Texas Longhorns: Ben Heeney

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: LBs

February, 25, 2014
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As we await the start of spring ball, we’re examining and ranking the positional situations of every team in the Big 12, continuing Tuesday with linebackers. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how we see the linebacking corps going into the spring:

[+] EnlargeDominique Alexander
William Purnell/Icon SMIDominique Alexander was a star as a true freshman and leads a loaded Oklahoma linebacking corps.
1. Oklahoma: After a couple of lean years, the Sooners are loaded at linebacker again. Dominique Alexander was the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, Frank Shannon led the defense in tackles as a sophomore, and Eric Striker is budding into the most ferocious blitzing linebacker in the country (just ask Alabama). Jordan Evans played extensively as a true freshman, too. This is an athletic group that can cover, stop the run and get to the quarterback.

2. Texas: This is the deepest linebacking corps in the league, with starters Peter Jinkens, Dalton Santos and Steve Edmond all returning off a unit that improved dramatically after the rocky nonconference start. After allowing a school-record 550 yards rushing to BYU, Texas had the Big 12’s fourth-best rush defense in conference games. Whether this group can take another step up will depend on what happens with Jordan Hicks, who enters his fifth year in the program after suffering season-ending injuries in back-to-back years. Hicks was the No. 1 linebacker in the country coming out of high school and has played well when healthy.

3. West Virginia: This will be the strength of the defense, as Brandon Golson, Isaiah Bruce, Jared Barber and Nick Kwiatkoski all return with significant starting experience. Kwiatkoski was West Virginia’s leading tackler last season, and Bruce was a freshman All-American the season before. Wes Tonkery and Jewone Snow also have starting experience, and Shaq Petteway, who missed last season with a knee injury, was a key rotation player the previous year. This level of experience and production with give the new defensive regime of Tony Gibson and Tom Bradley a foundation to build around.

4. Baylor: Bryce Hager is one of the best returning linebackers in the league. He was a second-team all-conference pick two years ago and would have earned similar honors last season had he not missed the final three games of the regular season with a groin injury. Grant Campbell, a three-star juco signee, is already on campus and will vie for the vacancy of departing All-Big 12 linebacker Eddie Lackey. Kendall Ehrlich and Aiavion Edwards are the only other players at the position with any meaningful experience, but Raaquan Davis, a former four-star recruit who redshirted last season, could be a factor.

5. Kansas: Middle linebacker Ben Heeney was a second-team All-Big 12 selection after finishing fourth in the league in tackles per game. His wingman, Jake Love, got beat out by juco transfer Samson Faifili during the preseason but took over when Faifili suffered an injury and was solid. As long as Heeney remains healthy, the Jayhawks will be solid here.

6. TCU: Projected to be the Achilles’ heel of the TCU defense last season, Paul Dawson, Marcus Mallet and Jonathan Anderson actually gave the position stability. Dawson led the Horned Frogs with 91 tackles, Mallet was third with 70 and Anderson was fourth with 66. All three will be seniors in 2014 and should give the Horned Frogs a solid, reliable linebacking unit again.

7. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders and their 3-4 scheme graduate two very productive players in Will Smith and Terrance Bullitt. Smith was second in the Big 12 in tackles, and Bullitt led all Big 12 linebackers in pass breakups. Austin Stewart and Micah Awe go into the spring as the favorites to replace Bullitt and Smith, respectively. Two starters do return in Sam Eguavoen and Pete Robertson, who was honorable mention All-Big 12 thanks to his impact off the edge. Tech also has several intriguing young players, including Jacarthy Mack, Malik Jenkins and Kahlee Woods, who will all be second-year players.

8. Kansas State: The Wildcats lose two stalwarts to graduation in captains Blake Slaughter and Tre Walker. The only returner is former walk-on Jonathan Truman, who was second on the team in tackles from the weak side. The Wildcats will be hoping for big things from D'Vonta Derricott, an ESPN JC 50 signee who had offers from Miami and Wisconsin, among many others. Will Davis, who was Slaughter’s backup as a freshman last season, could thrive if he secures the starting role in the middle.

9. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are somewhat decimated here with the graduations of all-conference veterans Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey. The only returning starter, Ryan Simmons, could move inside, which would open the door for hard-hitting jucos D'Nerius Antoine and Devante Averette to start on either side of him. Seth Jacobs, who was a four-star recruit two years ago, should jump into the rotation, and the Cowboys could get an instant boost from freshman Gyasi Akem, who was an ESPN 300 signee. The potential ascension of this group, though, hinges on what Antonie and Averette accomplish.

10. Iowa State: The Cyclones graduate their defensive cornerstone in Jeremiah George, who was a first-team all-conference performer after leading the Big 12 with 133 tackles. Replacing George won’t come easy. There’s reason to hope that Luke Knott can become Iowa State’s next cornerstone at the position. The younger brother of Cyclone LB great Jake Knott, Luke Knott started five games as a freshman and quickly racked up 45 tackles before suffering a season-ending hip injury, which required surgery. If he makes a full recovery, Knott has the talent to become the next in a growing line of All-Big 12 Iowa State linebackers. Seniors Jevohn Miller and Jared Brackens, who combined for 19 starts last season, flank Knott with experience.
Our series on the 25 best players in the Big 12 comes to an end today when we reveal the conference's three best players.

We hope this list hasn't been too terribly controversial, but yes, there have certainly been some quality players who did not make the cut. Several can make a solid case for why they should've made our Top 25, including Texas defensive end Cedric Reed, Texas Tech defensive lineman Kerry Hyder, West Virginia safety Darwin Cook, Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney and Kansas State running back John Hubert.

We did not forget about you, guys. We tip our caps to your strong showings in 2013.

