Oklahoma Sooners: TCU Horned Frgos

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
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As expected, this was one of the busiest weeks in the Big 12 from a recruiting standpoint. Teams were looking to fill in last-minute vacancies, and players were looking to finalize their college plans. TCU proved to be the big winner in the conference, landing six 2014 commits and two more commits from the 2015 class. Kansas wasn’t far behind, as the Jayhawks got verbal commitments from five three-star players for the 2014 class.

Here are some of this past week’s highlights:


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Big 12's lunch links

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
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Now this is a dead-on impression of Tom Brady throwing a touchdown.

Big 12 stats that defined the season

December, 18, 2013
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Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State leaned on defensive improvement in several statistics to finish in the top half of the Big 12 while several stats reveal why Kansas, Iowa State, TCU and West Virginia didn't reach bowl eligibility.

Here is one stat from each Big 12 team that helped define the season:

[+] EnlargeBaker Mayfield, Ahmad Dixon
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesBaylor's offense got most of the pub, but the Bears' defense -- led by senior safety Ahmad Dixon -- was one of the stingiest when it comes to yards allowed per play.
Baylor’s yards per play allowed: The Bears offense has been explosive and high scoring for the past several seasons, so seeing it again in 2013 was nothing new. But, this season, their defense more than held up their end of the bargain allowing 4.53 opponent yards per play, leading the Big 12 and ranking sixth among FBS teams. A defense laced with veterans, including safety Ahmad Dixon, helped BU’s unit rank among the nation’s best, and the athletes that have become commonplace on the Bears offense are starting to surface on the defensive side of the football with talented young guys such as defensive end Shawn Oakman and safety Terrell Burt.

Iowa State’s sacks allowed: The Cyclones allowed 37 sacks in 12 games, an average of 3.08 per game. ISU finished last in the nation and tied for No. 113 among FBS teams in the category. The trouble protecting the passer speaks volumes about the injury struggles Paul Rhoads’ team had along the offensive line. Ten different ISU offensive linemen started games this season, with nine different starting lineups starting the first 11 games. All of ISU’s offensive problems began up front.

Kansas’ yards per play: It’s amazing to think how bad Charlie Weis’ offense was this season. The Jayhawks ranked among the worst in the nation in several categories, but their 4.28 yards per play was No. 120 among FBS teams. KU entered the season with much higher expectations for this offensive unit, particularly with BYU transfer Jake Heaps as the triggerman. Yet the Jayhawks never really found any consistency, as Weis and company tried several different things to jump start the unit. KU scored more than 20 points twice this season, letting down a defense that was much improved over last year’s group.

Kansas State’s yards per play: When you think of the top offenses in the Big 12, it takes a while to get to Kansas State. Yet the Wildcats featured a surprisingly explosive offense despite losing uber-productive quarterback Collin Klein off last year’s squad. This year’s K-State offense averaged 6.3 yards per play, second to only Baylor in the Big 12 and No. 28 among FBS teams. Bill Snyder’s ability to find harmony while using Jake Waters and Daniel Sams in a two-quarterback system led to 33.4 points per game by an offense that didn’t enter the season expected to be among the Big 12’s best.

Oklahoma’s yards allowed per game: The Sooners allowed just 336.3 yards per game to lead the Big 12 and finish No. 13 in the FBS. OU entered the season with a lot of questions and concerns about a defense that was embarrassed by Johnny Manziel in last year's Cotton Bowl and was losing a bunch of starters, yet the Sooners defense improved thanks to several young players, including defensive end Charles Tapper and Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year Dominique Alexander. OU's defense was the foundation of the Sooners' 10-2 season and Sugar Bowl berth.

Oklahoma State’s opponent third down conversion rate: The Cowboys defense was among the Big 12’s best in its first season under Glenn Spencer. Their third down production was superb, allowing opponents to convert just 31.3 percent of their third down attempts to lead the Big 12 and finish seventh among FBS teams. OSU’s veteran defense and willingness to be more aggressive on third downs under Spencer played a key role in its success in those situations and eventual 10-2 finish.

Texas sack percentage: The Longhorns' ability to get after the quarterback played a key role in their success. UT featured two of the Big 12’s top pass rushing threats in Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed. That duo helped UT sack opposing quarterbacks on 8.6 percent of passing plays, ranking No. 1 in the Big 12 and No. 9 among FBS teams while finishing with 37 total sacks, including 35 during Big 12 play, helping UT to a 7-2 conference record.

