Oklahoma Sooners: Ford Childress

Final Big 12 Power Rankings

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
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The final power rankings of the 2013 season:

1. Oklahoma (11-2, 7-2 Big 12, last week 2): Where did this team come from? The Sooners seemed dead in the water after a 29-point loss at Baylor in early November. Instead, Oklahoma finished out the season by reeling off four straight wins, including the last three as the underdog. The Sooners saved their best performance for last, wiping out two-time defending national champ Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Crimson Tide didn't even play poorly. Oklahoma was just that good.

2. Baylor (11-2, 8-1 Big 12, LW 1): The Bears just weren’t quite the same team at the end of the season. With an outright Big 12 title, it was still a terrific season, even if the bowl game was not so terrific.

3. Oklahoma State (10-3, 7-2 Big 12, LW 3): The Cowboys finished with two brutal losses. The season was still a good one, but it could have been a great one. With several key players graduating, 2014 figures to be a rebuilding season.

4. Kansas State (8-5, 5-4 Big 12, LW 5): The Wildcats broke Bill Snyder’s bowl game losing streak by hammering Michigan while also continuing the momentum build for 2014. With star wideout Tyler Lockett back, K-State should be a legitimate title contender next season.

5. Texas (8-5, 7-2 Big 12, LW 4): New coach Charlie Strong is putting together an impressive coaching staff, notably plucking away Oklahoma State’s Joe Wickline, who is one of the best offensive line coaches in the country. If the Longhorns can find a quarterback, Strong might have Texas back ahead of schedule.

6. Texas Tech (8-5, 4-5 Big 12, LW 6): What five-game losing streak? The tenor in Lubbock has completely changed following the Red Raiders' pummeling of No. 14 Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl.

7. TCU (4-8, 2-7 Big 12, LW 7): Coach Gary Patterson has overhauled his offensive staff with expectations of bringing a more high-powered offense to Fort Worth. The Frogs will need to find a quarterback who can run the attack, but they do have a pair of blue-chip freshmen arriving in Grayson Muehlstein and Foster Sawyer.

8. Iowa State (3-9, 2-7 Big 12, LW 8): Iowa State missed out on a bowl game, but optimism has returned to Ames with the hiring of offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, who will have some talented pieces with which to work.

9. Kansas (3-9, 1-8 Big 12, LW 9): Joy has returned to Lawrence, Kan. It’s basketball season!

10. West Virginia (4-8, 2-7 Big 12, LW 10): The Mountaineers have hope that newcomers William Crest or Skyler Howard can be the answer at quarterback. We know it won’t be Ford Childress, who reportedly left school.

Big 12 lunchtime links

January, 13, 2014
Jan 13
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I feel for Wes Welker having to wear this helmet. He still scored a TD Sunday.
Immediately after the national championship game, colleague Mark Schlabach released his Way-Too-Early Top 25. In concert, below is our Way-Too-Early Big 12 power poll. This could change between now and the end of the spring. In fact, it probably will. But this is a first look at how the Big 12 teams stack up against one another for 2014:

1. Oklahoma Sooners

In the Allstate Sugar Bowl, freshman Trevor Knight finally played like the quarterback that had been drawing comparisons to Johnny Manziel behind Oklahoma’s closed practices. The Sooners lose some cornerstone players to graduation, notably running back Brennan Clay, center Gabe Ikard, receiver Jalen Saunders and cornerback Aaron Colvin. But with Knight and budding running back Keith Ford returning to man the backfield, and nine starters coming back defensively, including menacing outside linebacker Eric Striker, Oklahoma could be a favorite in every game next season -- and a force once again on the national stage.

2. Baylor Bears

Even with running back Lache Seastrunk going pro, the Bears return plenty of firepower offensively. Bryce Petty will be the reigning All-Big 12 quarterback, and Antwan Goodley will be coming off a monster junior season. Rising sophomore Shock Linwood showed he could shoulder the rushing load, too, when Seastrunk and Glasco Martin were banged up late in the season. The Bears, however, could take a step back defensively. Baylor, which got torched for 52 points in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, loses six starters there, including All-American safety Ahmad Dixon and All-Big 12 linebacker Eddie Lackey. Former blue-chip defensive tackle recruit Andrew Billings will need to step up and become more of a force. Even if the defense stumbles, Baylor should be capable of scoring enough points to win every game on its schedule, thanks to coach Art Briles being back on its sidelines.

3. Kansas State Wildcats

Along with Missouri, the Wildcats were the first two teams left out of Schlabach’s Top 25. But they make a compelling case for inclusion. Quarterback Jake Waters improved dramatically during the second half of the season, eventually squeezing Daniel Sams out of the QB rotation. Wideout Tyler Lockett could be a preseason All-American, after torching Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan for a combined 631 receiving yards and six touchdowns. The defense should be better, too, with sack artist Ryan Mueller back at end, and rising junior safety Dante Barnett set to take over for the outgoing Ty Zimmerman as leader of the secondary. The Wildcats will be tested early with national runner-up Auburn visiting Manhattan on Sept. 20. If K-State can win that game, the rest of the Big 12 will be on notice.

4. Texas Longhorns

During his introductory news conference on Monday, new Texas coach Charlie Strong said Mack Brown left him with a team that could win right away. Strong might be right. The Longhorns return eight starters off a defense that found its stride under interim coordinator Greg Robinson. Texas also brings back six starters offensively and its entire running back corps, including Malcolm Brown, who rushed for more than 100 yards in the Valero Alamo Bowl. A big part of Mack Brown’s downfall, however, was quarterback play, and that once again will be a huge question mark in Strong’s first season. David Ash sat out most of this season with concussion issues, making his football future tenuous. Tyrone Swoopes is athletic with a big arm but needs polish. The other option will be incoming freshman Jerrod Heard, who just led his high school team to a Texas state championship. If one of those three emerges, Strong could have Texas on the way back ahead of schedule.

