Oklahoma Sooners: Big 12
It's always a big-time endeavor for the ESPN crew of scouts, so be sure to click HERE for the ESPN 300 rankings.
Several of today's updates to the ESPN 300 affect the Big 12. Here's a closer look at what you should take away from the rankings:
- Oklahoma State quarterback commit John Kolar enjoyed an incredible jump, going from unranked to the nation's No. 3 pocket passer. He's now ranked No. 82 overall in the ESPN 300. The Norman (Okla.) North senior-to-be impressed filling in for injured Alabama signee David Cornwell last year, and he has wowed our scouts as well.
- What a killer start for Baylor. The Bears have verbal commitments from six high school prospects, and all six made the ESPN 300. The highest ranked of the bunch is WR John Humphrey Jr., who announced his commitment last night. He's one of three ESPN 300 receivers in the class, joining Devontre Stricklin and Chad President. The Bears signed four ESPN 300 recruits in last year's class, and three the previous year, so this is quite the jump. With Baylor high on the list of several other ESPN 300 prospects, including WR DaMarkus Lodge (No. 63 in ESPN 300) and DE James Lockhart (No. 113), there's a good chance this class ends up being the best in the Big 12 when it's all said and done.
- Texas now has verbal commitments from five ESPN 300 recruits: S DeShon Elliott (No. 94), OT Toby Weathersby (No. 138), OG Patrick Vahe (No. 171), new RB commit Tristian Houston (No. 208) and RB Jordan Stevenson (No. 296). The Longhorns are in the mix for more than 30 ESPN 300 prospects and have offered several more elite out-of-state recruits. Texas has some real momentum under new coach Charlie Strong at the moment, and it's possible more than 10 uncommitted ESPN 300 prospects visits Austin this week for the spring game.
- The state of Oklahoma has five prospects in the ESPN 300, and nearly all of them could end up being Sooners. OU already has verbal pledges from DT Marquise Overton (No. 150) and OG Joshua Wariboko (No. 190) and is among the leaders for OG Jalin Barnett (No. 36) and S Will Sunderland Jr. (No. 212). And then there's Kolar, who the Sooners could still make a push for over time. Four of Oklahoma's five current pledges are in the ESPN 300.
- Texas Tech already has two top-50 recruits in QB Jarrett Stidham and DT Breiden Fehoko, and they'll be the lead recruiters of this Red Raiders class. Stidham checks in at No. 37 in the new ESPN 300, which puts him No. 4 among all prospects in Texas, and Fehoko is the nation's No. 7 defensive tackle.
- It's a great year to find a running back in the state of Texas. Ten of them made the newest ESPN 300, and six have already committed to schools. The top-rated member of the group is Oklahoma State commit Ronald Jones II, the nation's No. 3 running back. Texas already has Houston and Stevenson, Baylor has Ja'Mycal Hasty (No. 274) and Texas A&M has pledges from Rodney Anderson (No. 263) and Jay Bradford (No. 277).
- West Virginia is off to a great start with the 2015 class thanks to its dedication to recruiting Florida. Two of its verbal commits made the ESPN 300 in WR Jovon Durante (No. 120) and S Kendrell McFadden (No. 153), and half of its 10 pledges come from the Sunshine State. WVU is one of only seven program in the country with double-digit commitments at this point.
- New summer rules could help West Virginia start to narrow down its quarterback battle.
- A look at West Virginia's defensive line after spring football.
- The Mountaineers have a bunch of quality running backs. That's a good problem to have.
- Kansas State's offensive line is a work in progress. Multiple starters return but position changes and replacing both tackles makes spring practices a key time at KSU.
- Is Pasta-gate a thing of the past? Former Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard likes what a potential NCAA rule change could mean for walk-on athletes.
- Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury remains a fan of former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and he says a social life is just one plane ride away.
- Baylor landed another speedy athlete for its Class of 2015.
- Iowa State players enjoyed the schedule change for the Cyclones spring practices this spring. ISU started spring drills before spring break, splitting up the 15 practices into two sections.
- Don't be too concerned about Trevor Knight's poor performance in OU's spring game.
