Big 12 morning links

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
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Jerry Jones apparently has plans of taking over the world.
  • After winning just one Big 12 game as coach of the Jayhawks, Charlie Weis was fired over the weekend on the heels of a 23-0 loss to Texas. Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger told the Lawrence Journal-World's Matt Tait that the "program had lost support at all levels." Though it was a tad surprising that Zenger pulled the trigger after just one Big 12 game, you can hardly blame him. Kansas had showed no signs of improvement this season, scoring a combined three points in losses to Duke and Texas. Attendance was plummeting again this season, even after an 8 percent drop the year before. Under Weis, there was just no excitement surrounding Kansas football whatsoever.
  • After two disastrous hires, the pressure is on Zenger and the Jayhawks to get this next hire right. Zenger, remember, fired Turner Gill after just two seasons; Weis, the man Zenger hired to clean up Gill's mess, lasted 33 months. CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd throws out some possible candidates that Zenger might look at, including Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. The Jayhawks had success previously hiring an Oklahoma offensive coordinator, as Mark Mangino took Kansas to the 2007 Orange Bowl. The Lawrence Journal-World's Tom Keegan, meanwhile, writes that interim coach and Kansas alum Clint Bowen brings some much-needed passion to the program. The Jayhawks are in some definite need of that.
  • Embattled NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent interestingly met with Texas coach Charlie Strong on Sunday to discuss the coach’s five core values and his approach to building the Longhorns. Vincent was very complimentary of Strong's disciplinary stances following their meeting, telling Yahoo Sports' Eric Adelson that "this is a model that should be emulated across the country in both amateur and professional football." Vincent gave Strong and his staff plenty of ammo to use when meeting with parents on the recruiting trail. If opposing coaches try to negatively recruit against Texas because of its suspensions and dismissals, the Longhorns will be able to counter with the ultimate trump card, as defensive coordinator Vance Bedford points out.
  • There were some actual games over the weekend, too, and Baylor got a huge boost from the returns of wideouts Antwan Goodley and Corey Coleman from injuries, as the Waco Tribune-Herald's John Werner details. Back from a hamstring injury he suffered in preseason camp, Coleman caught a career-high 12 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown in the 49-28 win at Iowa State. Goodley returned from a quadriceps injury suffered in the early minutes of the season opener against SMU to catch six passes for 114 yards. Clay Fuller also came back from a preseason collarbone injury and made two fourth-quarter catches. Levi Norwood could be back as soon as this weekend from a fractured wrist. After an injury plagued non-conference, the Baylor offense is operating at full strength again. Just in time for Texas, too.
  • The next two weeks will provide an opportunity for Oklahoma State to grow, writes The Oklahoman's John Helsley. The Cowboys get Iowa State at home this weekend, then travel to Kansas. In other words, Oklahoma State has a great chance to get off to a 5-1 start to the season after dispatching of Texas Tech last week. With so much inexperience coming into the season, coach Mike Gundy has to be pleased with the way the 2014 season has begun. At one point, Oklahoma State had five true freshmen on the field at once defensively in the Tech game. Those young players have a chance to develop even more over the next two weeks before the Cowboys hit the heart of their Big 12 schedule with an Oct. 18 road trip to TCU.
Michigan’s efforts on the recruiting trail aren’t going anywhere until something changes. Plus, whoever ends up getting the Kansas job must do whatever he can to keep quarterback Ryan Willis on board.

Big 12 bowl projections: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
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Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma State got their Big 12 Conference schedules off to a good start while TCU and Kansas State cruised to easy wins.

This week provides TCU and Texas the opportunity to stake their claim in the conference race with games against Big 12 favorites OU and Baylor. If the Horned Frogs knock off the Sooners or the Longhorns shock the Bears, either team would skyrocket up our projections.

Allstate Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma
Cotton Bowl: Baylor
Valero Alamo Bowl: Kansas State
Russell Athletic Bowl: West Virginia
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Oklahoma State
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: TCU
Cactus Bowl: Texas

Florida State still No. 1 in AP poll

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
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video

Florida State stays at No. 1 in The Associated Press college football poll after a second straight comeback victory, but support for the Seminoles is waning.

Jameis Winston returned from a one-game benching to lead Florida State past North Carolina State 56-41. The Seminoles trailed 24-7 in the first quarter.

