Postseason #CFBrank: 81-90

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16

We're wrapping up the 2014 season by ranking the top 100 players in college football, just like we did before the season. As the rankings are announced, you can also find them here on the pages of

What is #CFBrank?

#CFBrank is the Twitter hashtag to use if you want to get involved in the discussion or just follow along.

How did we rank the players?

We asked 32 of ESPN's college football writers and editors to rate players on a scale of 0-10 based on their performance during the 2014 season.

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Texas hires ex-Sooner Jay Norvell

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16

The Red River rivalry added another layer of intrigue Friday when Texas hired former Oklahoma assistant Jay Norvell as its new wide receivers coach.

Norvell left OU earlier this month after seven seasons, including four as co-offensive coordinator.

"Jay is a guy that has always had an outstanding reputation, and when I had a chance to talk to him, what impressed me the most was his energy, passion and drive to be successful," Texas coach Charlie Strong said in a statement. "The thing you see and everyone talks about with him is that he's a great teacher, very detailed and organized, and he really develops his players. He's coached so many great players, gets the most out of his guys, and they really like playing for him.

"He brings a lot to our staff, is very familiar with the Big 12 and has experience recruiting in Texas. We're really excited he's joining us."

Prior to his time at Oklahoma, Norvell had coached at UCLA, Nebraska, Iowa State, Wisconsin, as well as in the NFL. Under his tutelage, Sooners receiver Ryan Broyles became the NCAA's all-time receptions leaders in 2011.

"The first thing that really drew me to this opportunity was the chance to work with Charlie Strong," Norvell said in a statement. "I've followed his career for a long time, and after sitting down and talking to him, seeing his vision for the program, the recruiting philosophy, his values, every area of the team, I was totally impressed. Our visit convinced me I wanted to be a part of that championship vision at Texas."

Norvell will take over at Texas for Les Koenning, who was fired after one season. Strong still has one vacancy to fill on his coaching staff after tight ends coach Bruce Chambers was also let go.

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In Friday's Twitter mailbag, we talk recruiting, instant impact freshmen and whether TCU will be able to handle the offseason hype.

On to the 'bag:

Trotter: Considering TCU and Baylor are loaded, and Texas and OU have quarterback problems, it probably won't be next year. But Charlie Strong and his staff have been killing it on the recruiting trail, while OU shook up its offense for the good by bringing in new coordinator Lincoln Riley. Would I be stunned if Texas and OU were the top two teams in the Big 12 again by 2016? No. But they also have plenty of work to do before getting there. Trotter: That's a great question, but I think they will. Gary Patterson does a great job of keeping his team grounded. The fact they came out playing with a chip on their shoulder in the bowl game is a great sign, too. TCU has never really been in this position before. But the leadership on this team starting with Trevone Boykin seems to be something that will help them wearing the target on their chests next year. Trotter: Some non-All Big 12 players this past year who could have big 2015 seasons: TCU DT Davion Pierson, Oklahoma State S Jordan Sterns, Oklahoma DT Charles Walker, Texas Tech CB Nigel Bethel II, West Virginia CB Daryl Worley, Kansas State LB Elijah Lee and Texas S Jason Hall. Trotter: Snyder said just last week that at his age he can only take it one season at a time. All signs point to him coaching again in 2015. Beyond that, it will come down to his health. But even at 75, Snyder seems to still be going strong. Trotter: The easy answer is Kansas State. The Wildcats graduated their QB, their two best receivers, their best offensive lineman, their best defensive lineman and their best linebacker. Because of Snyder, K-State might not take that big of a step back. But it's going to be tough. Trotter: Not bad. The Big 12 definitely needs a new One True Slogan. I've recommended, "We Play Everybody," since that's what the league originally intended to say with "One True Champion." Trotter: I read up on Spangler's high school football career, and apparently he could fling the ball around a bit. At 6-foot-8, 235 pounds, he could run a little "Belldozer" package, right? Trotter: Pancakes. Call me weird, but I especially like pancakes made from cornmeal. Trotter: It's the only hole on the offense going into next year. But it's a massive hole. Rennie Childs is a solid back, but I don't know that he's an every-down starter on a championship-caliber offense. Sione Palelei has major knee injury concerns, so who knows about him. In my opinion, Oklahoma State really needs to land a premier back in this class. They're working on it. ESPN 300 back Chris Warren III is on an official visit to Stillwater this weekend. In addition, the Cowboys are attempting to flip a commitment from the likes of Nick Brossette (LSU), Jordan Stevenson (Wisconsin) and Chris Carson (Georgia). Trotter: Iowa State fans are beginning to forget that Rhoads led the Cyclones to bowl appearances in three of his first four years. That said, the frustration is understandable. The Cyclones have been trending in the wrong direction these last two years, and the recruiting this year has been a reflection of that. 2015 is a big year for Rhoads and Co. He needs to get Iowa State back on track next season. Trotter: Baylor's Jarrett Stidham, Texas' Zach Gentry and Kansas State's Alex Delton will all be walking into quarterback situations lacking defintion. None will be a favorite to win the job going in, but the chance is at least there. ESPN 300 DT Breiden Fehoko has the opportunity to start at Texas Tech Day 1. Malik Jefferson has the talent to immediately work into Texas' rotation at linebacker. West Virginia's Miramar, Florida, haul of WR Jovon Durante, CB Tyrek Cole and S Kendrell McFadden could warrant early playing time, as well.