The spring evaluation period is upon us, and coaches are traveling and hosting spring games in an effort to evaluate and attract the nation’s elite prospects. Fortunately for coaches, roughly two-thirds of the players making up the 2015 ESPN 300 are still uncommitted. A large majority of those players are considering playing in the Big 12.
Here are five ESPN 300 players heavily targeted by Big 12 schools:
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To catch you up on all the recruiting storylines that have developed so far, we checked in with ESPN.com senior national recruiting writer Jeremy Crabtree and Big 12 recruiting reporter Damon Sayles for their takes:
Which team has impressed you the most with its 2015 recruiting?
Crabtree: With all of the questions West Virginia faced in the offseason and the product the Mountaineers put on the field in 2013, you would think they would be struggling out of the gate with the 2015 class. But it has been the exact opposite. WVU has 10 commitments, including from one of the best receivers in the country, Jovon Durante. West Virginia is selling kids on an opportunity to play early and make a big difference in getting the program back on track. Plus, it has gone back to its roots and mined the very familiar recruiting territory of Florida for some of its best pledges.
Sayles: As much as I like what Texas Tech and TCU have done so far, I have to tip my hat to what West Virginia has accomplished. The Mountaineers have a pair of ESPN Junior 300 players in safety Kendrell McFadden and Durante. The Mountaineers are recruiting the state of Florida well; five of the 10 pledges are from the Sunshine State. West Virginia is off to a fast start, and with the program fresh off a successful spring game, more big-time commits could be coming soon.
Who has disappointed?
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- This post-spring period will be an important time for Kansas' coaching staff.
- KU quarterback Jake Heaps likes the changes in the Jayhawk offense this spring under John Reagan. The Jayhawks quarterbacks will have more flexibility and options on the fly.
- Athlon ranks the Big 12 quarterbacks heading into 2014.
- With Iowa State's spring football over, Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register takes a position-by-position look at the Cyclones.
- ISU kicker Cole Netten is using a helmet camera to improve his game.
- Who was Oklahoma State's best defensive player this spring? The Tulsa World's Jimmie Tramel looks at a few candidates.
- A closer look at Baylor's receivers heading into 2014.
- The Texas quarterback position looks like a three-man race and could end up with four competitors.
- Texas Tech landed a top defensive tackle commitment.
- Here's what we learned from Oklahoma's spring game, writes Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman. Kersey also ranks the top-10 Sooners.
- Keep on eye on these five Baylor Bears, who could break out this season.
- Big 12 revenue was more than $200 million dollars in 2012-13, reports Blair Kerkoff of the Kansas City Star.
- Kansas State receiver Deante Burton has "proven he can play" says Wildcat coach Bill Snyder.
- A halftime talk sparked a comeback during Kansas' spring game.
- KSU defensive end Ryan Mueller wants to be even better this season after a breakout campaign in 2013.
- Kansas safety Isaiah Johnson expects the Jayhawks to be the Big 12's top defense.
- Former KU quarterback Todd Reesing thinks the offense is in good hands with new offensive coordinator John Reagan.
- Iowa State's quarterback competition remains wide open after the spring game.
- David Irving's dismissal from the ISU program was the right move, writes Bobby La Gesse of the Ames Tribune.
- West Virginia's special teams could be a strength for the Mountaineers.
- Oklahoma State will need cornerback Kevin Peterson to be a leader on defense this fall.
- OSU's defensive line might be the foundation of the Cowboys' success this fall.
- Oklahoma will enter the season with high expectations, which hasn't always turned out well for the Sooners, writes John E. Hoover of the Tulsa World.
- Zack Sanchez is a symbol of OU's defense, writes Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman.
- Here's a position-by-position look at Baylor after the spring from John Werner of the Waco Tribune.
- Former Ohio State linebacker Mike Mitchell was in Lubbock, Texas, for the Red Raiders' spring game. Mitchell is looking to finalize his future home after deciding to transfer.
- Anyone have some tackling drills to share with Texas Tech defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt?
- A superb post-spring wrapup of TCU football from Alex Apple of the Dallas Morning News.
- "We got what we needed to get done," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said of the Mountaineers' spring game.
