Oklahoma Sooners: Bill Snyder

We've been doing something different with Friday's Big 12 mailbag. From now on, we'll be including Twitter questions with the regular mailbag submissions. To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. You also still can send in questions the traditional way here, too.

To the 'bag...
Trotter: So far, Oklahoma State running back/receiver Tyreek Hill, TCU safety Kenny Iloka and Kansas receiver Nick Harwell. With his speed, Hill could lead the league in all-purpose yards. Iloka is going to be a key piece in the best secondary in the Big 12. And Harwell should finally give the Jayhawks that go-to receiver they haven’t had since Dezmon Briscoe.

Trotter: The Cyclones get K-State in Ames the second week of the season, which could be a dangerous game for the Wildcats, who might get caught looking ahead to that Thursday night clash with Auburn. Another team that must pay heed is Oklahoma. The Sooners go to Iowa State the week before hosting Baylor in a game that could determine the Big 12 crown. OU can't afford to be looking ahead, either.

Trotter: I'm going to set it at 1 1/2, and I think I would actually bet the over. The Jayhawks are going to be better this season, and quite possibly good enough to steal two conference wins.

Trotter: Right now, the Red Raiders have one on campus, and that's well below the national average. I don't see an issue. The way Davis Webb has improved in the last five months, he's going to be the guy the next three seasons barring something unforeseen. That would still give Jarrett Stidham three seasons of eligibility to be the starter, if he redshirted next year. Patrick Mahomes will get this chances, too. Seems like what TTU is going to do is be really good at quarterback the next six years.

Trotter: I have no inside info here, but if the game is at 11 a.m. again, hit me up in the fall and I'll share with you my shortcut to the Texas State Fair.

Trotter: It was a move that had to be made. Sams is too talented to be standing on the sidelines. He's not going to instantly become an All-Big 12 receiver. But if they can devise ways to get Sams the ball in space, the move could work out well. I see Sams getting a lot of his touches through flares, screens, reverses and maybe a handoff or Wildcat formation here or there. If they can get Sams the ball 10 times a game, that will only help the K-State offense. Think Trevone Boykin in TCU's offense late last year. That's how I see Sams best fitting in.

Trotter: Playing? Yes. Starting? No. I think Williams ultimately favors one side of the ball. The most likely scenario is he still keeps a major role at running back, then gives coordinator Matt Wallerstedt 15-20 plays at outside linebacker, which is more than I would have predicted at the beginning of the spring. Williams can really help the defense, but not at the expense of playing 130 snaps.

Trotter: Bob Stoops, Art Briles, Mike Gundy, Bill Snyder and Gary Patterson have ironclad job security. Paul Rhoads and Kliff Kingsbury have nothing to worry about, either, and Charlie Strong is too new to have to worry (though in Austin, that could change fast). That leaves Charlie Weis and Dana Holgorsen, whose seats are warmest among Big 12 coaches. I think Weis just has to show improvement this season. He can't go 0-12. Holgorsen is the most interesting to watch. Considering the brutal schedule, it's very possible West Virginia is better than last year and still goes 5-7, which might not be enough for Holgorsen to keep his job. But if the Mountaineers go, say, 7-5 against that slate, then I would think Holgorsen would be deserving of another year. West Virginia has been recruiting at an impressive clip, and the schedule will line up more favorably in 2015.


jrodxc07 in Dallas writes: Jake, love the blog, nice work sir. I think you could make a case for incoming Baylor receiver K.D. Cannon as Offensive Newcomer of the Year. Can you explain why you left him off your list?

Trotter: Appreciate it, sir. Cannon was actually on the poll for Offensive Freshman of the Year two weeks ago. The newcomer poll was for transfers, which is why you didn't see him there.


I only care about the Big 12 writes: Please go ahead and give us your way-too early power rankings? That is, if you haven't already...

Trotter: I actually released a power poll in January that went this way: OU, Baylor, K-State, Texas, Oklahoma State, Tech, TCU, Iowa State, West Virginia, Kansas. I'll be updating it, though, after spring ball concludes.

Athlon ranks the Big 12 coaches

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
4:00
PM ET
Athlon Sports has always been big on lists. And this week, Athlon’s Steven Lassan ranked all 128 FBS coaches. He also pulled out the top 10 Big 12 coaches.

As a disclaimer, this is NOT our list. This is Athlon’s. So forward all hate tweets and emails to them. Not me. I already get enough.

[+] Enlarge Art Briles
Ron Jenkins/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT/Getty ImagesArt Briles' status has grown in the eyes of Athlon.
Without further ado:

1. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

2. Art Briles, Baylor

3. Bill Snyder, Kansas State

4. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

5. Gary Patterson, TCU

6. Charlie Strong, Texas

7. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State

8. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

9. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

10. Charlie Weis, Kansas

Some observations:

  • Athlon prefers coaches who win conference championships. Briles, Snyder, Gundy and Stoops, the top four on this list, have won the past four Big 12 titles.
  • I went back and checked and noticed some interesting changes. Snyder was No. 1 in 2013, but dropped two spots this year (why, I’m not sure; K-State did win six of seven to close out the season). Mack Brown was No. 6 -- the same slot that Strong opened up here. Kingsbury moved up only one spot after going 8-5 in his first season.
  • In the eyes of Athlon, Patterson’s stock is falling. He was the No. 2 coach going into his first year in the Big 12 and was ranked third going into last season. On the flip side, Briles has made the biggest rise in the last two years, going from sixth to second after winning the Big 12 last season.
  • Athlon actually had Snyder fifth in 2012, which is hard to believe. We’re talking about one of the best coaches of all-time, right?
  • As you can see, I have a bigger beef with the 2012 and 2013 rankings than the 2014 one.
  • Kingsbury has the potential to ascend the most of anyone on this list. I don’t know that the No. 8 spot is completely unfair, considering he’s only been a head coach one season. But if he can turn Texas Tech into a Big 12 contender on a quasi-regular basis, he could jump several spots.
  • This is obviously not an easy list to compile. How do you weigh what Briles has done the last five years against what Snyder has the last 25? It’s all a matter of subjectivity.
It’s Take Two Tuesday again, when we give our takes on a burning question in the league.

