Oklahoma State and West Virginia were impressive in losses while Texas Tech was disappointing in a victory. Keep in mind, our Big 12 bowl projections will remain fluid throughout the season as teams start to distinguish themselves as bowl contenders or pretenders.
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma
Cotton Bowl: Baylor
Valero Alamo Bowl: Kansas State
Russell Athletic Bowl: Oklahoma State
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: West Virginia
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Texas
Cactus Bowl: TCU
On to the mailbag:
Schloss in Falling Waters, West Virginia, writes: As a WVU alumnus, I am happy to see we have made good progress since last season. There is little doubt that we have definitely improved. But should 'Eer fans be worried about an Alabama hangover? Does WVU continue to build on its strong showing versus the Tide or does it take a step back in Week 2?
Brandon Chatmon: Mountaineer fans should be worried because we see teams that are overwhelming favorites struggle each week during nonconference play. But I think the Mountaineers are hungry and will look at the Alabama result as proof of their potential to be better than last season and strive to make a statement that they plan to rise up the Big 12 standings this season. As impressive as their showing was, it was still a loss. So I think WVU will come out hungry for the satisfaction of a victory.
John in Hillsboro, Ohio writes: So ... in this new playoff era, how can a Big 12 team, even undefeated, hope to get to the playoffs with no conference championship and traditionally weak nonconference scheduling?
Chatmon: I don’t see a scenario where an undefeated Big 12 champion is on the outside looking in when playoff berths are handed out.
Michael in Lubbock, Texas writes: It’s one thing to come out flat against an FCS team, but what's most troubling about Texas Tech's "embarrassing" performance was the same problems that you know they worked on all offseason keep biting them -- turnovers, penalties, bad special teams play and the defense getting blown off the line and unable to get off the field. How do they fix it?
Chatmon: The problems with penalties and turnovers is what bothered me the most as well, Michael. The Red Raiders didn’t play with urgency or take the field to dominate Central Arkansas. They clearly just wanted to show up and get their win. Kliff Kingsbury has been stressing penalties and turnovers, yet they’re still an issue which makes me think it won’t change until the players take more pride and ownership over being masters of the details. Everything is fixable, but Kingsbury's squad needs to understand the value of every game, every play and every opportunity.
Andy in Austin, Texas writes: Given his history of concussions, does Texas quarterback David Ash finally retire? And who does Strong give the reins to, Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard?
Chatmon: I hope so. We’ve reached the point where it’s not about David Ash the football player anymore. As far as where UT goes from here, here is what I would do if I was Charlie Strong. I would start preparing to hand the offense over to Heard. I'd tell Swoopes he gets the start this weekend but I think Heard is the future and that we’re going to get Heard ready to take over, starting with multiple series against BYU, then see how Swoopes responds. Best-case scenario is Swoopes steps his game up and either Heard earns the job and beats him out or Swoopes refuses to let this opportunity to start get away from him. That would be a win-win for the Longhorns.
John Wheeler writes: When comparing the defensive efforts of Texas and Baylor, which seems to point to more long-term success and which was more a result of opponent?
Chatmon: I think both defensive performances point to long-term success. Both defenses have terrific athletes and were dominant over the weekend so I expect both to be among the Big 12’s best. The thing I liked most about the performances was the relentless nature of the Longhorns and Bears defenses. That’s what you’re supposed to do against inferior opponents.
Matt Truelove writes: Even though J.W. Walsh almost led the Cowboys to victory vs. FSU, do you think he'll end the year as the starter for the Cowboys?
Chatmon: That’s an interesting question. I think ultimately the Cowboys quarterback will be decided by the defense they are facing as a season progresses. Walsh will be the guy until defenses load up to stop the run-heavy approach that highlights the junior’s strengths. When that happens Daxx Garman or Mason Rudolph will be counted on to make defenses respect the passing game. If all bets are off and it was only up to Mike Gundy and company, I think Walsh would get the bulk of the snaps because of his unquestioned leadership ability. But I fully expect the Pokes to adapt when defenses force their hand as the season goes on. So, to answer your question, I don’t think OSU will have an clear No. 1 signal-caller this fall, with Walsh sitting atop the queue and Garman/Rudolph ready to go when needed.
On a scale of 1-10, how big of an impact is David Ash's injury to Texas' season?
