Big 12 top running games: Part I

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
12:00
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It's the perfect time to look back on the regular season before the bowl season is upon us.

The Big 12 used to be a quarterback's league. Now most teams lean on their running games to carry them to success. With the help of ESPN Stats & Information, let's take a closer look at the Big 12's best running games in several unique categories.

Rushing yards before contact

[+] EnlargeSamaje Perine
Brett Deering/Getty ImagesOklahoma running back Samaje Perine excelled at gaining yards after contact this season.
1. Oklahoma, 1,993: It’s easy to see why the Sooners had three different offensive linemen on the Big 12 coaches first or second team (Daryl Williams, Adam Shead, Tyrus Thompson). OU rushed for nearly 2,000 yards before contact thanks to a veteran offensive line along with fullback Aaron Ripkowski, another All-Big 12 honoree.

2. TCU, 1,808: The offensive line was easily the most overlooked contributors to the Horned Frogs' 11-1 season. Trevone Boykin, Aaron Green and B.J. Catalon proved to be among the Big 12’s top playmakers but they wouldn’t have had that space to show their talents without the offensive line. For example, 720 of Green’s 854 rushing yards came before contact.

3. Baylor, 1,751: Much like TCU, the threat of a deep passing game helped create holes for Bears running backs along with their offensive line. Tackle Spencer Drango was exceptional and BU was able to overcome injuries to its offensive front to secure a place among the Big 12’s best in yards before contact.

Rushing yards after contact

1. Oklahoma, 1,236: Thank you, Samaje Perine. OU’s freshman running back played a significant role in the Sooners landing atop the list in this category with a Big 12-best 636 rushing yards after contact.

2. Baylor, 1,071: Shock Linwood isn’t thought of as a physical runner in the mold of Perine, yet Linwood was the only other Big 12 running back with more than 400 rushing yards after contact. Linwood’s 446 RYAC are a clear sign the sophomore has the ability to shrug off defenders and brings a tough running style at 5-foot-8, 200 pounds.

3. West Virginia, 961: Dana Holgorsen’s teams aren’t renowned for their run-game excellence, but his best offenses have usually had the ability to punish defenses on the ground if needed. Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood had solid years in the backfield with Smallwood finishing fifth in the Big 12 with 296 rushing yards after contact.

Between the tackles

1. Oklahoma, 276 carries for 1,908 yards, 20 touchdowns: OU didn’t think twice about running the ball right at you behind its veteran offensive line. Perine led the Big 12 with 1,148 rushing yards between the tackles as the only Big 12 running back to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark.

2. Baylor, 355 carries for 1,773 yards, 23 touchdowns: The Bears' philosophy of making defenders account for the entire field includes the area between the tackles. While their speed and receivers force defenses to account for the perimeter, they won’t hesitate to run the ball right at the defense.

3. West Virginia, 342 carries for 1,637 yards, 12 touchdowns: We knew the Mountaineers had a strong interior offensive line and a bevy of running backs before the season began. Shell proved to be a physical runner with 505 of his 766 rushing yards between the tackles.

Outside the tackles

1. Oklahoma, 242 carries for 1,362 yards, 19 touchdowns: The Sooners had success outside of tackles as well, with Perine ranking as the Big 12’s best in this category. The true freshman had 431 rushing yards outside of the tackles, joining four Big 12 players with at least 300 rushing yards outside of the tackles this season.

2. Baylor, 213 carries for 1,154 yards, 18 touchdowns: Linwood was second in the Big 12 in this category as well but much closer to Perine in the other categories with 401 rushing yards outside of the tackles in 2014.

3. TCU, 192 carries for 1,048 yards, 16 touchdowns: The Horned Frogs tested defenses with their speed and open-field playmaking ability in a bunch of different ways from Boykin’s ability to scramble to Green’s exceptional quickness.

Zone-read plays

1. Oklahoma, 160 carries for 963 yards, nine touchdowns: Quarterbacks Trevor Knight and Cody Thomas used the zone-read to keep defenses honest with Perine in the backfield.

2. Baylor, 141 carries for 700 yards, nine touchdowns: Bryce Petty and Seth Russell combined for 102 carries this season as the Bears used the zone-read as another way to challenge defensive coordinators.

3. Kansas, 134 carries for 630 yards, six touchdowns: The Jayhawks had a pair of quarterbacks in Michael Cummings and Montell Cozart with the ability to keep defenses honest but neither guy changed games with their legs.
The Associated Press released its All-America team Tuesday, and several Big 12 players were recognized:

First team

OT: Spencer Drango, Baylor

DT: Malcom Brown, Texas

LB: Paul Dawson, TCU

Second team

QB: Trevone Boykin, TCU

WR: Kevin White, West Virginia

AP: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

Third team

RB: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma

K: Josh Lambert, West Virginia

DE: Shawn Oakman, Baylor

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma
Bob Bowlsby's gamble, Bob Stoops' future and the conference's future highlight Tuesday's mailbag. As always, thanks for your questions. To submit questions for next week's mailbag, click here.