Florida State received 27 first-place votes, seven fewer than last week, from the media panel Sunday. No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Alabama both had 13 first-place votes. No. 4 Oklahoma drew the remaining seven first-place votes.

"You're always concerned, but we can't control the polls," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said Monday. "All we gotta do is keep winning. Polls are for the polls and voters. If we keep winning and doing what we do, we'll be fine."

There was little movement throughout the rankings, with the first seven teams holding their spots. That could change next week when six games match ranked teams, including three SEC games.


(Read full post)


Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
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Drawing conclusions from Week 5

September, 27, 2014
Sep 27
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Florida State vs. NC StateChris Morris for ESPN

Each Sunday during the season, ESPN.com will highlight four storylines that had an impact on the College Football Playoff race.

No. 1 Florida State 56, NC State 41

Florida State survived a furious upset bid by NC State, as Jameis Winston threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns to help FSU rally from 17 points down.


No. 6 Texas A&M 35, Arkansas 28 (OT)

Kenny Hill rallied Texas A&M past the surging Razorbacks, throwing three touchdown passes during the fourth quarter and overtime before the Aggies made a game-ending defensive stop.


No. 11 UCLA 62, No. 15 Arizona State 27

Brett Hundley threw for 355 yards on Thursday night as UCLA had 582 yards of total offense and scored the most points in the 55-year history of Sun Devil Stadium.


Top-five teams watching, waiting


(Read full post)


In today's Twitter mailbag, we discuss Thursday night's game between Oklahoma State and Texas Tech and preview the games this weekend.

On to the 'bag:

@jake_trotter: Definitely. Look at last night alone. Forget the three turnovers, the Red Raiders left 10 points off the board directly because of penalties. Jakeem Grant's kickoff return touchdown. And the delay of game that pushed Tech out of field-goal range. Add those 10 points, and the game would have been tied. Tech is explosive enough offensively for this to be a bowl team. But when you shoot all the toes off your feet, it's hard to beat anyone. And Tech is going to have a hard time beating anyone as long as they lead the nation in penalties and lose the turnover battle.

@jake_trotter: I hear Garman Airlines will be taking plenty of flights this fall.

@jake_trotter: I would be deflated too if my team led the country in penalties. That said, everyone needs to show a little patience with Kingsbury, just like they need to show a little with Charlie Strong. Kingsbury has recruited well. He needs time for more of those prospects to make an impact. It hasn't been pretty so far this season, but it's way to early to judge Kingsbury.

@jake_trotter: Iowa State still has a chance to be a good, solid team in my opinion. But we're also talking about a squad that got run out of its own stadium by North Dakota State in the opener. So no, a win in Ames won't exactly quiet the doubters. But if the Bears win the following three games at Texas, TCU and at West Virginia, you won't hear a peep from the Baylor doubters.

@jake_trotter: If anyone deserves a break, it's West Virginia. In facing Alabama, Maryland and Oklahoma, the Mountaineers have played the toughest schedule in the country so far. So the open week comes at the perfect time. West Virginia can reset, heal and gear up for the final two-thirds of the season. If the Mountaineers play like they did the first third, they will win a bunch of games the rest of this season.

@jake_trotter: The player who has really impressed me so far this is Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown. He has been the most impressive defensive linemen in my opinion, despite the Longhorns' troubles elsewhere. Other guys who have caught my eye so far: Kansas State's Ryan Mueller and Travis Britz, Baylor's Shawn Oakman, Oklahoma State's Emmanuel Ogbah, Iowa State's Cory Morrissey, Oklahoma's Jordan Phillips and Charles Tapper, Kansas' Keon Stowers and TCU's Davion Pierson.

@jake_trotter: Well, yeah. If the Horned Frogs defeat Oklahoma, they have to be considered a legitimate Big 12 contender. That is going to be a huge game for the Frogs. Perhaps, in fact, the biggest of the TCU Big 12 era.

@jake_trotter: Anything is possible, but I have a hard time seeing K-State winning in Norman and Waco. That said, before the season, one of my bold predictions was that K-State would win one of those road games. I see no reason to back off that prediction just yet, either.