TCU third down conversion rate: The Horned Frogs converted just 32 percent of their third down attempts this season, ranking eighth in the Big 12 and No. 113 among FBS teams. It’s easy to see why the Horned Frogs have brought in former Houston offensive coordinator Doug Meacham to take over their offense. TCU’s defense was good enough to be in the Big 12 title race, its offense was not.

Texas Tech passing yards per game: It was a terrific debut season for head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense despite some musical chairs at the quarterback position. The Red Raiders averaged 392 passing yards per game to lead the Big 12 and rank second among FBS teams despite having true freshmen Baker Mayfield and Davis Webb running the offense. Without one of the nation’s elite passing offenses, it’s unlikely the Red Raiders earn a bowl bid with a 7-5 record.

West Virginia’s opponent third down conversion rate: The Mountaineers allowed opponents to convert 42.7 percent of their third down attempts, ranking last in the Big 12 and No. 91 among FBS teams. WVU’s inability to get off the field in those important moments was one reason the Mountaineers’ defense allowed 455 yards per game, leading to the team's 4-8 finish.

Big 12 lunchtime links

November, 22, 2013
11/22/13
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I plan to enroll on Monday. Would anyone like to join me?

Big 12 unsung heroes: Week 12

November, 18, 2013
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Here are the Big 12’s unsung heroes for Week 12:

Baylor running back Devin Chafin: Where do the Bears keep finding these running backs? Chafin finished with 11 carries for 100 yards, 9.1 yards per carry, and two touchdowns, all career-highs. He allowed the Bears to sub out Shock Linwood without a drop-off in production in BU’s 63-34 win over Texas Tech.

[+] EnlargeJake Waters
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesKansas State QB Jake Waters didn't have huge numbers, but he made key plays to help beat West Virginia.
Kansas linebacker Ben Goodman: Goodman was outstanding as Kansas snapped its 27-game Big 12 losing streak with a 31-19 win over West Virginia. He had six solo tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack and one interception, which was key as the Mountaineers were driving early in the third quarter. He showed the athleticism and hops normally seen on the Allen Fieldhouse floor on his momentum-changing interception.

Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters: He didn’t finish with great numbers but led the Wildcats on a game-winning drive in the final two minutes, finding Curry Sexton and Tyler Lockett on key connections to set up Jack Cantele’s game-winning 41-yard field goal. Waters finished 10 of 24 for 234 yards, two touchdowns and one interception but stepped up to make key plays in key moments.

Iowa State defensive end Cory Morrissey: Defensive teammates Jacques Washington and Jeremiah George sat atop the tackles list in the Cyclones’ 48-10 loss to Oklahoma, but Morrissey was solid with five tackles and one tackle for loss. It was his fifth time recording at least five tackles this season.

Oklahoma receiver Jalen Saunders: The Sooners' running game was the star, but Saunders sparked OU’s 48-10 win with a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown right before halftime. The slippery senior didn’t have a major impact in the passing game (three receptions for 15 yards), but his actual impact on the outcome was as big as quarterback Trevor Knight and running back Damien Williams, who each rushed for more than 100 yards in the win.

Oklahoma State receiver Charlie Moore: The senior was very productive in the Cowboys’ 38-13 win over Texas. He caught six of seven targets for 83 yards and one touchdown. With OSU’s top receiver, Josh Stewart, out due to injury, Moore provided a quality receiving option for Clint Chelf in the victory with his season high in receptions and receiving yards.

Texas safety Mykkele Thompson: The junior led UT with six solo tackles (seven total) and one interception in the Longhorns’ 38-10 loss to OSU. His effort was one of the few bright spots in a disappointing home loss to the Cowboys as Thompson recorded a season-high in solo tackles.

TCU safety Derrick Kindred: The sophomore continues to play at a high level while emerging as another option in the Horned Frogs' secondary. He led the squad with eight solo tackles in TCU’s 33-31 loss to Kansas State. He has 17 tackles in the past two games.

Texas Tech cornerback Justis Nelson: Talk about thrown into the fire. Nelson earned his first collegiate start against the explosive Baylor offense and held up well despite his team’s 63-34 loss. The true freshman showed signs he might emerge as an critical part of the Red Raiders' defense of the future with five solo tackles and three pass breakups.

