Oklahoma Sooners: Desmond Roland

With spring ball done, we’re reexamining and reranking the positional situations of every Big 12 team, continuing Tuesday with running backs. These outlooks will look different in August. But here’s how we see them post-spring:


1. West Virginia (pre-spring ranking: 4): West Virginia running backs coach JaJuan Seider has one of the best and most difficult jobs in the Big 12. Seider has an embarrassment of riches at his position in Dreamius Smith (the No. 1 juco back in 2013), Wendell Smallwood (who played last year as a true freshman), Rushel Shell (who before transferring from Pitt set the Pennsylvania state high school rushing record), Andrew Buie (the team’s leading rusher in 2012) and Dustin Garrison, West Virginia’s leading rusher from 2011, who, finally healthy again, enjoyed a resurgent spring. The Mountaineers also will add four-star signee Donte Thomas-Williams in the summer. The difficult part for Seider will be divvying up carries to so many capable backs. But if the Mountaineers can keep everyone happy and find the right combination, this could become a devastating and versatile running back stable.

2. Texas (1): Coach Charlie Strong delivered promising news on Monday in San Antonio, suggesting Johnathan Gray could be cleared from his Achilles injury by mid-June. Strong also said that Joe Bergeron will be rejoining the team shortly, too, after sitting out the spring to focus on academics. When healthy and eligible, the trio of Malcolm Brown, Gray and Bergeron is a formidable bunch and the backbone of the Texas offense.

3. Baylor (3): Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin exited spring as the co-starters, but Johnny Jefferson left the biggest impression in the spring game. The Bears have a track record of spreading carries around, which means Big 12 fans will become very acquainted with the talented redshirt freshman next season.

4. Oklahoma State (5): One of the biggest surprises of the spring was how much the Cowboys used Tyreek Hill at running back. Oklahoma State is planning to utilize the nation’s top juco playmaker the way West Virginia did Tavon Austin two years ago. In other words, Hill could line up in the backfield one play then slot receiver the next. Either way, arguably the fastest player in college football gives the Cowboys a dynamic lightning component to complement the thunderous running of senior Desmond Roland, who led all Big 12 backs in touchdowns last season.

5. Oklahoma (3): There might not be a Big 12 backfield with more upside than Oklahoma’s. Of course, with that upside comes little experience. Sophomore Keith Ford has the potential to be a punishing inside runner, but he had fumbling issues last season as a freshman that re-emerged during the spring. If he can’t hang onto the ball, he won’t play, no matter how tough he runs between the tackles. After getting passed by Ford on the depth chart last year, Alex Ross bounced back with an impressive spring. Early enrollee Dimitri Flowers was a revelation this spring as a powerful run-blocking fullback in the mold of Trey Millard. If fellow incoming freshman Joe Mixon lives up to his recruiting hype, the Sooners could feature their most potent rushing attack in years.

6. Iowa State (8): The most underrated one-two punch at running back in the league resides in Ames. According to first-year offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, Aaron Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy were sharp all spring and will spearhead an offense that could surprise in 2014. The key will be keeping the slight but explosive Wimberly relatively healthy, which he never really was before and after rushing for 137 and 117 yards back to back against Tulsa and Texas. Wimberly, however, was 100 percent all spring, and it showed, as he racked up 68 yards on just nine touches in the spring game.

7. TCU (7): TCU had to make do without its three top backs in the spring due to injuries. Aaron Green suffered a broken collarbone, Kyle Hicks had a shoulder bruise, and returning leading rusher B.J. Catalon dealt with a nagging hamstring injury. All three, however, should be fine for the fall, and could form a reliable rotation at running back. Four-star recruit Shaun Nixon could help out, too, once he arrives on campus.

8. Texas Tech (6): The Red Raiders dropped two spots, largely because returning starter Kenny Williams played outside linebacker all spring and could remain there for good. But even if Williams becomes a full-time linebacker, Tech still could be solid at running back with veteran DeAndre Washington, sophomore Quinton White and incoming four-star freshman Justin Stockton, whom the Texas Tech coaching staff is very high on. Head coach and offensive play-caller Kliff Kingsbury wouldn’t have given Williams the go-ahead to move to defense if he didn’t feel optimistic about what remained in the backfield.

9. Kansas (9): Though they come in ninth here, running back could be a position of strength for the Jayhawks next season. Brandon Bourbon, the favorite to start, rushed for 96 yards on 12 carries in the spring game, but Taylor Cox (63 yards on 15 carries) and Darrian Miller (50 yards on seven carries) had nice outings, as well. The Jayhawks also will welcome De’Andre Mann, the nation’s fifth-best juco running back, in the summer, as well as four-star freshmen Traevohn Wrench and Corey Avery. Until they start winning more games, it’s difficult to give the Jayhawks the benefit of the doubt in these position rankings. But with this collection of runners, they might not miss All-Big 12 performer James Sims as much as first thought.

10. Kansas State (10): The spring brought little clarity about who John Hubert’s primary replacement will be. Jarvis Leverett and Charles Jones both ran hard in K-State’s spring game, though neither broke a run for longer than 11 yards. Meanwhile, DeMarcus Robinson, who has the most experience of the three, sat out the scrimmage with an injury. As a result, incoming freshman Dalvin Warmack, who rushed for 4,500 yards and 70 touchdowns while averaging almost 9 yards per carry his final two years in high school, will have an opportunity to be a factor once he joins the team this summer.
The Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s captured three Super Bowls on the backs of their triplets. Running back Emmitt Smith churned out yardage between the tackles. Wide receiver Michael Irvin hauled in receptions downfield. And quarterback Troy Aikman captained the unstoppable attack.

Like with the Cowboys, big-time triplets usually translate to big-time offense. And the Big 12 over the years has showcased several notable ones. Oklahoma’s Jason White, Adrian Peterson and Mark Clayton in 2004. Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, Joseph Randle and Justin Blackmon in 2011. West Virginia’s Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey in 2012. Even last season, Baylor boasted one of the best triplets in the country in Bryce Petty, Lache Seastrunk and Antwan Goodley.

So which Big 12 teams will feature the most prolific offensive triplets in 2014? We rank them below:

1. Baylor

QB Bryce Petty, RB Shock Linwood, WR Antwan Goodley

The Bears remain atop this list, even with Seastrunk bolting early for the NFL draft. Despite being Baylor’s third-string running back last season, Linwood still finished sixth in the Big 12 in rushing and shined as the featured back while Seastrunk and Glasco Martin were injured. After totaling 46 touchdowns throwing and rushing, Petty should be even better in his second season as a starter. Goodley is an All-American-caliber wideout.

2. Oklahoma

QB Trevor Knight, RB Keith Ford, WR Sterling Shepard

Knight finally live up to his preseason billing with a sparkling Sugar Bowl performance against Alabama. Knight has the talent and potential to be one of the best dual-threat QBs in the country. Ford was one of the top running back recruits in 2013, and would have played more as a freshman had the Sooners not also had four senior running backs on the roster. Shepard has been a dependable starter the last two seasons, and he already has 96 career receptions going into his junior season. He seems ready to take over for Jalen Saunders as the go-to receiver.

3. Texas Tech

QB Davis Webb, RB Kenny Williams, WR Jakeem Grant

Webb broke out with a tremendous performance in the National University Holiday Bowl, throwing for 403 yards and four touchdowns in an upset of Arizona State. He had his moments during the regular season, too, and could be in for a monster sophomore campaign in Kliff Kingsbury’s air-it-out offense. Williams is a solid pass-catching running back out of the backfield, and he led the Red Raiders with 497 rushing yards and eight touchdowns last season. Williams has been taking first-team snaps at outside linebacker this spring, so he could wind up deferring carries to DeAndre Washington, who has been a capable backup. Grant is electric with the ball, burning Arizona State with a pair of touchdown catches. Grant was sixth in the Big 12 last season in receiving, and with Jace Amaro and Eric Ward gone, should take on an expanded role offensively.