@jake_trotter: I asked my wife about this and she vetoed it. However, she said if Iowa State knocks off Baylor and Oklahoma in Ames, then I can do it. So we're on, provided you find me a barber familiar with the Cy logo..

Tweener LBs stop the spread

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Eric Striker's job description doesn't fit on a depth chart or a flip card.

"I'm an outside linebacker or a Sam, a nickel, whatever you want to call it, and I rush," the Oklahoma junior said.

It's a mouthful, but outside linebackers such as Striker are proving to be a handful for opposing offenses. They should also show up more and more on college defenses.

As the sport becomes increasingly more of a space game, defensive coaches, especially those employing three-man fronts, are prioritizing speed over size at the outside linebacker position. The burly box linebacker is virtually extinct.

"The neck roll is dead," said Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, a former two-time national defensive player of the year who once sported an impressive neck roll. "The game is played more vertically and horizontally than it's ever been, as compared to 10-15 years ago."

Consequently, teams are using more versatile players such as Striker, who last season led Oklahoma in both sacks (6.5) and tackles for loss (10.5). He showed up to OU at barely 6-foot and 198 pounds. He played most of last season south of 220 and is now listed at 221.

"[Striker] broke the mold, being as dynamic as he was," Indiana defensive coordinator Brian Knorr said. "You don't have to be a 6-foot-5, 245-pound defensive end to rush the passer.

"We're searching for those guys, that kind of athlete."

Those guys are typically called "tweeners" in recruiting, and they can fall through the cracks. Striker knows. He was one of them despite recording a record 42 sacks at Armwood High School, a central Florida powerhouse.

"Coaches were like, 'I don't know where you fit,'" Striker said. "Some had me at safety, some had me at outside linebacker. I probably didn't get offers [because of it]."

But once coaches figure out how to best use tweeners, as Oklahoma did with Striker, the upshot is significant. They fill up box scores, providing both tackles for loss and takeaways.

And they rarely have to leave the field.

"He can cover wide receivers, he has great change of direction, he sees everything and he's very rarely wrong," Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "He's such a hybrid guy, but he has so many unique characteristics.

"You don't want him off the field. Ever."

Offensive coaches are also noticing the change.

"When you were 3 yards and a cloud of dust and you had two tight ends and these bigger fullbacks, the linebackers were 240 pounds and it was a fistfight," Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock said. "Now that things have become more spread out, defenses have had to adapt their personnel.

"The more athletic those outside linebackers are, the glorified strong safety types who can still pack a punch and be physical, those guys are at a premium."

Why is the tweener so valuable to today's defenses?


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

So far, fourth-ranked Oklahoma and seventh-ranked Baylor have looked like the class of the Big 12. But is there a third team that could emerge as a threat? Earlier this week, we examined who that third team might be.

SportsNation

After the first month of the season, who has the best chance to challenge Oklahoma and Baylor for the Big 12 title?

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    39%
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    18%
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    11%
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    26%
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    6%

Discuss (Total votes: 9,167)

Brandon went with West Virginia, even though the Mountaineers already have a conference loss. Quarterback Clint Trickett and wideout Kevin White have been phenomenal, and West Virginia could be geared for a run with the scheduling easing up a bit. If the Mountaineers can knock off Baylor at home on Oct. 18, then they could definitely emerge as a contender, despite the loss to Oklahoma.

While Max and I like what we’ve seen from West Virginia, we both went with Kansas State. The Wildcats won the Big 12 title just two years ago and appear to have a team with similar strengths. The front seven appears to be formidable, after snapping Auburn’s 13-game streak of at least 200 rushing yards last week. Bill Snyder remains one of the best coaches in the country. And Tyler Lockett is as big of a playmaker as anyone player in the league. The Wildcats to do have to travel to Norman and Waco. But K-State won its last trip to Oklahoma, and will have an extra week to prepare for the Sooners. And the Wildcats played Baylor tough last year, even without Lockett.

Of course, West Virginia and Kansas State aren’t the only possible teams that could emerge as Big 12 contenders.

TCU is 2-0, and appears to have another top-flight defense. The Horned Frogs have a huge game with Oklahoma in two weeks, which could dictate whether they can finally challenge for the conference title in their third year in the Big 12.

