Trevor KnightChuck Cook/USA TODAY SportsHalf of Trevor Knight's touchdowns in 2013 were notched against the Crimson Tide.
As we count down 50 days until the start of the 2014 college football season, ESPN Insider Travis Haney is answering at least one big question a day until South Carolina and Texas A&M’s kickoff Aug. 28.

Heisman contenders, breakout freshmen, conference winners -- it will all be covered as part of Insider’s Ultimate Season Preview.


Today’s question: Is Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight the player who torched Alabama or the guy who never did much against weaker Big 12 defenses?

Half of Knight’s TDs and almost half of his completions came in one game, but that game was against Alabama. So it leaves us wondering: Was the Sugar Bowl the exception or, moving forward, the rule?

Because of minor injuries and uneven performances, Knight couldn’t stay on the field against Big 12 opponents in 2013. Remember that it was an 80-yard TD drive led by Blake Bell that even provided Knight with the Sugar Bowl stage.

Now, Bell is a tight end and Knight is a Heisman contender. Go figure.

Why Knight is that guy ...

Oklahoma’s coaches said last summer that Knight was capable of what you saw against the Tide.

Maybe it just took him that long to find his footing, and now he’ll take off.
Our series of preseason picks for every single Big 12 game of 2014 continues today with Week 11. Oklahoma and Baylor, the preseason favorites in the Big 12, face off at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in one of the season's most anticipated games.

More Big 12 predictions for 2014.

at Kansas 35, Iowa State 34: One of the most entertaining games of the season goes largely unnoticed as the Jayhawks and Cyclones offenses go back-and-forth in the fourth quarter. A late Montell Cozart touchdown run followed by an interception by Ben Heeney cements the win for KU.

Kansas State 23, at TCU 20: Bill Snyder’s squad uses a Tyler Lockett kickoff return for a touchdown and a late TCU turnover to grab the road win over the Horned Frogs and further cement its place among Big 12 title contenders. Neither offense is stellar but K-State makes key plays and key conversions when they need them while TCU’s offense fails in those key moments, ultimately providing the difference as K-State improves to 5-1 in the Big 12.

at Texas 31, West Virginia 21: With UT treading water at .500 in Big 12 play, the Longhorns take on an “us against the world” mentality and begin what they hope will be late-season rally, starting with a home win over the Mountaineers. Longhorn running back Johnathan Gray finishes with 150 yards and two scores as WVU’s defense doesn’t have an answer for the Longhorns running game.

at Oklahoma 35, Baylor 24: The Sooners defense is stellar against Baylor’s offense, limiting the Bears to three touchdowns while forcing two turnovers that set up a pair of Sooners scores. OU's Trevor Knight outduels BU's Bryce Petty, throwing for two touchdowns and zero interceptions while Petty’s two touchdown tosses are offset by an interception and fumble. And four different OU defenders record sacks as OU harasses Petty into one of his worst games of the year. Ultimately, the hostile road environment at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium is too much for Art Briles' group to overcome as the Sooners cement themselves in the driver's seat in the Big 12 title race.

Current Big 12 standings

1. Oklahoma -- 8-1, 5-1
2. Kansas State -- 7-2, 5-1
3. Baylor -- 7-2, 4-2
4. Texas -- 6-4, 4-3
5. TCU -- 6-3, 3-3
6. Texas Tech -- 6-3, 3-3
7. Oklahoma State -- 5-4, 3-3
8. West Virginia -- 4-6, 3-3
9. Kansas -- 3-6, 1-5
10. Iowa State -- 2-7, 0-6
Our series of preseason picks for every single Big 12 game of 2014 continues today with Week 10, a week that will likely be remembered for battles between teams in the middle of the pack.

More Big 12 predictions for 2014.

at Kansas State 38, Oklahoma State 31, OT: It's not a marquee matchup, but this goes down as one of the better Big 12 games of the season. Kansas State gets a stop on the first possession of overtime, then Tyler Lockett goes for the kill with the 25-yard walk-off touchdown. Back-to-back wins over Texas and OSU have the Powercats back on track.