Today's Take Two topic: Who has the best chance of jumping up and challenging Big 12 favorites Baylor and Oklahoma for the conference crown?

Take 1: Max Olson -- Texas

Oklahoma and Baylor should both be considered top-10 squads in 2014, there’s no dispute about that. They’re in terrific shape going forward. But the way this league is set up, it’s hard to see either emerging undefeated by December.

The team best built to challenge them is Texas, at least on paper. Remember, for all its flaws in 2013, the Longhorns were two quarters away from winning the Big 12 despite major injuries and inconsistent quarterback play. They lose key pieces, but could come back better than expected.

That’s because there’s a new sheriff in town. Charlie Strong is dedicated to changing the mentality of this program and bringing back the toughness and accountability that went missing in recent years. He put together an impressive staff and brought in a revered strength coach. This program is undergoing big changes.

And there’s enough talent on board to sustain another run at a conference title. Joe Wickline and Shawn Watson will build an offense around the run game trio of Malcolm Brown, Johnathan Gray and Joe Bergeron, and there’s good depth at receiver and on the line. What Texas needs most is a full year from David Ash, but Max Wittek seems likely to become the insurance option there.

If Texas is going to challenge the league favorites, it’ll be with a defense that brings back leaders at all three levels (Cedric Reed, Steve Edmond, Quandre Diggs) and is full of experienced talent. This is a unit that will line up a bunch of different ways and cause a lot of problems.

Revamping this Texas program will take time, but the Longhorns could have enough to make another run in 2014.

Take 2: Jake Trotter -- Kansas State

[+] EnlargeJake Waters
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesJake Waters was one of the nation's most effective quarterbacks during the second half of last season.
The Longhorns certainly have the talent and supporting cast to seriously compete for a Big 12 title. But until they find the answer at quarterback -- and I’m dubious they will in Strong’s first season – it’s hard to see them doing so.

The Kansas State Wildcats have no such issues. And they too have the surrounding cast to make a run at the Bears and Sooners for the league championship.

After struggling early, Jake Waters settled in at quarterback the last half of the season and cut talented playmaker Daniel Sams out of the rotation. From Oct. 26 on, Waters produced the 13th-best Adjusted QBR in the country, according to ESPN Stats & Info, while leading the Wildcats to wins in six of their final seven games (he threw for 348 yards and three touchdowns in the lone loss, too).

Besides Waters, K-State also boasts one of the top wide receivers in the nation in the uncoverable Tyler Lockett, who had the third-most receiving yards in college football during the same Oct. 26-on stretch.

On the other side, Bill Snyder replenished his defense with a trio of ESPN JC 50 signees in defensive tackle Terrell Clinkscales, outside linebacker D'Vonta Derricott and cornerback Danzel McDaniel, who should fill the slots in the lineup where the Wildcats have holes.

K-State will have to earn its way into the conference title chase, with road trips to both Baylor and Oklahoma. But K-State gets the Longhorns in the Little Apple, where it hasn’t lost to Texas since 2002.

The Wildcats also get defending national runner-up Auburn in Manhattan, Kan., earlier in September. If they topple the Tigers in that Thursday night clash, the rest of the Big 12 will quickly realize that K-State is a legitimate contender.
In today’s mailbag, we discuss Texas Tech’s big recruiting prize, veteran quarterbacks at West Virginia and Texas and a cool idea for a Big 12-related “30 for 30.”

To the ‘bag:

Matt in Dallas writes: With news that Tech RB Kenny Williams is looking to move to OLB, will we be seeing Justin Stockton get carries as a true freshman in 2014?

Trotter: I have a hard time believing this move will stick. I suppose it’s possible Williams could help the Red Raiders in spots at outside linebacker next season. But I don’t believe it will come at the expense of his standing at running back. After Williams and DeAndre Washington, the Red Raiders aren’t exactly experienced at running back, either. Spring is the time for college football teams to experiment. For now, I don’t see this as anything more.


John in Boone, N.C., writes: Do you really think Paul Millard has any chance at winning back the QB job? Dana Holgorsen couldn't possibly make us sit through that again, could he?

Trotter: The way I see it, the only player who can beat out Clint Trickett to start the season opener is juco transfer Skyler Howard. It’s pretty clear the offense responds better to Trickett than to Millard. But it’s not clear yet how the offense might respond to Howard. With a banner spring followed up with a banner preseason, Howard could warrant a hard look.


Andy in Austin, Texas, writes: What are the chances David Ash hangs up his pads? With his NFL playing chances slim-to-none, wouldn't it be better for his health long term to retire and let Shawn Watson have more time to work with Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard?

Trotter: We’re not to this point with Ash. Sure, the concussion issues might resurface. That’s certainly a possibility. But those issues might be behind him, too. This is something that will be resolved here over the next few months. Either way, Texas is a better team with a healthy Ash. Jerrod Heard and Swoopes have potential, but Ash is the only QB on the roster who has proven he can quarterback Texas to wins in hostile environments.


Matty in Lubbock, Texas, writes: As a Red Raider fan looking forward to the future of the program, should I be more excited for Patrick Mahomes or Jarrett Stidham?

Trotter: There’s plenty to be excited about in Mahomes, who is a raw prospect for a quarterback that figures only to blossom in Kliff Kingsbury’s system. But Stidham is the No. 1 dual-threat QB recruit in the country for 2015 for a reason. Tech landed Stidham over Alabama, Auburn, Baylor, Florida, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon and Texas, among a host of many other suitors. In other words, snagging Stidham is the most significant recruiting victory for Texas Tech in a long, long time. Armed with Davis Webb, Mahomes and now Stidham, the Red Raiders are going to be very good at quarterback for the next several seasons.