4. Texas

QB David Ash, RB Malcolm Brown, WR Jaxon Shipley

The possibilities of this threesome hinges heavily on the health of Ash, who missed virtually all of the 2013 season with concussion issues. Ash is back with the team this spring, and he has had moments before of performing at a high level. After Johnathan Gray’s Achilles injury, Brown took over as the starting running back and performed admirably, rushing for more than 100 yards in each of Texas’ final three games. Shipley has sure hands, is a precise route runner and is capable of catching 70-plus passes in the right quarterback situation.

5. Kansas State

QB Jake Waters, RB DeMarcus Robinson, WR Tyler Lockett

The Wildcats would be ranked second here if John Hubert had another season of eligibility. But running back is a major question, with no back on the roster holding much experience. Robinson might be the favorite to win the job, but he’ll have to fend off Jarvis Leverett and incoming freshman Dalvin Warmack. Lockett is the best receiver in the Big 12 and one of the best in the country. Waters improved dramatically in his first season as the starter in 2013. If a running back emerges, the Wildcats could surge up this list.

6. Iowa State

QB Grant Rohach, RB Aaron Wimberly, WR Quenton Bundrage

Rohach first must win the starting quarterback derby this spring over Sam B. Richardson. But he played well down the stretch while leading Iowa State to a pair of wins to finish last year. Wimberly was banged up for much of last season, but he can be dynamic when healthy. Bundrage was third in the Big 12 in receiving touchdowns in 2013, and with a little more consistency, could be an all-league receiver. This could be the best triplet combination coach Paul Rhoads has enjoyed in Ames.

7. Oklahoma State

QB J.W. Walsh, RB Desmond Roland, WR Jhajuan Seales

Walsh was fifth in college football in Adjusted Total QBR as a redshirt freshman, but he took a step back as a sophomore and eventually lost the starting gig back to Clint Chelf. If he plays like he did as a freshman, Walsh could be one of the five-best QBs in the league. If he performs like his sophomore season, he could lose the job again. Roland is a touchdown machine and is as good as any back in the league in short-yardage situations. Seales could be on the verge of breaking out in a big way after starting as a freshman.

8. West Virginia

QB Clint Trickett, RB Dreamius Smith, WR Kevin White

The Mountaineers have plenty of weapons, but they will only score more points with more consistent QB play. Trickett tops the projected depth chart for now, but he’ll have to outperform Paul Millard, Skyler Howard and William Crest to stick there. Smith was very impressive at times last season backing up Charles Sims. He’ll get the first crack at starting, but Pittsburgh transfer Rushel Shell will be looming if Smith sputters. White gets the nod as the No. 1 wideout, but Daikiel Shorts and Mario Alford are not far behind as part of a deep and balanced wide receiving corps.

9. TCU

QB Trevone Boykin, RB B.J. Catalon, WR Josh Doctson

Boykin is back at quarterback again after splitting time at receiver the last two seasons. Boykin struggled as the starting QB last season but got little help from his offensive line or receivers. Reports are that he has been sharp this spring in the new Doug Meacham/Sonny Cumbie offense. Catalon is a solid cog at running back, and he averaged 5.3 yards per carry despite playing in an anemic attack last year. Brandon Carter was supposed to be the No. 1 receiver last season -- and still could be in 2014 -- but he wasn’t reliable on or off the field. In Carter’s stead, Doctson surfaced after transferring in from Wyoming, and led the Horned Frogs with 36 receptions and 440 receiving yards.

10. Kansas

QB Jake Heaps, RB Brandon Bourbon, WR Nick Harwell

Harwell should give Kansas what it hasn’t had in a long time -- a go-to receiver. Harwell was the nation’s second-leading receiver in 2011 at Miami (Ohio), and he should give the Kansas offense a much needed shot in the arm. Heaps lost time to freshman Montell Cozart last fall, but he has reasserted himself this spring amid a three-way competition with Cozart and UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard. Bourbon is battling Taylor Cox and Darrian Miller to see who replaces All-Big 12 running back James Sims.

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: RBs

February, 19, 2014
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As we wait for the start of spring ball, we're examining and ranking the positional situations of every team, continuing Wednesday with running backs. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how they compare at the moment:

1. Texas: The three-headed monster of Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron gives Texas the best 1-2-3 punch in the league. Whether this group goes from good to great hinges on a healthy return for Gray, who is coming back from an Achilles injury and will sit out spring drills. Either way, this will be the backbone of Charlie Strong’s first offense.

[+] EnlargeShock Linwood
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsShock Linwood showed breakaway ability as a Baylor reserve in 2013.
2. Baylor: Shock Linwood takes over in the backfield after a dynamic freshman season in which he finished seventh in the league in rushing despite being a third-team running back. The competition for carries after Linwood will be interesting. Devin Chafin is the favorite to be Linwood’s wing man, but he could be pressed by Johnny Jefferson and/or incoming four-star freshman Terence Williams, who is already on campus.

3. Oklahoma: The potential of this running back crop has no bounds. But it will be young and inexperienced after seniors Brennan Clay, Roy Finch and Damien Williams (until he was kicked off the team) hoarded the carries last season. Keith Ford, who was the nation’s No. 3 running back recruit in the 2013 class, will take over the starting role. Joe Mixon, this year’s No. 6 RB recruit, won’t get to Norman until the summer, but he should supply the lightning to Ford’s thunder. Alex Ross, who was the nation’s No. 7 RB recruit in the 2012 class, rounds out a fearsome threesome with tremendous pedigree.

4. West Virginia: The Mountaineers lose All-Big 12 performer Charles Sims, but still claim a glut of capable rushers. Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood thrived playing behind Sims last year. West Virginia also has Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie, its leading rushers from 2011 and 2012, respectively. (Buie is back after leaving school for a semester.) On top of all that, Pittsburgh transfer Rushel Shell figures to be in the mix. Shell was the No. 26 overall recruit in the country coming out of high school after becoming the all-time leading rusher in Pennsylvania high school history. If that weren’t enough, the gem of the incoming recruiting class, Donte Thomas-Williams, is also a running back. Suffice to say, the competition for carries will be fierce in the league’s deepest backfield.

5. Oklahoma State: Desmond Roland helped fuel Oklahoma State’s midseason turnaround after seizing a starting role. Roland was great in short yardage and led the Big 12 with 13 touchdowns, but he wasn’t a big-play runner, with an average of only 4.6 yards per carry (14th in the league). The Cowboys are banking that Rennie Childs can complement Roland as the breakaway back. Childs showed flashes as a true freshman. Roland and Childs can form a solid combo, but four-star freshman Devon Thomas, who is enrolled for the spring, should not be discounted, nor should Sione Palelei, who has the good hands that past Oklahoma State running backs also possessed.

6. Texas Tech: The returning duo of Kenny Williams and DeAndre Washington won’t do much damage between the tackles. Both, however, are excellent pass-catchers, making them supreme fits for Kliff Kingsbury’s spread attack. Together they combined for 64 receptions, and that number should go up in 2014 as quarterback Davis Webb settles in as a sophomore.

7. TCU: The Horned Frogs were a disaster offensively last year, but the potential at running back is a reason why TCU could be equipped for a bounce-back season. Aaron Green, Kyle Hicks and incoming freshman Shaun Nixon were all ESPN 300 recruits. That doesn’t include B.J. Catalon, either, who led the Frogs with 569 yards and six touchdowns last season. With a new regime making the play calls, there’s reason to believe this could become one of the better units in the league.

[+] EnlargeDalton Santos
David Purdy/Getty ImagesIf Aaron Wimberly can stay healthy, Iowa State has a potentially dynamic returning running back.
8. Iowa State: When healthy, Aaron Wimberly can be a game-breaker. He torched Texas for 137 yards as the Cyclones nearly pulled off a Thursday night upset. Wimberly, however, was never really healthy the rest of the season, and never had the same impact. After Wimberly, though, the Cyclones don’t have much returning firepower. Firepower, however, could be on the way. Oklahoma native Michael Warren went overlooked in recruiting, but he can fly; he rushed for more than 2,500 yards as a high school senior.

