NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and league executive Troy Vincent met with Charlie Strong on Sunday morning to discuss the Texas coach's "Core Values" system, which has garnered widespread attention following the dismissals of nine Longhorns players.
Vincent, the NFL executive vice president of football operations, announced the meeting in a series of tweets, saying that the league also wants to improve its relationships with college programs.
.@Strong_TexasFB's emphasis on character & respect over talent is molding the next generation of football talent. Standards are key.
- Troy Vincent (@TroyVincent23) September 28, 2014
Commissioner and I are focused on strengthening relationships with colleges. Thank you for your time today @Strong_TexasFB
- Troy Vincent (@TroyVincent23) September 28, 2014
Texas offensive lineman Kennedy Estelle was dismissed from the program Tuesday, becoming the ninth player kicked off the team since Strong was hired in January. Two other players are suspended from the team for undisclosed reasons.
Strong, who spent four years as Louisville's head coach prior to coming to Texas, has instituted the following five "Core Values" for his players: honesty, treating women with respect, no drugs, no stealing and no weapons.
DE James McFarland, TCU: McFarland led the nine-sack TCU barrage against SMU with three himself, as the Horned Frogs rolled 56-0. It was a career-high for McFarland, and the most sacks for TCU in a game since 2002. McFarland also had two forced fumbles, and his pass breakup on a fourth-and-1 at the TCU 1-yard line in the second quarter helped preserve the 11th shutout of the Gary Patterson era.
WR Corey Coleman, Baylor: Coleman had a monster outing in his first appearance of the season, hauling in 12 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown in the Bears 49-28 win at Iowa State. Coleman had missed the first three games of the season with a hamstring injury. He showed no signs of being slowed down in Ames.
CB Duke Thomas, Texas: After getting burned for the game-deciding touchdown against UCLA, Thomas bounced back with a monster performance in a 23-0 win over Kansas. Thomas grabbed two of Texas’ four interception, and could have had a third had it not been for penalty. Thomas also broke up a fade attempt on fourth-and-goal in the third quarter. The Jayhawks never came close to scoring a touchdown again.
LB Ben Heeney, Kansas: Don't blame Heeney or the Kansas defense for the Jayhawks' loss to Texas. Heeney had 10 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery at the Kansas 2-yard line that thwarted a Texas scoring opportunity. It was actually the All-Big 12 performer's first career fumble recovery. Behind Heeney, the Jayhawks also limited Texas to just 111 yards rushing.
RB Charles Jones, Kansas State: Jones scored three of the Wildcats’ first five touchdowns, as K-State demolished UTEP, 58-28. Jones finished with 76 yards on just 12 carries, as K-State held a 45-point lead over the Miners heading into the fourth quarter.
WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State: In another tantalizing performance, Lockett put up 143 punt return yards, the second-most in school history and 29 yards short of tying the school record of 172 set by David Allen in 1998. Lockett also hauled in four passes for 84 yards.
WR James Washington, Oklahoma State: The Cowboys’ true freshman wideout torched Texas Tech in Oklahoma State’s 45-35 win Thursday. Washington reeled in a 33-yard touchdown in the first quarter, then a 39-yard score in the second. Three of Washington’s five catches this season have resulted in touchdowns.
2. Pokes can beat you deep: Oklahoma State won the Big 12's first primetime fight because it wasn't afraid to take big shots. Daxx Garman connected on eight passes of 20-plus yards, and even better, they were hauled in by six different receivers over the course of the 45-35 victory on Thursday. It's time to stop underestimating Marcell Ateman and James Washington after the underclassmen combined for 217 yards and two TDs, and OSU put something plenty scary on tape when Tyreek Hill beat his defender by a good 7 yards for a 50-yard scoring bomb. It wasn't easy, and it sure wasn't pretty -- 287 combined penalty yards on 26 flags -- but OSU found out Garman can handle the bright lights just fine.
3. K-State defense rallies in big way: Kansas State was missing two starters on defense but had no trouble taking out its Auburn-inspired anger on UTEP, a team that proved against Texas Tech it's no pushover. In the 58-28 win, KSU held the nation's No. 2 rusher, Aaron Jones, to nine yards in the first half and 47 on the day. The Miners couldn't get anything going for the three quarters KSU's starters played -- it was 52-7 when Bill Snyder sent in the backups -- and UTEP ended the first half down 31 points with just 23 total yards and one first down. KSU got right back on track and still looks like a legit contender for the Big 12 crown.