Jake Jones in Oklahoma City writes: Hey Jake, instead of the 10-second rule I think the coaches should propose a rule on size/speed limits. Since force equals mass times acceleration, a better rule for player safety would be no players over a certain weight that can run a certain speed would be eligible to play. Thereby, slower players with less mass would result in less force and thus make the game safer. Tell Nick Saban at least that idea has physics behind it.

Trotter: Poor Nick Saban. This is the second time this week he has gotten burned by someone from the metro Oklahoma City area.


Neo in Olathe, Kan., writes: With the improved OL and a strong running game, do you think the Jayhawks have the receivers to win a conference game or two? The defense is the mighty mouse of the Big 12, but can the offense put up numbers to actually win?

Trotter: I agree. I actually think the defense is good enough for Kansas to win two or three games in the league. The Jayhawks are actually pretty solid and experienced at linebacker and in the secondary. But the Achilles' heel has been receiver, which has been an utter disaster since Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier left. There is reason for hope, however, things could be better in 2014. Nick Harwell was an all-conference player at Miami (Ohio) before transferring in. If he can become a viable No. 1 option at Kansas, too, that will go a long way in the Jayhawks scoring more points, and thus, being more competitive.


Bill in Manhattan, Kan., writes: How long until there is a 30 for 30 film about my "Miracle in Manhattan", the greatest turnaround in college football history?

Trotter: I don’t think this is a bad idea at all. I would definitely watch.
There was a time when the notion of not holding a spring game was uncommon.

Fans and recruits could circle the date on their calendars, young players and new coaches saw it as the first opportunity to make a lasting impression.

[+] EnlargeCharles Tapper
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiOklahoma is one of fewer and fewer Big 12 teams that will hold a full-fledged spring game.
More recently, however, the value of the spring game has been challenged with various coaches pondering if a traditional spring game is the most efficient use of time as they aim to prepare their rosters.

This spring, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy raised eyebrows when the Cowboys announced their “Orange Blitz” open practice session would replace their traditional Orange-White spring game. TCU has rarely held a traditional spring game under Gary Patterson, with the Horned Frogs preferring intra-squad scrimmages.

Patterson values the opportunity to watch other team’s spring games on television but refuses to give other coaches that advantage over his team and doesn’t view the event as essential for the Horned Frogs program. TCU has not finalized its plan for this spring, but a traditional spring game seems unlikely.

Although his program normally holds an event, OSU opened the spring with a young, battered roster, which was the main reason for Gundy’s decision to shun a spring game this year. For Gundy, engaging fans with a spring game had to take a backseat to the overall development of the young players in the program during the 15 practices the Cowboys will hold in March and April.

“At some point I have to make a decision based on what's best for our team first and then our fans and people that follow us second,” Gundy said earlier this week.

Other Big 12 coaches point to health concerns as obstacles to holding a traditional spring game featuring two separate squads.

“Spring games are always a trying time due to depth at certain positions,” said Kansas coach Charlie Weis, who will hold KU’s spring game on April 12. “Concern for injuries is always an issue, not being able to field two entire competitive teams is a problem.”

Postponing the spring game can become a real option, particularly after losing a large class of seniors off the roster thus crippling the overall depth of the program until February signees arrive in the summer. Quarterbacks end up switching teams in the middle of the game, a lack of available linemen waters down the quality of the action and fears of a season-changing injury can cloud these spring finales.

“Everyone says, ‘Well I would love to have a draft and have my guys go on each side of the ball,’” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “You can’t, you don’t have the personnel. Sometimes you have so many injuries or you may be thin that you can’t afford to have a spring game and get somebody hurt. Some other years, when we are a little bit down, I don’t want to take a chance on it. It is all great until someone gets hurt and blows a knee out, and then it is, ‘Why did I do that?’”

The Sooners are one of the Big 12 programs that are all-in on the spring game, selling tickets to the event, televising the action and creating a game-like atmosphere at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. But even OU dumbs down the efficiency of the actual football in the game, sitting starters and simplifying schemesto avoid lurkers, such as Patterson, who are aiming to gain useful tidbits on the Sooners that they can use in the fall.

Even with all those drawbacks, the spring game remains valuable for the majority of the conference, with several Big 12 coaches pointing toward the game-like atmosphere, not to mention the recruiting value, of the traditional spring game as assets too useful to ignore.

“I think it's great for the fans,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “You only get six home games in the regular season, sometimes we only get five some years. So to have another game at Jones Stadium so that everyone can come back and tailgate, have some festivities, I think it's great for the university and great for the fan base. And I like to see our players when the lights come on. Anybody can do it in practice, but when the lights come on and there's some pressure and people are watching, let's see how you perform."

Kansas State won’t kick off its spring drills until April 2 but will hold its spring game on April 26. Head coach Bill Snyder believes the tradition of the spring game outweighs any cons.

“The positive attributes of having a spring game for us include tradition, for our young people and our fan base, the benefits it provides our local community and the experience our players get by playing in front of a large crowd,” he said.

Charlie Strong is convinced his team can still get quality work done with a traditional spring game. The Longhorns will hold their version on April 19, with UT’s new head coach convinced it will be just another day for his players to get better.

“The most important thing is that the spring game is another opportunity to get out on the field and coach your team,” Strong said. “It's another practice, more reps and more video to look at as you get ready for the season. It is the final spring practice and having a chance to go in the stadium with a great crowd gives you an opportunity to see how the team responds to that as well."

Realistically, while opinions about the spring game vary when it comes to its value in terms of developing the current roster for the upcoming season, its recruiting value cannot be understated. There is no better spring event to put all the positives of the program on full display and intrigue potential recruits to make a special trip to campus.

“When you can bring players in and see people in the stands cheering and excited, it really helps,” Kingsbury said.

Big 12 mailbag

January, 3, 2014
Jan 3
4:00
PM ET
In today's mailbag, Big 12 fans are giddy after the Sooners took it to the SEC in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Lots of optimism in Lubbock, Texas, and Manhattan, Kan., as well.

To the 'bag:

Will R. in Fort Bragg, N.C., writes: Does OU's win in the Sugar Bowl do anything to change the national perception of the SEC or Big 12?