Texas 40, at Texas Tech 21: The Longhorns notch their sixth consecutive victory over Texas Tech thanks to some wizardry from Daje Johnson, who contributes a rushing touchdown, a receiving touchdown and a bunch of TTU missed tackles in a bounce-back performance. Davis Webb is sharp early on, but has no run game to lean on.

at Baylor 63, Kansas 10: Poor Kansas. Nobody wants to play the angry Bears on this week, after their loss to West Virginia and a bye to recover. Bryce Petty gets the Heisman Trophy campaign back on track with five touchdown passes and three Baylor running backs find the end zone.

at West Virginia 27, TCU 24: The Horned Frogs' fourth-quarter rally comes up just short against the tag team of Rushel Shell and Dreamius Smith, who run wild behind an underrated WVU offensive line and give TCU's linebackers lots of trouble. Dana Holgorsen gets a Red Bull bath as celebration for knocking off the one-loss Frogs.

Oklahoma 45, at Iowa State 13: The Sooners are rolling again and Trevor Knight is growing more confident. Having the powerful Keith Ford (two rushing touchdowns) and the lightning-quick Joe Mixon (65-yard TD run) at his disposal certainly helps. For ISU, there's at least hope on the horizon with a trip to Kansas next on the schedule.

Current Big 12 standings

1. Baylor -- 7-1, 4-1
2. Oklahoma -- 7-1, 4-1
3. Kansas State -- 6-2, 4-1
4. TCU -- 6-2, 3-2
5. Texas Tech -- 6-3, 3-3
6. Texas -- 5-4, 3-3
7. Oklahoma State
-- 5-4, 3-3
8. West Virginia -- 4-5, 3-3
9. Kansas -- 2-6, 0-5
10. Iowa State
-- 2-6, 0-5
During the summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 55 Josiah St. John, 6-foot-6, 300 pounds, redshirt junior

Impact thus far: None. St. John redshirted during his first season on campus. A junior college signee, St. John was late to arrive in the summer and never really proved himself ready to impact the Sooners in 2013.

Impact in 2014: OU returns two strong starters in Daryl Williams and Tyrus Thompson, so a rise into the starting lineup would be a surprise. But St. John seems poised to be a solid backup option at tackle this fall.

Long term upside: He could contribute as a backup in 2014, then become a starter in 2015.

Evaluation grade for St. John: F. St. John may end up being a terrific evaluation but the reason to sign a junior college player is to get an immediate impact which hasn’t been the case with St. John. But it would be a surprise if this grade remains an F, particularly after St. John’s improvement since the end of the 2013 campaign.

Development grade for St. John: B. Considering the shuffling the Sooners had to do when the injury bug hit the tackle spot last season, St. John clearly wasn’t ready to make an impact in 2013. Thus, a redshirt season was probably better than just throwing him out there and wasting a season of eligibility. Now they could potentially get a full season of production in 2015 and a quality backup in 2014.
In today's mailbag, we discuss TCU's defense, Texas' recruiting and Oklahoma's backfield.

To submit a future mailbag entry, simply go here.

Now, on to the 'bag:


Bo McKown in Charleston, West Virginia writes: Jake, just saw that you were a W&L grad. I play football for the Generals, but I'm also a huge WVU fan. I would love to hear your predictions for this WVU team this upcoming year. If we get decent QB play, I think we could win eight games. If the defense comes along nicely, I think we could put together a solid season. Thoughts?

Trotter: Always great to hear from a fellow General, Bo. I actually believe there’s a good chance West Virginia will be improved this fall. The addition of Tom Bradley to the defensive staff should really bring a calming influence to that unit. There’s also quality depth at running back, receiver, linebacker and in the secondary. But even if Clint Trickett plays well, I’m not sure where the eight wins come from. Essentially, the Mountaineers would have to win five games they probably won’t be favored in. That’s asking a lot. I’m much more bullish on the Generals’ 2014 outlook. Good luck on the upcoming season, Bo.


Mitch in Fort Worth, Texas, writes: Most of what I have read regarding TCU football for 2014 talks only of our new additions for the offense. I was wondering what you knew about new developments in our defense for the 2014 season (not including Devonte Fields returning).

Trotter: The TCU defense should be one of the best in the country. Kevin White looks ready to take over for Jason Verrett as the team’s No. 1 corner. Opposite White, redshirt freshman Ranthony Texada had a tremendous spring and will move into the starting lineup. Junior-college safety Kenny Iloka impressed during the spring as well and will boost an already stout group at safety that includes Sam Carter, Chris Hackett, Derrick Kindred and Geoff Hooker. Of course, the biggest development this offseason was Fields returning to form. He’s the X-factor. If he plays the way he did as a freshman two years ago, look out.