4. TCU's Air Raid keeps making it look ... too easy? The Horned Frogs are 3-0 with wins over Samford, Minnesota and now SMU, a team that’s been outscored 202-12 through four games. If there's an FBS team playing worse football than the Mustangs, I would not like to see it. So it’s tough to confidently make conclusions about TCU after this 56-0 victory. But Trevone Boykin (six total TDs) still looks incalculably more polished than a year ago. He has a diverse array of receivers and backs at his disposal, and the Frogs' 614 total yards were their most since 2011. To TCU's credit, Minnesota was solid in a 30-14 win against the dumpster fire in Ann Arbor. The Horned Frogs' offense couldn't have asked for a better start to 2014. It's time to find out what they're made of against the Sooners.
5. Texas still has issues: If Texas plays against Baylor next Saturday the way it did in Lawrence, Kansas, it probably doesn't stand much of a chance. Charlie Strong won't get too mad about a 23-0 victory that snaps a two-game slide, but he won't spend much time celebrating it, either. Texas never had to sweat too much, thanks to Montell Cozart's four interceptions, but its patchwork offensive line remains a work in progress (Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray combined for 73 rushing yards), and scoring points is still a struggle. Still, Texas did at least do what it needed to and gave Strong his first Big 12 win. KU showed some nice things in the run game and has a better defense than you think, but its offensive execution in many trips into Texas territory was fruitless.
LAWRENCE, Kansas -- Tyrone Swoopes passed for one touchdown and ran for another and Texas picked off four Kansas passes, leading the Longhorns to a 23-0 victory Saturday in the Big 12 opener.
Swoopes, in his first start in a conference game, was 19 for 34 for 218 yards and two TDs as Texas (2-2, 1-0) beat Kansas for the 12th straight time. A stifling Texas defense limited Kansas sophomore Montell Cozart to 12 for 31 for 140 yards and the four picks. Cornerback Duke Thomas had two of the interceptions and also broke up a short pass in the end zone on fourth down. Texas also sacked Cozart four times while holding the Jayhawks to 313 total yards.
All week long, Kansas (2-2, 0-1) kept the Texas fight song blaring across the practice field and filled the locker room with reminders that the Jayhawks had not beaten Texas in 76 years.
Those, among others, will be the storylines to follow Saturday in the Big 12:
TCU at SMU, noon ET (CBS Sports Network): TCU coach Gary Patterson said he expects to get SMU’s best shot. That still might not amount to much. The Mustangs are a complete mess, having been outscored 146-12 in their first three games. SMU is expected to start its third different quarterback already this season, walk-on Garrett Krstich, who opened the year fourth on the depth chart. The Horned Frogs ought to be able to keep the Iron Skillet trophy in Fort Worth while keeping the game plan relatively vanilla as they gear up for next weekend’s crucial home showdown against fourth-ranked Oklahoma.
UTEP at No. 25 Kansas State, noon ET (Fox Sports Regional): It will be interesting to see how the Wildcats bounce back after their gut-wrenching loss to Auburn last week. This, however, figures to be a good matchup for K-State. UTEP running back Aaron Jones ranks second in the country with 182 rushing yards per game, but the Wildcats appear to have a formidable run defense, which snapped Auburn’s 13-game streak of producing at least 200 rushing yards. Meanwhile, K-State coach Bill Snyder has indicated that Jack Cantele will remain the Wildcats' place-kicker despite missing all three field goals against the Tigers. Getting Cantele back on track will be paramount for the Wildcats on Saturday before they resume conference play next week.
No. 7 Baylor at Iowa State, 8 p.m. ET (Fox): Baylor handed the Cyclones a 71-7 whupping last season, the worst margin of defeat in Iowa State history. The Cyclones, however, have been a much tougher team at home under Paul Rhoads. Iowa State, in fact, defeated the Bears 35-21 in their last visit to Ames two years ago. Since falling to North Dakota State in the opener, the Cyclones have played much better, but Baylor will be getting a couple of key offensive weapons back in its lineup. Starting receivers Antwan Goodley and Corey Coleman are expected to return from injuries on an offense that has led the country in every major statistical category without them.