I know where you live Rhoads...have a nice prom. pic.twitter.com/NZDRnRtMaG— Fred Hoiberg (@ISUMayor32) April 12, 2014
- Kliff Kingsbury had a dance-off against a Texas Tech wide receiver.
- Oklahoma opened up its Thursday spring practice to its student fans, though only 200 showed up.
- Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman wants to see the fiery New Orleans Sooners again in 2014.
- Baylor released its post-spring depth chart, and it doesn't have many seniors.
- Bob Connelly is delivering a fresh message as the new Oklahoma State offensive line coach.
- A Texas Tech offensive lineman appears to have suffered a career-ending injury.
- Local kid WR Deante Burton has moved up to a starting role in the Kansas State offense.
- TCU landed a commitment from a Dallas-area wide receiver.
- "Snap and clear" is the motto of Iowa State's new defensive backs coach.
- ISU running back DeVondrick Nealy was charged with an excessive noise complaint.
- Five things to keep an eye on in Kansas' spring game this weekend.
- Former Jayhawk great Todd Reesing reflects on his career and the new KU offense.
- Who's the sleeper team of the Big 12 this season?
To the 'bag...
@Jake_Trotter best newcomers this spring?Trotter: So far, Oklahoma State running back/receiver Tyreek Hill, TCU safety Kenny Iloka and Kansas receiver Nick Harwell. With his speed, Hill could lead the league in all-purpose yards. Iloka is going to be a key piece in the best secondary in the Big 12. And Harwell should finally give the Jayhawks that go-to receiver they haven’t had since Dezmon Briscoe.
— Eric Bowman (@E_ROCK12) April 10, 2014
@Jake_Trotter this far out if you had to pick this year's Paul Rhoads upset special who would it beTrotter: The Cyclones get K-State in Ames the second week of the season, which could be a dangerous game for the Wildcats, who might get caught looking ahead to that Thursday night clash with Auburn. Another team that must pay heed is Oklahoma. The Sooners go to Iowa State the week before hosting Baylor in a game that could determine the Big 12 crown. OU can't afford to be looking ahead, either.
— Ted Flint (@TedFlintKansas) April 10, 2014
@Jake_Trotter What's your over/under on Kansas conference wins this coming season? #big12mailbagTrotter: I'm going to set it at 1 1/2, and I think I would actually bet the over. The Jayhawks are going to be better this season, and quite possibly good enough to steal two conference wins.
— Michael Nichols (@mdn_13) April 10, 2014
@Jake_Trotter @ESPN_Big12 what is TTU going to do with all these young QBs? Webb, Mahomes, Stidham #big12mailbagTrotter: Right now, the Red Raiders have one on campus, and that's well below the national average. I don't see an issue. The way Davis Webb has improved in the last five months, he's going to be the guy the next three seasons barring something unforeseen. That would still give Jarrett Stidham three seasons of eligibility to be the starter, if he redshirted next year. Patrick Mahomes will get this chances, too. Seems like what TTU is going to do is be really good at quarterback the next six years.
— Matt McNicoll (@Matt_McNicoll) April 10, 2014
@Jake_Trotter you think OU/TX will have a 2:30 kickoff? It's hard for us college students to make the noon kickoffs, heck hard for anybody — Konnor Lohman (@konnorlohman) April 10, 2014Trotter: I have no inside info here, but if the game is at 11 a.m. again, hit me up in the fall and I'll share with you my shortcut to the Texas State Fair.
@Jake_Trotter how do you see the Daniel Sams move to WR working out for #KState? — Corbin McGuire (@CorbinMcGuire1) April 10, 2014Trotter: It was a move that had to be made. Sams is too talented to be standing on the sidelines. He's not going to instantly become an All-Big 12 receiver. But if they can devise ways to get Sams the ball in space, the move could work out well. I see Sams getting a lot of his touches through flares, screens, reverses and maybe a handoff or Wildcat formation here or there. If they can get Sams the ball 10 times a game, that will only help the K-State offense. Think Trevone Boykin in TCU's offense late last year. That's how I see Sams best fitting in.