West Virginia linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski: The Mountaineers linebacker contributed to a turnover for the third straight game. After grabbing interceptions in his squad’s previous two outings, Kwiatkoski had eight tackles, including six solo stops, 1.5 tackles for loss and one fumble recovery in the 31-19 loss to KU.

Big 12 bowl projections: Week 10

November, 3, 2013
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Baylor could send a message and become the clear favorite in the Big 12 or Oklahoma could show that its Red River Rivalry loss to Texas might be a one-game aberration. We’ll find out when the two teams meet in Waco, Texas, on Thursday. Meanwhile Oklahoma State reaffirmed its intentions to remain in the thick of the conference title race while Texas continues to win. This conference race is far from over.

Here are our Week 10 bowl projections for the Big 12:

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 1): Baylor vs. BCS at-large
AT&T Cotton Bowl (Jan. 3): Oklahoma vs. SEC No. 3/4
Valero Alamo Bowl (Dec. 30): Oklahoma State vs. Pac-12 No. 2
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (Dec. 28): Texas vs. Big Ten No. 4/5
National University Holiday (Dec. 30): Texas Tech vs. Pac-12 No. 3
Texas Bowl (Dec. 27): Kansas State vs. Big Ten No. 6
New Era Pinstripe Bowl (Dec. 28): West Virginia vs. American No. 4
Heart of Dallas Bowl (Jan. 1): None available vs. Big Ten No. 7

Big 12 lunchtime links

October, 30, 2013
10/30/13
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One reason I'm glad the NBA is back.

Big 12 Week 8: Did you know?

