Oklahoma Sooners: Josh Boyce

Top 5 moments: OU holds on vs. TCU

December, 10, 2012
SoonerNation is counting down the top five moments of Oklahoma’s 2012 season this week.

Play No. 5

[+] EnlargeTony Jefferson, Julian Wilson
Rick Yeatts/Getty ImagesThe Sooners broke up a 4th-and-13 heave to beat TCU.
After outplaying TCU all afternoon, yet another game was coming down to the final seconds. This time, a shared or even outright Big 12 title was on the line. Maybe a BCS bowl berth, too.

After Mike Hunnicutt missed a 42-yard field goal that would've put the Sooners up by two scores, the Frogs had the ball at the OU 12 with a 46-yard completion. Two plays later, it seemed as if TCU would send the game to overtime. Trevone Boykin broke loose on a scramble into the end zone. Fortunately for the Sooners, officials didn’t miss an obvious holding penalty that cleared the path for Boykin to slash into the end zone.

After a short completion, TCU faced fourth-and-13 from the 15 with less than 30 seconds. Boykin lofted a pass in the end zone to favorite target Josh Boyce. But Tony Jefferson and Julian Wilson read the play all the way. As the ball drifted toward Boyce, the two Sooners collapsed on the ball to slap it away, preserving the Sooners’ hard-fought, 24-17 victory.

In the end, OU didn’t earn the outright conference title or the BCS bowl. Kansas State hammered Texas, and Northern Illinois slipped into the top 16 in the final BCS standings, automatically giving the Huskies the BCS bowl at-large spot.

But the Jefferson/Wilson pass deflection sealed a successful regular season for the Sooners, whose only blemish was the losses to top-ranked Notre Dame and fifth-ranked Kansas State.

Ranking Oklahoma's remaining schedule 

September, 28, 2012
During the offseason, I ranked Oklahoma’s schedule from toughest game to easiest. The Sooners’ home date with Kansas State ranked fifth.

Almost a month into the season, OU’s remaining schedule looks even tougher overall.

Ranking those games from toughest to easiest:

Sooners schedule preview: TCU 

August, 24, 2012
December 1, 2012: TCU
2011 record: 11-2 | 2011 conference record: 9-0 (Mountain West)
OU’s all-time against TCU: 7-4

Top returners: QB Casey Pachall, RB Waymon James, WR Josh Boyce, C James Fry, G Blaize Foltz, DE Stansly Maponga, DT David Johnson, DT D.J. Yendrey, LB Kenny Cain, CB Jason Verrett, S Devin Johnson

Key losses: WR Antoine Hicks, WR Jonathan Jones, TE Brock Logan, OT Jeff Olson, OT Robert Deck, G Kyle Dooley, DE Braylon Broughton, LB Tank Cardner, LB Kris Gardner, CB Greg McCoy, S Johnny Fobbs

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Waymon James* (875 yards)
Passing: Casey Pachall* (2,921 yards)
Receiving: Josh Boyce (998 yards)
Tackles: Kenny Cain* (72)
Sacks: Stansly Maponga* (13.5)
Interceptions: Tank Cardner, Greg McCoy, Kris Gardner (3)

What they’re saying: "Obviously it has been a long journey for us. When you're sitting on the side of the mountain, you don't rest. We've got to keep climbing the mountain." -- TCU head coach Gary Patterson

Three things to watch:

1. The Horned Frogs have one of the most successful programs of the last five years. But how will they respond to the step up in competition. It’s one thing to dominate the Mountain West. Quite another to do the same in the Big 12.

2. The Big 12 has been the best QB conference in America. Overshadowed by the likes of Landry Jones, Geno Smith and Collin Klein, TCU’s Casey Pachall is an underrated, but dangerous quarterback. If TCU is going to compete for a Big 12 title, Pachall will have to play like one of the Big 12’s best.

3. The Horned Frogs have a veteran-laden defensive line with all four starters back, led by Stansly Maponga, who is coming off a 13.5-sack season. If the Horned Frogs can stuff opposing running games while also pressuring the QB, they will be a tough out for anyone in the Big 12.

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We'll be walking through the top 10 players at each position in the Big 12 before the season, but we'll start with the most important, especially in this league.

Let's do this:

1. Geno Smith, West Virginia: Smith put up huge numbers (4,385 yards, 31 TD, 7 INT, 65.8 completion percentage) and did so efficiently last season. Both of his top two targets are back and the adjustment to Big 12 defenses shouldn't be too difficult.

2. Landry Jones, Oklahoma: Jones and Smith will go head-to-head all season for honors as the Big 12's top passer. Who comes out on top is anyone's guess, but Jones regressed last season, and his receivers let him down after Ryan Broyles' season ended with a knee injury. He'll try to bounce back with just one reliable target (Kenny Stills) to start the season. The rest of the receiving corps is loaded with potential, but very inexperienced.

3. Collin Klein, Kansas State: Clearly, I'm taking more than just passing acumen into account here. Klein is the Big 12's No. 2 returning rusher, and also threw for just under 2,000 yards last season, adding 13 passing touchdowns to the 27 he scored rushing. We'll see how much better he is as a passer this fall.

[+] EnlargeCasey Pachall
Otto Kitsinger III/Getty ImagesTCU's Casey Pachall could be poised for a big year with a stable of talented receivers.
4. Seth Doege, Texas Tech: I refuse to hang last year's failures on Doege's shoulders. Absolutely not. He played well, at least as well as he could. The running game struggled and offered almost no support after Eric Stephens' injury. The defense was a disaster and there were injuries all over the place. Doege still went for more than 4,000 yards, 28 scores and just 10 picks. Don't be surprised if Doege throws his hat in the ring as the Big 12's best passer by season's end.