9. Kansas: The Jayhawks gradated their heart and soul in James Sims, who was an all-conference selection even though Kansas won only one Big 12 game. Tony Pierson returns as an electric playmaker, but he has never been a full-time running back, often flexing out as a receiver. It will be interesting to see who emerges in Sims’ shoes. Brandon Bourbon (191 yards) will have the first crack in the spring, but newcomers De'Andre Mann and Traevohn Wrench could vie for time once they arrive in the summer.

10. Kansas State: It’s difficult to believe K-State will be at the bottom here once the season starts, but running back is a major hole for the Wildcats going into the spring. That’s because longtime starter John Hubert is gone. Hubert, senior backup Robert Rose and QBs Jake Waters and Daniel Sams combined for 492 carries last season. Nobody else had more than five. Rising senior DeMarcus Robinson, who has only 11 career carries, will probably be atop the depth chart going into the spring. It’s also possible that Sams will get a look at running back with Waters having nailed down the full-time QB job. But the player to watch here is freshman Dalvin Warmack, who rushed for more than 4,500 yards and 70 touchdowns his final two seasons in Blue Springs, Mo. Warmack isn’t big at 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds. But his size fits the mold of past K-State running backs Hubert and Darren Sproles.

Big 12 games of the year: No. 1

January, 24, 2014
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We’ve been counting down the 10 best games of the year in the Big 12. Finally, we’re down to game No. 1. Once again, Bedlam was the game of the year in the Big 12:

No. 1: Dec. 7 -- Oklahoma 33, Oklahoma State 24

In one of the coldest games either team had ever played in, Oklahoma stunned its Bedlam rival with two touchdowns in the final 19 seconds to pull off the upset.

What happened: Oklahoma State went into the game a double-digit favorite for the first time since Vegas began keeping track. But the Sooners were able to hang around utilizing a variety of unconventional scoring plays and three different quarterbacks.

The Sooners tied the game 7-7 at the end of the first quarter on Jalen Saunders’ 64-yard punt return touchdown. The Sooners tied the game late in the third quarter on a fake field goal, as holder Grant Bothun threw a touchdown pass to Michael Hunnicutt.

Oklahoma State, which struggled to pass the ball in the sub-10 degree temperatures, finally got going in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Clint Chelf completed four consecutive passes of 14, 27, 20 and 23 yards, setting up Desmond Roland’s go-ahead touchdown plunge to put the Cowboys up 24-20.

But Oklahoma State left too much time on the clock. And Blake Bell -- the third quarterback to enter the game for the Sooners -- led them back down the field in the final seconds.

Bell appeared to throw a jump-ball interception to Oklahoma State All-American cornerback Justin Gilbert. But as Gilbert landed on the ground, receiver Lacoltan Bester was able to swipe the ball away to turn the play into an incomplete pass.

Moments later, Bell hit Saunders in the corner of the end zone for a seven-yard, game-winning touchdown pass -- the Sooners’ first and only offensive touchdown of the game.

Oklahoma State’s desperation series of laterals resulted in Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker scoring another touchdown, providing Bedlam with an exclamation point.

Player of the game: Bell was clutch but Oklahoma would have never been in the game without Saunders. His punt return touchdown changed the complexion of the game in the first quarter. Saunders’ 37-yard reverse also set up the fake field goal touchdown, when Oklahoma desperately needed a big play. Then, of course, there was the game-winning touchdown catch, too. It was the second time in his career that Saunders had a punt return touchdown and receiving touchdown in the same game. The other time came in Oklahoma’s overtime victory over the Cowboys in 2012.

Stat of the game: Though he was on point late in the fourth quarter, Chelf completed just 2 of 10 passes on third down. Neither of his completions resulted in a first down, and Oklahoma State’s ineffective third-down passing caused several promising drives to stall out.

Quotable: “The feeling in the locker room is a bad feeling right now.” -- Oklahoma State’s running back Roland, immediately after the loss.

The rest of the list:
Each season there are clutch moments that define a season. Dreams come true and nightmares are realized in the span of minutes as key players make critical plays in clutch moments. We decided to take a closer look, thanks to ESPN Stats and Information, to try to determine who are some of those players in the Big 12? Some of these names will surprise while others will seem at home on this list.

Here’s a look at some of the Big 12’s top clutch players in 2013. For this stat-based list, any Big 12 players statistic recorded in the second half during a one-possession game is defined as a clutch statistic. Because sometimes it’s not about the gaudy numbers you’ve put up, it’s about when you put up those numbers.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
J.P. Wilson/Icon SMIIt's easy to forget just how clutch Blake Bell was for the Sooners this season, but OU wouldn't have gone 11-2 without him.
Quarterback Blake Bell, Oklahoma: The junior had his struggles this season but the Sooners wouldn’t have finished 11-2 or even earned a Sugar Bowl berth without him. No Big 12 quarterback performed better in those moments as Bell led the Big 12 with a 86.6 raw QBR in those clutch scenarios. Strong outings against Notre Dame (6 of 7 for 101 yards, TD), Texas Tech (5 of 6 for 72 yards) and Oklahoma State (10 of 16 for 140 yards, TD) earned Bell’s spot on this list. Overall, he was 26 of 38 for 356 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions in the second half during a one possession game this season. Trevor Knight enters the offseason as the hero in Norman, Okla., but Bell’s contributions to OU’s stellar season were second to none.

Quarterback Bryce Petty, Baylor: The Bears didn’t have the same opportunities to be clutch as Sooners’ players did in 2013. Yet, Petty still was clutch and led the Big 12 in touchdowns with six scores in clutch scenarios. He finished 21 of 35 for 344 yards with four touchdown passes and two touchdown runs while finishing with a 76.3 raw QBR, second only to Bell in the Big 12. And he only turned the ball over once, which separated him from Kansas State’s Daniel Sams who also accounted for six touchdowns but turned the ball over an eye-popping seven times in clutch scenarios. Even though he spent the majority of his second halves thinking about his postgame plans, Petty’s 5 of 8 for 63 yards and two touchdowns to help BU secure the Big 12 title against Texas and pretty much cemented his spot on this list as a clutch performer.

Running back Brennan Clay, Oklahoma: The second Sooner on the list speaks to how many close games OU had to win this season. Clay led the Big 12 with 47 carries for 310 yards, 6.6 yards per carry, and two touchdowns in those clutch scenarios. His 76-yard touchdown with the Sooners holding a 13-10 lead over TCU in the fourth quarter helped secure his spot on this list. He also added six carries for 105 yards against West Virginia, helping OU win that close game while Knight struggled against the Mountaineers. He doesn’t come to mind when thinking of the Big 12’s top running backs but Clay could easily be considered the most overlooked contributor to OU’s success in 2013.

Tight end Jace Amaro, Texas Tech: Come on, now, you can’t be surprised to see the Big 12’s top tight end on this list. Amaro had 13 receptions for 232 yards and one touchdown in those clutch situations. His performance against West Virginia (4 receptions, 72 yards, TD) helped cement his spot on this list. In addition eight of those 13 receptions resulted in Red Raider first downs and his 17.85 yards per play from scrimmage led the Big 12. The NFL early entry will be missed in Lubbock, Texas in 2014.

Running back Charles Sims, West Virginia: His 291 yards from scrimmage in those clutch scenarios was third in the Big 12 behind Clay and OU’s Damien Williams. Sims averaged 5.02 yards per play with 240 rushing yards, one touchdown and 51 receiving yards with two scores. His key plays in key moments helped the Mountaineers earn their best wins of the season against OSU (10 touches for 60 yards) and TCU (14 touches for 72 yards, TD). He was easily the Mountaineers’ top offensive threat in 2013, things could have ended up a lot worse without the Houston transfer in WVU's backfield.