Trotter: 9. Who knows when -- or even if -- Ash will be able to return to the lineup for the Longhorns this season? The timing of Ash's injury combined with the timing of a brutal upcoming schedule could send Texas' season south in a hurry. Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard might be fine quarterbacks in time. But Heard has been on campus just a few weeks. And in the spring, Swoopes looked nowhere near ready to quarterback Texas to wins over BYU, UCLA, Baylor and Oklahoma, which, by the way, are four teams Texas plays in its next five games. Maybe Swoopes has improved dramatically since the spring. Maybe Ash will return shortly. But the biggest question to Texas having success in Strong's first season -- Ash staying healthy -- has already been answered. And not in the way Texas fans had hoped.
Olson: 11, possibly 12. Charlie Strong went into this season with the same belief Mack Brown held last summer: If Ash is good, we're going to be pretty good. Losing him on his first hit of the season is the absolute nightmare scenario, because there's no guarantee he'll ever come back and there's no guarantee the backup can get the job done. A senior like Case McCoy is not walking through that door. Texas once again must scramble to retool its offense and, once again, the previous staff's failures in recruiting quarterback depth are being exposed.
Other than Oklahoma State and West Virginia, what surprised you most last weekend?
Chatmon: Texas Tech’s struggles to pull away from Central Arkansas was a surprise. I expected Kliff Kingsbury’s squad to cruise to a double digit victory, but they couldn’t seem to take control of the game. The most disappointing aspect of the game was turnovers and penalties continuing to make life more difficult than it needed to be for Tech. The Red Raiders have the ability to become major players in the Big 12 race this season but that won’t happen if they’re constantly shooting themselves in the foot.
Trotter: Thee biggest surprise to me was Iowa State's dismal performance against North Dakota State. I really thought the Cyclones had the chance to form a competent offensive attack with a proven play-caller in Mark Mangino, an experienced offensive line and talent at the skill positions. Through the first quarter, that looked like the case. But after injuries to Quenton Bundrage and Tom Farniok the offense completely fell apart, while the Iowa State defensive front got dominated in the trenches. One game in, Iowa State's bowl hopes already look like a long shot.
Olson: I did think Iowa State could get upset by North Dakota State, but I didn't expect a blowout. Throughout the offseason we were led to believe the Cyclones had renovated their offense and were on track to become a bowl-quality team again. That might still be the case, but losing Farniok and Bundrage was crushing, and ISU's run defense was embarrassing in the 20-point loss. They could be in for a rough run to start this season.
Other than Swoopes, what storyline are you most interested in this weekend?
Chatmon: I’m interested to see if there’s any letdown from Oklahoma State and West Virginia as home favorites after strong showings in losses to open the season. The Cowboys face Missouri State and the Mountaineers face Towson in games they should dominate. If OSU and WVU are the type of teams they looked like to open the season, they will roll on Saturday. If they aren’t, they’ll let their overmatched opponents make the games closer than they should be.
Trotter: I'll be watching to see how the Texas defense performs in a revenge game against BYU. The Longhorns were embarrassed in Provo last year. Now, even more pressure will be on them with Texas' quarterback shuffle. The Longhorns have the talent defensively to dominate, and carry the team through this quarterback transition. But will they? We're about to find out.
Olson: The rematch of Taysom Hill vs. Texas' defense. Last season, he torched the Longhorns for 259 rushing yards and three TDs and nobody saw it coming. The nation's No. 3 rushing quarterback in 2013 looked sharper and improved as a passer in his debut vs. UConn last week. Texas' defense was spectacular against North Texas, and its players want revenge. Charlie Strong's staff should have a much better plan for containing Hill and the zone read, but this going to be a four-quarter chess match.
The week wasn't one featuring multiple athletes taking official visits, but from a recruiting spin, it did have its moments. Here is a quick recap of what happened.
Sept. 7, 2013: Ash exits a 40-21 loss to BYU late in the fourth quarter after suffering a concussion. He does not play against Ole Miss the following week.
Sept. 20: Texas announces Ash has been cleared by UT medical staff to start against Kansas State. He'd participated in his first practice since the concussion two days earlier after being symptom-free for at least 48 hours.
Sept. 21: Ash passes for 166 yards and guides Texas to a 17-7 halftime lead over K-State, then is held out for the second half. Team trainers evaluate him for concussion symptoms.
Nov. 25: Texas officially announces Ash is out for the season and will seek a medical redshirt. "Though he's made a lot of progress, we have not been able to clear him to return to competition," Texas trainer Kenny Boyd says in a statement. "Due to the duration of symptoms, we are now at a point that we all believe the best approach for him is to not return this season."
Jan. 18, 2014: Ash is cleared for offseason workouts and is expected to be a full participant in spring practice.
March 18: First day of spring practice. Ash returns to the practice field for the first time since September.
