Oklahoma Sooners: Kliff Kingsbury

Big 12 lunchtime links

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
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This kid might have just saved a life.
We've been doing something different with Friday's Big 12 mailbag. From now on, we'll be including Twitter questions with the regular mailbag submissions. To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. You also still can send in questions the traditional way here, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Athlon ranks the Big 12 coaches

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

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

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

1. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

2. Art Briles, Baylor

3. Bill Snyder, Kansas State

4. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

5. Gary Patterson, TCU

6. Charlie Strong, Texas

7. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State

8. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

9. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

10. Charlie Weis, Kansas

Some observations:

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

Big 12 lunchtime links

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
12:00
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My pick to win the Big 12 basketball tournament is looking pretty strong:
  • Ex-Iowa State DT Rodney Coe tells the Des Moines Register's Tommy Birch why he was booted off the team earlier this week.
  • West Virginia linebacker K.J. Dillon has come back bigger and stronger, writes the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Stephen J. Nesbitt.
  • Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury answered questions on a Reddit AMA (ask me anything). Red Raiders center Tony Morales is ready to go again after dealing with injuries throughout his career, writes the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's Don Williams.
  • QB Trevor Knight has welcomed his new leadership role, according to the Tulsa World's Eric Bailey. Oklahoma's Blake Bell is not missing his blue, non-contact jersey.
  • Safety Daytawion Lowe opened some eyes at Oklahoma State's pro day, reports The Oklahoman's Cody Stavenhagen. Receiver Josh Stewart improved his numbers from the combine. The Cowboys picked up an OL commitment.
  • Former Kansas State star back Darren Sproles was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for a fifth-round pick.
  • Athlon gives its top Big 12 defensive backs of the BCS era.
  • A former Fiesta Bowl chief executive was sentenced to eight months in federal prison after acknowledging that he participated in an illegal campaign contribution scheme.
There was a time when the notion of not holding a spring game was uncommon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring preview capsules: Big 12

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
10:00
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Spring football is rapidly approaching.

Here's a team-by-team look at what to watch in the Big 12 this spring:

Baylor

Spring start: Feb. 28

Spring game: April 5

What to watch: Who will replace Lache Seastrunk? The Bears' running back was the engine that helped keep the Baylor offense balanced and defenses honest. Shock Linwood will step in, but is he ready to handle the burden of keeping the offense balanced? . . . Baylor, the 2013 regular-season champion, has to find key replacements on a defense that is losing half of its starters. But several second-teamers -- including Jamal Palmer, Shawn Oakman, Andrew Billings and Orion Stewart -- are poised to fill the void . . . The Bears need to replace guard Cyril Richardson along the offensive line. Several candidates, including junior college transfer Jarell Broxton, will battle for the job. Baylor has arguably the league's best group of skill position players, but that will mean nothing if its offensive line takes a step backward.

Iowa State

Spring start: March 10

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: New offensive coordinator Mark Mangino arrives in Ames to bring more points and creativity to the Cyclones’ offense. The spring is the first opportunity for Mangino to get a feel for the playmakers and the players to get a feel for Mangino’s expectations . . . The quarterback competition is another thing to keep an eye on. Grant Rohach ended the season as the starter, but Sam B. Richardson could take his job back with a strong spring. And there are other young quarterbacks on campus who could insert themselves into the mix . . . Defensively, the Cyclones need to replace linebacker Jeremiah George and safety Jacques Washington, who finished 1-2 in tackles in the Big 12 in 2013 and finished their careers with 59 career starts combined. Iowa State seems to always have quality linebackers, so finding a replacement for Washington could be the defense’s top priority in the spring.

Kansas

Spring start: March 4

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: Shuffling the offensive coaching staff has been the theme of the offseason. New offensive coordinator John Reagan, who was a KU assistant from 2005 to 2009, returns to the Jayhawks after running Rice’s offense last season. The spring is Reagan’s first chance to identify the playmakers who will be the foundation of his offense this fall. Expect wide-open competition across the board after KU finished 115th in the FBS in points scored ... The quarterback position will grab the headlines, with T.J. Millweard joining the competition with Jake Heaps and Montell Cozart, who each started games in 2013. Millweard transferred to KU from UCLA before the 2013 season.