Oklahoma State, meanwhile, looks better than its preseason prognostication. The Cowboys played No. 1 Florida State tough in the opener and have cruised in their last two games. Coordinator Glenn Spencer’s defense has been stout so far despite inexperience at several positions. The key will be whether backup quarterback Daxx Garman can get the Oklahoma State offensive attack humming to the level of previous seasons.

We’ve given you our thoughts. Now we put the question to you in our weekly Big 12 poll. Who is the biggest threat to Oklahoma and Baylor in the Big 12 race?

Is it West Virginia or Kansas State? TCU or Oklahoma State?

Or maybe even somebody else.

Let us know what you think by voting in our poll.

Big 12 morning links

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
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I must admit, as a Nuggets fan, my reaction was more like ... "YES!!!!!"
  • How do you stop Baylor? Bobby La Gesse of the Ames Tribune takes a closer look at how Iowa State will try to stop the Bears. Among the priorities is stopping the running game. Baylor is thought of as a high-flying attack but the Bears lead the Big 12 in rushing yards per game (207.5) since 2009. Art Briles has always built his offense around the running game so the Cyclones focus on stopping that ground attack is a great place to start.
  • Oklahoma's offensive line is big and physical, writes Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman. OU offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh has been one of the best hires in the Big 12 in recent years. The Sooners have averaged a Big 12-best 5.35 yards per carry since Bedenbaugh was hired before the 2013 season. OU averaged 4.15 yards per carry in the three seasons before Bedenbaugh's arrival.
  • An excellent piece by SI.com's Lindsay Schnell on Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury gives you a glimpse at his extremely competitive nature among other things. It should be no surprise that Kingsbury's competitive drive is strong. It's hard to rise so quickly from quality control assistant to head coach at your alma mater without unique traits like Kingsbury's competitiveness.
  • TCU running backs are sharing the ball-carrying load reports Carlos Mendez of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The Horned Frogs running backs might be splitting carries but I was expecting TCU's new offense to bring a little more commitment to the running game than we've seen in the first two games. TCU is averaging 36.3 rushes per game after averaging 33.58 rushes per game a year ago. It will be interesting to see if that number increases in Big 12 play or remains between 35-40 rushes per game for the duration of the year.
  • His Kansas State teammates weren't surprised to see linebacker Dakorey Johnson make a big impact against Auburn last Thursday, writes Joshua Tinder of the Manhattan Mercury. Johnson earned Big 12 defensive player of the week honors with six tackles including two tackles for loss and one interception in the loss to the Tigers. Johnson brings increased athleticism to K-State's defense so it will be interesting to see if he can consistently play at a high level for Bill Snyder's squad. If he can, the Wildcats defense could end up among the Big 12's best units.

Key stretches for Oklahoma, Baylor

September, 24, 2014
Sep 24
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It's hard not to look toward the Nov. 8 battle between Baylor Bears and Oklahoma Sooners with anticipation and excitement. The game between the Big 12's highest ranked teams could decide the conference title.

Yet both teams are staring at a stretch of games that could define their seasons.

Baylor will start Big 12 play with three of four games on the road including Saturday's visit to Iowa State. After the Cyclones, BU plays at Texas, hosts TCU then travels to West Virginia. Oklahoma will regroup with a bye on Saturday before playing at TCU, taking on Texas in the AT&T Red River Showdown and hosting Kansas State to end the three-game stretch.

It's an opportunity for the Bears and Sooners to cement their places among the nation's best teams or stumble off the radar before their head-to-head matchup in November.

The Sooners can learn from a similar stretch in 2013 when OU was flying high heading into Big 12 play, fresh off a road win at Notre Dame. A narrow home win against TCU was followed by a shocking loss to down-and-out Texas, which knocked the Sooners out of national title conversations in the third game of their toughest three-game stretch of the season. OU has been dominant this fall but the bye week comes at an ideal time, allowing Bob Stoops' squad to make proper preparations for this year's season-defining, three-game obstacle course.

"This off week comes at a great time," Stoops said. "We can really focus on some areas we can improve. You get a little breather here as we go into this stretch. Sometimes those stretches are positive. You know 'Here they come' and you're ready for them. In 2000, it was that way we had Texas, K-State and Nebraska in that stretch so sometimes when they're bunched in that way it's a positive."