5. Oklahoma State Cowboys

The Cowboys were 19 seconds away from playing in a BCS bowl game. But two losses to end the year soured what could have been a stellar season. Now, Oklahoma State must replace the bulk of its team, including quarterback Clint Chelf and seven starters defensively. Star slot receiver Josh Stewart is also reportedly mulling over leaving early, too. Either way, 2014 will be a retooling season for coach Mike Gundy, whose first order of business will be settling on a quarterback. J.W. Walsh, who started the first half of the season before losing the job back to Chelf, would have to be considered the favorite. But Gundy has shown before he’s not afraid of turning the keys of the offense to a true freshman, and the Cowboys have an intriguing freshman QB enrolling for the spring in Mason Rudolph, who threw 64 touchdown passes this fall as a high school senior in South Carolina. That could result in some growing pains for Oklahoma State, which opens the season against defending national champion Florida State. But if Rudolph proves to be the long-term answer at QB, it shouldn’t be more than a year before the Cowboys are contending in the Big 12 again.

6. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Texas Tech completely changed the tenor of its offseason with a dominating 37-23 win over Pac-12 South Division champ Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl. Finally healthy again, the Red Raiders showed they were better than a five-game losing streak to end the regular season indicated. Now, Tech returns eight starters offensively, including quarterback Davis Webb, who torched the Sun Devils and had several other encouraging moments as a true freshman. Tech has to replace most of its defense. But if Webb settles in at quarterback, the Red Raiders should be improved in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s second season in Lubbock.

7. TCU Horned Frogs

TCU was the 2013 preseason pick of many people to win the Big 12. Instead, injuries ravaged the roster, and the Horned Frogs failed to go to a bowl game for just second time with Gary Patterson as coach. Patterson shook up his offensive staff after the season, bringing in Houston’s Doug Meacham and Texas Tech’s Sonny Cumbie as co-coordinators to revamp TCU’s offensive attack. TCU should be stout again defensively, especially if 2012 Big 12 defensive freshman of the year Devonte Fields returns to form from a broken foot. But the key to a better season will be whether Meacham and Cumbie can squeeze more offense out of the Horned Frogs and find the answer at quarterback. The answer, however, might not be on campus yet. Trevone Boykin has 15 career QB starts, but is probably a better fit as a receiver. Meanwhile, TCU’s top incoming recruits, Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein, are both quarterbacks, and could factor into the wide-open competition.

8. Iowa State Cyclones

Even though Iowa State just finished in the bottom three of the Big 12 in points per game (24.8), yards per game (363), yards per play (4.82), rushing yards (143.8) and passing yards (219.2), the Cyclones return some offensive firepower. Tailback Aaron Wimberly was effective when healthy, and Quenton Bundrage flashed signs of a legit No. 1 receiver. The key will be QB, and whether Grant Rohach builds on his late-season surge. But with a proven offensive coordinator in Mark Mangino now on board, the Cyclones have the pieces to form one of the better offenses in the league next season.

9. West Virginia Mountaineers

The Mountaineers careened off the road late this season with back-to-back losses to Kansas and Iowa State. Now, the pressure is on coach Dana Holgorsen, who will have to win games to keep his job even though the 2014 schedule is brutal. Like so many other teams in the Big 12, West Virginia must find a solution at quarterback. Holgorsen has options. Clint Trickett, Paul Millard and Ford Childress are all back after getting at least two starts apiece last year. Junior-college transfer Skyler Howard will be enrolling early and joining the fray. Four-star recruit William Crest will be in the mix, too. Even if Holgorsen finds his answer at quarterback, a winning season won’t come easy. The Mountaineers have one of the toughest schedules in the country, beginning with the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game against Alabama in Atlanta.

10. Kansas Jayhawks

Kansas showed only modest improvement in Charlie Weis’ second season as head coach. This will be a key season for Weis as he attempts to rebuild the program. He desperately needs Montell Cozart to develop into the answer at quarterback. Cozart still has a ways to go with his passing, but he showed he could hurt defenses with his legs. Defensively, the Jayhawks bring back some solid players, notably linebackers Ben Goodman and Ben Heeney and safety Isaiah Johnson. But Kansas will take the next step only if Cozart -- or somebody else -- emerges at quarterback.

Ranking the Big 12's top 25 quarterbacks

October, 29, 2013
10/29/13
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Naming the best quarterback in the Big 12 is easy. Deciding who's second-best right now is near-impossible. So we went a step further: Why not rank them all?

This continues to be been a strange, unpredictable year for Big 12 quarterbacks. We’ve already seen 18 start at least two games. Only three schools -- Baylor, Kansas and Iowa State -- have started the same guy for every game, and even they've used multiple quarterbacks.

The following rankings judged how these QBs are playing right now as well as their full 2013 resumes. Deciding where to slot injured passers was tricky. You might not agree with all or any of these rankings, but this is how we'd size up the competition after nine weeks:

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesConsidering how well he's run Baylor's high-scoring offense and the fact he leads the Big 12 in nearly every passing statistic, there is no debate that Bryce Petty is the Big 12's top QB.
1. Bryce Petty, Baylor: Best passer in the Big 12 by nearly every statistical measure, first in FBS in yards per attempt, TD-INT ratio of 18-1 and it's only his first season of starting. The gap between No. 1 and everyone else on this list right now is tremendous. -- Max Olson

2. Case McCoy, Texas: The career backup has been a huge part of Texas' resurgence. In wins over Oklahoma and TCU, McCoy has Adjusted QBRs of 83.9 and 95.4. -- Jake Trotter

3. Davis Webb, Texas Tech: Webb hasn’t been perfect but he’s averaging 420.67 passing yards and 5.67 completions of 20 yards or more in TTU’s past three games. He’s been very solid for a true freshman. -- Brandon Chatmon

4. Daniel Sams, Kansas State: He might be too high at No. 4, but Sams is the best athlete of the bunch and already has 538 rushing yards on just 100 carries. Still has plenty to prove as a passer. -- MO

5. Blake Bell, Oklahoma: Great against Texas Tech and Notre Dame, bad against Texas. Has promising moments as a passer, firm grasp on the job and a chance to prove he's league's second-best QB. -- MO