 Eric Robinson in Dayton, Ohio, writes: I read a lot about how Texas is getting bludgeoned on the recruiting trail by Texas A&M. Other than ego, why should Texas care? Shouldn't it be more concerned about what OU and Baylor are doing?

Trotter: They ought to care care, Eric, because those are players that might otherwise be going to Texas. The more talent the Longhorns get, the better they’re likely to be. And the Aggies are snagging players a lot of players that in the past would have ended up in Austin.


 Crimson runner in Tulsa, Okla., writes: Will OU's running game be a one-two punch with Alex Ross and Keith Ford?

Trotter: Maybe more like a three-headed monster. Incoming freshman Joe Mixon has really been turning heads this summer. The Sooners have recruited extremely well at the position. Mixon, Ford and Ross were ranked 53rd, 27th and 70th in the ESPN 300 coming out of high school. All three players figure to get carries, but it will be interesting to see who emerges as the primary running back. Ford showed promise as a true freshman. But a lot of people in Norman think it might be Mixon.



John Madison in Salt Lake City writes: Jake, there has been a lot of buzz around the Red Raiders and something great is growing in Lubbock. Writers and analysts have nodded to the great things happening there, but still Texas Tech is projected to finish 6th or 7th in the conference. Are they really still an underdog in all but three or four games?

Trotter: This might be the first mailbag entry by way of Salt Lake that wasn’t about BYU. The Red Raiders, John, still have much to prove. The win over Arizona State was very encouraging. But before that, Tech lost five straight to the top five teams in the conference by an average margin of more than 20 points. To finish any higher than sixth in the league, the Red Raiders are going to have to show they can beat some of those teams. I think they can this year. But that’s why you don’t see Tech getting picked higher this preseason.
Our series of preseason picks for every single Big 12 game of 2014 continues today with Week 8. It's a good week to be playing at home, and we'll just leave it at that.

More Big 12 predictions for 2014.

at Oklahoma 27, Kansas State 17: ESPN's preseason projections say OU is 16 points better than Kansas State, but the Wildcats play them much closer than that in a game reminiscent of the 2013 nail-biter (just with fewer coverage busts). Tyler Lockett has 10 catches, but that is not enough and the Sooners' defense clamps down in the red zone to pull away in the fourth quarter.

at TCU 24, Oklahoma State 20: You would expect fireworks from the Mike Gundy vs. Doug Meacham reunion, but this game comes down to the points created by TCU's vicious defense. Devonte Fields records three sacks and forces two fumbles, and the Frogs' offense capitalizes.

at Texas Tech 45, Kansas 27: A closer-than-expected affair in the first half gets blown open when Davis Webb finds his groove in the third quarter and finds Jakeem Grant for three of his four passing touchdowns. At a loss for answers offensively, Kansas lets its top three quarterbacks all play in the loss.

at Texas 31, Iowa State 13: No goal-line controversy, no jaw-dropping stunner in Austin, just another forgettable afternoon game that makes ISU fans glad they didn't watch online. Texas gets a bounce-back win after the Red River loss thanks to a heavy dose of Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray.

at West Virginia 35, Baylor 34: Tormented by the memory of giving up 73 points and 864 yards to the Bears last season, WVU's defense steps up in a big way with an inspired showing. Clint Trickett avenges his brutal game from a year ago and guides a fourth-quarter rally to stun the defending Big 12 champs.

Current Big 12 standings

1. Oklahoma -- 6-1, 3-1
2. Texas Tech -- 6-1, 3-1
3. Baylor -- 6-1, 3-1
4. TCU -- 5-1, 2-1
5. Kansas State -- 4-2, 2-1
6. Oklahoma State -- 4-3, 2-2
7. Texas -- 4-3, 2-2
8. West Virginia -- 3-4, 2-2
9. Iowa State -- 2-5, 0-4
10. Kansas -- 2-5, 0-4
Oklahoma received 47 of a possible 56 first-place votes to land the No. 1 spot in the Big 12's preseason media poll released Thursday.

The Sooners topped the league's preseason standings for the third time in the past four seasons, and have been picked to win their conference or division nine times in Bob Stoops' tenure.

Baylor finished No. 2 in the poll with nine first-place votes, followed by Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma State.