Other clutch players who barely missed earning a spot on the list: WR Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma (19 receptions, 244 yards, 3 TDs in 8 games); WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State (12 receptions, 159 yards, 2 TDs in four games); RB Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State (171 rushing yards, 4 total TDs); QB/WR Trevone Boykin, TCU (5 total TDs, 516 yards of total offense); QB Davis Webb, Texas Tech (67.5 raw QBR, 522 passing yards, 5 TD, INT).
With the 2013 season in the books, it's time to begin looking ahead to identify potential breakout performers for 2014.

We could come up with a long list of such Big 12 players, but are limiting ourselves to 10 on each side of the ball. These lists will include players who can take that step into greatness next year, much like Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett, Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro and Baylor’s Antwan Goodley did in 2013.

Players who earned first-team or second-team All-Big 12 honors from either the coaches or the media were not eligible for this list, as the focus is limited to guys who have yet to make that leap.

Below are 10 players to watch on the offensive side of the ball in 2014 (in alphabetical order):

Texas Tech WR Reginald Davis: With Amaro and Eric Ward gone, quarterback Davis Webb will need a new go-to target. Davis, a former ESPN 150 recruit, broke into the starting lineup late in the season. In limited time, Davis displayed big-play talent, turning three of his 15 receptions into touchdowns and returning a kickoff yards for a score in the National University Holiday Bowl against Arizona State. Davis could become a game-breaker on the outside for the Red Raiders.

[+] EnlargeKeith Ford
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiKeith Ford averaged 5.8 yards per carry in 23 rushes as a freshman.
Oklahoma RB Keith Ford: With Brennan Clay and Roy Finch out of eligibility, Ford is set to take over as the starter in the Sooners’ backfield. As a true freshman this season, Ford excelled as a change-of-pace power back, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Fumbling was an issue early in the season. But he corrected that in time to rejoin the rotation for the Alabama game and re-establish himself as the heir apparent at running back.

Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight: There might not have been a player who had a better bowl performance than the one Knight delivered in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Showing off poise, a rocket arm and plenty of wheels, Knight shredded the Alabama defense. Plagued by injuries, Knight still quietly went 5-0 as a freshman starter this season. If he continues to develop, that victory total could skyrocket.

Baylor RB Shock Linwood: When Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin were injured, Linwood showed he could shoulder the rushing load, racking up 182 and 187 yards in back-to-back weeks as the starter. With Seastrunk and Martin gone for good, Linwood will be the featured back next season. He has the skill to put up huge numbers for an entire season.

Baylor WR Levi Norwood: With defensive backfields focused on Goodley, Norwood scored touchdowns in each of Baylor’s final six games. Like the outgoing Tevin Reese, Norwood can fly, and as Goodley’s new full-time wingman in 2014, he's ready to puncture defenses downfield.

Iowa State QB Grant Rohach: Since Seneca Wallace left more than a decade ago, the Cyclones have enjoyed very little stability at quarterback. But late this season, Rohach began to show he just might be the long-term answer, notably rallying the Cyclones from 17 points down to an overtime victory at West Virginia. He’ll have playmakers back around him on the field. Off the field, he'll have a new offensive coordinator in Mark Mangino, who has a track record of putting his quarterbacks in positions to succeed.

[+] EnlargeRoland
Richard Rowe/USA TODAY SportsDesmond Roland found the end zone 13 times in his junior season.
Oklahoma State RB Desmond Roland: Roland helped turn around the Oklahoma State offense in the second half of the season as the starting running back. With Oklahoma State set to break in a new quarterback and replace three starting receivers, Roland will probably have to shoulder an even greater load of the offense, which might not be a bad thing for the Cowboys.

Oklahoma State WR Jhajuan Seales: Seales will be the only returning starter in the Oklahoma State receiving corps with Josh Stewart, Tracy Moore and Charlie Moore all departing. As a redshirt freshman, Seales had moments suggesting he’s capable and close to emerging into a No. 1 receiving threat. He had better be. Plenty of passes will be going his direction next season.

Kansas State QB Jake Waters: The former No. 1 junior-college quarterback recruit found his stride in the second half of the season after struggling early. Waters was a major reason why the Wildcats won six of seven games to close out the season. He had the sixth-best QBR of any bowl-game quarterback, and with wideout Lockett back at his disposal, he could have a banner senior season.

Texas Tech QB Davis Webb: Webb began the season by losing the starting job to a walk-on. He ended it by carving up one of the better defenses in the nation. Webb’s sparkling, 403-yard, four-touchdown performance against Arizona State underscored why the Red Raiders are thrilled going forward at quarterback, even after Baker Mayfield’s surprise transfer.
Oklahoma earned itself a Sugar Bowl berth with its 33-24 win over Oklahoma State in Bedlam on Saturday -- an improbable win for an injury-riddled team. Here are five stats that defined the Sooners' stellar performance in Bedlam:

[+] EnlargeJaz Reynolds
AP Photo/Brody SchmidtA combination of factors allowed the Sooners to celebrate another Bedlam victory.
Blake Bell's 91 raw QBR in the fourth quarter: The junior achieved hero status with his game-winning touchdown drive in the final minutes of the Bedlam win. He was 9 of 14 for 134 yards (9.6 yards per attempt) and one touchdown. He played with a confidence and calm that was missing in OU’s losses to Texas and Baylor. It marked the fourth time Bell has recorded a raw QBR over 90 in the fourth quarter of a game this season (Tulsa, Notre Dame, Texas Tech). Bell’s performance also made the Sooners quarterback of the future decision as murky as it has ever been.

OSU’s yards per play on third down: OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops had his defense ready to go on third down as the Cowboys finished with negative yardage on third down. OSU ran 13 plays for minus-12 yards on third down, an average of minus-0.92 yards per play. The Pokes converted just 2 of 13 third down-conversion attempts. The Sooners secondary was so solid it held Clint Chelf to an raw QBR of 9 on third down after he entered the game leading the Big 12 with a 91.8 QBR on third down plays, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

OU won the turnover battle: The Sooners finished plus-1 in turnover margin after head coach Bob Stoops had repeatedly mentioned the turnover battle heading into Bedlam. True enough the Sooners got their final turnover on OSU’s final desperation play but to play OSU even in the turnover battle through 60 minutes of action changed the game. The Cowboys success this season was largely built upon forcing turnovers, and they fell way short of their four-turnover-per-game goal as the Sooners had one giveaway, a Kendal Thompson interception.

OSU’s 3 yard per carry average in the second half: OU’s run defense buckled down after halftime. OSU had 14 carries for 42 yards and one touchdown in the second half and really couldn’t regain the rhythm it had to open the game. Desmond Roland had nine carries for 34 yards (3.78 ypc) and one touchdown after amassing 12 carries for 110 yards (9.17 ypc) and one touchdown in the first 30 minutes.

OSU’s percentage of drives without a first down or touchdown: The Cowboys entered Bedlam with just 30.5 percent of their drives ending without a first down or touchdown. Against the Sooners, 46.7 percent of their drives ended without a first down or touchdown. Texas Tech, Texas and Baylor, three top 25 teams who suffered November losses to the Pokes, were unable to force more than 30 percent of the Pokes drives to end in that fashion. The Sooners did, and they headed home with another Bedlam victory.
STILLWATER, Okla. -- The ground rumbled and the frozen earth quaked.

And even though the ending was seismic, the result was not.

[+] EnlargeOklahoma Celebration
Richard Rowe/USA TODAY SportsOklahoma State again had to watch the Sooners celebrate a Bedlam win.
Yet again, Oklahoma ripped the heart out of its in-state rival.

Another phenomenal Bedlam victory for the Sooners. Another catastrophic Bedlam loss for the Cowboys.

Despite shuffling through three quarterbacks and not scoring an offensive touchdown until the final 19 seconds, Oklahoma ruined Oklahoma State’s Big 12 title and BCS-bowl hopes with a 33-24 victory Saturday.