@Jake_Trotter Do you see Kenny Williams starting on both sides of the ball next year?Trotter: Playing? Yes. Starting? No. I think Williams ultimately favors one side of the ball. The most likely scenario is he still keeps a major role at running back, then gives coordinator Matt Wallerstedt 15-20 plays at outside linebacker, which is more than I would have predicted at the beginning of the spring. Williams can really help the defense, but not at the expense of playing 130 snaps.
— Michael Bates (@BatesTheDoulos) April 10, 2014
@Jake_Trotter which big 12 coach's job is the most secure and who has to win right now?Trotter: Bob Stoops, Art Briles, Mike Gundy, Bill Snyder and Gary Patterson have ironclad job security. Paul Rhoads and Kliff Kingsbury have nothing to worry about, either, and Charlie Strong is too new to have to worry (though in Austin, that could change fast). That leaves Charlie Weis and Dana Holgorsen, whose seats are warmest among Big 12 coaches. I think Weis just has to show improvement this season. He can't go 0-12. Holgorsen is the most interesting to watch. Considering the brutal schedule, it's very possible West Virginia is better than last year and still goes 5-7, which might not be enough for Holgorsen to keep his job. But if the Mountaineers go, say, 7-5 against that slate, then I would think Holgorsen would be deserving of another year. West Virginia has been recruiting at an impressive clip, and the schedule will line up more favorably in 2015.
— David Leake (@DavidLeake) April 10, 2014
Trotter: Appreciate it, sir. Cannon was actually on the poll for Offensive Freshman of the Year two weeks ago. The newcomer poll was for transfers, which is why you didn't see him there.
Trotter: I actually released a power poll in January that went this way: OU, Baylor, K-State, Texas, Oklahoma State, Tech, TCU, Iowa State, West Virginia, Kansas. I'll be updating it, though, after spring ball concludes.
If that dream turns into reality, the Sooners will likely have their defensive line to thank. As the defensive line went, so went the Sooners in 2013, as the group sparked the Sugar Bowl win yet faltered in OU’s losses to Baylor and Texas.
“It has a chance to be one of our deeper and better ones,” Stoops said. “Imagine that, in a year's period of time.”
Every significant contributor returns along the defensive line, including All-Big 12 end Charles Tapper, and the group should be boosted even more if tackle Jordan Phillips, who was playing at an all-conference level early last season, returns to full health after a back injury ended his sophomore season early. From top to bottom, it’s one of the deepest units in years.
“Yeah, no question,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said when asked if this would be one of the deepest defensive lines he has coached.
“You get Jordan Phillips back and we can go two deep and not really slide much. Tapper and Geneo [Grissom] are difference-makers, and the other guys will be difference makers as they continue to grow too. Chuka [Ndulue] is the old, reliable horse in there that holds down the fort, he pushes things to the other guys. They all work together extremely well. We have a unique group and they play hard.”
The bowl win over Alabama was a glimpse at just how good OU's defensive line could be. Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron, who was sacked seven times, probably still has nightmares of defenders setting up camp in the backfield. Make no mistake, OU won the game in the trenches and hopes to continue that trend in 2014.
The returnees have proven to be quality Big 12 defensive linemen, yet their playing time is far from secure. The development and growth of several young defensive linemen has spurred Mike Stoops' belief they can go two deep without a drop off. Matt Dimon, Mike Onuoha, Charles Walker and Matt Romar are just a few of the young defensive linemen on the roster who have increased the competition.
“There’s a huge competition,” Ndulue said. “There’s a bunch of great guys out there, and any one of them could be the starting man. There’s just more drive because you want to play, so we just know that your job is on the line each snap so it just makes you play to the best of your ability. As the defensive line, we know that there’s competition every day. It makes our [meeting] room a lot better.”
At the center of it all is defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery, who joined the Sooners in February 2013 to jump start a disappointing defensive front. He has done that and more, proving to be stellar position coach after arriving from Michigan with a reputation as an elite recruiter.
“The defensive line is where the game is played,” Mike Stoops said. “They are very disruptive and that is what you need to have. [Montgomery] is very good with technique and he has a great relationship with the players, and that has all been very positive. They play hard and they play with technique, and that is where it all starts up front. They have been a catalyst for us.”
Few envisioned the Sooners’ defensive line becoming one of the Big 12’s best in 2013. Yet it was.