Big 12 all-bowl team

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16
Below, we recognize the best individual performances of the 2014-15 bowl season with our Big 12 all-bowl team:


[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
AP Photo/LM OteroBryce Petty had a huge game in his college finale.
QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor. Petty didn’t go out with a win, but he did go out with a monster performance, as he threw for a Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic-record 550 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for another score.

RB: Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State. Roland ran for more than 100 yards for the first time all season and finished with 123 yards on 32 carries in Oklahoma State’s TicketCity Cactus Bowl win.

RB: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma. Perine was about the Sooners’ only positive in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Playing on a bum ankle, he ran for 134 yards to finish his true freshman season with a Big 12-best 1,713 rushing yards.

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State. Lockett fueled a furious second-half comeback in the Valero Alamo Bowl with 164 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The rally came up short, but Lockett was fabulous in his final game at K-State.

WR: Kevin White, West Virginia. White was unstoppable yet again in his last college game. He finished with 129 yards receiving and a touchdown in West Virginia’s loss to Texas A&M in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

WR: K.D. Cannon, Baylor. By hauling in eight caches for 197 yards and two touchdowns, Cannon became just the seventh receiver and first underclassman in Baylor history to finish with more than 1,000 yards receiving.

AP: Aaron Green, TCU. Green ignited a 42-3 onslaught of Ole Miss in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl by hauling in a 31-yard pass on a trick play for TCU's first touchdown. He scored the Horned Frogs’ second touchdown too and finished with 114 yards rushing and receiving.

OT: Halapoulivaati Vaitai, TCU: With “Big V” locking up one of the edges, the Horned Frogs dominated the line of scrimmage and finished with 177 yards on the ground.

OG: LaQuan McGowan, Baylor. The 400-pound backup guard delivered one of the most unforgettable plays of the bowl season, when he lined up as an eligible receiver then snagged an 18-yard touchdown pass to give Baylor a 20-point lead.

C: B.J. Finney, Kansas State. With K-State struggling to protect quarterback Jake Waters through the first half, Finney swung from center to right tackle after halftime. The Wildcats had no trouble moving the ball the rest of the way.

OG: Brady Foltz, TCU: Foltz had one of the best games of his TCU career as the Horned Frogs rolled up 423 total yards against Ole Miss’ talented defense.

OT: Zach Crabtree, Oklahoma State. Crabtree’s return to the lineup late in the year helped stabilize the line. With Crabtree, the Cowboys controlled a Washington front seven that featured three All-Americans.


DE: Ryan Mueller, Kansas State. Mueller finished with seven tackles and produced a huge forced fumble of the Bruins in the third quarter that sparked K-State’s rally.

DT: James Castleman, Oklahoma State. Castleman’s biggest contributions actually came on offense. In Oklahoma State’s heavy set, Castleman rushed for a 1-yard touchdown, then late in the game hauled in a 48-yard yard reception off play-action that helped propel the Cowboys to victory.