October, 18, 2013
10/18/13
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Another week of great tidbits and numbers thanks to ESPN Stats and Information along with sports information departments around the conference. Did you know …
  • Baylor is looking to become bowl-eligible for the fourth straight season for the first time in school history.
  • Baylor is looking to start 6-0 for the first time since 1980 and the sixth time in school history.
  • Baylor is the highest ranked Big 12 team in both the AP and Coaches Poll for the first time ever.
  • Baylor joins Florida State as the only two teams in the nation that are top 5 in total offense and top 25 in total defense.
  • The Bears starting offense has scored touchdowns on 35 of 48 drives (72.9 percent) this season.
  • Baylor’s defense has forced two or more turnovers in nine of its last 12 games.
  • Baylor leads the nation in total offense (715.4 yards per game) and scoring offense (63.4 points per game).
  • Baylor’s Bryce Petty leads the nation in Raw QBR at 94.5, yards per attempt (14.87) and yards per completion (21.27).
  • Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk leads the nation in yards per carry at 9.97. He leads the Big 12 with 648 rushing yards despite ranking seventh in total carries (65).
  • Baylor’s Antwan Goodley leads the nation with 26.76 yards per reception. His 669 receiving yards lead the Big 12.
  • Baylor’s 9.38 yards per play is a full yard better than anyone else in the nation. Florida State’s 8.27 yards per play is second nationally.
  • Baylor averages 17 yards per pass attempt on third down and 9.91 yards per third down play. Both marks lead the nation.
  • Iowa State has yet to lose by double digits, averaging 5.5 points per game margin of defeat in its four losses.
  • ISU ranks second in the Big 12 and 13th nationally in turnover margin at 1.2.
  • The Cyclones have seen 20 different players earn their first career start this season.
  • ISU gave up more than 40 points for the first time in 24 games during its 42-35 loss to Texas Tech last week.
  • Sam Richardson has a touchdown pass in eight straight games, tying him for the third longest streak in school history.
  • Richardson’s 10 touchdown passes puts him second in the Big 12 behind Petty.
  • Oklahoma defensive end Geneo Grissom and Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney won two Kansas state championships together at Hutchinson (Kan.) High School.
  • Kansas has stopped every opponent from scoring on its opening drive this season, limiting those teams to three first downs through five games.
  • Jayhawks tight end Jimmay Mundine has a touchdown reception in three straight games, the longest streak since Dezmon Briscoe’s three-game streak in 2009 for the Jayhawks.
  • The Jayhawks’ pass defense has been overlooked by KU’s offensive troubles. KU allowed 5.91 yards per pass attempt, ranking third in the Big 12 this season and 15th nationally.
  • Kansas State quarterback Daniel Sams leads Big 12 quarterbacks in rushes (86), rushing yards (522) and rushing touchdowns (7).
  • Sams ranks No. 7 nationally in adjusted QBR (which takes into account level of competition) at 86.8. He’s second in the Big 12 in the category behind Petty.
  • Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has never lost in a game immediately after the Red River Rivalry. He’s looking to improve to 15-0 in that scenario against KU.
  • The Sooners have won 20 straight games after a regular season loss since 2004.
  • OU has won 29 straight games when allowing 21 points or fewer.
  • OU has held KU to 17 points or less in eight of its nine victories over the Jayhawks under Stoops.
  • The Sooners lead the Big 12 in points allowed per game (16.8), yards allowed per game (308.8), passing yards allowed per game (172), yards allowed per pass attempt (5.55) and first downs allowed per game (15.5).
  • Beginning in 2011, Oklahoma State is 14-1 in its last 15 home games.
  • The Cowboys have won 20 straight home games against unranked opponents.
  • OSU has a touchdown drive of two minutes or less in 27 straight games.
  • OSU will host TCU for the second straight season because the Horned Frogs inherited Texas A&M’s conference schedule after joining the league and the Aggies were scheduled to face the Cowboys in Stillwater in 2012 and 2013 after OSU agreed to move the 2011 game from Stillwater to College Station.
  • OSU has 71 players from Texas, more than any other program outside of the state of Texas.
  • OSU ranks second nationally in turnovers forced since 2009 (142). Only Oregon has forced more turnovers during that span (147).
  • OSU has ranked no lower than 19th nationally in fewest sacks allowed each season since 2006.
  • OSU quarterback J.W. Walsh ranks third in adjusted QBR at 74.4 behind Petty and Texas’ David Ash.
  • The Cowboys defense leads the conference in opponent adjusted QBR at 19.0.
  • OSU ranks No. 2 in the Big 12 in rushing yards allowed at 115.8 and yards per carry allowed at 3.16.
  • Longhorns running back Johnathan Gray leads the conference in total carries with 111 and ranks second in rushing yards (562) behind Seastrunk.
  • OSU is the fourth ranked opponent TCU will face in its first seven games.
  • Saturday marks the fourth time TCU will kickoff at 11 a.m. this season. The Horned Frogs are 5-1 in early starts in the past two seasons.
  • Over 40 percent of the players who have seen action for the Horned Frogs this season are sophomores.
  • TCU has scored more points in the third quarter (58) and fourth quarter (65) than in the first half combined (44) this season.
  • Wyoming transfer Josh Doctson is the only active player in the nation who has scored a touchdown against his current team. Doctson had a touchdown catch for the Cowboys against TCU in 2011.
  • TCU’s 100 receptions have been divided among 15 different receivers.
  • Texas Tech will play in the eastern time zone for the first time since 2008 when they face West Virginia in Morgantown, W. Va., on Saturday. The Red Raiders defeated Virginia 31-28 in the Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day in 2008.
  • The Red Raiders have never played at Milan Puskar Stadium and this is just the third meeting between the two schools, first in Morgantown.
  • For the first time in school history, the Red Raiders ran at least 100 plays for two straight games. Tech had 100 offensive plays against Kansas and 101 against Iowa State.
  • Texas Tech leads the Big 12 in third down conversion defense, allowing just 28.2 percent of third down conversion attempts. The Red Raiders also led in rush defense, allowing 113.2 rushing yards per game.
  • TTU is bowl eligible for the 20th time in 21 seasons. The Red Raiders are one of 11 teams nationally that have already secured bowl eligibility.
  • TTU forced 11 Iowa State punts, the most by an opponent against the Red Raiders in Big 12 play.
  • Davis Webb is the sixth Red Raider quarterback to throw for more than 400 yards in his first career start. He passed for 415 yards in TTU’s 42-35 win over ISU last weekend.
  • West Virginia is 7-3 under Dana Holgorsen when the Mountaineers have more than seven days to prepare. WVU had a bye last weekend.
  • TTU leads the Big 12 in yards per play allowed on third down at 3.66 and points allowed per drive at 0.99.