“The feeling in the locker room is a bad feeling right now,” Oklahoma State running back Desmond Roland said. “We had it right on the line, and we couldn’t finish it.”

This one, however, was most disastrous in a long line of Bedlam disappointments for the Cowboys.

Oklahoma State had everything on the line this time.

A chance for its second Big 12 title in three years.

A chance at a top-five finish and a Fiesta Bowl berth.

And, perhaps most important, as a double-digit Bedlam favorite for the first time since Vegas began keeping track, the most golden of opportunities at home to send a message that Oklahoma State was finally on equal ground with the Sooners.

Instead, Oklahoma downed the Cowboys in the final seconds for the third time in the past four years.

“A tough one to swallow,” Oklahoma State linebacker Caleb Lavey said.

Maybe the fact a magnitude-4.5 earthquake struck Boone Pickens Stadium just as the Cowboys were attempting a second-quarter field goal should have been a sign. Ben Grogan made the kick. But fate, yet again in this rivalry, would not be wearing orange.

With starting quarterback Trevor Knight out and backup Kendal Thompson erratic, Blake Bell returned from his sarcophagus to lead the Sooners on a game-winning touchdown drive in the final two minutes, capped by a 7-yard scoring strike to Jalen Saunders in the corner of the end zone with 19 seconds remaining.

It was Oklahoma’s first offensive touchdown of the game.

And it was the only one the Sooners would need, as linebacker Eric Striker delivered the exclamation point by scooping up a fumble and returning it for a touchdown as time expired.

“We like to have the pressure on us, the defense,” Lavey said. “That’s something you wish you could have back. But that’s not gonna happen.”

The Cowboys would like to have several plays back.

On their first from scrimmage, Roland broke free around the edge for an apparent 75-yard touchdown. But wideout Charlie Moore was flagged for holding, and the play was called back.

“We didn’t look like the normal Oklahoma State offense,” Roland said. “We moved the ball the whole game, but we couldn’t capitalize. I feel like we could have put up more points than we did.”

The Cowboys entered Bedlam red-hot offensively, especially quarterback Clint Chelf, who had the highest QBR of any signal-caller in the nation in the month of November. But in sub-10-degree temperatures, Chelf lost his rhythm. And he completed just 2 of 10 passes on third down without a conversion against Oklahoma, causing several promising drives to stall out.

“Our mental focus just wasn’t there,” Roland said.

[+] EnlargeRoland
Richard Rowe/USA TODAY SportsThe Sooners' defense and special teams kept Oklahoma in the game.
Eventually, the Sooners took advantage.

Later in the first quarter, with Oklahoma State up 7-0 and seemingly in control, Saunders, who sparked Oklahoma’s fourth-quarter comeback last season with a punt-return touchdown, weaved through defenders before dashing right for a 64-yard punt-return score.

In the third quarter, Oklahoma State regained control. With Knight out with a separated non-throwing shoulder, the Sooners failed to get a first down their first four drives of the half. And when Chelf hit a wide-open Roland for a 15-yard wheel-route touchdown, it looked as if the Cowboys would finally put the game away.

Instead, the Sooners answered again with a 37-yard reverse from Saunders, who took the ball to the Oklahoma State 7. After the drive stalled, Bob Stoops called his first successful fake field goal in 11 years, and holder Grant Bothun flicked the ball on the run to place-kicker Michael Hunnicutt for a touchdown to again tie the game.

“Did Bob make some great calls? You bet,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said of his counterpart. “We lost the kicking game. When you do that, it’s always tough to win.”

The Cowboys, as they have five other times in Bedlam since 2000, lost the final two minutes, too. Ultimately dooming them again.

After going up 24-20 on Roland’s 1-yard touchdown plunge with 1:46 remaining, all the Big 12’s best defense had to do was keep Oklahoma’s third-string quarterback out of the end zone.

Instead, Bell came alive. He found Sterling Shepard for two big pass plays, then forced a defensive pass interference.

For a moment, it looked as if Oklahoma State had made the winning play that had eluded the program in Bedlam for so many years. Justin Gilbert appeared to come down with an interception, but the ball popped out at the last moment, and Gundy didn’t challenge the incompletion.

Five plays later, Oklahoma did what it’s usually done to the Cowboys.

“It hurts,” said Oklahoma State cornerback Kevin Peterson, who originally committed to the Sooners coming out of high school.

“Feels like a missed opportunity.”

Oklahoma State’s biggest Bedlam miss yet.
As the calendar turned to November, the quarterback positions at Oklahoma and Oklahoma State remained fluid. Cowboys quarterback J.W. Walsh and Sooners quarterback Blake Bell had each had their stellar moments, earning player of the week honors at different points in the year, and each quarterback had stumbled in their team’s lone loss.

[+] EnlargeClint Chelf
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsClint Chelf (10) has been a different quarterback since regaining the starting job. He had 15 scores in November.
One month later, both offenses enter the regular season finale with a different level of confidence. And different starting quarterbacks.

Clint Chelf has stepped in for Walsh and played as well as any quarterback in the nation in the last four games. Trevor Knight is coming off back-to-back games in which he has given OU fans a glimpse of the talents that helped him earn the starting quarterback role to start the season. Both quarterbacks began the season as the opening day starter then were replaced for a stretch during the middle of the season before regaining their starting spot.

Their road has been similar but their journey has been much different.

Chelf had plenty of success in 2012, starting the final six games and throwing 14 touchdown passes. He appeared poised to be the man in the Pokes backfield heading into the season. But he lost his starting job within minutes of the opening kickoff against Mississippi State and was left wondering what happened as Walsh started the next five games. Even as OSU played its worst game of the season in a 30-21 loss to West Virginia, Chelf remained on the sidelines helplessly watching. The time on the bench, however, did not change Chelf’s approach.

“He was the same Clint from when he was starting to when he wasn’t starting.” OSU safety Daytawion Lowe said. “Same Clint. Practiced hard, kept the same work ethic. Didn’t slack off any.”

Chelf’s second chance came against TCU, but he was very average while leading OSU to wins over the Horned Frogs and Iowa State. But he’s been a different quarterback in November, leading OSU to wins over Texas Tech, Kansas, Texas and Baylor.

“Whether playing or not, he was always the same,” OSU receiver Charlie Moore said. “Same as he was when he wasn't playing. Now he's making huge plays. That's just who he is. It's been cool to see him persevere, get his shot and do well at it.”

Chelf’s 94.4 adjusted QBR (on a scale of 0-100 with 50 being average) was the best in the nation in the month of November. The senior has proven he can play his best in the Cowboys’ biggest games while helping the offense become more explosive and balanced.

“He kept a positive mindset, and it all worked out for him,” OSU running back Desmond Roland said. “He's been a great role model and leader for our team. And he's taken the offense to another level.”

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesTrevor Knight has improved his passing in recent weeks.
In Norman, Knight’s journey has been much different. The redshirt freshman made his first collegiate start on opening day. It was clearly an overwhelming experience that ultimately resulted in him losing his starting spot to Bell. But while Bell was playing, Knight was improving in practice and preparing like he was still the starter.

“It is tough preparing and knowing that you’re not going to, for sure, be in,” Knight said. “But you gotta have that strong mindset, that thick skin because you never know when your opportunity is going to arise. You have to find stuff to be competitive in when you do get those few reps in practice.”

Thus, the Sooners young quarterback was ready when Bell was knocked out of the game against ISU, stepping in and looking like a completely different player against the Cyclones and looking even better in his first road start, a 41-31 win over Kansas State in OU’s last game.

“You can tell when a player starts to see things clearer,” OU co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. “When you first get to play, you’re excited and everything goes so fast. I think we saw that slow down [against K-State], he was really focused, I think he saw the plays that were coming and had a good idea what he wanted to do against the defense he saw.”