The four-game stretch for BU is just as important. The Bears are 32-10 since the beginning of the 2011 season including a 21-1 record in Waco, Texas. Learning to carry their dominant play into opposing stadiums is the next step for Art Briles' program, which is 6-8 on the road since 2011. BU's lone regular-season loss came at Oklahoma State during their Big 12-title winning season a year ago. Even though they went 3-1 in true road games last season, the Bears are anxious to re-affirm their road-game struggles are a thing of the past.

"I think it is going to show us a lot of what this team is capable of," quarterback Bryce Petty said. "This next month, three of the four games are away, and they're not easy. The venues that we are playing at aren't easy to win at. Each game is going to be a fight and struggle."

BU knows wins at ISU, UT and WVU are hard to come by after making road trips to all three schools in 2012 and heading home with losses. The tough early conference schedule is an opportunity for Petty and his teammates to show how far the program has come since 2012.

"It's going to show us who we are, and I like that," Petty said. "I like that it's front-loaded at the beginning of the season. It's important for us to make sure that our focus is small and that we grow as a team pretty fast. We're going to have some hostile environments early, which will prepare us for down the road."

UA jersey tour: OL Jalin Barnett

September, 24, 2014
Sep 24
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video
For someone who only recently has taken football seriously, ESPN 300 offensive lineman Jalin Barnett has come a long way.

Before high school, Barnett’s primary focus wasn’t on the football field. He was a gamer -- just not wearing pads and cleats. Video games, like many youngsters, fueled Barnett’s passion.

“I was way more about Xbox and stuff like that,” Barnett said. “I loved 'Halo.' That was my game.”

It was only until the seventh grade when he took football seriously. And it was around the middle of his freshman season when he actually began watching extensive amounts of football on TV. Coincidentally, this was about the same time he began garnering interest from college coaches.

Fast-forward to Wednesday, and Barnett is the top-ranked player in the state of Oklahoma and also an Under Armour All-American. Barnett was the guest of honor during an Under Armour Game jersey presentation Wednesday at Lawton High School.

At 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds, Barnett can play guard or tackle. He’s considered the nation’s top-ranked offensive guard and is ranked No. 43 in the ESPN 300. Barnett is 30 pounds leaner since the spring and said he notices the difference when he lines up on the ball.

“It was getting kind of hard to move around,” Barnett said, referring to once being 330 pounds. “This summer, I worked hard. I knew if I got skinnier, I could move a lot better. Now I’m catching safeties.”

Barnett has roughly a dozen offers but has trimmed his list to four schools -- Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Arkansas and Oregon State. He’s taken an official visit to Arkansas and is looking forward to upcoming official visits.

So what is about the four schools that attracts Barnett?

“With Oregon State,” he said, “a couple of kid who went to my school are there. I like [offensive line] Coach [Mike] Cavanaugh. I have a great relationship with him. With Oklahoma State, a couple of our kids went to school there, too. I feel like that’s a really great team, and I like all the coaches.

“With Oklahoma and Arkansas, I’ve been watching them for a while. They’ve really opened my eyes with the things that they do.”

Barnett said none of the four schools lead the race, but many believe Oklahoma and Arkansas are running neck and neck for top billing. Barnett said he hopes to make a decision by the end of October.
 
Some more random thoughts from Barnett:

On who he's looking forward to seeing at the UA game: “I’m looking forward to playing side by side with Josh Wariboko. I met him at a couple of camps. I found out he did track, and I did track. He and I have gotten real cool.”

Best player to play in the UA game: Jameis Winston

Earliest football memory: “It was around when I first started, back in the third or fourth grade, I blocked two kids at once. I blocked an end and a safety coming off the edge.”

Why do you wear your number? “I wear 77. I got it my freshman year. The kid in front of me just graduated, and he was pretty good. I wanted that number because I wanted to see if I can be better.”

A “did you know” fact: “My shoe size is 18.”

Big 12 stat check: Week 5

September, 24, 2014
Sep 24
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A closer look at one statistic worth keeping an eye on for each Big 12 team entering Week 5:

Baylor: Don't forget about Antwan Goodley. The potential All-America receiver went down with an injury in the season opener and enters Big 12 play with zero receptions. While KD Cannon and the rest of Baylor's wideouts feasted in his absence, Goodley is back this week, and he and Bryce Petty have some catching up to do. No Big 12 player matched his 598 yards after the catch last season.