Since the conference went to a 10-team, round-robin schedule in 2011, the Big 12 preseason poll has yet to correctly identify the conference's eventual outright champion (excluding OU's shared title in 2012). The last correct preseason media poll was 2010, when league media members tabbed Oklahoma and Nebraska as the division favorites.

Last year, Baylor took the No. 5 spot in the preseason poll but was one of six teams that received first-place votes. Oklahoma State, OU, TCU and Texas were all picked ahead of the Big 12 champs.

The poll confirms what most preseason publications suggested this summer: the No. 3 through No. 7 spots are a real toss-up with a substantial gap between OU, Baylor and everyone else. Texas was two poll points away from surpassing Kansas State for the No. 3 spot. Oklahoma State and Texas Tech were separated by just four points, with Texas Tech and TCU separated by 11.
During the summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 54 Nila Kasitati, guard/center, 6-foot-4, 315 pounds, junior

Impact thus far: Injuries have been the only thing that have really kept Kasitati off the field during his time in Norman, Oklahoma. After a redshirt season in 2011, he was beginning to force himself into the lineup until an early-October ACL injury against Texas Tech as a redshirt freshman forced him to miss the rest of the season. Last season he returned to play in all 13 games including seven starts at right guard.

Impact in 2014: His versatility makes it a near certainty he will be a key member of OU’s offensive line. Kasitati can play center and guard so don’t be surprised to see him line up at either position in 2014 as the Sooners strive to get their top five offensive linemen on the field.

Long term upside: He should be a core member of the offensive line during the next two seasons.

Evaluation grade for Kasitati: A. He wasn’t a five-star recruit but he’s had a significant impact since his redshirt freshman season. Kasitati brings a toughness and aggression to the lineup that helps set the tone for the entire offensive front.

Development grade for Kasitati: A. The Sooners have done a good job with the junior, particularly during his redshirt freshman season when they inserted him into the offensive line rotation before his injury. When he’s healthy, he tends to make an impact for OU.
On Wednesday, the Big 12 released its official All-Big 12 team, which is voted together by media that covers the conference.

Like any other all-whatever team, there were several players deserving of making the cut that didn’t. But who had the biggest gripe about being left off the preseason All-Big 12 team?

SportsNation

Who had the biggest gripe about being left off the media's preseason All-Big 12 team?

  •  
    9%
  •  
    40%
  •  
    4%
  •  
    25%
  •  
    22%

Discuss (Total votes: 3,708)

Oklahoma defensive end Charles Tapper has a compelling grievance, considering he was All-Big 12 last year as a sophomore. Tapper, in fact, was the only defensive underclassman named All-Big 12 in 2013.

Tapper, however, isn’t the only one with a gripe.

Texas running back Johnathan Gray probably also would have been All-Big 12 last season, had he not torn his Achilles at West Virginia in early November. Gray rushed for 141 yards against Kansas State and 123 against Oklahoma. Teammate Malcom Brown took over at running back after Gray’s injury, and rushed for more than 100 yards in the Longhorns’ final three games. As a result, although Gray is expected to be good to go for the opener, Brown was selected to the preseason team over him.

Only five offensive linemen have more career starts than West Virginia guard Quinton Spain, who has been the Mountaineers’ top offensive lineman the past two seasons. Spain and Mark Glowinski form arguably the league’s best one-two punch at guard. Among the offensive linemen left off, Spain might have the biggest beef.

TCU cornerback Kevin White got overshadowed last year by All-American teammate Jason Verrett. And he’s getting overshadowed this preseason by safeties Sam Carter and Chris Hackett. But White was one of the better cornerbacks in the league last year, and should be one of the Big 12’s best this season.

Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman isn’t as accomplished as the other players mentioned above. But he might have the biggest upside. Despite being a part-time player last year, Oakman ranked sixth in the Big 12 in tackles for loss. Coach Art Briles called the 6-foot-9 Oakman “unblockable” during the spring, and is probably the biggest reason why Briles believes Baylor will have one of the best offensive lines in the country.

But we’re leaving it to you to decide via our weekly Big 12 poll – who actually has the biggest gripe?
Our series of preseason picks for every single Big 12 game of 2014 continues today with Week 6, featuring a rematch of last season's de facto Big 12 championship game plus -- yep, we're going there -- one gigantic upset.

More Big 12 predictions for 2014.