Knight has played his best football in OU’s last two games, with an 86.4 adjusted QBR in wins over ISU and KSU. His QBR ranks second only to Chelf among Big 12 quarterbacks during that span.

Now the two quarterbacks meet in Bedlam playing their best football.

“I think all players, it’s just about getting into a groove,” OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “Once they are more comfortable in who they are, and you can tell by the way they play, they just seem to be more in a rhythm and very comfortable and seeing things very well.”

Big 12 predictions: Week 13

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
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So, I received this email from Charlie “Bear” Boyd, last week’s guest picker:
I do not know how you pulled off that Kansas pick, but you better believe I will be launching an all-out investigation to see if there was any foul play involved. Seriously, though, well done! You were probably one of five people in the known universe who picked Kansas to beat West Virginia. Props where props are due.

I cannot confirm or deny whether foul play was involved. But Charlie is right about one thing -- props are due.

Like Clint Chelf in his return as Oklahoma State’s quarterback, I’m back with a vengeance in the picks following a sparkling 5-0 week. Sources have told ESPN that KU officials are planning to erect statues of both me and Charlie Weis outside Memorial Stadium to commemorate the West Virginia victory.

Can I keep the train rolling against this week’s guest picker, Wichita, Kan., resident Drew Hays?
Hey, I’m currently wrapping up my masters in sports management at Wichita State, however I graduated undergrad at Oklahoma State in 2012. I currently work in baseball, for an American Association Independent Baseball team called the Wichita Wingnuts (#GoNuts)! Currently, we are in our offseason, which means I get to sit around the house all-day on Saturday's doing nothing but watching football. You were one of two people that had the Jayhawks winning last weekend (very impressive pick I might add) -- my girlfriend was the other one. As a big Jayhawks fan, she likes to constantly remind me that her team beat the team that beat my team. So pick this Wingnut as your guest picker, so I can silence my girlfriend (until Marcus Smart does backflips again in Allen Fieldhouse).

Good luck silencing your girlfriend, Drew. Hope you have better luck than me with my wife (don’t worry, I got permission before writing that).

This weekend, Brandon and I will be in Stillwater manning the game of the week in college football. It should be a good one.

To the Week 12 picks:

SEASON RECORD

Trotter last week: 5-0 (1.000)

Guest picker (Charlie “Bear”) last week: 4-1 (.800)

Trotter overall: 52-15 (.776)

Guest picker overall: 38-12 (.760)

Kansas State 31, Oklahoma 24: An early start with a freshman quarterback (Trevor Knight) with two more key offensive players (RB Damien Williams and WR Lacoltan Bester) out against a well-coached team? This is a tough spot for the Sooners. K-State is on a roll and playing with confidence, while 13 weeks into the season, Oklahoma is still trying to find its footing offensively. Even if QB Trevor Knight shines again, which he does, the Sooners lack the adequate firepower around him to keep up. Instead, K-State drops off 30 for the fifth straight week to thwart Bob Stoops’ attempt to break the Oklahoma record for coaching victories. With a road trip to Stillwater and the bowl game (Holiday Bowl?) all that’s remaining, it could be awhile before Stoops breaks that record, too.

Drew’s pick: Did anyone honestly think I would pick the dark side? The Cats are hot right now, and while the Sooners won’t make this easy, Jack Cantele nails another fourth-quarter field goal to start the party in Aggieville. K-State, 30-27



Kansas 28, Iowa State 24: Usually this time of year, the Jayhawks are the only ones in full basketball mode. But last week, Iowa State fans stormed the court after a home victory over Michigan (come on, guys, it’s November). Then again, given how south this season has gone in Ames, it’s understandable. Meanwhile, James Sims shows again why he’s one of the best running backs in the Big 12, while QB Montell Cozart makes enough plays with his feet to give Kansas -- that’s right -- the third-longest winning streak in the Big 12.

Drew’s pick: As an OSU fan, seeing anyone play a night game at Jack Trice Stadium makes me feel queasy. I don’t expect a repeat performance from Sims from last week, and Iowa State holds on for its first Big 12 win. This pick ensures I will be in the doghouse with my girlfriend for at least a week, but probably longer. Iowa State, 24-17



Baylor 49, Oklahoma State 45: Baylor coach Art Briles said this week that the Bears have played in comparable road environments this season. In actuality, Baylor has only played at Kansas State during the day and Kansas at night. A sold-out Stillwater, with “College GameDay” in town, will be a completely different animal. Especially against these Cowboys, who seem to be improving with every passing week. Especially against this veteran Oklahoma State defense, which is the class of the Big 12. This Baylor offense, however, is the class of college football. And with Levi Norwood emerging at wideout and Lache Seastrunk back to flank Shock Linwood in the backfield, the Bears outgun Oklahoma State in a Big 12 thriller to solidify their No. 3 ranking ahead of Ohio State in the BCS standings.

Drew’s pick: First, I would like to thank the Baylor faithful for returning almost your entire ticket allotment back to OSU. This will only make Boone Pickens Stadium louder. Behind the home crowd, "Choo-Choo" Chelf and Desmond Roland establish the run game early and the Oklahoma State defense keeps forcing turnovers, as the Cowboys prevail in another wild Stillwater shootout. OSU, 45-42

Big 12 predictions: Week 11

November, 7, 2013
11/07/13
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Welp, it finally happened. I finally lost to a guest picker. And to a 14-year-old, no less. Thanks, Caymen. I thought you weren’t going to embarrass me?

Anyway, this reporter’s pride is on the line again. This week’s guest picker submission:

My name is Claire Stallings and I would love to one day be a guest picker for you. It’s about time a lady shows these men how to pick a perfect week! I love the Big 12 and of course Baylor. I worked for the team all through college and I am that girl who knows more about Baylor football than most of the men on campus. I think it would be interesting to throw a girl into the “man’s world.” Don’t worry, I can hold my own. #GirlPower

The last time a girl challenged me to something, I was destroyed by my wife in a 5K. So this is my shot at redemption. #BringTheNoiseClaire.

Tonight, Max and national writer Mark Schlabach will be in Waco for Oklahoma-Baylor. Saturday, Brandon will drive to Stillwater to check out Kansas-Oklahoma State. Due to my horrific picking, I've been benched for the weekend.

To the Week 11 picks:

SEASON RECORD

Trotter last week: 2-2 (.500)

Guest picker (14-year-old Caymen) last week: 3-1 (.750)

Trotter overall: 43-14 (.754)

Guest picker overall: 29-11 (.725)

THURSDAY

Baylor 52, Oklahoma 34: The Sooners’ best chance in this game is to pound the ball, wear out the clock and keep Baylor’s high-powered offense on the sidelines. But without star fullback Trey Millard, I’m skeptical OU can pull off such a game plan. The Sooners have no viable tight end, and none of their other fullbacks are capable receiving threats off play-action. OU’s remaining firepower keeps the game interesting into the second half. But a Sooners defense playing two freshman linebackers finally capitulates to the overwhelming speed of the Baylor offense, as the Bears make a statement they belong in the national title picture.

Claire’s pick: The media (including you, Jake) keeps saying K-State laid out the blueprint on how to beat Baylor, but then again, Mack Brown made it clear that OU is far from invincible. Between Baylor’s dynamic receiving duo, Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese, along with Lache Seastrunk and Bryce Petty’s Heisman-worthy performances, this pick was easy. #GoingTarpless. Baylor 56-35

SATURDAY

West Virginia 26, Texas 23: I find it strange the voters still haven’t put Texas back in the Top 25 polls. I actually had the Longhorns ranked 14th in the ESPN power ranking, the highest of the 19 voters in the ESPN poll. But this is a tough spot for Texas. West Virginia has been a far better team in Morgantown than away from it. The Mountaineers also have a ton of momentum from last week’s comeback overtime win over TCU, with a bowl appearance in their sights. Texas QB Case McCoy comes back to earth a bit and the Longhorns get caught peeking ahead to next week’s clash with Oklahoma State, as Charles Sims runs wild again to hand Texas its first Big 12 loss.