DT: Malcom Brown, Texas. Brown did what he could in a 31-7 loss to Arkansas in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl by leading Texas with eight tackles, a tackle for loss and a pair of QB hurries.

DE: James McFarland, TCU. McFarland essentially ended the game when he came up with an acrobatic, diving interception of Bo Wallace in the Ole Miss end zone that put the Frogs ahead 28-0 just before halftime.

LB: K.J. Dillon, West Virginia. Dillon had a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown that gave West Virginia a 10-point lead over the Aggies and early command of the game. Neither the lead nor the command lasted, however.

LB: Marcus Mallet, TCU. The Horned Frogs brutalized Ole Miss’ offense, and Mallet was a big reason for that. He put up a game-high 10 tackles and forced and recovered a fumble, as the Rebels finished with just 9 yards rushing.

[+] EnlargeOklahoma State, Deric Robertson, Kevin Peterson
AP Photo/Rick ScuteriKevin Peterson (1) and the Oklahoma State defense made plenty of stops against Washington.
LB: Taylor Young, Baylor. Young had a game-high 15 tackles and very nearly produced the game-clinching play. His 84-yard fourth-quarter interception return, however, was called back by a penalty.

CB: Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State. In addition to providing solid coverage all night, Peterson came up with the game-clinching interception of Washington in the final seconds.

CB: Ramon Richards, Oklahoma State. The sure-tackling true freshman had perhaps the best performance in his young career and finished with six tackles, a tackle for loss and two pass breakups.

S: Karl Joseph, West Virginia. Joseph led the Mountaineers with 10 tackles and delivered yet another devastating hit that resulted in a forced fumble.

S: Derrick Kindred, TCU. Kindred picked off the Rebels in the first quarter and finished with five tackles and a tackle for loss as the TCU secondary swarmed Ole Miss' receivers all game.


K: Matthew McCrane, Kansas State. McCrane nailed 47-yard and 29-yard field goals and nearly pulled off a remarkable onside kick using the “Rabona” soccer technique. Honorable mention honors here go to West Virginia’s Josh Lambert, who broke the FBS season record with 39 made field goals.

P: Kip Smith, Oklahoma State. Smith placed all four of his punts inside the Washington 20 to help the Cowboys control the field-position battle.

Returner: Mario Alford, West Virginia: The electric Alford had two big kick returns, as well as a 45-yard touchdown reception off a quick pass in his final game as a Mountaineer.

Top recruiting targets in the Big 12 

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16
Here's a team-by-team look at some remaining targets for Big 12 teams.

Big 12's top recruiting visits 

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16
The third weekend in January is annually the biggest official visit weekend of the recruiting cycle and that’s definitely true for 2015 and in Big 12 territory. All but a few conference schools are expected to host prospects on campus this weekend and there will be plenty of major news to come following these trips, especially at places like Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa State.

[+] EnlargeNick Brossette
Gerry Hamilton/ESPNTexas is looking to flip Nick Brossette's commitment to LSU.
Texas to host around eight visitors
The Horns will have a solid group of visitors in Austin this weekend, including a number of touted commitments like ESPN 300 prospects Louis Brown and DeShon Elliott. But what makes the weekend significant is three visitors that have yet to make up their minds. LSU commitment and No. 12 running back Nick Brossette is coming to town, along with ESPN 300 defensive backs Kris Boyd and Holton Hill. Brossette is giving Texas a serious look despite his pledge to the Tigers, and he’s built a great relationship with Charlie Strong. Boyd and Hill are two key defensive back targets the Horns would love to reel in.

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National recruiting analysts Gerry Hamilton, Craig Haubert and Tom Luginbill analyze which recent assistant coach hires will have the biggest impact on signing day.
Plenty of firepower will depart the Big 12 during this offseason, from Baylor's Bryce Petty to Kansas State's Tyler Lockett, some of the nation's top offensive players called the league home in 2014.