Jerry in Waco writes: I think a championship game at the end of a round-robin schedule is idiotic, redundant and unfair. Do you think the NCAA might allow the addition of a single school (eg, BYU) to the BIG 12 (BIG 11) while allowing retention of the round-robin format plus 3 nonconference games resulting in a 13-game schedule that the CFP committee seems to value?

BC: That seems unlikely Jerry. First I doubt the Big 12 will overreact and expand. Second, I don’t see what a 13-game regular season schedule gets the Big 12. Third, I’m not sure I’d be making major changes to satisfy the committee. I just keep coming back to the fact Baylor beat a top-10 team by double digits on the final day of the season and it didn’t seem to matter. So why would a conference title game change that scenario? I really don't see the need for any major overreaction, to be honest. But, an overall reassessment of the tiebreaker and different marketing plan is a must.

Rick in Grapevine, Texas, writes: What bothers me about the whole "Fire Bowlsby" campaign is this: If both Florida State and Ohio State had lost their championship games then both Baylor and TCU get into the College Football Playoff. BUT, if the Big 12 had named a conference champ instead of co-champs then TCU could well have been left out at 11-1 in favor of a non-champion from the SEC or elsewhere. The choice to present co-champions was a gamble, one that might still in the long-run work out more often than not (only time will tell). You don't fire people for taking calculated risks - unless of course you're the type of person who only puts their life's savings in the mattress because stocks, bonds and CDs are too risky!

BC: A great point by Rick and one that has been overlooked by many people. Since it didn’t work out, people were quick to turn on Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. But, as Rick says, the conference was fairly close to sneaking two teams into the top four. Yet since it didn’t work out, Bowlsby took the hit for it. I can see his thinking and can’t fault him for it in hindsight even though I might not have handled it that way myself. It is something people need to take into account though, Bowlsby had a plan and took a risk. It simply didn't work out.

Marshall in Santa Clara, California, writes: Am I the only one who thinks Marshall University would be a good fit for conference expansion along with BYU? WVU would get a natural rival in the conference and the football team would be decent. Revenue might be an issue, however.

BC: You might not be the only one but you won’t have many friends on that boat with you trying to paddle it upstream. I don’t see what Marshall would bring to the table that would put the Thundering Herd atop the priority list if/when the Big 12 decides to expand as regional ties with WVU simply are not enough.

Brandon in Pickens, West Virginia, writes: With the familiarity between the West Virginia and Texas A&M staffs, what are the chances that this is a lower-scoring game than expected?

BC: First off, great name. I’d say there is a decent chance because I’m expecting a lot of points and when I've expected plenty of points this season I’ve been wrong on several occasions. The question is, what is a lower-scoring game? I could see both teams scoring in the 30s and considering that a low-scoring contest. But I still lean toward a good chance of at least one team getting into the 50s during the AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis.

Pat Jones in Johnson City, Tennessee, writes: Do you think there is any way Bob Stoops is going to make changes in his coaching staff after Oklahoma’s poor performance this year (on both sides of the ball) and if not, do you feel it is time for a change at Oklahoma? I feel Bob Stoops has lost his desire and now is just drawing a paycheck.

Brandon Chatmon: I don’t see any major changes coming on the Sooners staff nor do I think Bob Stoops is going anywhere unless he wants to. I understand the angst and disappointment among Sooner Nation, but I don’t think Stoops is the problem. There are some things the Sooners can do to change things but major change is not needed, silly mistakes led to OU’s losses, even their blowout loss to Baylor. OU is close to returning to national prominence if it plays its cards right, but they need to take the steps to ensure another underachieving season is not in the cards.

Jason A. in Le Mars, Iowa, writes: In response to Chris J. from Houston's question in last Thursday's mailbag. Since Texas "tragically" lost in the national championship game after the 2009 season here are their records: 5-7, 8-5, 9-4, 8-5, 6-6. And then here are Nebraska's: 10-4, 9-4, 10-4, 9-4, 9-3. Becoming a team "like Nebraska" just might be an improvement over the last few seasons.

BC: No question here, just sheer facts from Jason A. And I like it. Nebraska is 57-23 since 2009, while Texas is 49-28. The dislike between the Huskers and the Longhorns will never get old, or less entertaining …

Roundtable: Big 12 team with most to gain in bowl

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
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In this week's Big 12 roundtable, we examine the most intriguing bowls, which team has the most to gain in the bowl season and the players we'll be focused on the most during the bowls:

[+] EnlargeKevin White
Scott Clarke/ESPN ImagesMountaineers receiver Kevin White finished his senior regular season with 1,318 yards and nine TDs.
Other than the Goodyear Cotton and Chick-Fil-A Peach bowls, which Big 12 bowl are you most intrigued by?