6. Baker Mayfield, Texas Tech: The walk-on made waves while leading the Red Raiders to a 5-0 start before a knee injury sidelined him, but he threw more interceptions than touchdowns in his final three starts before the injury. -- BC

7. Clint Chelf, Oklahoma State: Chelf finally has the job again, but he'll have to complete more passes to keep it. His completion percentage this year is less than 50 percent. -- JT

8. David Ash, Texas: Ash is throwing again, and could be cleared to return soon. But will he resume his starting role? The way McCoy is performing, probably not. -- JT

9. J.W. Walsh, Oklahoma State: His combination of moxie and leadership is hard to deny but his struggles connecting on deep passes led to Chelf replacing him in the starting lineup. He remains a valuable piece as the disposal of Mike Gundy’s squad, however. -- BC

10. Jake Waters, Kansas State: Juco transfer is starting to get the hang of Big 12 ball and his own offense, and coming off an impressive showing against West Virginia. -- MO

11. Casey Pachall, TCU: Pachall has only played in seven games over the last two seasons. It would be difficult for anyone to overcome that level of rust. -- JT

12. Clint Trickett, West Virginia: Trickett’s season has mimicked the roller coaster nature of WVU’s offense, but he did lead the Mountaineers to a win over Oklahoma State, the highlight of their season. -- BC

13. Seth Russell, Baylor: Getting mop-up time and experience in every game this season and has 427 yards on 60 percent passing. Would he start for a couple Big 12 teams? -- MO

14. Sam B. Richardson, Iowa State: Richardson has been banged up all year, and it's shown. At some point, the Cyclones may be forced to go with the healthier option in Grant Rohach. -- JT

15. Jake Heaps, Kansas: The BYU transfer just can’t seem to find any confidence or rhythm for the Jayhawks passing attack, forcing Charlie Weis to start drastically experimenting with KU’s offense. -- BC

16. Trevone Boykin, TCU: Dual-threat sophomore has his moments, but five touchdowns and nine turnovers in 2013. Back to backing up Pachall and could play some receiver. -- MO

17. Trevor Knight, Oklahoma: Knight won the job out of camp, but lost it to Bell two games in after moving the chains ineffectively. Bell's performance against Texas Tech means Knight will remain on the sidelines. -- JT

18. Michael Brewer, Texas Tech: Generally expected to be the Red Raiders starter heading into fall camp, Brewer has been surpassed by the true freshman quarterbacks. -- BC

19. Paul Millard, West Virginia: Started first two games for the Mountaineers before losing his job, got another chance late against K-State. -- MO

20. Ford Childress, West Virginia: The freshman quarterbacked West Virginia's worst performance of the year, a 37-0 loss to Maryland, before suffering a pectoral injury that could keep him out the rest of the year. -- JT

21. Grant Rohach, Iowa State: He’s come off the bench to replace Sam Richardson in ISU’s last two games but has yet to surpass 100 passing yards in the game. -- BC

22. Montell Cozart, Kansas: True freshman is now splitting snaps with Heaps and got half the reps against Baylor. Can make plays in the run game and be a spark. -- MO

23. Michael Cummings, Kansas: Cummings started five games in 2012 but has lost the No. 2 spot to Cozart, and is unlikely to play much going forward with Heaps also part of the offense. -- JT

24. Tyrone Swoopes, Texas: The 6-foot-4, 245-pound true freshman made his debut on Saturday and is a talented rusher, but he didn't attempt a pass. If McCoy goes down, he'll have to take over. -- MO

25. Tyler Matthews, TCU: The Horned Frogs got so desperate for production they turned to the redshirt freshman on multiple occasions, yet he’s seen very limited game reps and hasn't completed a pass this season. -- BC
Mack Brown was widely mocked last month for saying tackling had become a problem in America, not just at Texas. He wouldn’t be laughed off if he made this claim: Quarterback instability is a national epidemic.

[+] EnlargeDaniel Sams
AP Photo/Eric GayKansas State is one of several Big 12 teams that have played musical quarterbacks, alternating Daniel Sams (pictured) with Jake Waters.
More than 50 FBS programs have already been afflicted, including nearly a third of the AP top 25. A total of 184 quarterbacks have started at least one game for the 126 programs, and we’re only a month and a half into the 2013 season.

No major conference has dealt with more insecurity behind center than the Big 12. Good luck naming the second-best quarterback in the Big 12 behind Baylor’s Bryce Petty, or even naming off all 18 who have made starts.

“This year, it seems like everyone is kind of juggling one to try to find answers and two to try to keep them healthy,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “I know Texas Tech is dealing with it, we’re dealing with it, TCU has dealt with it, Texas has dealt with it, Kansas State has dealt with it.

“So just until guys get established and remain healthy, that’s just the reality of college football. The next guy has got to get ready to go in there and play at the highest level possible to try to get a win.”

Kansas State became the seventh Big 12 team to give a second quarterback a start Saturday when Daniel Sams got the nod over Jake Waters against Baylor.

Thus far, injuries have been more at issue than ineffective play. TCU’s Casey Pachall, Texas’ David Ash and Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight lost their jobs when they went down with injuries, and that could be the case for Texas Tech’s Baker Mayfield as well.

Oklahoma State pulled Clint Chelf for J.W. Walsh in the opener, and Cowboys coach Mike Gundy is sticking with him. Same with Blake Bell, who’s holding onto his job despite the return of Knight.

And then there’s the situation at West Virginia, where Holgorsen has been dealing with a quarterback calamity all season long. Paul Millard, Ford Childress and Clint Trickett have each started two games, and the job is still very much up for grabs.

“Unfortunately by the time we settle on somebody, then he gets hurt and you’ve got to put somebody else in there,” Holgorsen said. “That’s not an excuse. Whoever is going to be our quarterback this week, we’ve got to get him prepared to play and we’ve got to get him to where we’re playing at a higher level than what we’ve got out of him.”

This isn’t exactly unprecedented for the Big 12. During its 12-team era, two seasons were especially chaotic: 2005 and 2009. In both years, eight Big 12 teams started at least two quarterbacks. In both years, Texas rolled through the conference thanks to Heisman finalist-caliber quarterbacks Vince Young and Colt McCoy.