Kansas State

Spring start: April 2

Spring game: April 26

What to watch: Finding John Hubert’s replacement sits high on the Wildcats’ priority list. The former running back carried the ground attack for the past three seasons, and there’s no clear favorite to step into his shoes. Will someone step up during spring football? . . . What will happen with quarterback Daniel Sams? The Wildcats have a proven Big 12 playmaker in Sams, a junior, and another proven quarterback in Jake Waters. Sams is an exceptional open-field runner who started two games in 2013, but look for Kansas State to start exploring ways to have both on the field together this spring . . . Replacing Ty Zimmerman’s playmaking and leadership on defense is another key this spring. The defense has to replace several starters in the secondary and at linebacker. Keep an eye on junior college defensive back Danzel McDaniel, who has the versatility to step in at several different spots.

Oklahoma

Spring start: March 8

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: With Trevor Knight poised to start at quarterback in 2014, Blake Bell moves to tight end after starting eight games under center in 2013. Bell’s transition to tight end will be the talk of the spring, with the senior’s commitment to the program and OU's need for help at the position . . . The battle to be the starting running back is another storyline, with sophomores Keith Ford and Alex Ross hoping to make a statement this spring before ESPN 300 running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine arrive in the summer. Ford forced his way into the lineup as a freshman before an injury slowed him . . . The Sooners will be looking to shore up the secondary after the departure of All-Big 12 cornerback Aaron Colvin and starting safety Gabe Lynn. Sophomore Stanvon Taylor could be set to replace Colvin, while sophomores Hatari Byrd and Ahmad Thomas will battle to replace Lynn.

Oklahoma State

Spring start: March 10

Final spring practice: April 5

What to watch: Incoming freshman Mason Rudolph enrolled early to participate in spring football with the hope of replacing quarterback Clint Chelf. J.W. Walsh has won a lot of games in a Cowboys uniform, but will have to hold off stern competition to earn the starting spot as a junior . . . The Cowboys lose seven seniors off one of their best defenses in recent memory. The overall quality might be upgraded, but spring football will be the first chance to see if those talented yet inexperienced defenders are ready to step into the fire. Defensive end Jimmy Bean, linebacker Ryan Simmons and cornerback Kevin Peterson could emerge as the foundation of the defense . . . Who will step up at receiver? The Cowboys lose three of their top four receivers, with Jhajuan Seales as the lone returnee. But several youngsters appear poised to step in, including sophomore Marcell Ateman and redshirt freshman Ra'Shaad Samples.

TCU

Spring start: March 1

Final spring practice: April 5

What to watch: Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie have arrived to take over as co-offensive coordinators at TCU. The Horned Frogs need a jump start and could get it from the “Air Raid”-style offense the duo will bring to the table. This spring will be an important first step in improving the offense . . . Who will be the quarterback? Trevone Boykin started several games in 2013 but might actually be TCU’s top receiver. Tyler Matthews, a redshirt freshman, also saw time under center, but he faces stiff competition. Don’t expect the battle to end until fall camp . . . TCU needs someone to step up in the secondary, with Jason Verrett NFL-bound after spending the past two seasons as one of the Big 12’s top coverage cornerbacks. Ranthony Texada and Travoskey Garrett are among several young defensive backs who could try to fill the void.

Texas

Spring start: March 18

Spring game: April 19

What to watch: David Ash's health will be one of the main storylines of Texas’ first spring under coach Charlie Strong. Ash has the talent to be a key piece of the puzzle, but head injuries are always tough to overcome. If Ash is 100 percent healthy, the Longhorns will feel better about the overall status at quarterback . . . Strong has talked of instilling a tough mindset in Austin since he arrived in January, and spring football will be the first real taste of what the Longhorns’ new coach is trying to bring to the program . . . Where are the playmakers? Texas has a talent-laden roster, but didn’t have the exceptional talent who could consistently change games. This spring gives several returning skill players, including receiver Jaxon Shipley and all-purpose standout Daje Johnson, the chance to become the foundation of the offense in 2014.