But the conference Offensive Player of the Year is poised to return and several young players had breakout seasons. Here's a look at ten Big 12 offensive players to keep an eye on heading into 2015:

TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin: If Boykin makes the same jump he has in the past 12 months, he will cement a spot as a Heisman finalist in New York. He will enter the season with plenty of fanfare and has the skill set that leaves defenses searching for answers. If they try to pressure Boykin and he escapes into the open field, he’s like a running back. If defenses sit back, he can distribute the ball through the air like a veteran. Boykin is the clear favorite to repeat as Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year after accounting for 4,608 total yards in 2014.

[+] EnlargeSamaje Perine
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsWhat will Samaje Perine do for an encore after setting the FBS single-game rushing record as a freshman?
Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine: New OU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley must be licking his chops at the thought of having Perine at his disposal. The physical, yet speedy Sooners running back will automatically make defenses account for his run threat. Tasked with jump-starting the passing game, Riley could end up creating even more running lanes for the talented ball carrier if OU's pass offense takes off. Perine probably won’t match his 1,713 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns as a freshman but he should be able to get close to those numbers.

Oklahoma receiver Sterling Shepard: He was one of the nation’s top receivers before a leg injury derailed his junior season. Shepard finished with 51 receptions for 970 yards and five touchdowns despite making just two of those receptions after his 15-catch explosion against Kansas State on Oct. 18. He should be one of the Big 12's top pass-catchers and the Sooners' No. 1 target.

Baylor receiver Corey Coleman: The junior-to-be is a big play waiting to happen. Coleman can catch the deep ball, turn a short pass into a long gain and remains a threat on kick returns. His 15-reception, 224-yard, two-touchdown performance against OU was a glimpse at his big-time potential. He finished the season with 64 receptions for 1,119 yards (17.5 yards per catch) and 11 touchdowns.

Baylor receiver KD Cannon: As soon as defensive backs see Cannon they would be wise to start to backpedal. He had a amazing true freshman season with 1,080 receiving yards and eight touchdowns as he repeatedly ran by defenders as if they were standing still. Cannon’s speed creates problems but his competitiveness when the ball is in the air really separates him. He has the potential to be even better as a sophomore.

TCU running back Aaron Green: The Nebraska transfer is the ideal backfield mate for Boykin, as both playmakers are among the Big 12’s best in the open field. Green had four 100-yard games in the final half of the season as the Horned Frogs called upon him to fill the void after B.J. Catalon's injury.

Kansas running back Corey Avery: New coach David Beaty is going to need playmakers and Avery fits the bill. Don’t be surprised if the Jayhawks make it a priority to get Avery involved in the offense, as he’s one of the few proven playmakers on the roster after finishing his debut season with 631 rushing yards and five touchdowns. His 18 receptions show his versatility, which could make him an even more valuable piece in KU’s version of the Air Raid during his sophomore season.

Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph: He completely transformed the Cowboys fortunes in the final three games of the season. But it’s important to remember he’s still a young quarterback coming off a great finish to his first season, much like OU quarterback Trevor Knight was at this time last year. Let’s not crown him as a future of the Big 12 quarterback position quite yet, but Rudolph shows all the signs of being able to lead the Pokes into title contention.

Texas Tech running back DeAndre Washington: Coming off an overlooked 1,000-yard season, Washington makes the Red Raiders confident they will have balance in 2015. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry on his way to 1,103 rushing yards. Washington should continue to be one of the Big 12’s top playmakers this fall.

West Virginia running back Rushel Shell: The Pittsburgh transfer brings a physical presence to WVU’s offense and his success on the ground often directly impacted the Mountaineers' odds of winning. He finished with 788 rushing yards and seven touchdowns and could be counted on to play an even bigger role in 2015 with Kevin White headed to the NFL.

Next five: Iowa State WR D'Vario Montgomery; TCU WR Josh Doctson; Baylor RB Shock Linwood; Iowa State WR Allen Lazard; Texas Tech WR Jakeem Grant.
If Baylor didn’t make the point clear, Clemson certainly did.

Oklahoma -- more specifically the Bob Stoops era at Oklahoma -- had come to a crossroads.

Thirty-four point losses to Tigers and Bears called for desperate measures, and Stoops fired a coordinator for the very first time, letting go of Josh Heupel, who quarterbacked the Sooners to that national championship that one time many years ago.

This week, in turn, Stoops made the hire that will come to define the twilight of his Oklahoma tenure, putting his future and the future of the program in the hands of a 31-year-old whiz kid.

