion dollar home. His kids are coming up on high school age. And I'm not sure he wants to coach all that much longer. Going to Florida would prolong that. I'm not sure that's something he wants at this point.

Trotter: Without a doubt. Texas has played excellent football the last three weeks. The defense has been dominant. The offensive line continues to get better. This will be a very tough test for TCU, whether the playoff selection committee realizes it or not.

Trotter: This is an interesting thought. It won't be next year. TCU, with QB Trevone Boykin back, will probably be next year's preseason favorite. But by 2016? Yeah, Texas would have a chance to be the preseason favorite, if it continues on the current trajectory we've seen from Charlie Strong's bunch this season.

Trotter: I've been told that the only way the league would look at expansion is if it got left out of the playoff year after year. That could happen this year. If it happened a couple more times, the league would be forced to rethink its current format.

Trotter: I sense you're being sarcastic. But if Mike Gundy did bolt after this season, Oklahoma State would be in a position to court several viable candidates. Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris would make a bunch of sense. Memphis coach Justin Fuente is an up-and-comer with ties to the state. Gundy's coaching tree includes Southern Miss head coach Todd Monken (who is very popular in Stillwater), North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora and TCU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham. The Cowboys would also have an in-house candidate in Glenn Spencer, who has flourished as Oklahoma State's defensive coordinator. The Cowboys would have intriguing options.

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