Chatmon: It has to be the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, when West Virginia and Texas A&M battle on Dec. 29. Lots of points, lots of fun, lots of Red Bull. Mentor Dana Holgorsen against understudy Jake Spavital in a battle of offensive gurus. And considering this is a meaningless bowl game, I'm not interested in seeing much defense. I'm also looking forward to seeing what Kevin White has in store for his final game in a West Virginia uniform, after his breakout senior season.

Olson: There will be points in the Liberty Bowl, and I'm excited to see what a healthier West Virginia team is capable of against Texas A&M. But for me, the choice is the Valero Alamo Bowl. The Big 12 vs. Pac-12 matchup is typically a nice one in terms of style, and K-State taking on a UCLA team that Texas almost defeated in September, in the final starts for both Brett Hundley and Jake Waters, will be a lot of fun to watch.

Trotter: I'm intrigued by the Russell Athletic Bowl, and the matchup of Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables going up against his former boss at Oklahoma in Bob Stoops. Remember, Stoops brought in his brother to coach the defense in 2011, which ultimately prompted Venables to leave Oklahoma for Clemson. If Venables' Tigers shut down the Sooners, and Clemson runs the score up on Mike Stoops, it will serve as an indictment of where Oklahoma is as a program three years after that move was made.

With no one playing for a national championship, which Big 12 team has the most to gain in bowl season?

Chatmon: It has to be Baylor against Michigan State in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl. As good as the Bears have been during the past two seasons, some people still point to their Fiesta Bowl loss to Central Florida as a reason to doubt what Art Briles has built in Waco. Add the intrigue of proving the committee wrong and BU has plenty of motivation. It's also a chance for an impressive win against a quality Big Ten team in the race for conference bragging rights.

Olson: I agree with Brandon here. Some Baylor coaches I talked to before the season say their Fiesta Bowl loss to UCF was arguably the most frustrating of their time in Waco. A 12th win and ending a dream season with a BCS bowl win would've meant an awful lot to this program. They get a meaningful chance for a redo against a much better opponent in Michigan State.

Trotter: Baylor and TCU have the most to gain, because they have the chance to show they deserved to be in the playoff. But I'll throw another team into the discussion here in Texas. After finishing the season with a 48-10 home loss to TCU on Thanksgiving night, the Longhorns really need to bounce back against Arkansas in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl to set the tone for 2015. Next season is going to be a critical one for Charlie Strong and the Texas program. A win over a former rival like Arkansas would give the Longhorns the momentum they'll need heading into next season.

Who is the one Big 12 player you'll be focused during the bowls?

Chatmon: I can't wait to see what Trevone Boykin has in store for an Ole Miss defense full of playmakers in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. Boykin creates all kinds of problems for every defense with his ability to slither through open lanes like a running back yet frustrate defensive backs with his deep throws. The Rebels have held opposing quarterbacks to a 17.3 Adjusted QBR, ranking No. 2 among FBS teams behind Louisville, making this the best matchup of individual brilliance against team strength during the bowl season.

Olson: Giving Mason Rudolph a month of extra practice and all that post-Bedlam momentum is going to make for a fascinating performance in the TicketCity Cactus Bowl. Oklahoma State's rookie quarterback takes on Washington and a pass defense that ranked last in the Pac-12. I'll be a little surprised if he doesn't pick apart the Huskies on Jan. 2 and continue to build up hype for 2015. The confidence boost this team got from beating Oklahoma can't get squandered.

Trotter: Boykin and Rudolph are definitely players to watch. But I think I'll be most focused on Bryce Petty in his Baylor swan song facing one of the best defenses in the country in Michigan State. Quarterbacks the caliber of Petty -- on and off the field -- don't come along very often. I'll be curious to see how he goes out in a tough matchup in his final college game for the Bears.

Man sentenced in Stoops burglary

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
12:58
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Bob Stoops
AP Photo/The Norman Transcript, Kyle PhillipsSooners coach Bob Stoops called the home burglary a life-changing event.

NORMAN, Okla. -- A man who pleaded guilty to burglarizing the home of Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops has been sentenced to nine months in jail and given a 10-year suspended sentence.

The Norman Transcript reports that 22-year-old Corey McCarty was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty in September to burglary, larceny and unauthorized use of a credit card.

Investigators say McCarty and a juvenile broke into Stoops' home while he, his wife and three children slept and stole cash, a phone, credit cards, keys and a vehicle.

Neither Stoops nor his wife appeared for the sentencing, but they submitted a statement saying their "lives changed forever" after waking up to find that their home had been broken into while they slept.