Big 12 class rankings analysis 

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
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Each Wednesday, ESPN RecruitingNation updates its national class rankings. For an in-depth look at the Big 12 conference, check out our conference rankings:

1. Texas, 24 commits: The Longhorns check in at No. 7 in the RecruitingNation class rankings with the headliners being No. 79 overall Derick Roberson (San Antonio, Texas/Williams J. Brennan High), No. 119 Armanti Foreman (Texas City, Texas/Texas City High) and No. 138 Jerrod Heard (Denton, Texas/John H. Guyer High). Texas, which currently has seven ESPN300 commits, has its sights set on No. 31 overall Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell High), No. 13 Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen High) and No. 25 Jamal Adams (Lewiville, Texas/Hebron High).

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Big 12 lunchtime links

October, 8, 2013
10/08/13
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Oklahoma and Texas will wear uniforms with gold trim on Saturday. The Longhorns will wear orange jerseys with gold trim, while the Sooners will sport white jerseys with gold trim.

Big 12 lunchtime links

October, 7, 2013
10/07/13
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"That's the game, baby, pelicans eat fish!" Classic.
  • Baylor will have the chance to quiet doubters during Big 12 play, writes John Werner of the Waco Tribune.
  • "We can't let it linger," Iowa State linebacker Jeremiah George told Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register. The Cyclones travel to Texas Tech this weekend after feeling robbed in their loss to Texas last Thursday.
  • Consistency has been one of the main problems for Kansas, writes Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World.
  • An uncharacteristic, mistake-filled performance led to Kansas State's last-minute loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday, writes Kellis Robinett of the Wichita Eagle.
  • Oklahoma's defense suffered a major blow with linebacker Corey Nelson likely out for the season due to a torn pectoral muscle. A true freshman appears poised to step in for the senior, writes The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey.
  • Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is tired of answering questions about the Cowboys' offensive struggles, writes Jimmie Tramel of the Tulsa World. The Cowboys coach makes some valid points about the reasons for offensive struggles at OSU and around the Big 12.
  • Quarterback David Ash has been ruled out against Oklahoma, just one of several injuries starting to pile up at Texas, writes ESPN.com's Max Olson.
  • Head coach Gary Patterson doesn't think making a coaching change will spark TCU's offense, writes Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
  • Texas Tech has leaned on solid defense and offensive playmakers with the quarterback spot unclear, writes Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
  • Well, at least one person is convinced. "I think Baylor is going to win the Big 12," West Virginia's Shaq Rowell said after the Mountaineers' 73-42 loss to the Bears. It all started up front, writes Dave Hickman of the Charleston Gazette.

What we learned: Week 6

October, 6, 2013
10/06/13
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Here’s what we learned in Oklahoma’s 20-17 win over TCU on Saturday.

The Sooners defense was tired of hearing about TCU’s defense. The Horned Frogs entered the season considered the best defense in the Big 12 thanks to their performance in 2012. Oklahoma made its case to be considered the league’s top defensive unit against TCU on Saturday. The Horned Frogs opened the game with seven straight three-and-outs, not recording a first down until the third quarter. That’s called pure domination by the Sooners defense. TCU finished with 210 yards, averaging 4 yards per play.

OU’s running game is the real deal. The Sooners rushed for 203 yards on 38 carries against the Horned Frogs and, for the second straight week, turned to the running game and ran out the clock in the final minutes. Quarterback Blake Bell had runs of 17 and 13 yards on the final drive to secure the victory. OU's 194 rushing yards against Tulsa is the lone game under 200 rushing yards during the Sooners' 5-0 start.

The Sooners passing game still has a ways to go. OU passed for 156 yards against the best secondary Bell has seen thus far this season. Sophomore Durron Neal led the squad with 42 receiving yards as OU’s passing game was far from explosive. However, Bell continued to do a terrific job avoiding a game-changing interception. And, with the way the Sooners’ defense is playing, OU will be tough to beat if Bell continues to protect the ball in a similar fashion.

Diagnosing the Big 12

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
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Texas is crumbling, Oklahoma appears to be on the right track, Texas Tech has surprised and Oklahoma State remains the favorite. Here are some things that are ailing the Big 12 and some cures for those ailments:

What’s ailing the Big 12

Losing to FCS teams. After a summer in which Big 12 coaches touted the overall depth of the conference, Iowa State and Kansas State -- both bowl teams in 2012 -- lost to FCS opponents in Week 1. West Virginia escaped with a late win over FCS opponent William and Mary. Big 12 teams already have lost seven nonconference games, including against Ole Miss (over Texas), LSU (over TCU) and Iowa (over Iowa State).