Texas Tech

Spring start: March 5

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: Davis Webb's health is the No. 1 priority for the Red Raiders, who have seen three quarterbacks leave the program since the beginning of the 2013 season. Coach Kliff Kingsbury could have the toughest job of the spring as he tries to manage the lack of quarterbacks with the desire to have a productive spring for the roster as a whole . . . The Red Raiders have some consistency among the defensive coaching staff, meaning they could improve in 2014 despite losing multiple starters, including defensive tackle Kerry Hyder, linebacker Will Smith and safety Tre' Porter. Tech could start seeing dividends of that continuity . . . The Red Raiders have to replace Jace Amaro and Eric Ward, who combined to catch 189 passes for 2,299 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Jakeem Grant and Bradley Marquez made a bunch of plays in 2013 and Devin Lauderdale, a junior college transfer and early enrollee, will get the chance to show why he had Texas Tech fans buzzing when he initially signed in February 2013.

West Virginia

Spring start: March 2

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: Finding a quarterback is critical for the Mountaineers, who have talent at the skill positions but won’t transform into an explosive offense without efficient quarterback play. Clint Trickett is recovering from shoulder surgery, meaning Paul Millard, junior college transfer Skyler Howard and former receiver Logan Moore will run the offense this spring . . . Tony Gibson takes over as WVU’s defensive coordinator after coaching the safeties in 2013. His promotion allows some continuity on the defense after former DC Keith Patterson left for Arizona State after the season . . . Replacing defensive tackle Shaq Rowell and defensive end Will Clarke, who started 56 combined career games for WVU, won’t be easy. The Mountaineers will lean heavily on veteran juniors Isaiah Bruce and Karl Joseph, who have started since their freshman seasons.
Since the turn of the millennium, the Big 12 has forged a national identity of elite quarterbacking. In fact, dating back to 2000, the Big 12 had a quarterback become a Heisman finalist in every season but three.

Last season, however, that identity all but vanished.

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
Chuck Cook/USA TODAY SportsOklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight torched Alabama for 348 passing yards and four touchdowns in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Bryce Petty briefly emerged into a Heisman contender at Baylor. But otherwise it was a dismal season for quarterbacking according to the Big 12’s high standards. Oklahoma State’s Clint Chelf was named the league’s second-team quarterback despite starting only half of 2013. Nine of the league’s 10 teams juggled starting quarterbacks well into October.

But thanks to breakout performances during the bowl season, coupled with the imminent arrival of numerous blue-chip freshmen, the conference appears on the way back to restoring its quarterbacking reputation heading into spring practice.

Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech have their starters cemented. Oklahoma State, Texas, TCU and West Virginia will welcome true freshmen with the pedigrees and opportunities to compete for jobs right away. And Kansas (Montell Cozart) and Iowa State (Grant Rohach) enjoyed promising moments from a pair of freshmen.

After totaling 46 touchdowns to just three interceptions in his first season as the starter, Petty headlines the position in the league again.

But if the bowl season was any indication, he won’t be the lone headliner.

Oklahoma freshman Trevor Knight torched Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl to the level backup Blake Bell asked to change his position to tight end.

In the National University Holiday Bowl, Texas Tech freshman Davis Webb lit up Arizona State, too, driving Michael Brewer to ask for a transfer.

And Kansas State’s Jake Waters capped a red-hot second half of his season by throwing for three touchdowns in a rout of Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

Knight, Webb and Waters delivered three of college football’s 10 best bowl performances according to the Adjusted QBR metric. All three rapidly improved in their first seasons. And that rapid improvement figures only to continue in their second.

“Traditionally, Year 2 in the offense is when you see the most growth in a quarterback,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said.

Of the three, Knight was the only full-time starter to begin the season. Spearheaded by a dazzling preseason, he beat out Bell, who was the favorite to replace four-year starter Landry Jones. But Knight completed just 21 of his first 48 pass attempts, and after a knee injury, lost the job to Bell not even two games in.

Knight, however, emerged late in the season, and displaying improvement with his accuracy, led the Sooners to a late November win at Kansas State. Then in the Sugar Bowl, he finally showed why he won the job originally in August. Against one of the nation’s most dominant defenses, Knight completed 32 of 44 passes as the Sooners toppled the Crimson Tide in one of the biggest upsets in BCS bowl history.