(Read full post)


2014 All-Big 12 underclassman team

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
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From Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine to West Virginia placekicker Josh Lambert, the Big 12 was loaded with underclassmen who made an impact on the 2014 season. With that in mind we unveil our second annual All-Big 12 underclassman team (freshmen and sophomores).

The underclassman team is based on 2014 performances, not future potential -- though many on this list have bright futures as well. Number of games played was also a factor, which is a reason why budding true freshman quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Mason Rudolph, who both came on strong only during the final month of the season, just missed the cut.

Without further ado, the ESPN.com 2014 All-Big 12 underclassman team:

Offense
QB: Tyrone Swoopes, Texas
RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor
RB: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma
WR: Corey Coleman, Baylor
WR: KD Cannon, Baylor
WR: Allen Lazard, Iowa State
OT: Adam Pankey, West Virginia
OG: Baylen Brown, Texas Tech
C: Kyle Fuller, Baylor
OG: Daniel Burton, Iowa State
OT: Kent Perkins, Texas
FB: Glenn Gronkowski, Kansas State
AP: Wendell Smallwood, West Virginia

Defense
DE: Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State
DT: Andrew Billings, Baylor
DT: Hassan Ridgeway, Texas
DE: Jordan Willis, Kansas State
LB: Taylor Young, Baylor
LB: Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma
LB: Seth Jacobs, Oklahoma State
CB: Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma
CB: Nigel Tribune, Iowa State
S: Jordan Sterns, Oklahoma State
S: Orion Stewart, Baylor

Special teams
K: Josh Lambert, West Virginia
P: Colin Downing, Iowa State
KR: Alex Ross, Oklahoma
PR: Cameron Echols-Luper, TCU

ESPN.com's 2014 Big 12 awards

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
10:00
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We've given you our All-Big 12 team first team, All-Big 12 second team, All-Americans and True Freshman All-Americans. Later today on the blog, we'll unveil our take on an All-Underclassman Team. But first, it's time to honor the very best of the best in the Big 12.

A few of these selections were easy. A lot of them were not. Here are our award winners for the Big 12 in 2014.

[+] EnlargeTrevone Boykin
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesTrevone Boykin went from being a possible backup quarterback to a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Trevone Boykin, TCU

College football's most improved player by far, Boykin went from utility player to superhero in an instant. His dream season included more than 4,400 total yards, 39 touchdowns, leadership of the nation's No. 2 scoring offense, 11 wins, a Big 12 championship trophy and a fourth-place finish for the Heisman Trophy. In August, there was no guarantee he'd be TCU's starting quarterback. By December, he had more Heisman votes than Jameis Winston. Incredible player, incredible season.

Defensive Player of the Year: DT Malcom Brown, Texas

The All-American and Outland Trophy finalist played defensive tackle at a level this league hadn't seen since Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy. Brown, an unblockable 6-foot-2, 320-pound monster, fought through double teams for 64 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. He's a nightmare to gameplan against and was consistently dominant from the start of the season to the finish.

Coach of the Year: Gary Patterson, TCU

Patterson's trophy case is filling up with national awards this month, and we'll throw him one more. A no-brainer choice for ESPN.com Coach of the Year, Patterson guided one of the most impressive one-year turnarounds we've seen in a long time. His 11-1 Horned Frogs looked nothing like the 4-8 team from 2013, even with nearly all of the same players from that season. Patterson hired the right coordinators, picked the right quarterback and nearly took them all the way to the College Football Playoff.

Offensive Freshman of the Year: RB Samaje Perine, Oklahoma

Freshmen aren't supposed to rush for 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns and an NCAA-record 427 yards in one game. Perine, a perfectly built wrecking ball of a back, never played like a freshman this season. He surpassed 200 yards in three games, put the Sooners on his massive back and finished the regular season as the No. 8 rusher in the country.

Defensive Freshman of the Year: S Dravon Henry, West Virginia

The Mountaineers had high hopes for their former ESPN 300 recruit, and he lived up to the hype. Henry has started at free safety since day one and logged 37 tackles and two interceptions, including a 52-yard pick-six. He's going to be a difference-maker in this conference soon.

Offensive Newcomer of the Year: RB Rushel Shell, West Virginia

We initially voted last week give this one to Tyreek Hill, because Oklahoma State is not bowl eligible without him talents as a receiver, rusher and returner. But in light on his domestic abuse arrest in dismissal, we'll instead recognize Shell. The Pitt transfer is the complete package on his best days, a tough runner who accounted for 897 total yards and seven scores while splitting carries.

Defensive Newcomer of the Year: CB Danzel McDaniel, Kansas State

A hard-hitting corner who can do everything else, too, McDaniel shined in his first season as a Wildcat. The Dodge City Community College transfer started every game and finished with 55 tackles (five for loss), a 5-yard pick-six at Oklahoma and two forced fumbles. McDaniel covers, plays the run, hits with aggression and brought a lot of confidence.