The cure

Don’t talk about it, be about it. Oklahoma State did knock off Mississippi State and OU gets a shot at Notre Dame on Sept. 28, so all is not lost. But the league’s reputation has taken a hit.

On to Part II:

What’s ailing the Big 12

Lack of defense. The Big 12 has a reputation for poor defense. While nobody in the league likes that reputation, nobody’s done much to change it during nonconference play. The league average is 19.3 points and 384.5 yards allowed per game against FBS schools during the first three weeks of the season. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech have had strong single-game performances, but no Big 12 defense looks dominant.

The cure

Is there one? Things aren’t going to get any easier for Big 12 defenses when conference play begins. All is not lost for Big 12 defensive coordinators, however, because several Big 12 squads remain riddled with uncertainty at quarterback. This isn’t the Big 12 of old when defenses had to slow Robert Griffin III one week, then deal with Brandon Weeden the next. So there’s hope for Big 12 defenses. But based on the first three weeks, don’t hold your breath.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Zuma Press/Icon SMIPotential Big 12 breakout stars haven't emerged yet in 2013, but Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty could be on the verge of becoming one.
Part III:

What’s ailing the Big 12

Fluid quarterback situations. The season is 3 weeks old, yet 22 quarterbacks on Big 12 teams have thrown at least one pass this season, and 17 of them are in double digits in pass attempts. Blowouts have played a role in those numbers, but 15 quarterbacks have started a game in the 10-team league. Meanwhile, Oklahoma, West Virginia, TCU and Oklahoma State already are pinning their futures on the shoulders of a quarterback who didn’t take the first snap of the 2013 season.

The cure

Better quarterback play. Oklahoma State's J.W. Walsh, Oklahoma’s Blake Bell and West Virginia’s Ford Childress appeared to have upgraded their team’s offenses when they took over. TCU’s Trevone Boykin has a ton of talent, but he hasn’t become the run-pass threat he should be to this point. And Texas ... they’ve got other problems.

Part IV:

What’s ailing the Big 12

What happened to RG III, Tavon Austin, etc? There seems to be a lack of star power in the league. Stars were expected to emerge early this season, but they’ve been few and far between. Several standouts such as Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk, Kansas’ James Sims and Oklahoma State's Josh Stewart have performed well, but supplemental stars haven't emerged. Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty is showing good signs and several other players have had strong single-game performances. But the lack of legitimate game-changing performers is a surprise.

The cure

Time will tell. Petty, Oklahoma's Bell, TCU’s B.J. Catalon and others have the shown the potential to be stars, but the difference between stars and good players is pretty simple. Stars play like stars. Every single week. No excuses.

And finally, Part V:

What’s ailing the Big 12

Nobody has been challenged. Oklahoma State, Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas Tech are the current favorites to win the conference. Now, which from that foursome has recorded the best victories so far? Oklahoma State's victory over Mississippi State leads the pack, followed by Texas Tech’s win over TCU. Do we really know anything about these favorites? And what about Texas, West Virginia, Kansas State and TCU? It’s not crazy to think they can recover and insert themselves in the Big 12 race. (Sorry, Kansas and Iowa State, but you’ll have to prove it on the field.)

The cure

Conference play. We’ll start to learn how good Baylor and Petty really are in October. And the same can be said for a host of Big 12 teams and players. True favorites will start to separate themselves and pretenders will fall by the wayside. Some players with potential will blossom into stars, and other potential standouts will continue to flash some upside, but lack consistency. Should be a fun October.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 3

September, 12, 2013
9/12/13
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Several intriguing games in the Big 12 this week. Will Texas put out the fire? How will Iowa State respond? Is Texas Tech for real? Should Blake Bell take over the reins at Oklahoma? Can’t wait to get those answers.

Here’s what to watch in the Big 12 for Week 3:

1. Can Texas rebound? Texas has brought in Greg Robinson to turn things around for the Longhorns’ defense. The veteran coach has experience but he’s been thrown into the fire and asked to make a miracle happen against Ole Miss in less than a week. The odds aren’t on his side, but if Robinson completely turns around the UT defense, the entire Big 12 landscape will have changed in a matter of days.