Jake Trotter: I believe it accomplished a lot. The top tier of the SEC had basically been viewed as unbeatable here in recent years. The Sooners quashed that, while also showing they -- and teams in the Big 12 -- could play with anything in the country. The perception gap wasn’t narrowed entirely with that one game. But it was a strong first step.

Matt in Wamego, Kan., writes: As a big KU fan who is suppose to hate everything Oklahoma. All I can say today is BOOMER SOONER. I have to thank OU because I believe they just saved the Big 12's reputation nationally. It’s a great day in Big 12 country.

Jake Trotter: Tonight’s another huge game for the conference. An Oklahoma State win over Missouri would give the league a 4-2 bowl mark -- and a sweep over two of the top three teams from the vaunted SEC.

Michael in Lubbock, Texas, writes: With the return of key defensive players from injury for the Holiday Bowl, does the Tech performance indicate that the 7-0 was not so much of a fluke, and the five-game skid was a product of a lack of depth?

Jake Trotter: I think there’s a compelling case to be made there. Was Tech ever really one of the ten best teams in the country? No. But the Red Raiders were better than their late-season skid indicated. When healthy, they was a pretty good team. Tech fans have a lot to be excited about, especially as Kilff Kingsbury builds up the depth on this team.

Kyle in Enid, Okla., writes: I know K-State recruiting is a boring topic for most because we don’t pull high-star players, but out of the guys that have committed or are seriously considering becoming Wildcats, who should make immediate impact on the team next season?

Jake Trotter: On top of highly touted junior-college transfers like wideout Andre Davis and cornerback Danzel McDaniel, I think Blue Springs, Mo., running back Dalvin Warmack could make a splash. The Wildcats need somebody to replace John Hubert. Warmack ran for 2,223 yards and 29 touchdowns this season, and had an impressive offer list that included Wisconsin, Oklahoma State and Iowa. He could step in and contribute right away.

Kaled Zakzok in Lubbock, Texas, writes: Who do you think will be Tech’s starting QB coming in 2014? Patrick Mahomes impressed me with his high school highlight video. Also I still think Michael Brewer could put up a challenge.

Jake Trotter: Barring something unforeseen, the job is Davis Webb’s. He earned it with that performance in San Diego.

Kasey in Manhappiness, Kan., writes: Looking ahead to next year, what do you think the quarterback situation will be like for K-State? Do you think Jakes Waters takes the reins and Daniel Sams transfers? They both could stay and Bill Snyder use them similar to how he did later in this season. What are your thoughts?

Jake Trotter: The job is Waters’ but I don’t get the sense Sams will be looking to transfer. One key for Snyder this offseason will be finding an expanded role for Sams in the offense. Does that include a move to wide receiver? Maybe. Sams is too explosive with the ball in his hands to be watching games on the sideline.

Big 12 predictions: bowl edition

December, 26, 2013
12/26/13
10:00
AM ET
I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and is having a happy holiday. I would have a happier holiday if I could emerge victorious over all you guest pickers.

Like Texas Tech, I suffered a late-season slide to fall behind in the standings. Like Tech, I’m hoping to make it all better here during the bowl season with a big win.

In keeping with the holiday spirit, I charitably selected a final guest picker whose team sadly did not qualify for a bowl. Justin’s submission:

I’m from Iowa and have been a Cyclone fan all my life (Look out for the Cyclones in next year’s bowl picks – we’re going to be a dangerous team in the next few years with Grant Rohach getting more comfortable in the pocket). I have been in the Air Force 11 years and stationed all over the place. My wife Kassie (a Duck fan) and I have been stationed in Turkey for two years and will be getting stationed back in the U.S. next July. I read the Big 12 blog daily and would love the chance to be the guest picker.

To the bowl picks:

SEASON RECORD

Trotter last game week: 1-1 (.500)

Guest picker (Bookworm Jason) last game week: 1-1 (.500)

Trotter overall: 55-19 (.743)

Guest picker overall: 43-14 (.754)

SATURDAY

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Kansas State 35, Michigan 30: The Wildcats surprisingly have lost five straight bowl games, including Bill Snyder’s last four bowl appearances. For that reason, this game appears to mean more to Kansas State than it does to Michigan, which had a disappointing season overall. More times than not, the more motivated team prevails in these midlevel bowl games. With Michigan QB Devin Gardner ailing and questionable for this game with turf toe, the Wildcats win a bowl game for the first time in 11 years, and defensive Ryan Mueller makes good on his promise to dump Gatorade on Snyder with the victory.

Justin’s pick: This will be the least exciting Big 12 game. Snyder will have the Wildcats ready for this game, but Michigan will be too much at the end with a game-winning field goal. Michigan, 27-24


MONDAY

Valero Alamo Bowl: Oregon 44, Texas 28: The Longhorns will play hard in coach Mack Brown’s final game. But Texas faced a version of Oregon (Baylor) just a few weeks ago, and got blown out. Just like they did in Waco, the Longhorns will hang around through halftime. But without the adequate offensive firepower, the game will eventually get away from them again.

Justin’s pick: Texas needed a miracle no-call from the refs to bat my Cyclones. Not even a miracle can save the Horns here. Texas will play with a lot of emotion. But talent wins over emotion every time. Oregon, 48-17

National University Holiday Bowl: Arizona State 48, Texas Tech 31: Other than Texas, no Big 12 team has endured more December drama than the Red Raiders. First, QB Baker Mayfield stunningly decided to leave the program. Then, coach Kliff Kingsbury’s right-hand man Sonny Cumbie bolted for TCU to coach quarterbacks. Now comes a difficult bowl matchup with a team that has legitimate top-10 talent. The only teams that have given Arizona State problems this season have been mashers (Stanford, Notre Dame, Stanford again). The one thing Tech cannot do is mash.