Big 12 morning links

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
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There has been an incredible flurry of December decommitments in the Big 12 and January is setting up to be quite the month for a lot of teams, should be fun to watch.
  • Grantland's Matt Hinton hands out demerits for this season including naming Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight the worst individual underachiever. On the one hand I'd agree with giving Knight that honor, er, demerit. Yet, as Hinton notes, the preseason expectations for Knight were way out of control. So of course he failed to meet those lofty expectations. I felt like Davis Webb was the Big 12's second-best quarterback behind Bryce Petty heading into the season, mainly because Knight only finished three of the five games he started in 2013. And was very inconsistent to top it all off as a redshirt freshman. He still has great potential, which we saw a glimpse of in the Sugar Bowl, but it is a lesson to us all to think twice during the offseason.
  • We knew recruiting was one of David Beaty's forte but did we know he was this good? Kansas' new head coach landed yet another commitment on Monday with junior college running back Ke'aun Kinner picking the Jayhawks. He is KU's seventh commitment since Saturday. Yes, that's right, SEVEN in three days. Apparently numbers won't be a problem but time will tell how well these newcomers were evaluated then developed by Beaty and his coaching staff.
  • Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett is headed to the Senior Bowl. It is a valuable opportunity for Lockett to show scouts what he is about. The record-setting wideout will likely have questions about his size and speed, so being able to show his skills and how he responds to NFL coaching and the daily battles with some of college football's best could help him rise up the draft boards of NFL teams.
  • Is Baylor the landing spot for Jarrett Stidham? Bryce Cherry of the Waco Tribune takes a look at the question. The Bears and Oregon are reportedly in a battle to secure the No. 39 player in the ESPN300. Both options look pretty good for the four-star quarterback with Marcus Mariota looking NFL bound and Bryce Petty poised to play his final game in the Cotton Bowl. The Bears already have some solid talent on campus with current commit Chad President set to join the battle to replace Petty. If Stidham decides he is Waco-bound, that would make spring football even more intriguing for Art Briles' program.
  • The accolades continue to pile up for TCU coach Gary Patterson, who was named the winner of the Eddie Robinson Award on Monday. Patterson as a great coach, one of the nation's best, isn't new. He's largely to thank for TCU's rise, the Horned Frogs defense -- his main focus --was good during its first two Big 12 seasons and finally got the help it needed with the addition of co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie this season. It's been good to see him rewarded for his excellent program management and ability to maximize the talent on the roster.
Samaje Perine ran over defenders, KD Cannon ran by them and Dravon Henry brought the savvy of a veteran to a secondary in need of depth.

Oklahoma's Perine, Baylor's Cannon and West Virginia's Henry earned ESPN.com True Freshman All-American honors on Monday as the trio secured spots among the nation's best with stellar first seasons in the Big 12. You can find the full team here.

Perine, a running back from Pflugerville, Texas, led the Big 12 with 1,579 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, averaging 6.58 yards per carry during his freshman campaign. He averaged 7.05 yards per carry on first down and rushed for 150 yards or more in each of the Sooners' final three games.

Cannon, a receiver from Mount Pleasant, Texas, finished with 50 receptions for 833 yards and six touchdowns. He was a handful from the opening kickoff with 17 receptions for 409 yards and five touchdowns in the first quarter this season.

Henry, a safety from Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, made at least one tackle in 11 of 12 games this season and started every game of his freshman campaign.

Reviewing our Big 12 predictions

December, 15, 2014
Dec 15
4:00
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We make a lot of predictions here on the Big 12 blog. We make a lot of bad predictions, too.

Time to own it. Now that the regular season is over, we’re looking back on our best and worst picks and prognostications for the 2014 Big 12 season. In some cases, we ended up looking pretty smart. In plenty more, we do not. I’ll start us off with a doozy.

Max Olson: Texas Tech will start 7-0 again: Oops. I shouldn't have overlooked the Arkansas game. Or the Oklahoma State game. Or the Kansas State game. Or the West Virginia game.

[+] EnlargeBob Stoops
AP Photo/The Norman Transcript, Kyle PhillipsOklahoma's surprising struggles made for some Big 12 predictions gone awry.
Jake Trotter: Davis Webb will throw for more yards than Bryce Petty. With a bowl game left, Petty will likely end up throwing for at least 1,000 more yards than Webb, who missed Texas Tech’s final four games. But, technically, this was a solid pick: Webb averaged 317 passing yards per game, and Petty is averaging 300.

Brandon Chatmon: Texas will lead the conference in rushing and finish top 10 nationally. The Horns currently rank sixth in the conference and 85th nationally at a disappointing 148.7 rushing yards per game. Neither Johnathan Gray nor Malcolm Brown will rush for 1,000 yards this season.