[+] EnlargeBaker Mayfield
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesFreshman QB Baker Mayfield has been nearly flawless his first two games, but he hasn't seen defensive playmakers like TCU will have on Saturday.
2. First real test for Texas Tech. The Red Raiders haven’t seen anything like TCU’s defense thus far this season. Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield has been outstanding, having thrown for 780 yards and seven touchdowns (he's also rushed for a TD) while leading the Red Raiders to a 2-0 start. But he hasn’t seen playmakers like TCU’s Devonte Fields, Jason Verrett and Kevin White. How Mayfield handles his first Big 12 game could define if the Red Raiders’ hope of becoming the Big 12’s surprise team can come true.

3. Character test for the Cyclones. Iowa State can redeem itself with a win over Iowa on Saturday. The Cyclones’ disappointing 28-20 loss to Northern Iowa was one of the most surprising results of the season’s first weekend, particularly since their defense couldn’t stop UNI on the ground or through the air. Nothing can get things back on track like a rivalry game and ISU is looking to make sure its horrible Week 1 performance doesn’t snowball into a horrible multi-game stretch to start the season.

4. Blake Bell’s opportunity. The Sooners quarterback gets the chance to prove he should have been OU’s starter when his squad hosts Tulsa on Saturday. Bell, the preseason favorite to replace Landry Jones, lost the quarterback battle to Trevor Knight. But Knight’s knee injury has opened the door; will Bell walk through it?

5. How will Oklahoma State handle a week of distractions? The Cowboys have been in the news throughout the week due to allegations of misconduct throughout the program in a series of stories by Sports Illustrated. OSU’s home opener against Lamar will be the first time to see the football program in action since the series was published and Boone Pickens Stadium promises to be a lively atmosphere. Nonetheless, it should be pretty easy to tell if the Cowboys are distracted. And if they are, it might be a sign that the distractions could affect them for the remainder of the season as the ripple effect continues.

6. Will West Virginia’s quarterback situation ever become clear? Dana Holgorsen plans to continue his search for a solid No. 1 quarterback until Paul Millard, Clint Trickett or Ford Childress separates himself from the pack. Holgorsen is extremely disappointed in the play of his offense and has shouldered the blame, saying, “It’s embarrassing, we have to put our guys in better position to make plays.” But one of those guys needs to seize the opportunity to trigger Holgorsen’s offense starting against Georgia State on Saturday.

7. Can Trevone Boykin take TCU’s offense to a different level? Boykin will be asked to shoulder the load for the Horned Frogs with Casey Pachall out. He’s much better prepared to be the main man in the offensive backfield this season and his dynamic running will test any defense. Much like Bell, Boykin has the chance to prove he should have been the guy in the first place.

8. Kansas looks to keep momentum. The Jayhawks opened the season with a win over South Dakota and will get the chance to start off 2-0 when they visit Rice. KU coach Charlie Weis is trying to build a quality program and a win over the Owls would be step in the right direction after several close calls in 2012.

9. Will Kansas State’s defense return to its 2012 form? The Wildcats replaced several starters, including linebacker Arthur Brown, but the cupboard is not bare. Yet the Wildcats have allowed 24 points to North Dakota State and 27 points to Louisiana-Lafayette in back-to-back weeks. Last year’s defense allowed 19.5 points per game in nonconference play. KSU needs a strong defensive performance against Massachusetts on Saturday to get its confidence going on that side of the ball with a road trip to Texas looming next weekend.

10. Are any Big 12 teams ripe for an upset? OSU has had a week full of distractions, Kansas State is still a work in progress, WVU’s offense has been substandard and OU can’t seem to create any offensive balance. All four teams host opponents they should beat with relative ease but it wouldn’t be a shock to see any of those squads struggle because, quite simply, no Big 12 team has looked like dominant squad during the first two weeks of the season.
The opening weekend brought some clarity to the Big 12. Baylor’s offense was unstoppable, Texas did an outstanding job finishing drives and Oklahoma State’s defense proved to be aggressive. Here’s a closer look at some interesting stats from the opening slate of games and what those stats could mean for the future heading into Week 2.

Baylor: The Bears scored on 71.4 percent of their drives against Wofford. That means BU was operating its offense with ridiculous efficiency in quarterback Bryce Petty’s first game as a starter. The Bears averaged 4.4 points per drive against the FCS foe.

What it means for the future: It means good things for the Bears’ program because they took a business-like approach against Wofford and the offense performed at a extremely high level in their first game. It’s also a sign the overall depth within the program is increasing. BU led 38-0 at halftime, yet its second half scoring percentage was 71.4 percent as well with backup quarterback Seth Russell accounting for two touchdowns.