“If you’re going to win a championship, your quarterback is going to have to make plays,” Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “We all saw Trevor [struggle] as a young freshman, first start, first game. To see him grow throughout the entire year and play extremely well down the stretch and played really well in the Sugar Bowl, obviously -- he’s obviously got a great future.”

[+] EnlargeDavis Webb
Donald Miralle/Getty ImagesTexas Tech signal-caller Davis Webb had a breakout performance against Arizona State, completing 28 of 41 passes for 403 yards and four touchdowns in the win.
The same goes for Webb.

Despite being the only healthy scholarship quarterback on the roster in August, Webb was beaten out by walk-on true freshman Baker Mayfield. But like Knight, Webb settled in behind the scenes. After Mayfield injured his knee, Webb led Tech to a come-from-behind win at West Virginia. Then, after Mayfield transferred, Webb was almost flawless against the Sun Devils. He passed for 403 yards and four touchdowns as Texas Tech controlled the game the entire night.

“The success he had in that bowl game against one of the top defenses showed what he can be,” Kingsbury said.

Waters’ bowl success showed the same.

Out of junior college, Waters beat out Daniel Sams for the starting job to begin the season. But with Waters taking the majority of the snaps, K-State fell in its season opener to FCS opponent North Dakota State. The next two months weren’t much better for Waters or the Wildcats, as the defending Big 12 champs stumbled to a 2-4 start.

But after losing snaps to Sams, Waters reestablished control of the position and quarterbacked K-State to wins in six of its final seven games, including a 31-14 rout of Michigan in the bowl. Waters had his best outing yet, too, completing 78 percent of his passes for three touchdowns.

While Waters, Webb and Knight will be looking to build off their bowl performances this spring, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph will be looking to win a job. Perhaps the most highly acclaimed quarterback the Cowboys have ever signed, Rudolph had a monster senior season in Rock Hill, S.C., throwing for 64 touchdowns while leading his team to a state championship. Enrolled for spring ball, the ESPN 300 recruit will challenge J.W. Walsh.

“Mason really brings all of the characteristics you want to see in a quarterback,” Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said. “All of the intangibles.”

Plenty more quarterback talent is on its way, too.

Texas’ Jerrod Heard, West Virginia’s William Crest and TCU’s Foster Sawyer were also four-star recruits in the 2014 class, and they will be joining their schools in the summer with chances to play right away.

Such opportunities exist because the Big 12 quarterback play was down last season. But heading to spring, the league’s most identifiable position is on its way back up.

Big 12's lunch links

February, 13, 2014
Feb 13
12:00
PM ET
Don't just talk about it, LeBron. Be about it.
Last month, in a stunning move, Baker Mayfield decided to transfer from Texas Tech despite winning the starting quarterback job in the preseason as a walk-on true freshman.

Mayfield, who also started Texas Tech’s regular-season finale against Texas, had initially vaguely cited a “miscommunication” with coach Kliff Kingsbury as the reason.

Just as stunning, Mayfield later revealed he would be enrolling at Oklahoma, which in the spring will have five scholarship quarterbacks, including freshman Trevor Knight, who was named MVP in the Allstate Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama.

Even though he was a walk-on at Texas Tech, Mayfield is still bound by NCAA transfer rules, and the Red Raiders have not granted him a release to transfer within the conference. Under Big 12 and NCAA rules, if Mayfield transferred to Oklahoma anyway, not only would he have to sit out a year, but he would lose a season of eligibility.

Mayfield, however, is hoping this week Texas Tech will grant his appeal to be eligible right away.

In an interview with ESPN.com Wednesday evening, Mayfield went into more detail about why exactly he left Texas Tech; and why now he wants to go to Oklahoma, even though the Sooners seem to have their quarterback of the future in Knight:

[+] EnlargeBaker Mayfield
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsBaker Mayfield is hoping to enroll at Oklahoma and compete for the starting quarterback job.
Jake Trotter: What was the reason that you decided to leave Texas Tech after being the starting quarterback to end the regular season?