“It wasn’t supposed to be a very strong group for us a year ago, but they really flipped it and now it is one of the best groups in the country,” Mike Stoops said. “Again, hopefully we can get [Phillips] back and make this group even stronger. It can be a dominating group if we can get him back healthy and playing at the level he was playing at a year ago.”
Now the defensive line is looking to be called the nation’s best, with the goal of being the driving force behind a College Football Playoff berth.
“It all starts with the big guys,” Ndulue said. “If we’re not being dominant, getting driven back into the linebackers, it’s going to be a long day for us. If we’re playing on their side of the line of scrimmage, we can do something great.”
Earlier this week, I wrote about how Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are facing tougher challenges recruiting against in-state programs such as Texas, Texas A&M and Baylor, but there are plenty close to the situation who still have big expectations for the Sooners and Cowboys in the Lone Star State.
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As a disclaimer, this is NOT our list. This is Athlon’s. So forward all hate tweets and emails to them. Not me. I already get enough.
1. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
2. Art Briles, Baylor
3. Bill Snyder, Kansas State
4. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
5. Gary Patterson, TCU
6. Charlie Strong, Texas
7. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State
8. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
9. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
10. Charlie Weis, Kansas
- Athlon prefers coaches who win conference championships. Briles, Snyder, Gundy and Stoops, the top four on this list, have won the past four Big 12 titles.
- I went back and checked and noticed some interesting changes. Snyder was No. 1 in 2013, but dropped two spots this year (why, I’m not sure; K-State did win six of seven to close out the season). Mack Brown was No. 6 -- the same slot that Strong opened up here. Kingsbury moved up only one spot after going 8-5 in his first season.
- In the eyes of Athlon, Patterson’s stock is falling. He was the No. 2 coach going into his first year in the Big 12 and was ranked third going into last season. On the flip side, Briles has made the biggest rise in the last two years, going from sixth to second after winning the Big 12 last season.
- Athlon actually had Snyder fifth in 2012, which is hard to believe. We’re talking about one of the best coaches of all-time, right?
- As you can see, I have a bigger beef with the 2012 and 2013 rankings than the 2014 one.
- Kingsbury has the potential to ascend the most of anyone on this list. I don’t know that the No. 8 spot is completely unfair, considering he’s only been a head coach one season. But if he can turn Texas Tech into a Big 12 contender on a quasi-regular basis, he could jump several spots.
- This is obviously not an easy list to compile. How do you weigh what Briles has done the last five years against what Snyder has the last 25? It’s all a matter of subjectivity.
"Johnny Manziel made Texas A&M so much money," he said. "When I was at Oklahoma, they made so much money."
When Peterson was at Oklahoma, he said, his first daughter was born, adding responsibilities to his plate outside of "playing football and going to class."
"Nobody wants to live in the dorms for four years," Peterson said. "You see the guys who are older, and they have responsibilities. I feel like, as much money as universities make, some of that should come down to the players, as well."
Peterson also spoke out against NBA commissioner Adam Silver's comments that basketball players should stay in school for two years.
"They're trying to make basketball players go two years in college. Wow. I wonder why?" Peterson said. "Think about it -- just imagine if LeBron James had been in college for two years. How much money would that college have made off LeBron James? They would have made so much money off LeBron James. It's about the freedom to do as you want and make your own decisions."
The Knights were in Austin for nearly every UT home game, and Trevor fondly remembers going to Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium the week before the Longhorns played Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry game in Dallas.
“I hated 'em,” Knight said of the Sooners. “I did. Going to Texas games, I’d go to the one right before the Red River Rivalry game and yell, ‘OU sucks!’”
But the day before Knight was scheduled to make his official visit to UT in February 2012, the Longhorns received a verbal commitment from quarterback Connor Brewer of Scottsdale, Ariz. Knight never made a visit to Austin and verbally committed to play at Texas A&M before flipping to Oklahoma after an official visit to Norman.
Instead of playing quarterback for Texas, he ended up playing for the team the Longhorns dislike the most.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” Knight said. “Going through the recruiting process, you realize you have to pick the best place for you. The whole fan aspect goes out [the window]. I grew up a huge Texas fan and hated A&M and OU but committed to A&M and ended up at OU. It’s how it works out. It’s funny because I grew up hating OU and now I love it.”