But take note of this: A team with multiple starting quarterbacks has not won the Big 12 Championship since Kansas State in 2003.

[+] EnlargeClint Trickett
Brad Davis/Icon SMIClint Trickett is the third player to start at QB for West Virginia this season.
Bill Snyder’s quarterback situation is no doubt an outlier from the rest. He likes both Sams and Waters. He likes playing both, and Sams has paired his 522 rushing yards with just 32 pass attempts. The Wildcats are just trying to find the right combination, the right rhythm.

“We just have two young guys that are competing in a very positive way to be the No. 1 quarterback, and both of them have demonstrated the capabilities beyond the field and deserve to play,” Synder said.

There was a three-season stretch in this conference, from 2006 to 2008, when no more than four backups earned a start in a single season. In 2011, only Texas and Iowa State tried multiple starters.

ISU coach Paul Rhoads is now one of the three Big 12 coaches who hasn’t needed his No. 2 guy this fall thanks to the solid play of Sam B. Richardson. He doesn’t consider the problem facing his colleagues to be an unexpected one.

“With the number of new quarterbacks in the league, first of all, and then the game is physical, the game is violent and teams’ quarterbacks are more active in their offenses in these leagues,” Rhoads said. “There’s going to be some vulnerability. So no, not surprised.”

This is a problem everywhere. Forty percent of FBS schools have started two quarterbacks. Seven SEC, seven Big Ten and five ACC schools have rolled out more than one starter. The national number of 184 total starters is ahead of the 2012 midseason total (170), which finished at 210 starters by season’s end.

What all that uncertainty creates, at least in the Big 12 landscape, too many unpredictable conference title contenders ... and one great advantage for Baylor.

Petty is No. 1 in the Big 12 in every passing statistic. But it’s a good thing his backup, Seth Russell, already has 30 attempts, 381 yards and three scores on his 2013 resume.

Considering how this season is already playing out, the Bears just might end up needing him.

Big 12 Week 6 primer

October, 5, 2013
10/05/13
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Today, Texas Tech will go on the road for the first time in Big 12 play, Oklahoma State will try to get back on track offensively, Oklahoma will attempt to keep rolling after the big win at Notre Dame, TCU and Kansas State will look to find some offense on the road and Baylor and West Virginia will show each other their improved defenses after last year’s 133-point shootout.

Those storylines and more will be on display during the first major week of conference play in the Big 12:

Texas Tech at Kansas, 11 a.m. CT (FS1): Kansas will attempt to pull off its first Big 12 victory since beating Colorado on Nov. 6, 2010. The Red Raiders already have a Big 12 win in the hip pocket, and will look to move to 5-0 for the first time since 2008. Both teams have the potential to play better offensively than they have.

Kansas State at Oklahoma State, 2:30 p.m. CT (ABC): Both the Wildcats and Cowboys are coming off Big 12 road losses. Oklahoma State has committed to dual-threat QB J.W. Walsh, while K-State coach Bill Snyder is sticking with the two-QB system of Jake Waters and Daniel Sams. This game, however, could come down to which teams rushes the ball better.

TCU at Oklahoma, 6 p.m. CT (FOX): The Horned Frogs finally put some offense together in the fourth quarter of last week’s win at SMU. They’ll have to keep that going to have a chance of knocking off the Sooners in Norman. OU has been playing as well as anyone in the Big 12 since Blake Bell took over at QB.

West Virginia at Baylor, 7 p.m. CT (FS1): This matchup featured 133 points last year. Baylor is equipped to win in shootouts again. West Virginia is not. The Mountaineers got a spark from third-string QB Clint Trickett in their upset over Oklahoma State last weekend. Trickett’s throwing shoulder, however is banged up. QB Ford Childress (torn pectoral) is hurt, too. Whoever the Mountaineers use at QB, they will probably need a herculean effort from their defense to stay in this game against the highest-scoring offense in college football.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 5

September, 26, 2013
9/26/13
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Oklahoma's visit to Notre Dame highlights a very light week in the Big 12. Half of the league’s teams are on byes but there are still some interesting things to learn from the four games involving Big 12 teams this weekend.


Here's what to watch in the Big 12 for Week 5.