April 11: Ash is shut down for the final week of spring practice after suffering a Jones fracture in his left foot which requires surgery. Texas also announces Ash officially received a medical redshirt for missing 2013, giving him two remaining seasons of eligibility.
July 21: Texas announces Ash is fully cleared to participate in fall practice. A day later, Strong says at Big 12 media days Ash is his starting quarterback.
Aug. 4: First day of fall practice. Ash speaks to media for the first time since BYU. "A lot of people told me, 'You need to give it up, you need to quit.' Honestly, I never really thought about it," he says. "In my mind, I always knew I was going to play." He declines to discuss specifics about his concussion. When asked if he's ready to take his first hit, he declares: "Oh yeah, bring it on."
Aug. 25: During his Monday press conference, Strong refers to Ash as an "unbelievable quarterback who's had an unbelievable preseason camp." When asked again about taking his first hit in the season opener, Ash says, "I'm going to be OK. If I get hit, I'll be fine. I will be sliding a lot more this season, so you can count on that, and I'll be trying to protect myself and doing what's best for the team and taking care of my health during games so that I can last the whole season."
Saturday: Ash's first hit comes on the first play of Texas' second offensive drive. As he bends down to scoop up a fumbled snap, North Texas defensive end Jarrian Roberts hits Ash and his shoulder collides with the crown of Ash's helmet. Ash is slow to get up but does not report an injury to UT trainers. He also takes the following hits during the 38-7 win:
- A hard shot from UNT linebacker Anthony Wallace on the same drive, while throwing a pass away along the sideline.
- A big hit on a 9-yard sack by Roberts in the second quarter.
- A sack by UNT's Dutton Watson before halftime during which Watson's left arm hits Ash's neck.
- A forearm to the neck from Wallace while sliding at the end of a third-quarter scramble.
- During an end zone fumble that UNT recovers for a fourth-quarter touchdown, Ash is knocked into a pile and it appears defensive end Chad Polk's knee slams into Ash's facemask or neck. He plays one more offensive series.
Ash does not report any injuries or symptoms to team trainers during the game. A UT spokesperson says Ash spoke with trainers immediately after he came off the field from each drive.
After the game, Ash does not speak to reporters. OC Shawn Watson describes his performance as "sporadic" with some good moments. Strong is asked about the hits Ash took. "It's all within the flow of the game," he says. "I think the officials did a great job and the thing we have to do is just do a better job protecting. ... Sometimes we see it coming and you have to remember, you're going to get hit in this game."
Late Saturday night, after leaving the stadium, Ash informs the Texas staff he's experiencing headaches and dizziness and is brought in for further evaluation. He tells Strong he thinks the first hit, by Roberts, caused his symptoms.
Monday: Strong announces Ash is out for BYU and offers no timetable for his return. He's concerned about Ash's concussion history but insists the coaching staff was unaware of any in-game symptoms. "I'm not ever going to jeopardize injury," he says. "You can never, ever in this program jeopardize a young man's health to compete in a football game."
- This was a good weekend for the Big 12 if you ask its head coaches. Underdogs Oklahoma State and West Virginia both put up a valiant four-quarter fight against potential College Football Playoff teams Florida State and Alabama, respectively. Big 12 coaches polled Monday during the league's weekly teleconference sensed that sent a message about the depth of the conference. They weren't expecting blowouts in those high-profile showdowns. I don't think anybody is going to underestimate OSU or WVU going forward.
- Cedric Golden of the Austin American-Statesman has a bold take following the news David Ash is out: Jerrod Heard should start. The true freshman didn't join the program until June, so he still has a lot to learn. But he came to Austin with one heck of a pedigree and he does bring a dual-threat ability to an offense that's going to neeed some new wrinkles. It doesn't seem like Charlie Strong strongly considered Heard to start vs. BYU, but he might need to in the next few weeks if Tyrone Swoopes struggles.
- Who's ready for the first Big 12 conference game of 2014? Kansas State and Iowa State meet on Saturday. Bill Snyder wishes his players had a little more experience going into their Big 12 opener. Paul Rhoads, on the other hand, sees this game as a great chance to motivate his players after their blowout loss to North Dakota State. Personally, I'm a fan of these anomaly games. Oklahoma-West Virginia was a weirdly close game a year ago when they met in Week 2. With so few good non-conference rivalry games early in the season, why not get Big 12 ball rolling early?
- Gary Patterson makes an interesting point, in light of the injuries at Texas and Baylor: Does having two quarterbacks help TCU's Big 12 title hopes? He settled on Trevone Boykin for the Horned Frogs' season opener but is reserving the right to also use Matt Joeckel next Saturday when TCU takes on Minnesota. He seems comfortable with that QB situation. He's less enthusiastic about how TCU's defense fared outside of its base package. But, hey, that's what bye weeks are for.