Claire’s pick: The Horns will win if they keep the ball with Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray. But they have to make sure Case doesn’t make too many mistakes on the road. If they are not careful, West Virginia will upset Texas, just like they did to OSU. #TexasStayawayfromBriles. Texas 31-28

Kansas State 37, Texas Tech 34: With receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson back in the fold, the Wildcats are finally firing on all cylinders offensively. QBs Daniel Sams and Jake Waters have been terrific lately, and, much to Bill Snyder’s satisfaction, have been taking care of the ball, too. Tech has had a great run. But turnover-prone teams usually don’t fare well against Snyder-coached teams, and only six offenses in college football have turned the ball over more times than the Red Raiders. As a result, K-State continues its late-season push and hands Tech a third straight defeat.

Claire’s pick: I grew up in a Tech-loving family from Midland, Texas. I have lost sleep over this pick, and I may lose friends and a chunk of my inheritance after this is published. Unfortunately, the clock has struck midnight for Cinderella, and they are beginning to look reminiscent of last year’s West Virginia squad. #SorryDad. K-State 38-35

TCU 19, Iowa State 13: Will either side have enough players left to actually stage the game? Iowa State figures to be without running back Aaron Wimberly, who’s been its best offensive player, and could be without QB Sam B. Richardson, too. TCU cornerback Jason Verrett and running back B.J. Catalon are questionable on a team that also will be missing running back Waymon James and receiver Brandon Carter. The difference in this game proves to be TCU QB Casey Pachall, who finally showed signs of returning to his old self last week.

Claire’s pick: This is the “Battle of Who Could Care Less” between two struggling teams. TCU’s players are dropping like flies. TCU barely wins, but for sure is not making a bowl. #NotYallsYear #ByeFelicia. TCU 14-10

Oklahoma State 55, Kansas 9: Kansas has been hanging tough in Big 12 play. That ends here. The Cowboys have finally found their identity offensively with Clint Chelf at QB and the tough-running Desmond Roland at tailback. Oklahoma State keeps rolling in its return to the thick of the Big 12 title race.

Claire’s pick: I have always liked Kansas -- they have great school colors for game-day outfits. But that is all they have. Chelf is a real threat and the Cowboys' backfield has exploded these past few games -- they might actually steal the Big 12 title right out of Baylor’s little paws. #ButPleaseDont. Oklahoma State 56-14

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 10

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
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And then there were four in the conference race:

1. Baylor (7-0, 4-0 Big 12, last week: 1): The Bears have been complaining about a lack of national respect. Thursday night against Oklahoma, they have their chance to gain that respect. It should be noted, though, that Baylor has never played in a game with major conference and national title implications on the line -- and the whole country watching. The Sooners have played in dozens of these games. Are the Bears ready to shine in the spotlight? We’re about to find out.

2. Oklahoma State (7-1, 4-1 Big 12, last week: 5): Look who’s back in the thick of the Big 12 title conversation. On Saturday, the Cowboys delivered the most impressive Big 12 win of any team this season, dominating Texas Tech before a record crowd in Lubbock. Behind linebackers Caleb Lavey and Shaun Lewis, the OSU defense continues to perform at a high level, as they limited Tech to just three touchdowns in 17 possessions. The OSU offense is now beginning to click, too, with QB Clint Chelf making the big plays he did down the stretch like last season and backs Desmond Roland and Rennie Childs reviving the running game. The Cowboys are the only contender that get Baylor at home, and they have dominated the Bears in Stillwater. OSU still has to go to Austin on Nov. 16. But the Cowboys just proved they can win big games on the road.

3. Texas (6-2, 5-0 Big 12, last week: 2): It wasn’t a work of art, but Texas took care of business against Kansas. Next up is a sneaky-tough road game in Morgantown. West Virginia has been a much tougher team at home. The Mountaineers knocked off Oklahoma State and led Texas Tech by double digits in the second half before succumbing in the fourth quarter. West Virginia will also be playing with plenty of momentum after its overtime win at TCU. A showdown with Oklahoma State in Austin looms the following weekend. But Texas needs to escape Morgantown first.

4. Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1 Big 12, last week: 3): After struggling in conference play, Blake Bell seemed to turn a corner with a determined performance in last week’s win over the Red Raiders. To have any chance of scoring with Baylor, the Sooners are going to need a similar effort from their quarterback. The running game should be able to pile up yards. And the OU secondary will give Baylor’s speedy receivers their biggest challenge yet. But to pull off the upset as double-digit underdogs in Waco, Bell will have to make the same kind of throws downfield he delivered against Tech.

5. Texas Tech (7-2, 4-2 Big 12, last week: 4): Considering the Red Raiders were picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 in the preseason, this has already been a banner first season for coach Kliff Kingsbury. But the past two weeks, Tech’s flaws have been exposed. The defense hasn’t been able to stop the run without overloading the box. True freshman QB Davis Webb is making true freshman mistakes. And the depth doesn’t seem to be there for Tech to be sound covering punts and kicks. This is still a good team. But as it turned out, just not yet good enough to contend for the conference title.

6. Kansas State (4-4, 2-3 Big 12, last week: 6): Since the return of receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson, the Wildcats have featured an efficiently balanced offensive attack. K-State threw for 221 yards and ran for 227 while picking apart Iowa State’s defense. The K-State run defense has been excellent the past month, too. This is not a team anyone will want to face this last month of the season.

7. West Virginia (4-5, 2-4 Big 12, last week: 7): What a win for Dana Holgorsen’s bunch. The Mountaineers seemed to be dead in the water after falling behind 17-3 in Fort Worth. But behind running back Charles Sims and an eight-minute stretch where the Mountaineers forced TCU into three turnovers in five plays, West Virginia emerged with a crucial overtime victory. Had the Mountaineers lost, more questions would have surfaced about Holgorsen’s status in Morgantown. Instead, West Virginia is in great shape to make a bowl game, which would be a solid season for a team that had to replace Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.

8. TCU (3-6, 1-5 Big 12, last week: 8): When does basketball season start? Wait, nevermind.

9. Iowa State (1-7, 0-5 Big 12, last week: 9): The Cyclones have not posed much of a threat offensively when running back Aaron Wimberly has not been in the lineup. If they can get him back from a hamstring injury, they could still pick up a couple of Big 12 wins down the stretch, which would give this program some momentum heading into next season.

10. Kansas (2-6, 0-5 Big 12, last week: 10): The Jayhawks have not rolled over in Big 12 play, which has to be an encouraging sign for coach Charlie Weis. It would be huge for the program for that effort to manifest tangibly in the form of an actual win. If Kansas keeps playing hard, it just might get it.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 10

October, 31, 2013
10/31/13
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Here’s what to watch in the Big 12 for Week 10.

Will Texas Tech rebound after losing to the Sooners? Kliff Kingsbury’s squad pulled out all the stops in their 38-30 setback in Norman. Fake punt returns, halfback passes, onside kicks, nothing was left on the table. Yet, they still lost. It had to be deflating for the Red Raiders. But TTU comes back home to Lubbock with the realization that its Big 12 title hopes remain intact with Oklahoma State, Texas and Baylor remaining on their schedule. If they simply win out and get some help with another conference loss by the Sooners, their title hopes would be well within reach.

Will Oklahoma State remind people it remains in the Big 12 title hunt? The Cowboys still control their destiny with the rest of the top half of the league still on their schedule. OSU can send a message that it has been forgotten during discussions about the Big 12 with a road win in a tough night environment in Lubbock. Multiple starters remain from the 2011 Big 12 title squad so don’t expect the Cowboys to sit back and watch the title be decided without having their say.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports
Can Texas look dominant for the third game in a row? The Longhorns still have doubters thanks to their stumbling, bumbling start to the season. Yet they sit at the top of the Big 12 standings unbeaten in conference play alongside Baylor and have been as impressive as any team in the league during their past two games. If they come out and hammer Kansas, it will display the type of consistency that tends to be a trait of championship squads.