5. Casey Pachall, TCU: Pachall didn't have eye-popping numbers, but only because TCU rode on the shoulders of its trio of running backs. Still, Pachall's numbers are going to be better this year, and he's got great targets in Josh Boyce, Skye Dawson and Brandon Carter, not to mention youngster LaDarius Brown.

6. Nick Florence, Baylor: I like Florence to have a big year with really good receivers, but he's got too much to prove for now. He looked good in spot duty for RG3 against Texas Tech last season, but his senior season will look much, much different than his inconsistent freshman year all the way back in 2009.

7. Wes Lunt, Oklahoma State: The Big 12's only freshman quarterback is a true freshman, and Lunt earned this spot by beating out some really tough competition in J.W. Walsh and Colton Chelf this spring. Amazing stuff, and his coaches know good quarterbacks. Zac Robinson and Brandon Weeden have established quite the QB tradition in Stillwater. Here's guessing Lunt continues it.

8. Dayne Crist, Kansas: Crist's college career hasn't been what he imagined after coming to Notre Dame as one of the most highly recruited signal-calling prospects in his class, but he's got a chance to start something special at Kansas in his senior year, reunited with former coach Charlie Weis. Crist won't have the weapons some of the other guys on this list have, but he gives KU a big, big upgrade at the position.

9. Steele Jantz/Jared Barnett, Iowa State: These two have to cut down the turnovers, but they've both shown the ability to be playmakers. There's no guessing who wins this legitimate battle in the fall, but coach Paul Rhoads isn't afraid to bench either one if the turnovers don't stop.

10. David Ash/Case McCoy, Texas: Mack Brown insists it's still a contest. My jaw will be on the floor if Ash doesn't trot out on the field for the first game of the season. Ash has some potential and promising targets in Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley, but he hasn't shown the big-play ability of Jantz or Barnett. Expect Ash to move up this list by season's end, but for now, it's all just potential.

Handicapping the Big 12 Heisman race

April, 12, 2012
Heisman Pundit is exactly that. Chris Huston knows his stuff about the Heisman, and famously penned The 10 Heismandments, which outline what has to happen for players to earn the greatest individual honor in sports.

He looked at his top 10 candidates from the Big 12, ranking them from top to bottom.

Topping the list?

West Virginia's Geno Smith. Huston pegged Oklahoma's Landry Jones as the No. 3 candidate, but had a moderate surprise at No. 2 with Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein on his list of "Contenders"

"Klein was probably the toughest player in college football last year, pound for pound," wrote Huston. "I can’t remember the last time I saw a player improve as much as Klein did between his sophomore and junior seasons."

No arguments here. The guy carried the ball 317 times, 67 more times than anybody else in the Big 12 and third-most in the nation. He took a beating every week and kept improving, kept running and kept growing as a passer.

I might have Jones ahead of both Klein and Smith, but it's definitely close. Klein needs wins and production to gain some more name recognition, but he's everything to Kansas State's offense.

I liked Huston's picks as the three dark horses, too.

TCU quarterback Casey Pachall topped that list, ahead of running back Joseph Randle at Oklahoma State and receiver Tavon Austin from West Virginia.

I think it'll be tough for Austin to legitimately win as a receiver, but if OSU and TCU start racking up wins by the bushelful, Randle will make an appearance on the short list, as will Pachall, who has three outstanding targets in Josh Boyce, Skye Dawson and Brandon Carter.

Check out Huston's blog for his list of longshots, which includes four boys in burnt orange from Texas.

Early 2012 Big 12 power rankings

January, 10, 2012
With the season over, it's time to take a look at the Big 12 in 2012. For now, that means assuming a few things. And we all know what assuming does.

It makes us all look like geniuses.

So, for the purpose of this, I'll assume a few predictions. First, I'll assume Robert Griffin III is heading for the NFL. I'll also assume Mike Stoops lands back at Oklahoma.

That said, it's time to project what this league looks like in 2012.

And, before we start, let me make this clear: The Big 12 from 1-6 is absolutely wide open. Last year, the league only had three legitimate title contenders: Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. This year, every one of the top six teams (and maybe seven, if RG3 returns) can win the Big 12 in a realistic scenario. The difference between Nos. 2 and 6 is minuscule and could change a ton by the end of spring practice.

And for the curious: I would have Missouri behind Kansas State on this list, and I'd have Texas A&M right behind Texas.

1. Oklahoma: The Sooners moved into the familiar role of favorite after Landry Jones announced he'd return in 2012, but not nearly as heavy a favorite as they were in 2011. Injuries hurt Oklahoma late this season, and replacing Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Frank Alexander, along with linebacker Travis Lewis and corner Jamell Fleming won't be easy. Receivers Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds have to play big for the Sooners to get the win.

2. Kansas State: The big question mark for this team is can it take care of business and not get stuck in close games in 2012? The Wildcats were 8-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less this season. They can't count on duplicating that in 2012. They should be better, and return most of the big pieces from this season's 10-win team, most importantly quarterback Collin Klein and linebacker Arthur Brown. Next season is the time to prove it.

3. West Virginia: Who else is excited to see Geno Smith, Dana Holgorsen and the Mountaineer Express show up in Big 12 country next season? Like I wrote last week, giving up 33 points and still winning by five touchdowns is the Big 12 way of life. The Mountaineers broke Baylor's week-old bowl scoring record with 70 points, and bring back most of a good Big East champion team in 2012. The transition won't be easy, but they've got a chance to make a big splash in their inaugural year. The Big 12 and West Virginia are both convinced that the Mountaineers will join the Big 12 in 2012 and are planning as if it will happen, though pending lawsuits with the Big East mean it's still unofficial.

(Read full post)


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