On to the 'bag:
@Jake_Trotter if Texas Tech can get rid of all the flags and turnovers do you think they can win enough games to make a bowl game?— Brad Sullivan (@B_Sullivan944) September 26, 2014
@jake_trotter: Definitely. Look at last night alone. Forget the three turnovers, the Red Raiders left 10 points off the board directly because of penalties. Jakeem Grant's kickoff return touchdown. And the delay of game that pushed Tech out of field-goal range. Add those 10 points, and the game would have been tied. Tech is explosive enough offensively for this to be a bowl team. But when you shoot all the toes off your feet, it's hard to beat anyone. And Tech is going to have a hard time beating anyone as long as they lead the nation in penalties and lose the turnover battle.
@jake_trotter: I hear Garman Airlines will be taking plenty of flights this fall.
@jake_trotter: I would be deflated too if my team led the country in penalties. That said, everyone needs to show a little patience with Kingsbury, just like they need to show a little with Charlie Strong. Kingsbury has recruited well. He needs time for more of those prospects to make an impact. It hasn't been pretty so far this season, but it's way to early to judge Kingsbury.
@jake_trotter: Iowa State still has a chance to be a good, solid team in my opinion. But we're also talking about a squad that got run out of its own stadium by North Dakota State in the opener. So no, a win in Ames won't exactly quiet the doubters. But if the Bears win the following three games at Texas, TCU and at West Virginia, you won't hear a peep from the Baylor doubters.
@jake_trotter: If anyone deserves a break, it's West Virginia. In facing Alabama, Maryland and Oklahoma, the Mountaineers have played the toughest schedule in the country so far. So the open week comes at the perfect time. West Virginia can reset, heal and gear up for the final two-thirds of the season. If the Mountaineers play like they did the first third, they will win a bunch of games the rest of this season.
@Jake_Trotter with it being such a deep position, who all would you say have been some of the best defensive linemen in the league so far?— Zach Evans (@ZEvans_7) September 26, 2014
@jake_trotter: The player who has really impressed me so far this is Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown. He has been the most impressive defensive linemen in my opinion, despite the Longhorns' troubles elsewhere. Other guys who have caught my eye so far: Kansas State's Ryan Mueller and Travis Britz, Baylor's Shawn Oakman, Oklahoma State's Emmanuel Ogbah, Iowa State's Cory Morrissey, Oklahoma's Jordan Phillips and Charles Tapper, Kansas' Keon Stowers and TCU's Davion Pierson.
@jake_trotter: Well, yeah. If the Horned Frogs defeat Oklahoma, they have to be considered a legitimate Big 12 contender. That is going to be a huge game for the Frogs. Perhaps, in fact, the biggest of the TCU Big 12 era.
@jake_trotter: Anything is possible, but I have a hard time seeing K-State winning in Norman and Waco. That said, before the season, one of my bold predictions was that K-State would win one of those road games. I see no reason to back off that prediction just yet, either.
Will you shave Cy into your head if ISU wins tomorrow? RT @Jake_Trotter: Still taking Twitter questions for today's Big 12 mailbag.— Austin Narber (@austinnarber) September 26, 2014
@jake_trotter: I asked my wife about this and she vetoed it. However, she said if Iowa State knocks off Baylor and Oklahoma in Ames, then I can do it. So we're on, provided you find me a barber familiar with the Cy logo..
He wasn’t uncomfortable because Strong told the room that, back in the spring, Ridgeway would get gassed after one or two plays.
“That was true,” Ridgeway said.
No, he cringed because Strong was kind enough to mention Ridgeway’s burgeoning nickname.
"I call him ‘The Green Mile,’ and it's probably going to embarrass him," Strong declared, “but he is so fun to watch."
“One of these days, Hassan is actually going to get mad,” Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said. “He is one the nicest young people I've ever been around. If he ever gets mad, I'm going to be the first person to leave the room because he will hurt somebody. My man could be a beast.”
“Could be” is a good way of putting it. Ridgeway has had jaw-dropping potential ever since he arrived in Austin from Mansfield, Texas. Mack Brown and his staff fought hard to land Ridgeway after he nearly flipped to Texas A&M before signing day. They just didn’t get a chance to see him blossom.
The big man has gigantic shoes to fill this week and beyond. He’s taking over for Desmond Jackson, the senior nose tackle who was lost for the season to foot surgery. Ridgeway should make his first career start Saturday against Kansas.