Justin’s pick: Tech comes out scoring in the first half, but Arizona State proves to be too much. Tech has a late surge but comes up short. Arizona State, 31-24


WEDNESDAY

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Baylor 56, Central Florida 33: The only comfortable favorite among Big 12 bowl teams, Baylor must win for the conference to have any chance at a successful bowl season. UCF, however, is better than people in Big 12 country think, with road wins at Penn State and Louisville, and a near upset of South Carolina. Blake Bortles is a big-time QB, and he has playmakers around him. But Baylor has a big-time QB, too, in Bryce Petty. And he has more playmakers around him, including Tevin Reese, who is back from a dislocated wrist. As a result, “America’s Top Offense” goes out with a bang.

Justin’s pick: A lot of people think Baylor is going to smash UCF, and I’m one of them. Bryce Petty has a huge day and the Baylor D smothers the Knights. Baylor 52-24


JAN. 2

Allstate Sugar Bowl: Alabama 41, Oklahoma 17: Bob Stoops has often thrived when his team has been the underdog. Just ask Kansas State and Oklahoma State, whom the Sooners vanquished as road dogs the final two games of the season. Alabama, however, is not K-State and Oklahoma State. And unlike the 2008 Sugar Bowl, when the opponent was Utah, the Crimson Tide should be motivated for this one. The Sooners -- with their quarterback carousel -- struggle to move the ball against the Tide, and Alabama runs the ball at will against an Oklahoma run defense that’s been suspect all year.

Justin’s pick: As much as I love the Big 12, this isn't an Oklahoma team that can hang with a team many feel is still the best team in the country. AJ McCarron gets hot and throws all over Oklahoma's secondary. Alabama, 38-17


JAN. 3

AT&T Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma State 31, Missouri 30: Coach Mike Gundy has been terrible against Oklahoma. But he’s been stellar in bowl games, with three straight bowl wins and a 5-2 record overall. Missouri’s defensive line has gotten plenty of publicity this season, and deservedly so. But Oklahoma State’s defense has been prolific, too. The Cowboys also boast the perfect cornerback to match up with Dorial Green-Beckham in Justin Gilbert, who might be a first-round pick in the spring. Quarterback Clint Chelf also bounces back from a subpar Beldam performance, and the Cowboys land the Big 12 a solid victory over the SEC.

Justin’s pick: Oklahoma State can put up big numbers on any team, but Mizzou has proven itself by beating up on the SEC. The Cowboys won’t be able to handle the pressure from Missouri’s defense. Mizzou, 41-38.

Big 12 mailbag

December, 20, 2013
12/20/13
4:00
PM ET
In today's mailbag, we discuss Mack Brown's future, TCU's defense, OU's quarterbacks and Kansas State's chances in 2014.

To the 'Bag:

J.J. in Tumalo, Ore., writes: All I want to know is this: will the Big 12 add BYU and UCF or 2 other worthy teams? And a championship game? If not, please break up so we can have four 16-team conferences.

Jake Trotter: The Big 12 is in no apparent hurry to add anyone or implement a conference championship game. And I think we’re ultimately headed in the direction you suggest. But will it be the Big 12 that ultimately breaks up, or the ACC? Those have been the two most vulnerable conferences. If we end up with superconferences, it will probably occur when one of those two leagues dissolve.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThings worked out just fine for Bryce Petty and the Baylor Bears.
Chris in Dallas writes: Knowing how all the games played out on championship week, would Baylor have been better off if OSU had won Bedlam and gone to the Fiesta Bowl? Would the Bears be in the Sugar? Is it really worse to be co-champs?

Trotter: The bowl opponent would have been better, but a “co-championship” would not have been as satisfying. It’s more fun to be the outright champ than to have a sexy bowl opponent. At least, that’s what I think.

OU fan in Ponca City, Okla., writes: With two previous Big 12 teams having success in the SEC, and with the possibility of OU beating Alabama and OSU beating Missouri, could the argument be made that the SEC has been and still is overrated?

Trotter: The Bedlam schools winning their bowls would help narrow the perception gap between the Big 12 and SEC. But until the SEC loses a national championship game, any argument downplaying the SEC is difficult to make.

Mitch Connors in Fort Worth, Texas, writes: Why only one TCU player on your first-team defense? I hope y’all realize that TCU still had the No. 1 defense in conference games. Y’all aren’t giving them any love.

Trotter: TCU did not have the best defense in the Big 12 this year. Sorry. It just didn't. We considered Chucky Hunter at defensive tackle and Sam Carter at safety. No one else stuck out as deserving. And we just felt there were more deserving players, like Calvin Barnett and Ahmad Dixon, at those positions.

Omar in Flower Mound, Texas, writes: Hey Jake, I love the blog. I'm wondering why I haven't heard Bobby Petrino's name come up for the Texas job? I know, they probably won't hire him, the whole motorcycle ordeal, which is why Arkansas fired him. But don't you think he's done tremendous jobs turning multiple schools around? Texas doesn't really need someone to come in and overhaul the system, but they just need someone who can come in and coach (and win). Your thoughts?

Trotter: I appreciate the outside-the-box thinking, but Petrino would be a terrible fit in Austin. Because of all that will be required of the job, Texas is looking for a CEO and a football coach. Petrino certainly fits the latter. The former, not so much. The Texas job is above taking in reclamation projects, regardless of how well they can coach. And Texas ought to be able to hire a coach as prolific as Petrino -- without the baggage.

[+] EnlargeLes Miles
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesWould Les Miles trade in LSU's purple and yellow for Texas' burnt orange?
Mark in Arlington, Texas, writes: With all the Nick Saban speculation now moot, there are two names that I haven't heard once in connection with the Texas job that I would love to see: Les Miles or Kevin Sumlin. Les obviously has a pedigree that should appease the boosters, and I can just imagine Bill Powers grinning from ear-to-ear if they were to hire away the Aggies' head coach. Your thoughts?

Trotter: I don’t believe Texas would ever resort to hiring an Aggie to be its head coach. Just can’t see it happening. Miles is way more intriguing. He has a national championship. He can recruit Texas. He would be great on the Longhorn Network. And he knows how to beat Oklahoma. Don’t rule him out.