Baylor 38, at Texas 28: The last time they met in Austin, we got a 56-50 shootout. In Charlie Strong's four years as a head coach, his defenses have yet to give up more than 45 in a game. He comes up with a creative approach to slowing the Bears early on, but Bryce Petty has too much firepower at his disposal to lose this ballgame.

at West Virginia 42, Kansas 16: The Mountaineers jump on top early and cruise to their first conference victory thanks to a sharp showing from Clint Trickett and his underrated collection of wideouts. A few costly first-half turnovers are the difference for Kansas in a game that's much closer in the second half that the final score suggests.

at Oklahoma State 31, Iowa State 13: Desmond Roland rocked the Cyclones last season to the tune of 219 yards and four TDs. He doesn't match those numbers, but he does surpass 100 yards, and so does backup running back Rennie Childs. Kevin Peterson vs. Quenton Bundrage is a sneaky good one-on-one matchup, and the Cowboys' corner comes up big.

at Kansas State 45, Texas Tech 35: Tech's five losses in 2013 came by an average margin of 20.6 points. This one isn't that bad, but KSU doesn't hold back against a suspect Red Raiders secondary. It's a statement game for Jake Waters, who might be the Big 12's second-best passer.

at TCU 34, Oklahoma 20: The Sooners had to slip up at some point, and TCU has played them close each of the last two seasons. This time, the Horned Frogs' defense forces three turnovers, their Air Raid turns those opportunities into points, and Gary Patterson gets a win far more rewarding than his last upset of OU in 2005.

Current Big 12 standings

1. Baylor -- 5-0 (2-0)
2. Kansas State -- 4-1 (2-0)
3. TCU -- 4-0 (1-0)
4. Oklahoma -- 4-1 (1-1)
5. Texas Tech -- 4-1 (1-1)
6. Oklahoma State -- 3-2 (1-1)
7. Texas -- 3-2 (1-1)
8. West Virginia -- 2-3 (1-1)
9. Kansas -- 3-3 (0-2)
10. Iowa State -- 1-4 (0-3)
Five days before Big 12 media days get underway, the conference has released its official preseason All-Big 12 team as well as its preseason award-winners, as voted on by conference media.

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty was named Big 12 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. No surprise there. Oklahoma State RB/WR Tyreek Hill, the speedy juco transfer from Garden City (Kansas) Community College, received preseason Newcomer of the Year honors.

The more debatable award, preseason Defensive Player of the Year, went to TCU defensive end Devonte Fields. He played in just three games in 2013 due to a foot injury but was voted the league's top defender and newcomer in 2012 as a true freshman.

Baylor led the way with seven players on the All-Big 12 team. Kansas State had five selections on the squad, and Oklahoma received four. Only one Big 12 program -- Oklahoma State -- did not have at least one player make the team.

All-Big 12 Team

QB Bryce Petty, Baylor
RB Shock Linwood, Baylor
RB Malcolm Brown, Texas
WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
WR Antwan Goodley, Baylor
TE E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State
OL Spencer Drango, Baylor
OL Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
OL B.J. Finney, Kansas State
OL Daryl Williams, Oklahoma
OL Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

DL Ryan Mueller, Kansas State
DL Devonte Fields, TCU
DL Chucky Hunter, TCU
DL Cedric Reed, Texas
LB Bryce Hager, Baylor
LB Ben Heeney, Kansas
LB Eric Striker, Oklahoma
DB Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma
DB Sam Carter, TCU
DB Quandre Diggs, Texas
DB Karl Joseph, West Virginia

PK Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma
P Spencer Roth, Baylor
KR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
PR Levi Norwood, Baylor

There aren't many snubs to be found from this year's team. You can make a case for a bunch of other players -- TCU cornerback Kevin White, Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman, Texas' Johnathan Gray and Malcom Brown, West Virginia's Quinton Spain and Nick O'Toole. But based on 2013 performance, this list looks about right.

Any more exclusions stand out to you? Should Ryan Mueller or someone else win DPOY? Hit us with your complaints in the comments below.

Crimson Countdown: G Tony Feo

July, 16, 2014
Jul 16
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During the summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 53 Tony Feo, guard, 6-foot-3, 300 pounds, senior

Impact thus far: A junior college signee, Feo made an impact on special teams during his first year on campus. He played in 12 games as a mainstay on OU’s punt unit, even recording a tackle against Texas Tech.

Impact in 2014: If he doesn’t earn a spot in the rotation, Feo should provide depth at guard and serve as a special teams mainstay for the second-straight season.