“Tank [Jackson] is a big loss. Tank is our emotional leader on defense,” Bedford said. “He comes to practice and works hard every day. He plays with a lot of enthusiasm, and that is contagious and we are going to miss that.”
Teammates say Ridgeway’s work ethic entering 2014 was the wrong kind of contagious. Defensive end Cedric Reed said a year ago, Ridgeway played like a guy who’d packed on 50 pounds, and “all he could do was sleep.” In truth, during his two-plus years in the program, Ridgeway went from a 255-pound defensive end to a 3-technique defensive tackle who’s tipped the scales at 315 pounds.
This was intentional, of course. Ridgeway flashed as a defensive tackle during his redshirt season in 2012, and Texas needed him to successfully make the transition that offseason after it failed to sign A’Shawn Robinson, Andrew Billings or any other defensive lineman in its 2013 class.
He wasn’t ready last year. Ridgeway appeared in 12 games and showed glimpses of his potential in nonconference play. He made four tackles the rest of the season.
Then the new coaching staff arrived. In Ridgeway, they inherited a player whose progress represents a good chunk of this Texas roster: A lot of hype, a lot of untapped potential, a lot to learn.
“I think he has the ability to be a special talent,” Bedford said. “He's gotten better every single week. He is a guy that is growing, developing, he's learning how to play the football game and I think his future could be bright. Again, I'm talking about potential, not reality.”
The reality through three games: Ridgeway recorded two sacks and five tackles in the season opener against North Texas and added another sack and four tackles against UCLA. Now, with Jackson out, Ridgeway must prove he can be an every-down player.
“I had a lot of people pushing me, like Malcom [Brown] and Tank. They were the ones helping me to get better,” Ridgeway said. “I just try to be like them, to be as good as them. When I come on the field, I don’t want there to be a drop-off from anybody else. I want to be just as good.”
That’ll be a tall task, as Brown is playing at an All-America level right now. But the big fella does seem ready for a big challenge.
Of the four games, only one involves a Big 12 team on the road. TCU travels toward the eastern Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to face rival SMU. Here are two home games pitting Big 12 foes to keep an eye on, as it could be a big weekend for recruiting.
Texas at Kansas
Oklahoma State QB Daxx Garman: The junior is playing on a national stage tonight, and I can't wait to see how he handles the pressure. Texas Tech DC Mike Smith has a rep for loving to blitz, and he's going to find ways to get after a quarterback making his second career start. The OSU run game can set him up to succeed against Texas Tech.
Texas Tech CB Nigel Bethel II: His three-game suspension is over. Now it's time to find out if the freshman from Miami was worth the hype and the second chance. The Red Raiders have found some promising young DBs in Bethel's absence, but let's see what he can do with a few snaps in Stillwater.
Kansas State WR Curry Sexton: Really like how Sexton showed up against Auburn, with 11 receptions for 121 yards. He's just what K-State needs in terms of a go-to No. 2 when Tyler Lockett draws double coverage and has developed a nice rapport with Jake Waters. Watch him score his first touchdown since 2012 this week.
TCU RB B.J. Catalon: Well, SMU does have one of the worst run defenses in FBS. These TCU running backs haven't shown all they can do yet -- they recorded just 13 carries against Minnesota -- but it's an intriguing stable led by Catalon, who has just 58 rushing yards through two games. He should more than double that number this week.
Texas DE Cedric Reed: The preseason All-Big 12 lineman is off to a quiet start statistically (16 tackles, one TFL, 0.5 sacks) but did a solid job of getting pressure against UCLA. With defensive tackle Desmond Jackson out for the season, Texas needs Reed to get back to getting in the backfield. He'll get some takedowns this weekend.
Kansas RB Corey Avery: The freshman running back from Dallas is going to be motivated to shine against Texas, a program that recruited him on and off throughout 2013 and did bring him in for a January official visit. KU will try to pound the middle of Texas' defense, but Avery has the burst to pick up some big gains outside or inside.
Baylor DE Javonte Magee: The breakthrough is coming soon for Magee, the nasty 6-foot-5, 275-pound lineman who rejoined the program this offseason and racked up three TFLs and a sack in nonconference play. With all the attention Shawn Oakman will get from Big 12 foes, Magee has the potential to catch people by surprise.