Olson: David Ash earns All-Big 12 honors. Concussion issues ended Ash’s season and playing career after one game this season. I want to stand by this take, but Texas’ offensive line was in such bad shape that all-conference honors would’ve been a challenge.

Trotter: Kansas State will beat either Baylor or Oklahoma on the road. Winner. K-State did pull off a 31-30 upset of Oklahoma, the first of the Sooners’ three home losses.

Chatmon: Iowa State's offense will be much improved. Mark Mangino seemed to make a positive impact, but the results were minimal. ISU went from 24.8 points per game to 23.2, and from 363 yards per game to 372.5.

Trotter: Tyreek Hill will lead the league in rushing. Hill finished 15th, accounting for 534 rushing yards in his 12 games as a Cowboy before being dismissed last week. He did lead all Big 12 receivers in rushing yards, for what it’s worth.

Chatmon and Olson: Projecting an 8-win season for TCU. During our game-by-game season predictions series in July, Chatmon and I were relatively optimistic about the Horned Frogs around the same time they were picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 by league media.

Trotter: Predicting KSU over OU and WVU over Baylor in October. Trotter took the lead in our weekly predictions contest thanks to these prescient picks. He ended up finishing with a record of 67-8 on his regular-season picks. That is quite good.

Olson: Predicting TCU over OU and WVU over Baylor in July. The reader comments for these picks were amazing. A sampling: Max Olson is extremely poor at predictions.” “Please lay off the crack pipe.” “TCU scoring 34 points against anyone? Really? How do you figure this?” Best of the best: “Wow ... I legitimately lost all respect for your opinion with the WVU pick over Baylor ... May God have mercy on your soul.”

Chatmon: “Malcom Brown is going to make me regret leaving him off my list.” This was from our preseason All-Big 12 discussion. We’re going to award Chatmon a point for this, even though he did snub Brown at the time.

Olson: Joe Mixon “capable of emerging as an elite playmaker from the get-go.” Unfortunately, he emerged as a troublemaker from the get-go.

Trotter: Curse of the kicker. In a pregame post for Auburn vs. Kansas State, Jake called Jack Cantele the Wildcats’ X-factor and said KSU should “feel good about their chances” if the game comes down to a kick. He also heaped praise on OU’s Michael Hunnicutt one week before the K-State game. College kicking ain’t easy.

All three: Finished 60-4 in our unanimous weekly picks. Give us a little credit here. When we put our heads together and agreed on a result, we rarely misled you this season. The four games we were unanimously wrong on: North Dakota State over Iowa State, Arkansas over Texas Tech, TCU over Oklahoma, Oklahoma State winning Bedlam.

All three: A Big 12 team will make the College Football Playoff. We declared the winner of the Baylor-Oklahoma game on Nov. 8 would go on to represent the league in the inaugural playoff. I guess that means we foolishly thought a head-to-head win would be the tiebreaker that sends a Big 12 team to the playoff.

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

December, 15, 2014
Dec 15
2:30
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Here's what's been cooking on the recruiting trail in the past week around the Big 12:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Texas Tech's loss could be Baylor's gain. ESPN 300 QB Jarrett Stidham, who decommitted from the Red Raiders over the weekend, visited Baylor on Sunday. Despite all the Stidham speculation, fellow early enrollee QB Chad President has declared he's still solid with the Bears.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones added some much needed beef to the middle of its defensive with a commitment from DT Bobby Leath from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College.

KANSAS
Total commits: 19
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: New coach David Beaty has forged a reputation on being able to recruit Texas, and over the weekend, he delivered four verbal commitments from the Lone Star State. The Jahawks also added tight end Jace Sternberger from Kingfisher, Okla.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats bolstered their future linebacking corps with a commitment from three-star Louisiana LB Reggie Walker, who had offers from the likes of Florida, Arkansas and Miami. He's a good get, especially because the Hurricanes are trying to flip fellow K-State linebacker commit Mohamed Barry. Still, this was a huge pickup for the Wildcats. K-State also added juco DE Aulelio Olomua last week.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: ESPN 300 DE Ricky DeBerry is expected to make his decision on Friday and the Sooners are a finalist, if not the favorite. Oklahoma assistant Tim Kish did a final in-home visit with DeBerry on Sunday. Oklahoma will have to fend off several big-time programs for DeBerry, including Alabama.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: ESPN 300 running back Ronald Jones, the gem of Oklahoma State's recruiting class, announced Sunday he was reopening his commitment. The Cowboys now desperately need to add a running back to this class, especially in wake of Tyreek Hill's dismissal.

TCU
Total commits: 20
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Days after reeling in former Baylor 2016 DB commit Keshawn Somerville, TCU landed three-star defensive back Montrel Wilson, who backed out of his pledge to the Bears in October. The Frogs also flipped three-star center Jozie Milton from South Carolina over the weekend.