Iowa State: Well, the Cyclones are 2-0 in home games against Baylor under coach Paul Rhoads. During the Art Briles era, Baylor has averaged 33.2 points per game on the road against the rest of the Big 12. In their losses in Ames in 2009 and 2012, Baylor's offense put up a combined 31 points. But ever since that 35-21 loss at ISU in 2012, the Bears are 19-3.

Kansas: Tony Pierson has recorded 280 touches on offense in his career at Kansas. He's gained 10 or more yards on 25 percent of his touches and picked up 20-plus yards on 26 of those 70 plays. The majority of his big plays have come on rushes, but Pierson is also averaging 12.7 yards per reception in his four seasons. He's instant offense, plain and simple.

Kansas State: ESPN Stats & Info analyzed the Auburn-Kansas State game tape and determined Jake Waters was pressured on nine plays. He completed three passes, threw two incompletions and an interception and took three sacks. K-State's net yardage when the Tigers got pressure on Waters? Just 15 yards. Waters and his linemen will have to handle the heat a bit better in Big 12 play.

Oklahoma: How will freshman Samaje Perine follow up his 242-yard night at West Virginia? In the past decade, 19 FBS running backs have surpassed 240 rushing yards multiple times in a season. If Perine does it again this year, he'll join some elite company that includes Reggie Bush, Matt Forte, Le'Veon Bell, Ray Rice, Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, Andre Williams and, yes, Adrian Peterson.

Oklahoma State: The Cowboys rank No. 2 nationally in a statistic that's pretty darn important: red zone efficiency defense. OSU's defense has entered the red zone 10 times this season and permitted just two touchdowns. Opposing offenses have had to settle for field goals seven times (one was blocked) and Jameis Winston threw a red zone interception. Getting stingy under pressure like that will pay off big in Big 12 play.

TCU: The Horned Frogs are one of only two teams in FBS that have played just two games entering Week 5. (Cincinnati started the season bizarrely with back-to-back byes.) This isn't just some silly observation. The fact is, starting this week against SMU, Gary Patterson's team must play eight games in eight consecutive weeks before getting a pre-Thanksgiving reprieve. They face a brutal run in October (OU, at Baylor, OSU, Texas Tech) and need some gas in the tank if they hope to make a run in November.

Texas: It's hard to believe that, with Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray both healthy and splitting time, Texas ranks No. 9 in the Big 12 in rushing right now at 123.7 yards per game. That's 99 fewer yards per game than Oklahoma is averaging and almost 115 fewer than Baylor. The culprit here is a shoddy offensive line, but the downhill run game was supposed to be the strength of the Longhorns' offense and they've struggled without one.

Texas Tech: One not-unreasonable excuse for Texas Tech's problems on defense: According to its sports information office, 17 of 27 Red Raiders who've recorded tackles this season are freshmen, sophomores or newcomers. That number does include Kenny Williams, who moved from running back to linebacker this spring. The rest are young guys who better catch up quickly.

West Virginia: Clint Trickett ranks No. 3 nationally now with 1600 passing yards, a feat through four games that most WVU fans probably wouldn't have predicted back in the spring. He leads all Big 12 passers with 20 completions of 20-plus yards (nine to Kevin White), but then again, Trickett also has 43 more completions than any other quarterback in the conference. Let's wait a few more weeks before assessing where he fits in the Big 12 QB hierarchy, but this is a heck of a start.

Big 12 Tuesday mailbag

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
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In Tuesday's mailbag we chat about West Virginia, Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight and the College Football Playoff hopes of Baylor and Kansas State. To submit questions for next Tuesday's mailbag, go here.

On to the mailbag:

Craig Dias in Dallas writes: You mentioned that Trevor Knight wasn't hurried more than once in the West Virginia game. Do you think hurrying Knight is the key to stopping OU's offense?

Brandon Chatmon: I think it’s the key to stopping any offense, not just OU’s. Creating confusion and chaos in the backfield could be the key to beating the Sooners, but it’s easier said than done. As far as Knight specifically, I think he has the potential to handle added pressure better than most quarterbacks thanks to his athleticism and mobility, but there’s no doubt in my mind he would be more prone to mistakes if he was being constantly harassed in the pocket.