After two years at OU, it seems pretty clear that Knight made the correct decision. Heading into his sophomore season, Knight is the Sooners’ undisputed starting quarterback after throwing for a career-high 348 yards with four touchdowns on 32-for-44 passing in a 45-31 victory over Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
“I think a lot of positives came from it,” Knight said. “Obviously, recognition came from it. It’s a good thing to play well and be recognized for playing well. People have been saying, ‘It’s one game.’ You’ve got to build off of it and continue to move in the right direction.”
Before Knight’s breakout performance against the Crimson Tide, he had endured an up-and-down first season as Oklahoma’s quarterback in 2013. He won a tight quarterback competition and started the first two games before spraining his knee in a 16-7 win over West Virginia on Sept. 7. Blake Bell replaced Knight and kept the starting job for eight games until suffering an injury late in the season.
Knight’s performance against Alabama ended any speculation about who would be OU’s quarterback in 2014. So much so that Bell decided to move to tight end during the offseason and Kendal Thompson, another backup quarterback, transferred to Utah.
OU coach Bob Stoops said he wasn’t surprised Knight played well against Alabama. In fact, it’s what Stoops expected from his quarterback all along.
“When you go through the entire spring and two-a-days, we saw a lot of great throws and his ability to run and do things,” Stoops said. “It’s why he started the season. We don’t name a starter haphazardly.”
Added Knight: “I think there was a light switch for our whole team. Just the confidence we had and focus we had was different. We were carrying a chip on our shoulders. Nobody gave us a chance. They were fighting to keep us from trying to run out of the tunnel because we were so ready to play.”
Now it’s up to Knight to build on the Sugar Bowl and continue to get better. As good as he looked against Alabama, Knight was still wildly inconsistent last season. In eight games, Knight completed 59 percent of his passes for 819 yards with nine touchdowns and five interceptions. He also ran for 445 yards with two scores and was sacked four times.
“He is definitely coming along,” Stoops said. “It’s easy to say it’s because of the Sugar Bowl, but I think it’s because of natural maturity and the number of snaps he’s taken. He’s progressed. I think the Sugar Bowl allowed him to be a leader and take over the team.”
Moving Bell to another position also allowed Knight to take ownership of OU’s offense, according to Stoops.
“I think it helps so much now that he’s 'the guy,’” said OU center Ty Darlington, Knight’s roommate. “He’s not looking over his shoulder.”
Since setting an OU bowl record with four touchdown passes against Alabama, Knight has been the center of attention around campus. Darlington said it’s rare that Knight isn’t asked to take a photograph or sign an autograph when they attend sporting events or go out for late-night meals.
“Trevor hasn’t changed a ton,” Darlington said. “I would say the way people treat Trevor has changed. It’s different. We’ve always gone everywhere together. Now it’s like we can’t go anywhere. He’s done a good job of embracing it but hasn’t let it go to his head.”
Not that Darlington or Knight’s fraternal twin brother would let his head get too big. Connor Knight is a sophomore tight end for the Sooners and played on special teams last season.
“He hasn’t changed at all,” Connor Knight said.
OU fans will have to wait until the Aug. 30 season opener against Louisiana Tech to find how much better he’ll be this season. They hope to see the quarterback who lit up Alabama’s vaunted defense instead of the one who struggled to keep the starting job.
“It was refreshing to play well and obviously to win a big game like that,” Knight said. “That is what you dream of doing. Internally, it wasn’t a surprise to us. We really did come together and peak at the right time. I think it’s a vote of confidence. It’s nice to play that way in your last game because it carries into the offseason. We just want to build on it and ride the wave and be the best we can be.”
Spring Game Wrap-Up
BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
TBD North Dakota State Iowa State TBD Louisiana Tech Oklahoma TBD North Texas Texas TBD Stephen F. Austin Kansas State TBD Samford TCU TBD Central Arkansas Texas Tech 3:30 PM ET West Virginia Alabama 8:00 PM ET Florida State Oklahoma State