TEXAS
Total commits: 20
ESPN 300 commits: 9
The latest: This could be a huge week for the Texas defense. ESPN 300 LB Darrin Kirkland Jr., a Texas target and former Michigan commit, will announce his decision later today. Top target and ESPN 300 LB Malik Jefferson is scheduled to reveal his decision on Friday.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 12
ESPN 300 commits: 4
The latest: The Red Raiders suffered a major blow over the weekend when quarterback Jarrett Stidham, the cornerstone of Kliff Kingsbury's recruiting class since March who was set to enroll early, revealed he had decommitted from Texas Tech. The pressure will be on the Red Raiders now to get a premier QB in the class of 2016.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 24
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Mountaineers are trying to replace Kevin White with another juco WR in four-star Isaac Whitney. Later this week, Whitney is deciding between the Mountaineers, USC and Washington State, but he visited West Virginia over the weekend, which seems encouraging for the Mountaineers' chances.
Admit it. You never, ever thought Trevone Boykin would end up being a Heisman Trophy finalist.

It's OK to confess that. No way Gary Patterson or even Boykin himself could've seen that coming. In fact, Vegas didn't even start putting odds on his chances until the end of October. And yet, the TCU quarterback ended up finishing No. 4 in Heisman voting, thanks to more than 100 third-place votes and even seven first-place ballots.

So the question must be asked: Who's the next Boykin? Following up on Jake Trotter's post today that Boykin and Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine give the Big 12 two significant Heisman contenders, we're taking a way-way-way-too-early look at the conference's potential dark horse candidates.

QB Seth Russell, Baylor: There are a lot of logical reasons for betting on whoever replaces Bryce Petty as Baylor's quarterback. Not betting on Russell here so much as on Baylor's style of play, coaching and surrounding skill talent producing yet another prolific passer. Russell will be an experienced fourth-year player and brings a sneaky ability to run (4.49 40-yard dash speed). Whether it's Russell or somebody else, whoever earns the starting job has to play up to Art Briles' standard. That standard has already produced a Heisman winner and Petty, who finished in the top 10 in Heisman voting twice.

QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech: Why Mahomes over young QBs like Mason Rudolph or Tyrone Swoopes? We can only go by what we've seen so far, and Mahomes' four starts to end Texas Tech's season offered promise. He was the Big 12's leading passer over the final month of the season, and Jarrett Stidham exiting the picture helps Mahomes' chances of holding down the job. He'd still have to beat out Davis Webb and lead Tech to a huge comeback season, but this kid showed flashes of being special as a true freshman.

RB Shock Linwood, Baylor: We have to throw a running back in here due to the lack of established, exciting Big 12 quarterbacks returning in 2015. Since the start of the 2013 season, Linwood ranks 20th nationally in rushing with 2,107 yards. All of those yards have come while splitting carries, and he'll have to again next season. But Briles' offense has always run as much (in fact, more) than it has passed, and leaning on Linwood will make the next QB's job easier. You can also make a deep-sleeper case, by the way, for running backs Johnathan Gray and maybe even Aaron Green.

WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Oklahoma: OK, yes, this is an absolute shot in the dark and perhaps a pointless one. The biggest "if" here is really whether DGB elects to go pro after a season of practicing with the Sooners. If he spurns the draft and rewards Bob Stoops' faith with another year in Norman, Green-Beckham should be one of the Big 12's most talented players in 2015. The Heisman traditionally has no love for receivers, but DGB is good enough to put up crazy numbers for the Sooners next year.
Not long ago, the Heisman Trophy ran through Big 12 country.

From 1998 to 2011, the Big 12 produced five Heisman winners in Ricky Williams, Eric Crouch, Jason White, Sam Bradford and Robert Griffin III. Others, like Josh Heupel, Adrian Peterson and Vince Young, were worthy runners-up.

[+] EnlargeTrevone Boykin
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesAfter a breakout 2014 season, TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin could be even better in 2015.
Lately, though, the Big 12 has been in a Heisman drought.

No winners since 2011.

No finalists since 2012.

That, however, could change in big way next season.

The Big 12 figures to boast a pair of preseason Heisman heavyweights in TCU fleet-footed quarterback Trevone Boykin and Oklahoma bulldozing running back Samaje Perine.

As arguably the most improved player in college football this season, Boykin drove the Horned Frogs to an 11-1 record and the cusp of the College Football Playoff. He led the Big 12 with 3,714 passing yards and 30 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. Boykin also ran for 642 yards and eight scores.

The Horned Frogs will be loaded again offensively next season with 10 starters back. Despite splitting time with Casey Pachall his first two years, Boykin will be one of the most experienced quarterbacks in college football. And he will have a season under his belt operating the Doug Meacham/Sonny Cumbie spread offense.