Marty in West Virginia writes: Is Kevin White the best receiver in Big 12?

Chatmon: He sure is playing like it. He has been consistent and dominant with 42 receptions for 633 yards (both Big 12 highs) and three touchdowns. Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett and Baylor’s Antwan Goodley, among others, will still have their say, but White sits atop the list after the Mountaineers’ first four games. He has been exceptional.

Zane Dennis in Waco writes: Hey, Brandon! Love the blog and read every post daily. Even as a Baylor fan/student, I think we can all agree that Oklahoma is the team to beat for now in the Big 12 (and I think they should be No. 1 in the country, as well). As it's looking right now, our whole season will likely end up coming down to that epic Nov. 8 showdown, but as far as the rest of our schedule, which game should we be more worried about: West Virginia or Kansas State? Also, are there any more possible upsets on the Sooners' schedule?

Chatmon: I’ll have a piece that touches on this in detail later this week, but both programs have some potential pitfalls before that massive showdown in Norman. For Baylor, the trip to West Virginia would be the biggest worry between those two games. I think the Mountaineers have proven they are a tall task for any team. And if Baylor is undefeated after 11 games, I have a hard time believing they would let the Wildcats come into McLane Stadium and take their College Football Playoff dreams away. The Sooners still have several tough tests, but the road game at TCU stands out.

Mike Quick writes: I'm looking for a positive note with this question. Baylor’s nonconference schedule is weak, there's no question there. But with Northwestern State beating Louisiana Tech over the weekend does that at least make Baylor’s win over Northwestern State a bit better in the eyes of the selection committee?

Chatmon: It doesn’t hurt. But the Bears' destiny will be decided in Big 12 conference play either way. An undefeated Baylor doesn’t get left on the outside looking in, even with a subpar nonconference slate.

Harry in Kansas City writes: If KSU and Auburn both win out, do the 'Cats make it into the playoffs?

Chatmon: Good question, Harry. I’m going to say yes because I don’t expect four undefeated conference champions. If fact, I only expect one, maybe two, undefeated teams. It’s simply too hard to go a season without a loss in college football these days. So if Auburn is 12-0 and Kansas State is 11-1, I think the Wildcats find their way into the College Football Playoff, particularly with road wins at Oklahoma and Baylor. Quite frankly, if they don’t there’s a problem.

Abimael Downing in Colorado writes: I know that this year will not be the best for Texas and I understand that Charlie Strong needs some time to get his team together, but how long do you think it will take for Texas to become a contender in the Big 12 again?

Chatmon: Next year. I doubt they win it in 2015, but I definitely think they can contend for a Big 12 title in Strong's second season.

David Hess in Glen Dale, West Virginia writes: Is WVU the best two-loss team in college football?

Chatmon: Yes. The Mountaineers will make their mark in Big 12 play. They’re better than I expected, and I’d be surprised if they don’t return to a bowl game with relative ease.

Kelly in Oregon writes: What are Iowa State's chances Saturday night?

Chatmon: It’s going to be a tough task for Paul Rhoads team, but I don’t expect a repeat of what we saw in Waco, Texas a year ago in Baylor’s 71-7 win. The Bears will win but I don’t think they embarrass the Cyclones again. I expect a competitive game with BU pulling away in the second half. I'll give them a 20-percent chance of pulling the upset.

rtXC in Denison, Texas, writes: Gotta love these polls! OU beats Bama in the Sugar Bowl, returns most of that team, then beats WVU on the road in better fashion than Bama did at a neutral site. BUT Bama stays ahead in the rankings. Thoughts?

Jason in Elkview, West Virginia writes: The emphasis on strength of schedule appears to be selective. I watched WVU give two top 5 teams all they wanted, but still lost. After watching WVU play and after watching at least one game from most of the rest of the top 25 ranked teams, I don't think 15 of them could beat WVU. Yet we continue to lose votes in the polls, and others that have played a smorgasbord of nobodies continue to get more votes each week. I realize you have to win, but this being rewarded for playing a tough schedule business is a farce.

Chatmon: Sounds like a pair of really good reasons to ignore the polls. Particularly since they don’t mean anything anyway. If the polls affect the College Football Playoff committee then we, as college football fans, have bigger problems.

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