Desert Wildcat in the Valley of the Sun writes: With the circus coming to a close around Mack Brown's future at UT, what do you think of the idea of tabbing Mack as a replacement for Bill Snyder at Kansas State?

Trotter: I think Brown is done coaching, but I would love it if he gave it another go somewhere else. Your K-State idea is interesting, though I hope Snyder has several more years coaching in the Big 12. Here’s another idea -- Nebraska next year. Anyone think Brown couldn’t win there?

Bryan in Yukon, Okla., writes: Who you think will be the starting QB for OU in 2014?

Trotter: Trevor Knight is my pick. They tailored the offense to fit his skill-set before the season even started. I think the plan all along has been to make him the long-term starter, and the last month he’s beginning to show he’s up to the challenge.

Jeremy Hanes at Peterson Air Force Base writes: What is it going to take for OU to pull off a win against Bama?

Trotter: For starters, an exceptional game from Jalen Saunders. OU probably can’t beat Bama straight up. But Saunders in special teams is a great equalizer, as Oklahoma State found out. If Saunders can off some big plays in the return game, like he did in Bedlam, the Sooners could hang around.

Patrick Minter in Abilene, Kan., writes: In reference to your mailbag answer to someone's question on preseason picks for next year, I agree about Baylor being the favorite. But I would advise you to research Bill Snyder’s track record when he has a returning quarterback. They were right there in all four of their conference losses this year. The 'Cats will be better. They might not win the league but will compete for the title.

Trotter: I can’t disagree. Kansas State should be better on defense, Tyler Lockett is a superstar and the Wildcats have the best returning situation at quarterback north of Waco, Texas. I can’t see myself picking them to finish first in the preseason. But I could definitely see myself picking them in the top three.

Big 12 lunchtime links

December, 20, 2013
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The New Yorker on the best movies of the year:
  • The Austin American-Statesman's Danny Davis reported that former Texas Tech QB Baker Mayfield is planning to enroll at Oklahoma, and walk on in January. According to The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey, that was news to OU coach Bob Stoops, who said the Sooners weren't pursuing any transfer QBs. This story keeps getting stranger and stranger.
  • The Texas players described to the Dallas Morning News' Chuck Carlton the scene as Mack Brown told them of his resignation. The Austin American-Statesman compiled some updates on the Texas coaching search. Former Texas safety and current Seattle Seahawk Earl Thomas has one name he doesn't want to appear in the Texas search.
  • Baylor coach Art Briles was asked what he would do if the Longhorns came calling. Briles' response? "The grass is green here" at Baylor.
  • Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said he's had no contact with Texas about the Longhorns' job, and more interestingly, said he has changed agents.
  • The Charleston Daily Mail's Mike Casazza says there's no denying attrition was a problem for West Virginia this season. The Charleston Gazette's Dave Hickman examines what West Virginia will do next at quarterback. The paper chronicles the odyssey of defensive end recruit Terry Ayeni, who is considering the Mountaineers.
  • Kansas coach Charlie Weis said firing himself as offensive coordinator was best for the Jayhawks, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal's Jesse Newell.
  • TCU lost a recruit back to Arkansas.
  • The Longhorns made the cut to stay in the mix for blue-chip linebacker Solomon Thomas.
  • Oklahoma linebacker Corey Nelson is down to his final recourse in his effort to get a fifth season of eligibility from the NCAA.
  • Iowa State is looking for instant help from its four junior college signings, writes the Ames Tribune's Bobby La Gesse. The Des Moines Register's Chris Williams wonders who will replace Kirby Van Der Kamp at punter.
  • Coach Bill Snyder calls Kansas State wideout Curry Sexton "Google." The Garden City Telegram's Arne Green has the story.
  • Sophomore offensive lineman Tony Morales could return to practice next week after missing the regular season with a torn shoulder labrum, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's Don Williams reports.

What Big 12 coaches made per win

December, 18, 2013
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Kansas’ Charlie Weis was the sixth-highest paid FBS coach this year.

In pay per victory.

Weis, in his second season, was paid $2.5 million, or $833,333 for each of his three victories, according to a database assembled by USA TODAY.

The survey did not include private schools or others whose compensation figures were not available.

Texas’ Mack Brown and West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen ranked ninth and 10th in cost per victory. Brown was paid $674,063 for each of Texas’ eight wins; Holgorsen, $657,500 for West Virginia’s four wins.

The most cost-efficient coaches in the Big 12 were Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy and Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury. Gundy earned just $345,000 for each of his 10 wins. Kingsbury made $265,000 apiece for Tech’s seven victories.

The survey did not include private schools (Baylor or TCU) or others whose compensation figures were not available.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 14

December, 2, 2013
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There was a shakeup at the bottom of the Power Rankings after the miracle in Morgantown:

1. Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1 Big 12, last week 1): The Cowboys have a chance to state their case as the Big 12’s top program of the last five seasons. Beating Oklahoma to win a second Big 12 title in three years would convey a very compelling argument.

2. Baylor (10-1, 7-1 Big 12, LW 2): Baylor’s two worst offensive outputs have come in the last two weeks. Is America’s top offense running on fumes? The friendly confines of Floyd Casey Stadium -- for one final game -- should give QB Bryce Petty & Co. the refueling they need.

3. Texas (8-3, 7-1 Big 12, LW 3): For all their issues and injuries, the Longhorns remain in the mix for an outright Big 12 title and automatic BCS bowl berth heading into this final week of the season. Ironically, if Texas somehow upset Baylor, this would actually be one of Mack Brown’s better coaching performances.

4. Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2 Big 12, LW 4): Nobody before the season predicted these Sooners, with a young defense and a new quarterback, would contend for a national championship. A victory at Oklahoma State and another 10-win season would make this a solid season in Norman.

5. Kansas State (7-5, 5-4 Big 12, LW 5): Even after a 2-4 start, Kansas State still managed to finish ahead of where it was picked in the preseason for a third straight season. Going forward, the media should automatically bump K-State up two spots when filling out Big 12 preseason ballots, to account for the “Bill Snyder effect.”