Boykin’s top quarterback competition nationally should be out of the way as well. Marcus Mariota, this year’s Heisman winner, will likely be in the NFL. So likely will Jameis Winston and Baylor’s Bryce Petty.

Because he finished fourth in the voting over the weekend, Boykin will open his senior year on the radar of Heisman voters, which can be an important factor in generating enough traction. And Boykin will be the quarterback of a probable preseason top-10 team and playoff contender, another critical element to mounting a successful Heisman race.

Not since Davey O’Brien accomplished the feat in 1938 has TCU produced a Heisman winner. But with so many factors working in his favor, Boykin will be TCU's best shot to win the award since LaDainian Tomlinson.

However, Boykin won’t be the Big 12’s only shot.

A running back hasn’t won the Heisman since 2009, but Perine could have as good a chance as any running back in 2015 coming off his phenomenal true freshman campaign.

The 5-foot-11, 243-pound power runner led the Big 12 with 1,579 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns this season. One week after Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon set an FBS single-game rushing record with 408 yards, Perine eclipsed it with 427 yards against Kansas on Nov. 22. While splitting carries at times with Keith Ford and Alex Ross, Perine averaged 6.6 yards per carry.

Considering he will have his first full offseason with a college strength and conditioning program, Perine figures to get stronger and sharper, which is a scary thought for opposing Big 12 tacklers. He will be the clear focal point of the Oklahoma offense next season. And like Boykin, he will have Heisman buzz going into the season.

The Sooners will have to win for Perine to have a shot. But if they do, and Perine puts up even bigger numbers as a sophomore, he could join Boykin as a major factor in the Heisman race.

Boykin and Perine aren’t the only Big 12 players who could impact the Heisman race. Anyone quarterbacking the Baylor offense has a chance to make waves. Mason Rudolph and Pat Mahomes shined as true freshman quarterbacks for Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, respectively, and could turn into big-time players.

Few saw Boykin as a starting quarterback, much less a Heisman contender, before this season. Who knows who next year’s Boykin will be from the Big 12?

But after banner 2014 seasons, Boykin and Perine have prime opportunities to turn the Heisman race back through the place it once ran seemingly every year: Big 12 country.

Big 12 morning links

December, 15, 2014
Dec 15
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Gift cards always the Dirty Santa gift to go for.
  • It was a brutal weekend in recruiting in a couple of corners of the Big 12. ESPN 300 quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who had been the cornerstone of Texas Tech's recruiting class since March and who had been planning to enroll early in Lubbock, decommitted from the Red Raiders over the weekend. Tech still has a couple of talented young quarterbacks on campus in Pat Mahomes and Davis Webb. But anytime a talent the caliber of Stidham de-commits, it's a dagger, especially considering how tough it will be for Tech to add a replacement quarterback to the class. The Stidham decommitment will sting even more for Tech if he ends up at Baylor. Stidham is from Stephenville, Texas, where Baylor coach Art Briles once won multiple state championships.
  • It's been nothing for bad news for Oklahoma State since the Cowboys toppled Oklahoma in Bedlam to become bowl eligible. Days after Tyreek Hill was booted from the team, ESPN 300 running back Ronald Jones II revealed he was de-committing from the Cowboys. The news leaves Oklahoma State in an unenviable predicament in its backfield. With Hill gone, Jones no longer on board and Desmond Roland set to graduate, Rennie Childs is the only healthy scholarship running back sscheduled to be on the roster in the spring.
  • Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight was cleared to resume football activities. There was speculation running through Norman about Knight's football future after the devastating hit he took from Baylor's Shawn Oakman that left him with a temporary paralysis known as transient quadriplegia. But Knight clearly is feeling well again. This is also good news for the Sooners' hopes of beating Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The Sooners ran the ball fine -- better than fine, in fact -- in Knight's absence. But the passing attack turned benign with Cody Thomas behind center, as the Sooners averaged less than 100 passing yards per game in the three games Knight missed.
  • New Kansas coach David Beaty is off to a fast start in Lawrence. He landed five commitments over the weekend to boost the Jayhawks' recruiting class, including four from the state of Texas, where Beaty is reputed to be a recruiting ace. Kansas suddenly now has 17 commitments in the class of 2015.
  • Baylor lost offensive coordinator Phillip Montgomery to Tulsa last week, but the offense is unlikely to change or slow down, writes Mike Griffith of mlive.com. I think this is obvious. Montgomery has been by Briles' side since the two were at Stephenville. But Baylor is a program now, not an offense. And with Briles, his son and Baylor assistant Kendal Briles and quarterback Bryce Petty, the Bears will still be a load for Michigan State's vaunted defense in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl.

Early Offer: The dead period is here 

December, 14, 2014
Dec 14
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What is the dead period and why is it an important time in football recruiting? Plus, Texas Tech’s loss at quarterback could be Baylor’s gain.

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