Iowa State: The Cyclones’ offensive line struggled against Northern Iowa. ISU quarterback Sam Richardson was sacked 13.5 percent of the time on attempted passing plays. The Big 12 average was 5.3 percent. And things have gotten worse for the Cyclones offensive front, which will have to play without injured center Tom Farniok against Iowa on Sept. 14.

What it means for the future: It will be a long season if the Cyclones don’t correct their pass protection struggles. More and more, Big 12 defenses are designed to attack the quarterback so Richardson, who is a quality signal-caller, won’t be able to display his talents if he’s on his back or running for his life all season.

Kansas State: Curious why the Wildcats got upset by North Dakota State? It’s simple -- 36.5 percent of their offensive plays went for zero or negative yards. That’s an eye-popping lack of success against an FCS opponent.

What it means for the future: K-State has to go back to the drawing board and figure out ways to move the ball on the ground. Running back John Hubert struggled mightily in his first game as the main man in the backfield without Collin Klein. The Wildcats might want to consider using Daniel Sams more alongside Hubert to spark their running game.

Oklahoma: Louisiana-Monroe averaged just four plays per drive against the Sooners. OU did a terrific job of getting off the field against ULM, which contributed to its first defensive shutout since 2010. Only four of ULM’s 15 drives included five or more plays.

What it means for the future: It could be a huge development for the Sooners as they strive to develop depth along their defensive line. If they continue to keep opponents from making lengthy drives, they won’t have to turn to their second team defensive linemen unless they want to get them added experience and they won’t be forced to substitute because their starters are wearing down during a drive.

Oklahoma State: Mike Gundy wanted the Cowboys' defense to be more aggressive. Early indications point to OSU fulfilling that wish as 42.9 percent of Mississippi State’s offensive plays ended in zero or negative yards. The Cowboys were able to play the majority of the game in the Bulldogs’ backfield and held their SEC opponent to just three points.

What it means for the future: If the Cowboys' defense is more aggressive and opportunistic, they could win their second Big 12 title in three seasons. New defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer has OSU attacking and the overall speed and athleticism of the unit is better than it was during the Pokes’ BCS run in 2011.

Texas: The Longhorns did a great job of finishing drives against New Mexico State. UT scored touchdowns on 80 percent of its drives inside the Aggies' 40-yard line. The Longhorns scored touchdowns on four of those five drives.

What it means for the future: Life will be much easier for the Longhorns defense if the offense is scoring touchdowns and finishing drives instead of settling for field goals or turning the ball over. It also a sign that David Ash’s experience could be paying off and he understands the critical nature of each play as his team approaches the goal line.

TCU: Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin each finished with subpar Total QBR ratings against LSU. Pachall’s 45.2 and Boykin’s 20.4 were lower than the Big 12 average of 65.1. Granted there’s a very good chance the Tigers defense is among the best, if not the best, TCU will face all season but the Horned Frogs need better and more efficient play from both signal-callers.

What it means for the future: It means TCU’s two-quarterback system should remain intact. If either of Pachall or Boykin had been extremely efficient and effective against the Tigers, it would have been hard to justify taking the hot hand off the field. Now, TCU’s quarterback situation remains in flux, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing since both guys do bring different qualities that could be valuable this season.

Texas Tech: Quarterback Baker Mayfield was simply outstanding on third down. He played with a maturity and awareness uncommon from a true freshman with 61.5 percent of his third-down passes resulting in first downs. His ability to keep the chains moving was a big reason why Mayfield earned Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors.

What it means for the future: It means it will be hard to unseat Mayfield from his starting spot when Michael Brewer returns to full health. Additionally, if Mayfield remains consistently superb on third down, the Red Raiders could insert themselves into the Big 12 title race.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers threw the ball 31.4 percent of the time on first down. That is not Dana Holgorsen’s reputation. The WVU coach does run the ball more than some of his “Air Raid” colleagues but it’s clear his offense left some tricks in its bag during Week 1. Last season, the Mountaineers threw 53 percent of the time on first down.

What it means for the future: Oklahoma beware. The WVU offense we saw against William and Mary was a scaled-back version of Holgorsen’s attack. When the Mountaineers travel to Norman this weekend we’ll get a much better feel for how explosive their offense could become.

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