- Came across this over the weekend and it's a shame this has fallen under the radar: Kansas has created a comic book-themed website in devotion to linebacker Ben Heeney. Benton Smith of KUsports.com got players to chime in on "The Diabolical Defender" and what makes him so special. Kudos to the KU sports information staff for showing one of the Big 12's most underappreciated players the love he deserves.
At Big 12 media days in July 2013, Ash was asked about his relationship with Tyrone Swoopes, the freshman who'd enrolled early and was battling to become his backup. He talked about Texas' proud history at the quarterback position -- Vince Young, Colt McCoy, even mentioned Major Applewhite. Then he reflected on what he wanted to leave behind when his playing days at Texas were over.
"Coming in, Texas kind of took a nosedive for a year, and we've been trying to get back up," he said. "With Tyrone, my goal is that whenever he steps in, I've got the program where he can just keep it rolling and Texas can be good for a long time."
The time for Swoopes to step in is right now and when he least expected it. The sophomore played two snaps against North Texas -- the final two kneel-downs of the ballgame -- but must start his first career game Saturday against BYU.
Swoopes' resume is fairly blank to this point. He's completed nearly four times more passes in spring games (19) than in real ones (five). But he showed enough in fall camp to make this a clear-cut decision for Charlie Strong and quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson once Ash was ruled out.
"I'm very confident in Tyrone. I am," Strong said. "I'm confident with any player on this football team."
The 6-foot-4 sophomore isn't easy to bring down at 245 pounds, and Watson will surely implement more run options into the game plan this week to accentuate what Swoopes does best. Strong went so far as to compare Swoopes's ability on the perimeter to BYU's prolific quarterback Taysom Hill.
He is not the fleet-footed Young clone that fans expected during Swoopes' recruitment out of Whitewright (Texas) High School, but his legs do give the Texas offense an asset and a chance for some new wrinkles.
What Texas needs from Swoopes, above all else, is a competent passer capable of making key throws and sound decisions. He throws a nice deep ball, but how will he handle the intermediate throws? What about third downs and passing downs? Watson has seen improvements both in Swoopes' knowledge and fundamentals during their time together. A long offseason of training will soon be put to the test.
"Once Tyrone gets a couple completions in, he'll start getting a little rhythm and he'll be fine," running back Malcolm Brown said. "He's a guy that I've seen work since he's been here. I know as a backup, you always feel like you have to go above and beyond, but that's not the case at all. Just have to be consistent."
The presence of Brown and Johnathan Gray, two of the Big 12's best backs, certainly helps. Strong insists he does not demand greatness of Texas' quarterbacks. He just needs a game manager.
"What you have to look at, it's not all about one position," Strong said. "If you have the defense play well like we played the other night, you have two good running backs, your offense line protects well, you can function."
Strong said Swoopes executed the Texas offense effectively during practice Sunday, but he must also prepare a contingency plan. Swoopes' backup will be freshman Jerrod Heard, the former ESPN 150 recruit and two-time state champion from Denton (Texas) Guyer. Walk-on Trey Holtz figures to be the No. 3 option, and there are no other scholarship quarterbacks available.
Had Heard been able to enroll early at Texas this spring, he might've had a better chance to beat out Swoopes. After Watson told reporters this month that Heard was "in China" when it came to his understanding of the offense, a redshirt seemed likely. That might not be possible now.
"It's got to move very quickly for him," Strong said. "You're always a play away."
The opponent for Swoopes' first start, while familiar, is no less scary. BYU forced an Ash-led Texas offense to punt eight times in the 40-21 beatdown in Provo last season. He might struggle early, Strong admitted, but Swoopes needs to maintain his composure. He needs to find confidence.
And Texas will need everybody else to chip in if they're going to pull this off and, as Ash hoped, keep rolling.
"Other players have to step up, other players have to go play," Strong said. "You look across the country and it can happen to any team at any second. Now it's happened to us."
Teams of the week: Yes, West Virginia and Oklahoma State might have ultimately lost. But as heavy underdogs, they also took the top two ranked teams in the country to the wire on neutral sites. Both squads should gain a ton of confidence from their performances. And assuming they both play the way they did in their openers, their 2014 outlooks will look much different than they did in the preseason.
Disappointment of the week: Iowa State lost its season opener to an FCS opponent for the second straight year. The Cyclones jumped to a 14-0 lead, then got dominated by North Dakota State the rest of the way. Iowa State could be without leading receiver Quenton Bundrage for awhile. And the schedule doesn’t get any easier, with the next four opponents all coming off bowl appearances.