6. Texas Tech (7-5, 4-5 Big 12, LW 6): After another November slide, the Red Raiders are likely headed back to the Texas Bowl for the second straight season. Tech has had several memorable moments in Kliff Kingsbury’s first season. The 41-16 loss at Texas was not one of them.

7. TCU (4-8, 2-7 Big 12, LW 8): In their final game, the Horned Frogs finally showed what could have been this season. While the TCU defensive backs locked up Baylor’s receivers, senior QB Casey Pachall looked the sharpest he had in two years, even with the two pick-six interceptions. Take away those two plays and the fumble at the TCU 1-yard line, and the Frogs might have won this game going away. Yes, TCU finished with its worst season since going 1-10 in 1997. But if defensive end Devonte Fields can return to his freshman form, and TCU can figure out the answer at QB, the Frogs could be a force next year.

8. Iowa State (3-9, 2-7 Big 12, LW 9): Coach Paul Rhoads proved those who have wanted him out to be ridiculous. Despite all the tough losses, the Cyclones never quit on their coach, even when down 17 points in the fourth quarter on the road in Morgantown. With a little bit of luck, especially around the goal line, the Cyclones have the pieces to return to a bowl next year.

9. Kansas (3-9, 1-8 Big 12, LW 10): Hey, at least they beat West Virginia.

10. West Virginia (4-8, 2-7 Big 12, LW 7): The Mountaineers capped off another depressing season with an epic fourth-quarter collapse. Good thing no one was there to see it. Well, almost no one. Saturday featured the third-smallest crowd in Milan Puskar Stadium’s 33-year history, and the smallest since 1992.

Sooners gets Stoops record with late surge

November, 23, 2013
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Oklahoma made Bob Stoops the winningest coach in school history Saturday and did so in a fashion befitting of his tenure.

The No. 20 Sooners defeated Kansas State 41-31 to give Stoops his 158th victory as head coach. They got the job done, as road underdogs, with a resilient second half powered by a stout defense and momentum-swinging special teams.

After a first half filled with big plays, Oklahoma broke open the game late thanks to a critical punt return, an interception returned a touchdown and four quarters of dominant run defense.

[+] EnlargeBob Stoops
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesBob Stoops isn't feeling all that nostalgic yet about becoming Oklahoma's winningest head coach.
Stoops was predictably unemotional about surpassing Barry Switzer in the school’s all-time record book, at least in his postgame interview.

“You know, truthfully, it’s not what everyone wants to hear,” Stoops said. “It’s 9-2 on the season. Just got one more to go in the regular season. That’s all I’ve been thinking about. Somewhere down the line, I’ll reflect back on it.”

Quentin Hayes sealed the victory with an interception with 1:59 left, but the Sooners locked this one up early in the fourth quarter thanks to some opportunistic football.

After pinning the Kansas State offense back at its own 3 on a Jed Barnett punt, Oklahoma’s defense got a three-and-out and forced Mark Krause to punt from the back of his end zone.

The high kick he booted was plucked by Jalen Saunders at the 33. Three KSU defenders overran the play and were behind him. Only one – Krause – stood in his path to the end zone. Saunders returned the kick down the right sideline to the 3, and Brennan Clay punched in a touchdown one play later to go up 34-24.

Three plays later, Zack Sanchez made up for some first-half busts by picking off a Jake Waters pass and taking it back 74 yards, extending the lead to 17 with less than 12 minutes to go.

“It was a major play in the ball game,” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. “The interception was a major play in the ballgame. There are major plays, but there are so many things that led up to it."

Many of them were made by Clay, Trevor Knight and a potent run game. The Sooners were without suspended running back Damien Williams but had no trouble pounding the rock thanks to Clay, who produced a career-high 200 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries. Knight added 82 yards and a score out of the read option.

“Brennan Clay was sensational,” Stoops said. “I think he came into the game in the top two or three in the conference in yards per carry. He just had a great day running the football. Let us give a lot of credit to our offensive line and Aaron Ripkowski; they did a great job of blocking to help Brennan.”

Kansas State’s running game, on the other hand, was completely stifled: 24 yards on 22 rushes. Daniel Sams was a nonfactor with three rushes for 7 yards. And OU survived a monster performance from Tyler Lockett, who burned the Sooners for a KSU school-record 278 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

“Everything that we got was with big plays,” Synder said. “We didn’t move the ball well on offense in terms of drives.”

The game devolved into a home run derby in the second quarter, with Oklahoma and K-State combining for 38 points and 418 yards. But the Sooners needed fireworks in the other two phases of the game to knock off the streaking Wildcats.

And they’ll need plenty more to knock off Oklahoma State in the regular season finale on Dec. 7. But Stoops has plenty to be optimistic entering an off week, and he has a record he’ll eventually be proud of. His players feted him in the locker room, and he’ll take home one of the most meaningful game balls of his career.

He’s just too focused on finishing 2013 right to celebrate right now.

“We have had a good group here for a good period of time, but I do not have time to look at it, to be honest,” Stoops said. “It is something that I will reflect back on down the road."

Big 12 mailbag

November, 22, 2013
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In today’s mailbag, Baylor’s schedule is compared to Ohio State’s, Iowa State fans yearn for the second coming of Bill Snyder and Texas fans want a louder stadium, Tyrone Swoopes at QB and a certain coach to be fired.

To the ‘bag:

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
AP Photo/LM OteroOklahoma State will need to force some turnovers, but Baylor QB Bryce Petty has thrown just one interception all year.
Brenna in Stillwater, Okla., writes: It doesn’t seem like anyone is giving Oklahoma State a chance against Baylor. I know you predicted Baylor would win, but do you think the Pokes have a legitimate chance to get the win in convincing fashion?

Jake Trotter: The win, yes. But in convincing fashion? That’s asking a lot. That would require Oklahoma State forcing a bunch of turnovers, which the Cowboys have been terrific at. Problem is, Baylor doesn’t turn the ball over. Bryce Petty has thrown just one interception all year. The Cowboys are more than capable of winning this game. I almost picked them. But I don’t see a scenario in which Baylor gets blown out. That offense is just too good to let that happen.