Long term upside: At the very least he should contribute on special teams for the second-straight season.

Evaluation grade for Feo: A. A late addition to OU’s Class of 2013, Feo has done exactly what he was brought in to do. The Sooners pursued him to provide depth and protection in case the injury bug crippled the guard position.

Development grade for Feo: B. He played in his first game as a Sooner so the opportunity to play has been given to the California native. And it’s very possible he could see additional time on offense during his final season.
Our series of preseason picks for every single Big 12 game of 2014 continues today with Week 5. Conference play starts to really pick up with Oklahoma State hosting Texas Tech on Thursday night to kick things off.

More Big 12 predictions for 2014.

Texas Tech 52, at Oklahoma State 49: Offenses excel and defenses struggle as Tech and OSU provide one of the most entertaining games of the entire season. This game comes down to Tech quarterback Davis Webb handling the hostile environment at Boone Pickens Stadium with a superb final quarter as the two teams go back and forth. Webb comes through with a game-winning throw to Bradley Marquez in the final seconds.

Baylor 45, at Iowa State 21: The Bears defense looks like it is finally starting to come together, holding the Cyclones to seven points through three quarters. Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty and the offense continue to roll up the points and the yards on the way to 5-0.

at Kansas State 38, UTEP 24: The Wildcats rebound from the setback against Auburn with a win over UTEP to finish off their nonconference schedule. Two special teams touchdowns are the foundation of the win as Bill Snyder’s squad looks toward conference play with plenty of momentum.

TCU 34, at SMU 17: The return of Devonte Fields is complete as the Horned Frogs defensive end takes over the win over SMU with three sacks and two forced fumbles. Big 12 offensive tackles weep.

Texas 34, Kansas 17: It becomes pretty clear what the Longhorns focused on during their bye week after UT calls eight running plays to start the game and drives right down the field for an opening touchdown. UT finishes with more than 300 rushing yards while cruising to a comfortable road triumph.

Current Big 12 standings

1. Baylor 4-0, 1-0
2. Oklahoma 4-0, 1-0
3. Texas Tech 4-0, 1-0
4. TCU 3-0
5. Kansas State 3-1, 1-0
6. Texas 3-1, 1-0
7. Kansas 2-2, 0-1
8. Oklahoma State 2-2, 0-1
9. West Virginia 1-3, 0-1
10. Iowa State 1-3, 0-2

Big 12's top 12 toss-up games

July, 16, 2014
Jul 16
6:45
AM ET
The computers have spoken. On Monday, we broke down the Big 12 title odds. Yesterday, we gave you in-depth win/loss projections. And now, courtesy of the recently released preseason projections from ESPN’s Stats and Information team, we're talking about the games that will decide the season.

As they stand today, ESPN's preseason predictions suggest the Big 12's biggest games this season won't really be close contests. In the Oklahoma's toughest game of the season, at home against Baylor, it's being given a 60.1 percent chance of survival as 4-point favorites.

The projections have pegged Oklahoma's chances of beating Texas in the Red River Showdown at 74.2 percent, with OU as an 8-point favorite. And Bedlam is decidedly in the Sooners' favor (70.9 percent, 8.5-point favorite) as well. So with that in mind, we're instead taking a closer look today at the 12 games that ESPN projections indicate will be true nail-biters.

Some of these might not seem like high-profile matchups, but in real life they'll go a long way toward deciding how the league standings shake out. Here are the Big 12's biggest toss-up games:

1. Kansas State at West Virginia (Nov. 20)
Projection: KSU, 50.9%

In 2012, K-State spanked WVU by a score of 55-14 for the second of the Mountaineers' five straight losses following a 5-0 start. Last season, the Wildcats needed a second-half rally with four unanswered TDs to end a three-game slide in Big 12 play. ESPN projections say KSU will enter this season's matchup mired in a four-game losing streak.

2. Texas Tech at Kansas State (Oct. 4)
Projection: KSU, 51.9%


This one wasn't close last season, as K-State ran for 291 yards in Lubbock to win 49-26, but it's a potential do-or-die game for the Wildcats simply because their next four games come against Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and TCU. KSU is less than a 1-point favorite in the projections.

3. West Virginia at Iowa State (Nov. 29)
Projection: ISU, 52.8%

The best Big 12 game you did not watch last year was ISU's 52-44, triple-overtime victory in Morgantown. The Mountaineers might badly need this one: ESPN's projections peg them as favorites in only two of their games this season, and this is the season finale.