[+] EnlargeBob Stoops
Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesBob Stoops is shaking up his offense with a return to the air raid attack he originally unleashed on the Big 12 in 1999.
Lincoln Riley arrives in Norman amidst hopes he can establish an offensive identity for a squad desperately in need of one, while also creating a buzz for a program, well, desperately in need of one.

Riley wasn’t the most seasoned coordinator Stoops could have hired. Except for a single bowl game, he’s never called plays for a Power 5 offense.

But there is no ambivalence to Riley’s philosophy. He is a direct descendant of the Mike Leach air raid attack, which Stoops originally unleashed on the Big 12 in 1999, which in turn fueled the Sooners to the national championship a year later.

Riley’s offenses at East Carolina have been among the most prolific in the country, this past season ranking fifth nationally in total offense. Like Dana Holgorsen, Riley has added his own touch to the air raid, with an emphasis on running the ball. Riley featured a 1,000-yard rusher the previous two seasons, and almost had another this past season. Of course, like Leach, Riley’s attack, however, is predicated on getting receivers the ball in open spaces.

Riley brings precisely what Oklahoma has lacked the past two seasons.

Offensive identity.

With the ambition of turning Trevor Knight into the next Johnny Manziel, Stoops pushed for a transition to a zone-read pistol attack that would showcase Knight’s athleticism. The shift resulted in Oklahoma losing its identity. The Sooners never felt comfortable running Knight, and Heupel never looked comfortable calling such a drastically different scheme. Despite having a Freshman All-American at running back in Samaje Perine, the Sooners ranked just fifth in the Big 12 in total offense. Heupel ultimately lost his job; Knight could be on the verge of losing his, too.

Essentially putting that fiasco in the past, Stoops is going back to what has worked best at Oklahoma -- at least when Adrian Peterson wasn’t in the backfield -- the air raid.

Yet a return to the air raid isn’t all that Riley is bringing to Norman.

Since 2008, the Sooners brand has gradually turned stale. The past six seasons, Oklahoma has been unable to seriously contend for a national championship into November. Over the same span, the Sooners have captured one outright Big 12 title, after completely dominating the league from 2000-08.

This was supposed to be the season that elevated the Sooners back to title contention. Oklahoma smoked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and returned the bulk of its team, including Knight.

Capitalizing on the momentum, the school launched a $400 million capital campaign that would turn Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium into the most luxurious venue in college football by 2016.

Instead, despite having a favorable schedule, the Sooners suffered through the most disappointing season of the Stoops era, finishing 8-5, with a stunning home loss to Oklahoma State sandwiched between the Baylor and Clemson blowouts. Struggles on the field led to struggles on the stadium fundraising trail (the price of oil dropping hasn’t helped, either).

Shortly after the season, Stoops and president David Boren concluded that drastic changes had to be made to restore excitement off the field. And improve the play on it.

All of that will fall on Riley.

Who now carries the legacy of Stoops and Oklahoma football on his young shoulders.
Mel Kiper Jr. has released his first mock draft for 2015, and it carries a Big 12 flavor.

Kiper Jr. has Big 12 alums Kevin White (WR, West Virginia), Dorial Green-Beckham (WR, Oklahoma), Malcom Brown (DT, Texas), and Jordan Phillips (DT, Oklahoma) going in the first round.

To see where he has them going, and to check out the rest of the mock draft, click here Insider.
Mel Kiper’s first NFL Mock Draft for 2015 is out. Among the 32 first-round projections are nine players who played in the Under Armour All-America Game, as well as four former five-star ranked prospects by ESPN RecruitingNation as well as 16 four-stars and 12 former ESPN 300 prospects.

An asterisk denotes a junior for the 2014 season; two asterisks denote a redshirt sophomore.

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Overreacting in the Big 12

January, 15, 2015
Jan 15
We're all guilty of the same crime from time to time: reading too much into one result, overreaching with some opinion, buying too much stock when it might actually be time to sell. It comes with the territory of covering this unpredictable game. Here's a look back at a few things we thought we knew during the 2014 Big 12 season. A lot of them were wrong.

Aug. 30: Oklahoma State almost beat Florida State!