Iowa State RB Aaron Wimberly: The Cyclones don't stand a chance if they can't keep Baylor's offense off the field as much as possible. They don't want a shootout. Mark Mangino needs his running backs to step up and pick up the tough conversions if they hope to achieve the kind of ball-control offense required to make Baylor uncomfortable. Wimberly hasn't surpassed 40 rushing yards in a game this season, but he needs a big night.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Drug testing of Texas players under first-year coach Charlie Strong is on pace to double last year's testing efforts, according to a report by the Austin American-Statesman.
Data obtained by the Statesman indicates that a total of 188 drug tests have been administered in the first eight months of Strong's tenure. From 2010 to 2013, Texas administered an average of 104 drug tests per year under former coach Mack Brown.
Strong has dismissed nine players from his program since taking over in January and currently has two more players suspended from the team for undisclosed rules violations.
According to data the newspaper acquired through an open records request, Texas drug tested every player after spring break in March. Players who were considered at-risk were then subject to more frequent testing.
A total of 18 Longhorns players were tested again April 11, and 15 were tested July 19 during summer conditioning. Five days after that round of testing, three Texas players -- running backs Joe Bergeron and Jalen Overstreet and defensive back Chevoski Collins -- were dismissed from the program for violating team rules. Three more players were suspended indefinitely. Texas continued to drug test during fall practice -- two tests Aug. 11, seven Aug. 22 -- and seven tests were administered the day before the Longhorns' season-opening win over North Texas.
Why Oklahoma State will win: The Cowboys' offensive line has struggled, bogging down its rushing attack. What better tonic than the Texas Tech defense, which has been dismal this season. Quarterback Daxx Garman's arm will stretch the field, which will create plenty of creases for running backs Tyreek Hill, Desmond Roland and Rennie Childs in the running game. Oklahoma State 42, Texas Tech 28 -- Jake Trotter
Why Texas Tech will keep it close: The Red Raiders still have the ability to make defenses pay with a terrific passing game, and Oklahoma State's safeties will be tested in ways they haven't seen thus far. Add the Cowboys' subpar running game into the equation, and the result will be Tech putting up a much better fight than it did against Arkansas. Oklahoma State 49, Texas Tech 45 -- Brandon Chatmon
Why Baylor will win: Too many points, too quickly. The return of Antwan Goodley and several Baylor playmakers from injury spells trouble for ISU. The Bears will continue to do what made them so tough to beat in 2013: score 21-plus in the first quarter and put all the pressure on the Cyclones. Baylor 56, Iowa State 21 -- Max Olson
Why Iowa State will keep it close: The first time Baylor went on the road in the Big 12 last season, its offense sputtered, at least by Art Briles' lofty standards. The last time the Bears traveled to Iowa State, they lost by two touchdowns. The Cyclones won't pull off another gigantic upset. But behind a hard-nosed effort from Wally Burnham's defense, they will play Baylor much tougher than last season's 71-7 pasting in Waco. Baylor 39, Iowa State 22 -- Trotter
Why Texas will win: The Longhorns have the benefit of a bye week and two invaluable weeks of prep time for Tyrone Swoopes. Even if it's inconsistent, this seems like the breakout game for the Malcolm Brown-Johnathan Gray duo. Montell Cozart is in for a frustrating day if Texas can force him to pass. Texas 27, Kansas 10 -- Olson
Why Kansas will keep it close: The Jayhawks almost beat the Longhorns the last time Texas traveled to Lawrence, and there's no reason to think they can't do it again. Kansas' defense is better than people think. If Cozart and the Jayhawks' offense can hold up its end of the bargain and put up points, all bets are off. Texas 24, Kansas 20 -- Chatmon
OTHER UNANIMOUS PICKS
TCU over SMU 40-2: SMU is expected to start its third different QB already this season in walk-on Garrett Krstich, who opened the season fourth on the depth chart. That's not exactly the recipe to success against a Gary Patterson-coached TCU defense. -- Trotter
Kansas State over UTEP 31-14: This is the perfect game for K-State's running attack to find its rhythm, against a UTEP defense that is allowing 242 rushing yards per game. -- Chatmon
Brandon Chatmon: 26-3
Max Olson: 26-3
Jake Trotter: 26-3
Kansas got spanked in its only meeting with a Power 5 conference team this season, a 41-3 loss at Duke. How'd the Blue Devils do it? Well, they went ahead 17-0 in the game's first 10 minutes. When you pounce that quickly, you're typically going to have a good day.