Big (offensive) man on campus: West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett was terrific in the loss, throwing for 365 yards -- the second-most a Nick Saban Alabama team had ever allowed behind Johnny Manziel in 2013. Trickett also completed 29 of 45 passes, and would have had more completions had it not been for several drops.
Big (defensive) man on campus: Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman was unblockable against SMU Sunday night. He had two of Baylor’s eight sacks, as the Bears held SMU to just 64 yards of a total offense in a 45-0 shutout -- the first time the Mustangs had been shutout since 2004.
Special teams player of the week: Tyreek Hill set an Oklahoma State record for all-purpose yards in a debut with 278. And he did it against the No. 1 ranked team in the country. Florida State has one of the nation’s fastest teams around, and yet they couldn’t catch Hill, whether it was on offense, on punt returns or kickoff returns. The Cowboys have one dynamic playmaker in their backfield, and on special teams.
Play of the week: Oklahoma State had the ball at midfield with five minutes left and a chance to take the lead over the Seminoles. But as quarterback J.W. Walsh dove for a first down, he was upended and lost control of the ball. The Seminoles recovered and scored two plays later to extend its lead to 37-24. Oklahoma State came right back and scored a touchdown, but couldn’t come up with the onside kick. The fumble was the difference maker.
Stat of the week: Baylor finished with more sacks (eight) than SMU did first downs (seven).
Quote of the week: “We can function. It’s not like it’s the end of the world.” – Texas coach Charlie Strong, after revealing Monday morning that quarterback David Ash would miss Saturday’s game with BYU due to concussion-like symptoms suffered in the opener.
Here is how the Big 12 stacks up after Week 1 of the season:
Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State: Running back Tyreek Hill drew the “oohs” and “aahs” with his speed, but Ogbah had just as big an impact for the Cowboys defensively. Facing off against an offensive line starting five seniors, Ogbah was dominant in his first career start, finishing with six tackles, two sacks and two pass breakups. The Big 12 is loaded at defensive end with Cedric Reed, Ryan Mueller, Charles Tapper and Shawn Oakman. Ogbah, just a sophomore, showed Saturday night that he might be in that class, too.
Kolby Listenbee, WR, TCU: The Horned Frogs have desperately been in need of playmaking at the wide receiver spot. They might have uncovered the answer in Listenbee. The burner hauled in 38- and 36-yard bombs from Trevone Boykin, and added a touchdown grab on a fade late in the game from Matt Joeckel. Listenbee was beating his man all game. The Horned Frogs might finally have a weapon at receiver who can cause concern for the opponent.
Demarco Cobbs, LB, Texas: Cobbs missed the entire 2013 season and was such a non-factor before that anyway that some speculated his college career might be over. But Cobbs appears to have something left in the tank and displayed that with a pick-six in the opener. If the Longhorns suffer any injuries at linebacker, Cobbs could prove to be a key backup.
Kevin White, WR, West Virginia: Other than quarterback Clint Trickett, there wasn’t a more impressive performer against Alabama than White. The senior wideout had nine grabs for 143 yards and a touchdown. The Mountaineers had a solid wide receiving corps last year, but they never had a go-to target emerge. White clearly established himself as the target for Trickett and could be in for a monster season.
Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech: In an otherwise dismal performance, Texas Tech’s running back trio of DeAndre Washington, Quinton White and Stockton looked solid against Central Arkansas. And with Stockton, a true freshman, contributing, the Red Raiders should be fine at the position even with Kenny Williams at linebacker. Stockton had a couple of nice runs while finishing with 38 yards rushing and a nifty 6-yard touchdown.
Tyler Evans, OG, Oklahoma: Evans is in his sixth year with the Sooners, but he hadn’t played since the 2011 season Insight Bowl due to knee injuries. Saturday, Evans got the start at right guard in place of an injured Nila Kasitati, and the offensive line didn’t miss a beat as the Sooners racked up 436 yards of offense. Evans at one point quit football because of the injuries. Instead, he’ll be a valuable cog for the Sooners up front.
Discussion: Ash Out Against BYU
BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
12:00 PM ET 4 Oklahoma Tulsa 12:00 PM ET 20 Kansas State Iowa State 3:30 PM ET Missouri State Oklahoma State 7:00 PM ET Southeast Missouri State Kansas 7:30 PM ET BYU Texas 7:30 PM ET Towson West Virginia 7:30 PM ET Northwestern State 10 Baylor 11:00 PM ET Texas Tech UTEP