Baker Mayfield: Well, a lot of things played into it. It was over time. When I got hurt [Week 5 at Kansas], there was no communication between me and my coach [Kingsbury]. When I got healthy, I didn’t know why I wasn’t playing right away. At that time, we were losing a couple games in a row. I was still clueless as to why I wasn’t playing. That was really frustrating for me because I started the first five games and we won. So, I just didn’t really know exactly what he was thinking or what the situation was. So that happened. And then going from a week-to-week basis not knowing whether I was going to play or not and how short the leash would be if I had an average half, how quickly I would be pulled or anything like that. It was making me uncomfortable, and I just didn’t want to be there anymore. I loved Lubbock and I loved my teammates. But going through that and then them tell me they’re still working on a scholarship for next fall, and I wouldn’t have one for this semester coming up. It was all that.

Trotter: So they told you they wouldn’t have a scholarship for you in the spring, either?

Mayfield: Exactly. They said they were still working on one for next fall.

Trotter: Was that the final straw for you?

Mayfield: I mean that was kinda leading up to it, yes. Then after the Texas game on Thanksgiving, the next week we went in, I was splitting second-team reps after starting on Thanksgiving. I still had no idea what was going on. I’d just had enough at that point.

Trotter: So after the Texas game, you were splitting second-teams behind Davis Webb?

Mayfield: Michael [Brewer] was going first. I don’t know if he [Kingsbury] did that by age, but there was no explanation for why he was doing it. Right when we started our first bowl practice, right before the practice, he [Kingsbury] said it was a straight-up competition and that was how they were going to determine the starting quarterback. I didn’t think that was really fair. I’m not one to be afraid of competition at all because I’ve gone through that my whole life at Lake Travis [Mayfield’s high school], too, and when I got to Tech. But I didn’t think that was fair because I had done my job when I had gotten the opportunity. I mean, I thought I needed more of a chance, and I wasn’t getting it. And they were splitting the reps equally so that was the last straw.

Trotter: So when you told Coach Kingsbury, what was his reaction and what was that conversation like?

Mayfield: I mean, he was shocked, although he was quoted saying he knew one of the quarterbacks was going to transfer. He was shocked to think it was me leaving. And he was saying how he had been behind me the whole time. I had no idea because of the miscommunication and the lack of communication, really. And not knowing what he was thinking. I mean, if you gave me another chance to go through it again, I still wouldn’t think he was behind me, and I was his guy the whole time. I know he did give me the opportunity to start in the first place, and I’m thankful for that. I worked my butt off to get there, and I thank for him for taking a chance on me -- starting a walk-on quarterback. But after that, when he was rotating us, there was no explanation.

Trotter: So do you feel like it was a lack of communication more than a miscommunication, which is the word you had used when you first decided to transfer?

Mayfield: Yeah, I would say that.

Trotter: What was the reaction of your teammates when you told them?

Mayfield: They understood. All the guys I loved and had gone through all those tough times with, they understood completely. They supported me. And I got nothing but good wishes from them. All of them, including all of the quarterbacks, understood.

Trotter: What was it like watching the National University Holiday Bowl on TV, or did you even watch it?

Mayfield: Oh, I watched all of it. I was so proud of them. I knew Arizona State was going to be a good team, but they just blew [it] out of the water. I was jumping up and down in Austin, Texas for those guys.

Trotter: OK, so you decide to leave Tech, were there any other schools you looked at?

Mayfield: I mean, yes, there were. I got some calls from places Tech had to released me to, but I wasn’t that interested.

[Kliff Kingsbury] was shocked to think it was me leaving. And he was saying how he had been behind me the whole time. I had no idea because of the miscommunication and the lack of communication, really.

-- Baker Mayfield, when he told Kingsbury he was transferring from Texas Tech
Trotter: Who were some of those schools?

Mayfield: East Carolina, Houston -- just some other schools that kinda talked to me back in high school, but nothing I was ever really interested in.

Trotter: So it seemed like OU was the one school you had in mind when you decided you were going to transfer, correct?

Mayfield: Yes. Out of high school, I applied to three schools right off the bat: Oklahoma, TCU and I think Tech was the third. But I didn’t really want to go to Tech until late in the spring of my senior year. Oklahoma and TCU were my first two options coming out of high school. That’s where I wanted to go. And I wasn’t going to give TCU another chance after they basically screwed my whole recruiting over from the start [TCU recruited Mayfield but never offered a scholarship]. So OU was where I’ve always wanted to go. I grew up an Oklahoma fan. I used to go to all the games watching a bunch of people who are in the NFL now.