Isaac in Waukee, Iowa, writes: Aside from hiring their own “Wizard” what needs to happen at Iowa State to reach Kansas State's level of consistent success? They seem to be similar schools with agricultural roots, true college towns, isolated from bigger TV markets.

Trotter: Bill Snyder didn’t build K-State in a day. The Wildcats had only one winning season in Snyder’s first four years. Yes, the Cyclones have taken a step back this year. But Paul Rhoads has proven to be a solid coach, underscored by the fact he took the Cyclones to bowls in three of his four years. Iowa State needs to give him more time. Way more time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither was Manhattan. Neither will Ames.

Josh Brown in Dallas writes: In all these hypothetical debates about Baylor and Ohio State, I hear a lot about both teams playing a weak schedule. But I never hear about the one team they played in common, Buffalo. Ohio State won 40-20, while Baylor was up 56-13 at HALF! Any reason this doesn't get more attention as it is the obvious best point of comparison?

Trotter: I think a more powerful argument favoring Baylor is this: Ohio State has four road wins over teams (Cal, Illinois, Northwestern, and Purdue) who are a combined 0-26 in league play. Contrast that with a potential road win for Baylor at No. 10 Oklahoma State, and the case would be closed, in my opinion. Of course, the Bears have to win that game first.

James Fulton in El Paso, Texas, writes: Jake, with only two games plus a bowl game left, do you see David Ash sitting out the rest of the season? I assume he is eligible for a redshirt, and can come back as a junior next year.

Trotter: Ash would only be eligible for a medical redshirt if doctors didn’t clear him the rest of the season (sitting him while he’s cleared doesn’t count). But assuming he’s not cleared, which is doesn’t look like he will be, then yes, a medical redshirt is a very good possibility.

David in Richmond, Va., writes: During the Kansas-West Virginia game, the announcers kept talking about how many West Virginia players were injured. So I have to wonder, how many players are out for each team in the Big 12?

Trotter: I don’t have enough space here to list every injury for every team. But just about every team in the Big 12 has been hit with major injuries. Texas lost Johnathan Gray, David Ash and Chris Whaley. TCU lost Devonte Fields for the year and Casey Pachall for several games. Oklahoma lost Corey Nelson, Jordan Phillips and Trey Millard. Baylor lost Tevin Reese and now Spencer Drango. Oklahoma State lost Devin Davis during the preseason and has been without Josh Stewart. Texas Tech is missing several key defensive players. Iowa State has been beat up offensively pretty much all year. Injuries are part of football, and West Virginia is hardly exclusive to them.

James in Overland Park, Kan., writes: Will Tyrone Swoopes start for Texas against Texas Tech? Also will Mack Brown be fired after the Baylor game?

Trotter: Swoopes could play more, but McCoy is going to get the start. It’s possible that Brown resigns after the Baylor game, but he’s not going to be fired Lane Kiffin style.

Scott in Edgewater, Md., writes: What does Dana Holgorsen have to do to right the ship? Better recruits? More experience? Better coaches? I understand that the Big 12 is not the Big East, and that we have lost Stedman Bailey, Geno Smith and Tavon Austin. But this is getting unacceptable to me. At what point does Holgorsen have to worry about his job?

Trotter: I don’t think Holgorsen is in danger yet, even after that disappointing performance in Lawrence. The man who hired him (Oliver Luck) is still there, and this was always going to be a rebuilding year. But the Mountaineers better show improvement in 2014, or things could get tense real fast in Morgantown.

 

Big 12's lunch links

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
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What's going on with RG3 in Washington?

Planning for success: Oklahoma

November, 21, 2013
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NORMAN, Okla. — Bob Stoops doesn’t want to talk about it.

Nonetheless the veteran Sooners coach can become the program’s winningest coach on Saturday if Oklahoma defeats Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan. A win would move Stoops to 158 career victories, passing legendary coach Barry Switzer. OU’s 48-10 win over Iowa State last Saturday tied Stoops with Switzer at 157 career wins.

[+] EnlargeStoops
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsIf Oklahoma wins two of its final three games this season, Bob Stoops will have 12 10-win teams in his 15 seasons as coach.
Stoops' chance to make history in Manhattan is a interesting twist, considering K-State coach Bill Snyder has been one of the influential coaches during Stoops’ career.

Asked if it would be special to reach the milestone against Snyder, Stoops turned his focus to this season's team and finishing strong.

“No,” he said. “Not in those terms. Definitely winning there would be great for our season and this season for all of those reasons. Outside of that, Coach Snyder and I aren’t going to play. We have got teams and staff and a bunch of people working with us and it will be one team against the other.”

Mike Stoops, his brother and OU defensive coordinator, was more willing to put into words the impact Bob Stoops has had on the program and what the milestone means in terms of Stoops' excellence during his coaching career.

“The thing about Bob is consistency,” said Mike Stoops, who left Norman to be the coach of Arizona before returning to OU last season. “He’s the same person as when I was here the first time as he was the second time when I came back. He’s a good guy to play for and a great guy to work for. He lets you do your job and he expects you to do it the right way.”

Bob Stoops has led the Sooners to a BCS national championship in 2000, four BCS title game appearances, eight BCS bowl appearances and eight Big 12 championships. OU has won at least 10 games in 11 of 14 seasons during his tenure.

“I’m sure he’ll take a lot of pride in it,” Mike Stoops said. “But he’s much more concerned about Kansas State than he is about a record. I think he’s probably just thankful to be here and to coach all these great players. That’s a pretty special achievement. That’s what you’re expected to do at Oklahoma.”

But the pupil beating the teacher aspect of the Sooners game against Snyder and the Wildcats adds plenty of intrigue.

“He has kind of started us all in coaching,” Mike Stoops said. “Coach Snyder’s given us a great opportunity. We owe a great deal to him professionally. He taught us a lot of important elements of coaching and the details of it all. He’s been a mentor in a lot of ways to us. It would be somewhat nostalgic to do it there but again we’re not really into all that.”

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