Will Roland keep rollin’? OSU running back Desmond Roland set a career high with 219 rushing yards and four touchdowns in his first collegiate start. What will he do as an encore against a Red Raider defense that has allowed 460 rushing yards in their past two games? TTU will likely try to take the running game away and force Clint Chelf to beat them with his arm.

Who will be the best running back on the turf at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium? Texas’ Johnathan Gray (93.71 rushing yards per game) and Kansas’ James Sims (84.14 ypg) sit at No. 2 and 3 among the Big 12 leaders for rushing yards per game behind Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk (124.14). Clearly, Gray has more help as he strives to make plays but Sims did rush for 176 yards against the Longhorns last season. It should be fun to see two of the Big 12’s top running backs in action on the same field.

How strong is OSU’s defense? The Cowboys are, statistically, one of the best defensive units seen in Stillwater in recent memory. Yet they haven’t seen anything like they will see against Texas Tech on Saturday. The Red Raiders feature a bag full of tricks and receiving corps full of treats unlike any other in the conference. Jace Amaro is an automatic mismatch, Eric Ward can make teams pay for leaving him in one-on-one situations, Jakeem Grant is slippery and fast and Bradley Marquez will hit you with a big play when you least expect it. Few envy the task of Cowboys’ defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer this weekend.

Can Kansas State’s two-quarterback system continue to excel? Each week Bill Snyder is asked about his two-quarterback system and the Wildcats’ head coach commonly responds by saying both guys are good players who can help his team win. While far from colorful, his consistent message is dead-on accurate. Daniel Sams has caused havoc for Big 12 defenses all season and when West Virginia came out with a plan to stop Sams, Jake Waters promptly made the Mountaineers’ pay with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to spark KSU’s win. There's no reason to think the two-quarterback system won't continue to excel against Iowa State on Saturday.

Can WVU finally finish? Every week the Mountaineers show more and more signs that they are starting to find a rhythm. While many are quick to brush WVU off, the Mountaineers would have beaten Tech and K-State if they made key plays when it mattered in the fourth quarter. If they ever finally learn how to finish, they could finish the season with a strong final month, starting Saturday at TCU.

Will Casey Pachall look better in his second game back? Pachall didn’t look like the savior against Texas in his first game back from injury last Saturday but he still represents the biggest reason for hope as TCU tries to battle its way into a bowl game. If he looks like a healthy and confident Pachall against WVU and leads the Horned Frogs' offense to a high-scoring output, it would be hard to bet against Gary Patterson’s squad finding its way into a bowl game.

Someone help Quenton Bundrage: No, seriously, anyone? Bundrage keeps finding ways to make an impact on games despite not having another consistent threat alongside him in Iowa State’s offense. The Cyclones have been ravaged by injuries, but it would be interesting to see what the sophomore could do with someone alongside him forcing defenses to account for them. Regardless, Bundrage is a name to watch against KSU on Saturday.
Thanks for the questions during my chat everyone, you can read the full transcript here.

Trevor (Miami, FL) Which do you prefer: A team that wins all its games or one with losses but lots of "style points"?

Brandon Chatmon Winning is all that I care about.




Drew (Houston) What do you see being the biggest matchup in the BU vs OU game? OU's secondary against Baylor's speedy receivers? OU's front seven against BU's rushing attack? OU's RBs against Baylor's front seven? What group in your opinion will be the difference-makers in this game? I know we still have a week ... but I think we can all say we are very excited for this game, best B12 game so far this season.

Brandon Chatmon I'm looking forward to this game as well, Drew. I think the game will be decided by OU's front seven against Baylor's running game. Lache Seastrunk and the BU rushing attack make the whole offense go in my opinion.




Steve (Ardmore) Chances OU will be able to run the ball/control the clock well enough to hold the Bears under 40 points?

Brandon Chatmon If K-State did it, why can't OU? Just because the game is in Waco?




Eric (Midland ) Brandon, How do you think Tech's run defense will handle Desmond Roland and Oklahoma State's run scheme after Oklahoma exposed them last week.

Brandon Chatmon That's the big question. I think they will handle it better than last week. I think their defensive line will have more success against OSU OL than it had against OU's line. OSU has had issues along its offensive front for the entire season, I think TTU can take advantage of that.




Louis (Ft. Worth) Who has to step up the most on defense for Oklahoma to beat Baylor next week?

Brandon Chatmon Eric Striker.




Manny Diaz (Unemployment line) Was I that bad of coach? The Longhorns are now, through the past few games, one of the best defenses in the league and with me ... well, you know. What was I doing wrong?

Brandon Chatmon Looks like it. But you aren't the first coach who tried to make the game harder than it needed to be. You have a BUNCH of friends in that camp.




Kris (Dallas) Do you think Kliff Kingsbury should have pulled Davis Webb and put in Baker Mayfield or even Michael Brewer coming out of halftime?

Brandon Chatmon Do you? If so why? I thought Davis handled himself well. It strikes me as odd that Tech fans seem to always be trying to replace their quarterback when they're about to enter November with one loss in the first season with a new coach. ... Lofty expectations in Lubbock, I suppose.

Big 12 fantasy football: Week 9

October, 29, 2013
10/29/13
3:00
PM ET
Just because Brandon Chatmon had Jake Heaps and the now-benched J.W. Walsh as his quarterbacks didn’t stop him from putting up big points and earning a Week 9 win in our Big 12 fantasy football league.

Led by breakout performances from receivers Tyler Lockett of Kansas State and Oklahoma’s Jalen Saunders, Brandon put up 136 points and earned his third win of the season. The Oklahoma State defense also came up big with 21 points.

And he got 7 points from Heaps, who he has since dropped. Next week, he’ll roll with either Clint Chelf or Casey Pachall at QB.

Jake Trotter finished second with 122 thanks to big games from Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, Texas Tech receiver Eric Ward and OU running back Damien Williams. He might’ve won the week if not for a zero-point performance from the TCU defense.

In last place was my team with 108, despite a big showing from Tech quarterback Davis Webb. Refusing to sign a new tight end -- because there aren’t many others worth signing -- has not been a smart move.

The highest-scoring Big 12 player in Week 9 was OSU running back Desmond Roland with 45 points. That was a big surprise, but guess who was the No. 1 fantasy quarterback in the nation this weekend? SMU’s Garrett Gilbert, with a whopping 58 points.

Here’s how our rosters fared in Week 9:

Brandon Chatmon’s Team

QB Jake Heaps, KU -- 7
RB Lache Seastrunk, BAY -- 16
RB Johnathan Gray, TEX -- 9
FLEX Jakeem Grant, TTU -- 16
WR Tyler Lockett, KSU -- 29
WR Jalen Saunders, OU -- 27
TE Jimmay Mundine, KU -- 3
D Oklahoma State defense -- 21
K Michael Hunnicutt, OU -- 8
Total: 136

Jake Trotter’s Team

QB Bryce Petty, BAY -- 31
RB Damien Williams, OU -- 24
RB Charles Sims, WVU -- 9
FLEX Brennan Clay, OU -- 4
WR Eric Ward, TTU -- 22
WR Sterling Shepard, OU -- 4
TE Jace Amaro, TTU -- 11
DEF TCU defense -- 0
K Aaron Jones, BAY -- 11
Total: 122

Max Olson’s Team

QB Davis Webb, TTU -- 23
RB John Hubert, KSU -- 15
RB Kenny Williams, TTU -- 13
FLEX James Sims, KU -- 7
WR Tevin Reese, BAY -- 23
WR Kevin White, WVU -- 5
TE Blake Jackson, OSU -- 0
DEF Baylor defense - 10
K Anthony Fera, Texas -- 12
Total: 108

Season Leaderboard

1. Max: 979
2. Jake: 970
3. Brandon: 868

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