Trotter: How do you become an OU fan in Austin?

Mayfield: That’s what a lot of people ask. I never really was a big fan of Texas, and when I traveled to OU games -- because my dad used to play and old coaches would give us tickets -- me at six years old to 12 -- I used to go to like two games a year before hitting high school football. I just grew up a fan. Then one of my best friends is Garrett Gilbert. When I watched him go through all of that at Texas, it just made me just absolutely hate what they did to him and watching fans boo a 20-year-old kid off the field, it was just terrible.

Trotter: So, have you talked to any OU coaches at all?

Mayfield: Not at all.

Trotter: Have you talked to any OU players?

Mayfield: I mean I know Trevor Knight, but not really. I congratulated a couple of them after the Sugar Bowl.

Trotter: So you’re just going to show up at OU and just show up for football practice -- is that the plan?

Mayfield: Well, I’m still waiting on my appeal, which is happening this Friday.

Trotter: You’re doing the appeal on your own. OU is not handling that, correct?

Mayfield: Correct. They can’t handle it because Texas Tech has blocked my communication to any Big 12 schools. And so, that’s what we’re having to deal with. The appeal will decide whether I can join the football team and also eligibility-wise and everything that involves football.

Trotter: So if they deny your appeal, what does that mean?

Mayfield: I haven’t thought about that, because I think I have a good case, and I think I should have a chance because I walked on to Texas Tech, I didn’t have anything paid for; I was not recruited. I just knew people at Texas Tech [and said] I’m just going to go to school there and have fun and go out for the football team.’ That’s what I did, and it wound up working out perfectly for me. And so, for them to have the final say as to where I can go for my future, it’s kinda ridiculous in my mind because they didn’t pay for anything, and I didn’t even have a scholarship promised to me for this next semester. So I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m hoping for the best for my own sake.

Trotter: If the appeal is denied, will you look at other schools since you won’t be eligible?

Mayfield: Yeah, I probably would, but I don’t know.

Trotter: But if they do grant the appeal, you will be going to OU?

Mayfield: Yes.

Trotter: I think people are confused by your decision to go to OU because you have somebody like Trevor Knight who seems pretty entrenched after that Sugar Bowl, and they have four other quarterbacks on scholarship. Why would you go to OU when you’d have a better chance of playing if you went somewhere else?

Mayfield: I know what they’re thinking. Trevor played phenomenal in the Sugar. He beat Alabama, which had arguably the top defense for five years in a row. Yeah, they can say that. But I’m not scared of competition at all. I like Trevor. He’s a nice guy. And I know Blake Bell is a big dude and has some good ability. I watched from the sideline [as he] beat us. He played one of his best games against Texas Tech. But I mean, I’m not scared of that at all. It’s not just about the football, too. Oklahoma is just a better academic opportunity as well. It’s just a better school. It’s just a better opportunity for me at this point.

Trotter: So this isn’t strictly a football decision for you? Is that what people don’t understand?

Mayfield: Exactly. I left Texas Tech because of the football. and that was frustrating to me. I had to get out of there as soon as possible before all of Lubbock erupted on me. I got out of there. Now it’s about finding a place to settle in and get comfortable. OU is a place that’s familiar to me.
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.

Big 12 mailbag

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

To the 'bag:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Big 12 coaches made per win

December, 18, 2013
12/18/13
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Kansas’ Charlie Weis was the sixth-highest paid FBS coach this year.

In pay per victory.

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

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

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

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

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

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

December, 16, 2013
12/16/13
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video
If all eyes weren’t on the Heisman Trophy race Saturday, then they were on Mack Brown's impending resignation as head coach of the Texas Longhorns. Add that in with the multiple junior college pledges to Big 12 programs, and you have a pretty solid weekend of recruiting as we approach the middle of the month.