Texas has scored just 7 points in the first quarter this season, and the yardage numbers aren't any better. The one that's most difficult to believe? The Longhorns are averaging 19 rushing yards in the first quarter. While it is important to establish Tyrone Swoopes' rhythm with short passes and tempo, getting the run game rolling early on would make his job much easier. Texas has to find a way to start faster on Saturday.
2. 41 (16)
A storyline that seemed to fall through the cracks last week was Texas losing senior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson for the season to a foot injury. Hassan Ridgeway, a freaky 6-foot-4, 307-pound sophomore, will take his place in the lineup. And while Ridgeway has a high ceiling and has turned up his game in recent months, the absence of Jackson is a costly loss.
He provided this defensive line with 41 career games of experience, including 16 starts, and the role he played is consistently underappreciated. As a quality 1-technique defensive tackle, Jackson was a space eater who cleared room for Malcom Brown to shine in Texas' first three games. Ridgeway is a more natural 3-technique, like Brown, who's had to learn a new role during the bye.
Others will chip in, and Vance Bedford hinted that you could see a freshman or two debut this week. I wouldn't be shocked if we see some more three-man fronts, too. Fans have every reason to be excited about Ridgeway and his high potential. But Jackson was a critical cog in this defense, against the run and pass, and his contributions will be missed in ways that might not be obvious right away.
Besides its five starters, Texas has just two available backup offensive linemen with playing experience. Darius James has appeared in two games this season and Curtis Riser, who hasn't been suiting up lately, played in four games last year.
We covered this problem a little immediately after the BYU game, but it's worth repeating because this startling lack of depth can't get solved with a bye week. Shawn Watson said the staff is pushing for a youth movement among the second-teamers (true freshmen Elijah Rodriguez, Jake McMillon and Terrell Cuney may need to come along quickly) but right now, they simply don't have many guys they can trust beyond the starting five.
Starting right guard Taylor Doyle is listed as the backup center on the depth chart. James backs up both left and right tackle. Maybe we see more of him against Kansas. But the point? This group absolutely cannot afford another injury to a starter, and they do need Desmond Harrison back and playing at a high level.
Three more to remember
3.46: Had Texas not given up a 58-yard run on UCLA's first play of the second half, its defense would've held the Bruins to 3.46 yards per carry instead of 4.62. It was one bad bust, but contrary to popular belief, Texas' second-half run defense wasn't exactly shoddy.
9-18: Montell Cozart hasn't had an easy time getting the ball to his best receiver, Miami (Ohio) transfer Nick Harwell. They've hooked up on just nine of 18 attempts with no 20-plus yard gains.
4.3: Texas receivers rank last in the Big 12 in yards after catch at 271 yards and 4.3 YAC per reception. Charlie Strong is still looking for a wideout who can turn the short route into the big score.
Baylor: Don't forget about Antwan Goodley. The potential All-America receiver went down with an injury in the season opener and enters Big 12 play with zero receptions. While KD Cannon and the rest of Baylor's wideouts feasted in his absence, Goodley is back this week, and he and Bryce Petty have some catching up to do. No Big 12 player matched his 598 yards after the catch last season.
Iowa State: Well, the Cyclones are 2-0 in home games against Baylor under coach Paul Rhoads. During the Art Briles era, Baylor has averaged 33.2 points per game on the road against the rest of the Big 12. In their losses in Ames in 2009 and 2012, Baylor's offense put up a combined 31 points. But ever since that 35-21 loss at ISU in 2012, the Bears are 19-3.
Kansas: Tony Pierson has recorded 280 touches on offense in his career at Kansas. He's gained 10 or more yards on 25 percent of his touches and picked up 20-plus yards on 26 of those 70 plays. The majority of his big plays have come on rushes, but Pierson is also averaging 12.7 yards per reception in his four seasons. He's instant offense, plain and simple.
Kansas State: ESPN Stats & Info analyzed the Auburn-Kansas State game tape and determined Jake Waters was pressured on nine plays. He completed three passes, threw two incompletions and an interception and took three sacks. K-State's net yardage when the Tigers got pressure on Waters? Just 15 yards. Waters and his linemen will have to handle the heat a bit better in Big 12 play.