  1. Can Oklahoma strike for the Big 12 Conference? The Sooners have the chance to earn the biggest nonconference win of any Big 12 team this season if they can knock off Notre Dame in South Bend on Saturday. OU has its eye on inserting itself into the BCS title conversation and that could begin with a win against the Fighting Irish.
  2. What does Dana Holgorsen have in store for his former colleagues at Oklahoma State? Holgorsen spent one season as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State before he was named coach in waiting at West Virginia. He played a major part in transforming OSU’s offense into what it is today so both teams will be very familiar with the other’s offensive attack. Add in the Mountaineers’ struggles on offense this season and you have to expect Holgorsen will have some new, creative wrinkles to confuse OSU’s defense and spark WVU’s offense.
  3. How will TCU respond to a 1-2 start? TCU coach Gary Patterson didn’t like how his team was handling its start to the season, saying his group was "feeling sorry for themselves." Yet the Horned Frogs have had two weeks to get things going back in a positive direction and, even though they’ve stumbled at the start, they still have one of the top defenses in the conference. And that’s a terrific foundation to build upon.
  4. [+] EnlargePaul Rhoads
    David Purdy/Getty ImagesPaul Rhoads and Iowa State are off to a slow start.
  5. Can Iowa State get its first win of the season? The Cyclones opened the season with losses to Northern Iowa and Iowa. Worst yet, Paul Rhoads’ crew has played just two games heading into tonight’s game at Tulsa, making it tough to find any kind of rhythm and confidence on either side of the football. ISU’s defense has been particularly bad allowing 27.5 points and 417.5 yards per game thus far. It’s a young roster, full of inexperience, so if the Cyclones don’t win tonight, things could snowball in a hurry for the Cyclones.
  6. Will OSU stumble in Morgantown? The Cowboys will be a big favorite when they step on the field in Morgantown, W. Va., after WVU’s embarrassing 37-0 loss to Maryland last weekend. It would be easy for the Pokes to overlook the Mountaineers and stumble on the road in a conference play, particularly since WVU does have some talented, albeit young, players on the roster. WVU will be looking to prove it is better than it showed against the Terps while OSU will simply be looking to get off to a good start in conference play. Motive advantage: WVU.
  7. Can TCU find some type of offensive identity? What is TCU’s identity on offense? Does anybody know? The Horned Frogs have looked uncertain during their first three games, particularly with Trevone Boykin under center. Don’t be surprised if TCU re-commits its offense to the running game with talented runners B.J. Catalon and Waymon James in the backfield while putting Boykin on the back burner.
  8. How will OU quarterback Blake Bell do in his first road start? The Sooners signal caller has the opportunity to send a message with a stellar performance in his first road start. The Fighting Irish will be looking to stop the run and play physical, forcing Bell to beat them with his arm. If he can do it on a national stage, the junior will remove all doubt who should be leading the Sooners’ offense for the next two seasons.
  9. Is OU’s defense the real deal? The Sooners' defense has been terrific in OU’s first three games. Yet it hasn't been tested like it will be against the Fighting Irish. OU’s defense is built for speed and handling the spread offenses in the Big 12 so if ND comes out and tries to ram the football down OU’s throat, the Sooners will have to have an answer or risk being compared to last season’s disappointing unit.
  10. Will Ford Childress reward Holgorsen for sticking with him? The WVU quarterback has kept his starting job after throwing more touchdown passes to Maryland defenders than his teammates last weekend. He threw more interceptions than he completed passes to WVU receivers in the loss. Yet Holgorsen didn’t hesitate when asked if he was sticking with the redshirt freshman. Childress will be looking to reward that loyalty against OSU.
  11. Will Iowa State find an answer to its offensive woes? This was supposed to be a breakout season for quarterback Sam Richardson. It’s not looking good for the sophomore thus far. His numbers aren’t horrible (502 passing yards, 62 completion percentage) but he’s been unable to spark the Cyclones offense and take the entire team to another level like ISU fans would have hoped. If Richardson hopes to turn things around, he can start against a Tulsa defense that gave up 51 points to Oklahoma on Sept. 14.

Big 12 predictions: Week 5

September, 26, 2013
9/26/13
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Our guest picker this week is Omar Ahmad, out of Huntington, W.Va. Here was Omar’s clever submission:

I should be your Big 12 guest picker for Week 5. Why? Because when it comes to challenging the experts at ESPN, nobody Bears down like I do. I'm like an unstoppable Cyclone of correct predictions. I'm not a Wildcat with my selections (you'll never catch me picking a Longhorn to do anything other than be a horn that's long). I strive for the highest summits of analysis the likes of which no Mountaineer has ever seen. While you may be a college football maverick, I'm the Red Raider with guns-up accuracy. No Jayhawk can hang with my stuff (or anyone's stuff, for that matter). So stop being a Cowboy with your reckless game-picker selections. You know you're gonna tab me Sooner or later. Horned Frogs.

Last week, I correctly picked Texas to bounce back and beat Kansas State, but Omar’s Mountaineers burned me with a no-show performance in Baltimore. I was also called out in front of my ACC colleagues via this tweet from a @beedubss: “I hope Andrea Adelson and Heather Dinich get to give @ESPN_Big12 a really hard time about his #WVUvsMD prediction. #GirlsRuleBoysDrool #GoTerps”.

Come on, guys. We’re better than this.

If you want to be next week’s guest picker, contact me here, and tell me why. And, as always, creativity counts.

To the Week 5 picks:

SEASON RECORD

Trotter last week: 4-1 (.800)

Guest picker last week: 4-1 (.800)

Trotter overall: 25-5 (.833)

Guest picker overall: 10-3 (.769)

Tulsa 30, Iowa State 27: Dating back to last year, Iowa State has now lost six of seven, which includes a two-touchdown loss to Tulsa in the Liberty Bowl. Tulsa, meanwhile, has played better since an embarrassing 27-point loss at Bowling Green in its opener. This game is in Tulsa, where the Hurricane has not lost since falling to eighth-ranked Houston in November 2011. The Cyclones just don’t have the offensive firepower right now around quarterback Sam Richardson, who also faces the possibility of playing the rest of the season on a bum ankle.

Omar’s pick: The Golden Hurricane is a young team, but can still run the ball. The Cyclones cannot, and the return of Tom Farniok won’t change the fact that Sam Richardson is currently the team’s biggest threat on the ground. Tulsa, 31-27

TCU 31, SMU 16: Coach Gary Patterson rode his team hard during the off week, even calling them out in the media for “feeling sorry for themselves.” Despite the disappointing 1-2 start, the Horned Frogs have too many veteran players to feel sorry for themselves for very long. This is still a good team, with good players on both sides of the ball. If TCU can uncover an offensive identity post QB Casey Pachall -- perhaps running the ball more with B.J. Catalon and Waymon James to take pressure off QB Trevone Boykin -- the Frogs will be fine. This SMU game is a golden opportunity for TCU to figure out some things before going to Norman next weekend.

Omar’s pick: Despite the 1-2 start, TCU’s defense is still arguably the best in the Big 12. Garrett Gilbert will get his yards, but Boykin and Catalon run wild on a Mustang front seven that’s one of the smallest and most inexperienced in the nation. TCU, 36-20

Oklahoma State 42, West Virginia 14: Both teams are running Dana Holgorsen’s offense. Only one is running it well. After the 37-0 loss to Maryland, Holgorsen rightfully called West Virginia’s offense as inept as it could be. Omar's Mountaineers don’t have any playmakers at receiver, the offensive line is not getting any push in the run game and QB Ford Childress is too young to overcome either deficiency. Poor Charles Sims, by the way, picked the wrong year to transfer. Imagine Sims on the same team with Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Now that would be an offense that could outscore Oklahoma State. This West Virginia offense cannot.