Season openers can be consistently pretty good at making people look foolish. With all the prep time coaches have, the results can be about as meaningful and enduring as bowl games. In this instance, Oklahoma State played No. 1 Florida State a lot closer than most expected. The Seminoles won 37-31 at AT&T Stadium but almost squandered a 17-0 lead. That game was a coming-out party for Emmanuel Ogbah and Tyreek Hill, who went on to have great seasons, but the Pokes finished 7-5. We sensed that OSU's showing and West Virginia's close game against Alabama signaled that the Big 12 can play with anyone. That might be right, but the Cowboys' season didn't get much easier from there.

Oct. 18: Texas has its QB of the future!

[+] EnlargeTyrone Swoopes
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezIt was a seesaw-type season for Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes.
On the jump to conclusions mat, we hopped to this spot a couple of times during the season. Tyrone Swoopes definitely had his moments in 2014. Against Oklahoma, Iowa State and Oklahoma State, he threw for 300-plus yards in each game, and it appeared the Longhorns could lean on him for the future. In this particular week, against the Cyclones, he came up clutch by driving 68 yards in two plays to set up the game-winning field goal in a 48-45 win. The next week, Texas lost to K-State 23-0. His impressive showing against Oklahoma State was followed up by the debacle against TCU. In a year of highs and lows for Swoopes, it was probably unrealistic to make such bold and definitive statements.

Nov. 1: Sugar Bowl Trevor is back!

Speaking of quarterbacks with highs and lows, Oklahoma's Trevor Knight was also a tough dude to peg during the 2014 season. Once again, we witnessed a quarterback shred Iowa State and believed this meant progress. Knight was at his dual-threat best on Nov. 1: 230 yards passing, 146 rushing and six total TDs in a 59-14 beatdown in Ames. That "Sugar Bowl Trevor" label of how good he can be on the right day remains both unfair and elusive, though, as the Sooners' showing against Baylor the next week proved.

Dec. 2: TCU is making the College Football Playoff!

They really got us good with this one. We didn't make such a bold prediction at the time, but all the indicators were there, right? When the playoff committee boosted the Horned Frogs up to No. 3, ahead of Florida State, going into the final weekend of the season, it seemed reasonable to conclude that a blowout win against Iowa State would be enough to secure TCU's playoff bid. This ended up being a false hope, and it was heartbreaking for Horned Frogs fans. Baylor fans were angry at the time, too, but didn't need to be. A few days later, the playoff committee finally bumped the Bears ahead of TCU, which lost to Baylor in October.

Have you had enough yet? No? Here's a preview of a few talking points you're sure to hear about in the offseason that might in fact be regrettable overreactions. Only time will tell, really, but we have to discuss 'em anyway.

Mason Rudolph is a star!

The way Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph closed out the season with three inspiring starts, including the shocking upset of Oklahoma in Norman, is inspiring a lot of confidence about where the Pokes are heading in 2015. But he was a true freshman, and surely there will be speed bumps along the way as he grows in his sophomore year. Let's have a little patience, shall we?

Paul Rhoads is on the hot seat!

You knew this talking point was coming eventually. To this point, the job of beloved Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads has never really seemed to be in jeopardy, despite the on-field results (2-10). But the Cyclones just endured a winless conference season and have lost 23 of their past 29 games. Recruiting isn't going great, either. The pressure will build if Rhoads can't produce more promising results in 2015.

Maybe TCU and Baylor can both make the playoff!

Putting both teams in the top three of our Way-Too-Early preseason rankings might lead to this viewpoint, but it's probably a shaky one. Only one of these teams can go undefeated, and there are no guarantees for one-loss teams. Whoever wins their Black Friday showdown in Fort Worth should be in great shape. But who knows what that game will mean for the loser?
The Big 12 had some elite defenders in 2014 with Texas defenisve tackle Malcom Brown and TCU linebacker Paul Dawson among the nation's best at their positions. That duo are among several stars who will depart this offseason, leaving a void to be filled by other Big 12 defenders.