4. Texas at Kansas State (Oct. 25)
Projection: TEX, 53.1%

The Longhorns snapped their five-game losing streak to Kansas State last year, but they were fortunate that game was early in the season before KSU got on a roll. This game is a potential fork in the road for a Texas team projected to be 4-3 entering its trip to the Little Apple.

5. Texas at Texas Tech (Nov. 1)
Projection: TTU, 53.3%

Texas has won five in a row against the Red Raiders, who are projected at 5-3 entering this game but could easily be 7-1 or 8-0 if they win their close ones early on.

6. TCU at West Virginia (Nov. 1)
Projection: TCU, 54.8%

The battle of the Big 12 newcomers has gone to overtime in each of the past two years, and they've split those wins. The ESPN projections like TCU here, but only by a margin of 1.9 points.

7. Texas Tech at TCU (Oct. 25)
Projection: TCU, 55.9%

Texas Tech won a 56-53, triple-overtime thriller in 2012, and then a tough 20-10 win early last season to propel its win streak. If the Horned Frogs have their new (and somewhat Tech-inspired) offense rolling by the end of October, this could be another high-scoring affair.

8. Kansas State at Iowa State (Sept. 6)
Projection: KSU, 56.4%

That makes four Kansas State games on this list. The way K-State's schedule is built, the margin between 8-4 and 4-8 might be slight this season. This might seem like a gimme on the surface, but ESPN's projections say ISU is only a 2.5-point underdog.

9. Oklahoma State at TCU (Oct. 18)
Projection: OSU, 56.8%

These might be the two most unpredictable teams in the league in 2014. Either could finish as high as third or as low as seventh in the final Big 12 standings. ESPN's projections predict a five-game win streak for OSU (after losing to Florida State) heading into the matchup.

10. Iowa State at Kansas (Nov. 8)
Projection: ISU, 59%

Most assume this will be the battle for last place, and ESPN's projections agree. They have both KU and ISU with identical 2-6 records entering this contest, with each program starting 0-5 in Big 12 play.

11. Baylor at Oklahoma (Nov. 8)
Projection: OU, 60.1%

Probably our Game of the Year in the Big 12, and this time the Sooners will have home-field advantage. If the projections prove accurate, both teams would still be undefeated by this date. Baylor's average projected margin of victory in its first eight games before this showdown is 20.8 points.

12. BYU at Texas (Sept. 6)
Projection: TEX, 60.9%

We all remember what BYU did to Texas in Provo last season. The Longhorns will want revenge before they go up to Arlington, Texas, to face UCLA. Once again, do not sleep on the Cougars: ESPN projections say they're a 9-3 team in 2014.
Our series of preseason picks for every single Big 12 game of 2014 continues today with Week 4. This week features one of college football's most intriguing nonconference matchups, plus our second conference game of the season.

More Big 12 predictions for 2014.

Auburn 34, Kansas State 24: Nick Marshall returns to the state where he once played juco ball and has just enough magic and help (WR D'haquille Williams has his coming-out party) to win a tricky game on a big Thursday-night stage. Tyler Lockett is as good as any receiver the Tigers will see in 2013, and K-State makes it interesting early in the fourth quarter, but the defending SEC champs have too much talent back to lose in Manhattan.

Oklahoma 35, West Virginia 20: If you're hoping for the thrilling 50-49 redux of the last time OU went to Morgantown, you're in for disappointment. Trevor Knight avenges another bad memory of 2013 with three TD passes and WVU's stable of backs get stymied by a Sooner defense that's only getting stronger by the week.

Kansas 24, Central Michigan 21: A last-second field goal is the difference for Kansas against a CMU team that'll go on to win six games. The experienced Chippewas give KU all they can handle, but Nick Harwell went for 215 receiving yards against this team in 2012 (while at Miami, Ohio) and he comes close to doing it again to save the day.

Current Big 12 standings

1. Oklahoma -- 4-0 (1-0)
2. Kansas State -- 2-1 (1-0)
3. Baylor -- 3-0
4. Texas Tech -- 3-0
5. TCU -- 2-0
6. Kansas -- 2-1
7. Oklahoma State -- 2-1
8. Texas -- 2-1
9. Iowa State -- 1-2 (0-1)
10. West Virginia -- 1-3 (0-1)

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