Omar’s pick: The Cowboys are getting it done by land and air so far, while the Mountaineers are trying to rebuild the offense through Ford Childress. The WVU defense keeps it closer than most expect. OSU, 34-21

Notre Dame 24, Oklahoma 21: The Sooners feel good about themselves after Blake Bell’s performance against Tulsa. But this isn’t Tulsa. And this game won’t be played in Norman. The Irish have looked lackluster so far this season, but they’ve played a difficult schedule featuring Michigan and Michigan State. The Sooners, meanwhile, have yet to play anybody. Notre Dame wins the battle in the trenches, forces Bell into a couple of critical mistakes in his first start on the road, makes the plays in the fourth quarter like it did last year in Norman and moves to 10-1 all-time in the series while preventing the Big 12 from picking up its first Top 25 non-conference victory.

Omar’s pick: Blake Bell has a cool nickname; Tommy Rees does not. OU, 28-23

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 4

September, 23, 2013
9/23/13
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Texas moves back up in this week's Power Rankings, West Virginia moves back down and the top four remain steady:

1. Oklahoma State (3-0, 0-0 Big 12; last week: 1): When he was the coordinator in Stillwater, Dana Holgorsen recruited quarterback J.W. Walsh to Oklahoma State. This Saturday, Holgorsen's Mountaineers must deal with stopping Walsh, who’s been terrific since taking over the starting quarterback job in the opener. Walsh ranks sixth in the country in QBR and is a major reason why the Cowboys are three-touchdown favorites for their game in Morgantown.

2. Baylor (3-0, 0-0 Big 12; last week: 2): The Baylor-hasn’t-beaten-anybody argument only holds so much water. Who in the Big 12 has really beaten anybody? Oklahoma State over Mississippi State? Texas Tech over TCU? Oklahoma over West Virginia? The fact is, even against three doldrums, Baylor has been as impressive as any team in the league. This offense has a chance to be as prolific as the 2011 Oklahoma State Cowboys or the 2008 Oklahoma Sooners.

3. Oklahoma (3-0, 1-0 Big 12; last week: 3): After opening with three home victories, the Sooners will finally find out about their team during a road trip to South Bend, Ind., this weekend. They should find out a lot about quarterback Blake Bell, too -- he was marvelous after replacing Trevor Knight two weeks ago against Tulsa. But that was against Tulsa in Norman. This is Notre Dame in South Bend. If OU wins this game, people will begin to mention the under-the-radar Sooners as a possible dark horse national title contender.

4. Texas Tech (4-0, 1-0 Big 12; last week: 4): The Texas Tech defense continues to play well, but the offense was sluggish again in a 33-7 victory over Texas State. Kliff Kingsbury has to decide whether he’s going to stick with Baker Mayfield as his starting quarterback or go with Davis Webb, who has made plays the last two weeks in relief of Mayfield. Kingsbury might secretly and anxiously be waiting on the return of Michael Brewer, who’s been injured since the summer with a bad back but is close to rejoining the team on the practice field.

5. Texas (2-2, 1-0 Big 12; last week: 8): After winning their Big 12 opener 31-21 over Kansas State, the Longhorns still have plenty to play for. But they are also beaten up. Linebacker Jordan Hicks is out for the season again with a ruptured Achilles tendon, quarterback David Ash continues to deal with concussion issues and offensive playmaker Daje Johnson remains out with an ankle injury. The game with Oklahoma (Oct. 12) looms, too. A victory in Dallas is about the only thing that can save Mack Brown’s job and completely reverse momentum in Austin.

6. TCU (1-2, 0-1 Big 12; last week: 5): Gary Patterson was not pleased with his team during the off week. Patterson told reporters last week the Horned Frogs were “feeling sorry for themselves” after the 20-10 loss at Tech. “If we don’t grow up,” Patterson said, “we’re not going to win any more ballgames.” The Frogs had better grow up quickly if they want to avoid letting this season turn into a catastrophe. TCU faces road trips at Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in October.

7. Kansas State (2-2, 0-1 Big 12; last week: 7): Even though Texas had been a sieve stopping opposing quarterbacks on the ground, Bill Snyder elected to use Daniel Sams sparingly in Austin. Sams averaged 6 yards a carry but got only eight carries as Jake Waters again took the bulk of the snaps at quarterback. Even though wideout Tyler Lockett is having a monster season, the Wildcats with Waters behind center have been just average offensively, which is flirting with disaster in the Big 12. Especially when the defense is just average, too.

8. West Virginia (2-2, 0-1 Big 12; last week: 6): So much for the idea that the Mountaineers could just replace Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. West Virginia looked completely inept offensively in a 37-0 loss to Maryland, which is a good team, but not that good. The Mountaineers, who had one of the best passing attacks in the country last year, suddenly can’t pass. Quarterback Ford Childress threw for just 62 yards with two interceptions Saturday, not that Paul Millard fared any better in West Virginia’s first two games. Holgorsen said he’s sticking with Childress at quarterback, which is a sign the Mountaineers are building for the future. The present is not a pretty sight.

9. Kansas (2-1, 0-0 Big 12; last week: 9): With the bottom half of the Big 12 struggling so much, the Jayhawks have the opportunity to win a couple of games in the league. But Kansas has its own problems. An offense that was supposed to be improved actually has been worse so far this season. After scoring just a field goal over three quarters against Louisiana Tech, the Jayhawks had to scramble late to escape with a 13-10 win. Jake Heaps owns the worst Total QBR (32.2) in the league and the Kansas wide receivers so far have been a disappointment. There is some talent on Charlie Weis’ offense, especially in the backfield. But it has yet to manifest on the field.

10. Iowa State (0-2, 0-0 Big 12; last week: 10): The Cyclones have back-to-back Thursday night games on deck: at Tulsa and at home against Texas. If Iowa State can’t prevail in either, this will end up being the worst season of the Paul Rhoads era. The only way the Cyclones can avoid that fate is by conjuring something in the run game, which has been abysmal so far this season.

Big 12 lunch links

September, 20, 2013
9/20/13
12:00
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It's time to bring the pain, Jack!