Here are 10 Big 12 defenders to keep an eye on next season:

Oklahoma linebacker Dominique Alexander: A starter as a true freshman and second-team All-Big 12 performer as a sophomore, Alexander has exceeded all expectations as an underclassman. And the conference's leading returning tackler still has plenty of room to improve despite a 107-tackle season in 2014. The Sooners will need Alexander to play a critical role if they hope to become a dominant defense in 2015.

Baylor defensive tackle Andrew Billings: The Big 12's top returning defensive tackle was consistently disruptive in the middle of Baylor's defense in 2014 with 11.5 tackles for loss. His strength and leverage makes him a handful for any offensive lineman. Even as he attracts increased double teams, Billings should continue to create problems as the foundation of Baylor's defense.

[+] EnlargeTCU, Baylor
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesThere's a reason Baylor's Shawn Oakman and his stature are a social media hit.
Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman: The Big 12's reigning king of social media memes and hashtags, Oakman is known for his sheer stature as much as his play on the field. He can be a monster for opposing offenses as his 19.5 tackles for loss would attest and returns to Baylor with an eye on dominating the Big 12 in his final season.

Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah: What can the Cowboys standout defensive end do as an encore? Ogbah was one of the Big 12's leaders in sacks (11) and tackles for loss (17) during a breakout sophomore season. His numbers may drop as a junior, as added attention comes his way, but Ogbah should make plenty of plays while opening up opportunities for teammates in 2015.

West Virginia safety Karl Joseph: One of the Big 12's hardest hitters, Joseph decided to return for his senior season as the anchor of the Mountaineers' secondary. He earned a hard-hitting reputation as a true freshman and has improved in coverage during his first three seasons in Morgantown. He will enter 2015 as one of the Big 12's most complete defensive backs.

Kansas State safety Dante Barnett: The Wildcats defense will be looking toward Barnett to be an leader, not only on the defense but for the entire roster in 2015. His 77 tackles, 56 solo, don't begin to account for his importance on the K-State defense.

Texas Tech defensive end Pete Robertson: The Big 12 leader in sacks with 13, Robertson is easily the conference's most overlooked star. He was an impact player as a sophomore and took his game to another level as a junior but went largely unnoticed as things around him fell apart during a 4-8 season.

TCU defensive tackle Davion Pierson: A three-year starter along TCU's defensive interior, Pierson sets the tone for the Horned Frogs defense. Not only is he disruptive, with 20 career tackles for loss, Pierson plays with a fire and energy that rubs off on teammates. He will need help in the middle with Chucky Hunter moving on but Pierson is a terrific foundation to build upon.

Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker: Another Big 12 defender who considered leaving early, Striker has been one of the conference's top pass rushers for the past two seasons. As a junior, he showed his versatility and proved to be more than just an elite pass rusher. Striker will aim to show he can raise an entire defense to another level as a senior.

Texas defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway: Malcom Brown is NFL bound, but the Longhorns may not skip a beat with Ridgeway appearing ready for an increased role. He had six sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss as a sophomore and looks like he could get even better as a junior.

Five other names to watch: S Kamari Cotton-Moya, Iowa State; CB Daryl Worley, West Virginia; S Derrick Kindred, TCU; CB Danzel McDaniel, Kansas State; CB Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma.

Postseason #CFBrank: 91-100

January, 14, 2015
Jan 14

We're wrapping up the 2014 season by ranking the top 100 players in college football, just like we did before the season. As the rankings are announced, you can also find them here on the pages of

What is #CFBrank?

#CFBrank is the Twitter hashtag to use if you want to get involved in the discussion or just follow along.

How did we rank the players?

We asked 32 of ESPN's college football writers and editors to rate players on a scale of 0-10 based on their performance during the 2014 season.

(Read full post)

Top early enrollees: Big 12 

January, 14, 2015
Jan 14
Big 12 programs have always been big believers of using players that can enroll at midterm and can make a big impact in their program, starting in spring practices. Whether it be through the junior-college ranks or through high school players that are ready to step on the field from Day 1, there will be plenty of fresh faces that do big things in the league early on. Here is a look at five Big 12 early enrollees:

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Assistant Hires Sway Recruiting Momentum
National recruiting analysts Gerry Hamilton, Craig Haubert and Tom Luginbill analyze which recent assistant coach hires will have the biggest impact on signing day.