Official visits and in-home visits were major topics of discussion last week. Here are some of the top storylines over the weekend:


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What to watch in the Big 12: Week 14

November, 27, 2013
11/27/13
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Here’s what to watch in the Big 12 this week:

1. Can Baylor rebound with a win? The Bears tumbled out of the BCS title race with their loss to Oklahoma State. Yet, Baylor can still have a special season. If BU wins its final two games against TCU and Texas, it can share the Big 12 title, even if OSU beats Oklahoma. If the Cowboys lose, the Bears could win the Big 12 title outright. Thus, they should be focused on returning to their pre-OSU form and refuse to let one chilly night in Stillwater snowball into multiple losses to end the season and ruin one of the best years in school history.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesMack Brown hopes Texas can get back to its winning ways.
2. Will Texas get back on track? Much like the Bears, UT is recovering from a beatdown by the Cowboys in its last game. Yet, much like the Bears, the Longhorns' Big 12 title hopes remain with a similar scenario. Wins over Texas Tech and Baylor could earn them a co-championship with an outright title within reach with a Cowboys loss to OU. That’s where the similarities stop. The Longhorns have had far more struggles throughout the year than Baylor but they also have a proven ability to overcome adversity. Which UT team will show up in the season's final weeks?

3. Can the Bears and Longhorns set up a super Saturday on Dec. 7? If Baylor and Texas win on Saturday, it will set up a terrific final Saturday in the Big 12 with OU visiting OSU and UT visiting Baylor on Dec. 7. A Cowboys’ loss in the early game would set up a pseudo-Big 12 title game in the afternoon. A Cowboys win would still leave a co-championship on the table for the UT-BU winner. Either way, wins from those two schools this week will set up a terrific end to the conference season.

4. Will TCU salvage some hope with a upset? The Horned Frogs’ season hasn’t turned out like they would have hoped. Lackluster offense, turnovers and the injury bug have been like an anchor on the leg of their defense but TCU still could salvage something out of this season by upsetting Baylor. Coach Gary Patterson wanted to make this game like a bowl game for the bowl-less Horned Frogs and he’s had two weeks to prepare for Baylor’s offense. This reeks of a potential trap game for the reeling Bears.

5. Has Texas Tech learned from its no-win November? Kliff Kingsbury hopes so. The Red Raiders have not won a game since Oct. 19 against West Virginia. Worse yet, they haven’t been within double digits of their opponent since the eight-point loss to OU. With several young playmakers on the roster, TTU has the chance to show it has at least learned and grown from those disappointing defeats when it plays the Thanksgiving contest against UT.

6. What will Tyler Lockett do for an encore? The Kansas State receiver had 12 receptions for 278 yards and three touchdowns in the loss to OU. He can’t possibly match those numbers against Kansas, can he? He’s one of the conference’s top players and could continue to be unstoppable against the Jayhawks.

7. Will Iowa State or West Virginia head into the offseason with a win? The Cyclones and Mountaineers have been humbled this season after making bowl appearances in 2012. ISU is coming off a shutout over Kansas and WVU had a bye after the Jayhawks ruined its bowl chances. A WVU win could help Dana Holgorsen head into the postseason with some positive vibes while a ISU win would be a clear sign of the competitive nature of Paul Rhoads’ squad to win two games after losing seven straight to start conference play.

8. What’s the deal at quarterback in Lubbock? “They're all three healthy. So it will be between one of those three and see how it goes,” Kingsbury said this week. Baker Mayfield, Davis Webb and Michael Brewer are battling to start against the Longhorns on Thursday but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Brewer get a shot since we’ve seen what Mayfield and Webb can do.

9. Could there be an upset in the Sunflower Showdown? KU was taking consistent steps forward until its 34-0 loss to ISU last weekend, taking a clear step backward. But the Jayhawks can earn some bragging rights and grab some momentum with a win over KSU on Saturday. The Wildcats’ four-game winning streak was snapped by OU last Saturday but they’re still the clear favorite in the Sunflower Showdown. But, this Jayhawk squad has shown enough positive signs that that an upset it not completely out of the realm of possibility.