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 3

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
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Only because Iowa State and Kansas also lost is Texas not last in this week’s Big 12 Power Rankings:

1. Oklahoma State (3-0, 0-0 Big 12, last week 1): While they’ve been in the news plenty lately for other reasons, the Cowboys on the field have quietly lived up to the role of favorite rather well. And with the Nov. 16 trip to Austin no longer looking all that daunting, Oklahoma State should be favored in every game the rest of the way.

2. Baylor (2-0, 0-0 Big 12, last week 2): The Bears are one of only three Big 12 teams that haven’t been forced to play a backup quarterback due to injury, ineffectiveness or the need for a spark. That kind of stability with Bryce Petty is one major reason why Baylor has the look of a viable conference title contender.

3. Oklahoma (3-0, 1-0 Big 12, last week 3): Before the weekend, the Sooners had been brilliant in every facet of the game, except for quarterback. Against Tulsa, they were brilliant there, too. Blake Bell gave the passing attack a huge lift, delivering college football’s sixth-highest raw QBR of the week. So far, the OU running game has been dynamic, and the defense has been solid. If the Sooners can also get that level of production from their quarterback, they'll be dangerous.

4. Texas Tech (3-0, 1-0 Big 12, last week 5): Sometimes winning ugly is what’s required. Aesthetics aside, Texas Tech’s victory TCU was huge for the Kliff Kingsbury era. Some of it was TCU’s anemic offense, but Kingsbury had to feel buoyed by the way his defense completely shut down the Horned Frogs. If the Red Raiders keep playing defense, they could emerge into a surprise title contender. Their next four games are very winnable.

5. TCU (1-2, 0-1 Big 12, last week 4): Coach Gary Patterson probably could not have envisioned a worse start to TCU’s season. The Horned Frogs already have two losses, and star defensive end Devonte Fields made little impact in Lubbock after sitting out most of the first two games with a suspension. Now, Fields has an injured foot. Given how lost the Frogs look offensively, they’re probably going to have to win games with defense, at least for now. That won’t be easy with Fields either hobbled, ineffective or both.

6. West Virginia (2-1, 0-1 Big 12, last week 6): After auditioning Paul Millard and bypassing on Clint Trickett, the Mountaineers might finally have uncovered their quarterback in Ford Childress, who had a strong debut showing against Georgia State. These next two weeks will be huge for Childress and the Mountaineers. How they perform against Maryland in Baltimore and conference favorite Oklahoma State in Morgantown will set the tone for the rest of the season, one way or the other.

7. Kansas State (2-1, 0-0 Big 12, last week 8): After the stunning loss to North Dakota State, the Wildcats have bounced back nicely, and there’s reason to believe they can keep it going in Austin. The zone-read has been devastating to Texas, and K-State change-of-pace QB Daniel Sams might be the best running QB in the league.

8. Texas (1-2, 0-0 Big 12, last week 7): After beating the Longhorns by three touchdowns, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said Texas’ defensive scheme was basically the same as last week. The Longhorns played about the same, too, giving up another 272 yards on the ground. That’s 822 rushing yards the Horns have allowed over the past two games. It's not even October, and Texas is already a total disaster. Coach Mack Brown is running out of scapegoats to fire, too.

9. Kansas (1-1, 0-0 Big 12, last week 9): The Jayhawks actually played well defensively in a nine-point loss at Rice. The offense, however, did not; notably, quarterback Jake Heaps, who had a raw QBR of 10.2, the fourth-lowest rating of any FBS quarterback for the week. The Kansas offense has to be -- and should be -- better than this for the Jayhawks to win more than two games.

10. Iowa State (0-2, 0-0 Big 12, last week 10): After two losses to open the year, it’s difficult to see how Iowa State gets to a bowl game. Other than receiver Quenton Bundrage, quarterback Sam Richardson has had virtually no help offensively, and the defense is a notch below what it's been. If Iowa State can’t uncover a running game to take pressure off Richardson, this could end up becoming a long, long year in Ames.

What we learned in the Big 12: Week 3

September, 15, 2013
9/15/13
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Here's what we learned from Week 3 in the Big 12, in which only four undefeated teams are left standing:

1. Texas still can’t play much defense: After his Rebels dispatched Texas 44-23, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said the Longhorns ran virtually the same defensive scheme under coordinator Greg Robinson as they did last week under Manny Diaz. It sure looked that way on the field. Ole Miss racked up 272 yards on the ground and averaged 6.0 yards per carry to coast past Texas in Austin. The Longhorns appear to be no better off defensively now than they were a week ago in an embarrassing 40-21 loss at BYU. If Texas can’t correct its defense, this could end up being a long season in Austin. And Mack Brown’s final one, too.

2. QB Blake Bell isn’t just a Belldozer: So much for the premise Bell can only run. The artist formerly known as the Belldozer passed for 413 yards and four touchdowns in his first career start as Oklahoma whipped Tulsa 51-20. Bell, who replaced Trevor Knight, completed 27 of 37 passes and posted the highest passing yardage total by any Oklahoma quarterback making his first start. He also delivered a QBR of 96.7 (on a scale of 0-100). Most importantly, Bell’s performance gives the Sooners confidence in their passing attack going into a showdown at Notre Dame in two weeks.

3. The Mountaineers are all in on QB Ford Childress: Dana Holgorsen hinted early last week he would be making a quarterback change. Most everyone assumed it would be Florida State transfer Clint Trickett getting the start over Paul Millard. Instead, it was the redshirt freshman Childress, who played the entire game and played well in West Virginia’s 41-7 win over Georgia State. Despite several drops from his receivers, Childress completed 25 of 41 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns with an interception. To get to a bowl game, the Mountaineers could really use a win next weekend over Maryland in Baltimore. There’s no doubt now that Childress will be the one they’ll be relying on.