Oklahoma: How will freshman Samaje Perine follow up his 242-yard night at West Virginia? In the past decade, 19 FBS running backs have surpassed 240 rushing yards multiple times in a season. If Perine does it again this year, he'll join some elite company that includes Reggie Bush, Matt Forte, Le'Veon Bell, Ray Rice, Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, Andre Williams and, yes, Adrian Peterson.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys rank No. 2 nationally in a statistic that's pretty darn important: red zone efficiency defense. OSU's defense has entered the red zone 10 times this season and permitted just two touchdowns. Opposing offenses have had to settle for field goals seven times (one was blocked) and Jameis Winston threw a red zone interception. Getting stingy under pressure like that will pay off big in Big 12 play.
TCU: The Horned Frogs are one of only two teams in FBS that have played just two games entering Week 5. (Cincinnati started the season bizarrely with back-to-back byes.) This isn't just some silly observation. The fact is, starting this week against SMU, Gary Patterson's team must play eight games in eight consecutive weeks before getting a pre-Thanksgiving reprieve. They face a brutal run in October (OU, at Baylor, OSU, Texas Tech) and need some gas in the tank if they hope to make a run in November.
Texas: It's hard to believe that, with Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray both healthy and splitting time, Texas ranks No. 9 in the Big 12 in rushing right now at 123.7 yards per game. That's 99 fewer yards per game than Oklahoma is averaging and almost 115 fewer than Baylor. The culprit here is a shoddy offensive line, but the downhill run game was supposed to be the strength of the Longhorns' offense and they've struggled without one.
Texas Tech: One not-unreasonable excuse for Texas Tech's problems on defense: According to its sports information office, 17 of 27 Red Raiders who've recorded tackles this season are freshmen, sophomores or newcomers. That number does include Kenny Williams, who moved from running back to linebacker this spring. The rest are young guys who better catch up quickly.
West Virginia: Clint Trickett ranks No. 3 nationally now with 1600 passing yards, a feat through four games that most WVU fans probably wouldn't have predicted back in the spring. He leads all Big 12 passers with 20 completions of 20-plus yards (nine to Kevin White), but then again, Trickett also has 43 more completions than any other quarterback in the conference. Let's wait a few more weeks before assessing where he fits in the Big 12 QB hierarchy, but this is a heck of a start.
- TCU is looking forward to playing every week and finding a rhythm, reports Carlos Mendez of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The Horned Frogs had only two games during the first four weeks of the season so it will be interesting to see if TCU's offense will become more efficient with games each Saturday. The Horned Frogs are currently sixth in the Big 12 in yards per play (5.8) and fifth in points per possession at 2.6.
- Kansas doesn't feel sorry for Texas but the Jayhawks are happy they'll take on the Longhorns early in the season, writes Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. Offensive coordinator John Reagan likes the thought of playing UT this weekend because "maybe they aren't settled into a routine." Reagan is probably right. Last year's Longhorns got better as the year progressed and there's no reason to think that won't happen in 2014. Yet, I don't expect the Longhorns to insert themselves in the Big 12 title race even though their conference record remains clean heading into this weekend.
- Kansas State wants to get better at finishing, writes Kellis Robinett of the Kansas City Star. The Wildcats have struggled in the red zone this season and hope to improve during their forays inside opponents' 20-yard line. The Wildcats have been committed to running the ball in the red zone but success hasn't followed. KSU is averaging 2.89 yards per red zone carry and that number needs to improve if the Wildcats hope to start finishing like they want to finish.
- Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads is impressed by Baylor's defense, saying they rose last season and "they've landed" this year, writes Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register. Baylor's offense gets all the attention but its defense looks like it is better than last year. True enough, the Bears haven't played anyone yet but the defensive line that Art Briles raved about during the offseason has lived up to the preseason hype. As the competition gets tougher, I expect BU's defense to continue to find itself among the Big 12's statistical leaders.
- Oklahoma State cornerback Kevin Peterson will be in the spotlight against Texas Tech, writes The Oklahoman's John Helsley. It's possible the Red Raiders rarely test him but Peterson has the opportunity to show he is the Big 12's best cornerback against a Tech squad that will put the ball in the air plenty of times. What I've seen from Peterson thus far makes me think it was a mistake to leave him off my preseason All-Big 12 ballot. Teams rarely test him and when they do they generally regret it. Here's hoping he gets the recognition he deserves from people, myself included, if he continues to play at a high level.