10. Are Iowa State and West Virginia supposed to be rivals? No, seriously, are they? Nothing says rivalry weekend like Iowa State against West Virginia. That said, rivalries must start somewhere, so in this age of new teams in new conferences, maybe these two teams can start building a rivalry with a close, contested battle on Saturday.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 12

November, 14, 2013
11/14/13
10:15
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OSUJohn Weast/Getty ImagesClint Chelf and Oklahoma State have to beat Texas in Austin if they hope to keep their conference title hopes alive, as the Cowboys are a game behind the Longhorns and Baylor in the loss column.
Let's take a look at the top storylines in the Big 12 for Week 12:

1. Can Oklahoma State make this a race? The stakes for Oklahoma State this weekend are obvious: Beat Texas and we're looking at a three-team Big 12 title race. Lose, and the Cowboys join Oklahoma on the outside looking in, making the Dec. 7 Bedlam game irrelevant to the conference-title picture. We haven't said that in a long time, have we? The Cowboys have won five straight and face a Texas team missing several key cogs. They've won their last two games in Austin. Do it again and they just might sneak into the top 10.

2. Texas Tech goes for the big upset: The Red Raiders have plenty of motivation this week as the 27-point David to the conference's undefeated green-and-gold Goliath. The team that was once as hyped as any in college football at 7-0 is now staring down the real possibility of ending the season 7-5. Maybe being backed into a corner and underestimated is just what coach Kliff Kingsbury's squad needs this week to end a three-game slide and stun Baylor.

3. Texas offense without Johnathan Gray: One of the best running backs in the Big 12 is done for the season. How will the Longhorns' offense regroup? Expect a heavy workload for the junior duo of Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, and perhaps a few more creative ways to put the ball in the hands of the speedy Daje Johnson. If OSU loads the box to stop the Gray-less run game, can Case McCoy make the throws to beat the Pokes' talented secondary?

4. Baylor's defense tries to do it again: Shutting down Oklahoma in a 41-12 victory last Thursday might've done wonders for the national perception of Baylor's much-improved defense. But there will always be detractors who say Oklahoma was flat-out inept in Waco and that the Bears' performance wasn't conclusive enough. Maybe shutting down Jace Amaro and the rest of the Tech attack in front of a national primetime audience at AT&T Stadium would quiet a few of those remaining doubters.

5. K-State goes for four in a row: Winners of three straight, all by convincing or impressive margins, the Wildcats are enjoying the fruits of their weekly improvement after a tough 2-4 start to the season. A win over TCU makes Kansas State bowl eligible, a feat that seemed unlikely one month ago. Don't sleep on this KSU team -- it might be the Big 12's fourth- or fifth-best squad by year's end.

6. Does West Virginia have gas left in the tank? The Mountaineers have gone to overtime in each of the past two weeks, one a win at TCU and the other a shootout home loss to Texas in which they came up just short. This West Virginia defense is as beat up from an injury standpoint as any in the league. Can the Mountaineers get up for a road game against a Kansas team that plays most foes close? Knowing they need to win out to reach a bowl should be sufficient motivation.

7. Oklahoma offense must answer criticism: As usual, Bob Stoops faced another week full of criticism and second-guessing following a Sooners loss. This time, the public's focus was on quarterback Blake Bell, play-caller Josh Heupel and the sputtering offense that duo is held responsible for, fair or not. This might be a good week to pound the rock and rediscover the run game that was less than impactful against Baylor.

8. TCU trying to keep its bowl hopes alive: If there are two teams nobody in this conference wants to play right now, it might be Kansas State and Baylor. That's all the Horned Frogs have left in 2013, and all they have to play for right now at 4-6 is a puncher's chance at bowl eligibility. The only time Gary Patterson hasn't taken his team bowling was 2004.

9. Is this the week Kansas finally wins? You might've noticed my colleague Jake Trotter boldly went out on a limb and predicted Kansas would pull off a victory over West Virginia on Saturday. The Jayhawks, you might have heard, have lost 27 consecutive Big 12 games and are 0-15 in conference games under Charlie Weis. Will KU reward the bravery of Trotter and its remaining fans and finally notch that elusive victory? If this isn't the week, don't worry, there’s still a game against Iowa State left.

10. Bring it on, Grant Rohach: We're trying to find reason to get excited about an Iowa State offense that just hasn't been able to figure things out this season. Quarterback Sam B. Richardson is still dealing with a thumb injury, so Rohach will get a chance to shake off the jitters from his first career start and give it a go on the road against Oklahoma. Not an ideal situation by any means, but perhaps he can give ISU a spark.

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