4. TCU’s offense is a mess: Texas Tech’s defense has promise. But the Horned Frogs looked completely discombobulated offensively during Thursday night’s 20-10 loss in Lubbock. Quarterback Trevone Boykin, who finished with a raw QBR of 28.6, could not string any drives together for the Horned Frogs. TCU went 4-of-16 on third down and 0-of-2 on fourth down. After a 1-2 start -- and with difficult road games at Oklahoma and Oklahoma State looming -- TCU’s season could turn disastrous if the Frogs don’t find some offensive flow, and quick.

5. Iowa State has no running game: With quarterback Sam Richardson dealing with a sore ankle, the Cyclones needed to get something going on the ground. For the second game, they couldn’t. Iowa State’s running back quartet managed just 42 yards on 16 carries as Iowa jumped to a big lead before holding on for the 27-21 win. Wideout Quenton Bundrage had a big game with three touchdown catches, but the Cyclones don’t have the kind of receiving weapons to be effective offensively without a solid running game. This could end up being a long season for Iowa State, as the Cyclones might not be favored until Kansas comes to Ames on Nov. 23.

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 3

September, 15, 2013
9/15/13
9:00
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Recognizing the best and brightest from around the Big 12 in Week 3:

QB Blake Bell, Oklahoma

Turns out Bell is a better passer than anyone realized. He threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns against Tulsa, showing impressive confidence and rapport with his receivers. Bell only ran for 24 yards, too. Considering how badly the OU passing attack fared a week ago, the 400-yard showing was a real eye-opener against a Tulsa team that went 11-3 a year ago. The question marks surrounding Bell and his ability to replace Trevor Knight were answered on Saturday, at least for one week.

WR Quenton Bundrage, Iowa State

Bundrage exploded against Iowa for seven catches, 146 yards and three touchdowns in the close 27-21 loss. His touchdowns came from 67, 26 and 17 yards out, and those final two came late in the fourth quarter as Iowa State mounted a rally.

CB Kip Daily, Kansas State

The senior cornerback nabbed an interception in the first quarter against UMass and returned it 38 yards for the first touchdown of the game. He picked off a second pass on a fourth down late in the third quarter, ensuring KSU would have no trouble in a 37-7 win over the Minutemen. Those were the first two interceptions in his career. Daily is up to 16 tackles and two pass breakups on the year after recording only one tackle in six games last season.

QB Ford Childress, West Virginia

Not bad at all, kid. In his first career start, Childress threw for 359 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-7 win over Georgia State. The redshirt freshman and former ESPN 150 recruit hit on 25 of his 41 attempts and recorded a solid QBR of 74.2. He might be just what the Mountaineers are looking for in their hopes to end their quarterback battle.

RB Jeremy Smith, Oklahoma State

Smith found the end zone three times in an easy 59-3 win over FCS Lamar. He had a modest 40 rushing yards on the day, but OSU really didn’t need much from Smith to get the victory. Smith now leads the Big 12 in rushing touchdowns with six.

Bold predictions for the Big 12 in 2013

January, 15, 2013
1/15/13
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As we continue our season wrap, we'll be looking to 2013 today. Let's take a look with some bold predictions in 2013.

1. The Big 12 will not expand or institute a championship game. I get the questions every day, but I simply don't believe the Big 12 will seriously consider expansion before the new college football playoff is in place, and the Big 12 gets an idea for where it stands in the college football landscape. Bob Bowlsby turned heads when a report surfaced that he'd inquired to the NCAA about bringing back the championship game, but that's a long way from actually doing so. Bringing back a No. 1 versus No. 2 league title game unless the Big 12 is a 12-team league with divisions is the surest way for the Big 12 to find it difficult to crack the four-team playoff.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
Michael C. Johnson/US PresswireTexas could face a difficult decision should coach Mack Brown and the Longhorns fall short of expectations in 2013.
2. Neither Texas nor Oklahoma will win the Big 12's automatic BCS bid. Simply put, TCU and Oklahoma State are likely better teams. One of those two will win the league and represent the Big 12 in the Fiesta Bowl as its BCS representative. Texas is good, but not quite good enough and will have a difficult decision to make about Mack Brown's future after falling short. Oklahoma is just losing too much on defense and trying to live without Landry Jones, which fans will find more difficult than they imagined.

3. The Big 12 will have a Davey O'Brien Trophy finalist. The Big 12 is reloading at quarterback, and will likely have only one starting quarterback in 2013 (barring what happens at TCU) who started at least half of his team's games in 2012: Texas' David Ash. It won't necessarily be him at the awards ceremony, but I believe in the Big 12's quarterback development, and we'll see a breakout star next year. Will it be Michael Brewer at Tech? Bryce Petty at Baylor? Ford Childress/Paul Millard in Morgantown or Blake Bell in Norman? What about Daniel Sams or Jake Waters at K-State?

4. Three Big 12 teams will finish in the national top 35 in total defense. This year, the Big 12 had only one team (TCU) crack the top 35. There will be great defenses coming back. Look for Texas, TCU and Oklahoma State to grab this accomplishment, and Texas Tech might not be far off, too. Offenses as a whole will be down from their crazy pace next year, and that's an opportunity for some experienced defenses.

5. The Big 12 will not play for a national title ... again. It's getting old for the league these days. Texas and Oklahoma both played a part in the SEC capturing seven consecutive national titles, but the Big 12's sat on the sidelines on that Monday night in January for each of the past three seasons. Make it four next year.

6. Texas Tech will be the Big 12's biggest overachiever. They'll do it on the back of Brewer, who I buy as the most likely breakout star for the Big 12 next year. He's got great running backs, a great system and great, experienced receivers. Having Eric Ward back will be huge, and Jace Amaro and Jakeem Grant will continue to grow. I'm a little cautious on picking them in the top half of the league in the preseason, but I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Red Raiders finish in the top three or four next year.

7. Baylor will win at least eight games again. The Bears' offense will be back, and the defense will be a little bit improved. It'll be enough to win eight games in three consecutive seasons with three different quarterbacks. That's crazy, and yet another testament to what Art Briles has done in Waco.

8. Kansas will win a Big 12 game. It has to happen eventually, doesn't it? The Big 12 losing streak now stands at 21 games. It won't reach 30 this time next year.

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