And let's not forget the many Big 12 players who would've been among the conference's 25 best had they stayed healthy. Here's a closer look at five big-time players who missed out due to injuries.

Devonte Fields, DE, TCU: The No. 3 player in the blog's preseason Top 25 did not have a sophomore season to remember. TCU shut him down for the season on Oct. 9 due to a foot injury that required surgery. He ended up appearing in just three games due to suspension and injury. The Horned Frogs were wise to end his season early and seek a medical redshirt, and let's hope Fields is back to his dominant self when he returns in 2014.

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Gray
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesJohnathan Gray was well on his way to an all-Big 12-caliber season before succumbing to injury in early November.
Johnathan Gray, RB, Texas: A torn right Achilles suffered in a road win at West Virginia ended a sophomore season that could've ended with Gray earning All-Big 12 honors. He emerged as the workhorse of Texas' offense after David Ash was lost for the season and, at 780 yards and four touchdowns, was one pace to become the Longhorns' first 1,000-yard rusher since 2007. If he can get healthy in time for the start of the 2014 season, he'll be on the league's best rushers again.

Trey Millard, FB/RB/TE, Oklahoma: Millard, who ranked No. 11 in our preseason Top 25, brought so many things to the Sooners' offense both in production and intangibles. He was pretty much guaranteed a spot in our postseason list until Oct. 26, when a torn ACL suffered against Texas Tech ended his season and his OU career five games too early. It's a shame we only got to see him touch the ball 28 times is his final season, but Millard and his many niche contributions won't soon be forgotten by Sooners fans.

Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma: Sure, you can argue that OU linebacker Corey Nelson deserves this spot as the Sooners' captain and possible defensive MVP prior to his injury. But losing Phillips to a season-ending back injury in the middle of October was just as damaging, not only to the middle of the Sooners line but also because he seemed on pace to developing into an All-Big 12 caliber talent. He played in four games, missed two, and then was done. Let's hope he can get healthy and back in track as a junior.

Tevin Reese, WR, Baylor: Reese came very close to making our Top 25 despite missing five games this season with a broken wrist. He was one of several Baylor players who went down during the stretch run, and arguably the most critical one. He finished the year with 867 receiving yards and eight touchdowns and only needed 38 receptions to get there. His 22.8 yards per catch average ranked No. 2 nationally, and three of his scores came from 60-plus yards.
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 predictions: Week 12

November, 14, 2013
11/14/13
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How close I was last weekend. Close to perfection.

After starting out 4-for-4 in the picks, I had the Mountaineers in the nightcap edging out Texas in an upset special.

But at the end, neither I nor West Virginia could stop Case Magic.

Instead, it was Claire Hashtag who went undefeated with the picks, handing me a second consecutive loss to the guest picker. Suddenly, I have losing streak rivaling that of the Kansas Jayhawks.

But this week, I vow to get back on track against Charlie “Bear” Boyd, a Big 12 fan who’s been fighting the good fight in the Florida panhandle:
I have been battling hard in the trenches for the Big 12 deep in SEC/ACC territory. On my daily drive to and from work I face a barrage of Alabama bumper stickers with quips of the impending “Roll Tide Dynasty” apocalypse. I dastardly maneuver my way through neighborhoods riddled with land mines in the form of Florida State and Florida flags (along with a vast and clever assortment of other lawn décor paraphernalia). Daily, I undergo intense psychological torment from my “friends,” all trying to convince me of the superiority of their conferences to the Big 12, and the error of my ways. Somehow, in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds, I stand strong. A lone beacon of Big 12 pride. My Baylor flag waving proudly in the smoke of warfare. A steadfast reminder to all who gaze upon it that though we may be shaken, the Big 12 will never fall.

Good luck with the picks, Charlie. Just don’t give me another loss. I’m not sure I can handle it.

To be next week’s guest picker, contact me here and sell me on why you deserve a shot. And, as always, creativity counts.

To the Week 12 picks:

SEASON RECORD

Trotter last week: 4-1 (.800)

Guest picker (Claire Hashtag) last week: 5-0 (1.000)

Trotter overall: 47-15 (.758)

Guest picker overall: 34-11 (.756)

Saturday

Oklahoma 29, Iowa State 7: The Sooners go into this game with major uncertainty at quarterback. Coach Bob Stoops said this week Blake Bell would remain his starter, but the clamor for OU to try out Trevor Knight or Kendal Thompson has reached piercing levels in Norman. The truth is, it won’t matter who the quarterback is this week. Iowa State continues to play hard but, once again, fails to generate enough offense.

Charlie’s pick: While I would love to make a crack at OU here, I just can’t bring myself to do it. I have too much respect for their program and their players. Iowa State has seen signs of life as of lately -- mostly of special teams -- and they come out looking hungry to prove they have not slipped into Big 12 irrelevance. But finding a road win proves too big a task. OU, 34-17.

Kansas 20, West Virginia 17: It will be interesting to see how the Mountaineers respond after the deflating overtime loss to Texas. They still have plenty to play for, needing to win these last two games to qualify for a bowl. And they have plenty to build from off last week’s offensive outbreak. Then again, this is a prime spot for a West Virginia letdown. Led by linebacker Ben Heeney, the Jayhawks continue to play solid defense, and they have seemingly uncovered something at quarterback in true freshman Montell Cozart. Kansas played OU tough at home last month and trailed Texas only 14-6 deep into the third quarter two weeks ago. The 27-game conference losing streak has to end at some point. The combination of a West Virginia hangover and Cozart at quarterback finally ends it.

Charlie’s pick: West Virginia comes out flat, but quickly finds pace and clinches a key road win in their quest for bowl eligibility. West Virginia, 33-17.

Kansas State 55, TCU 21: If the season started over today, where would you pick the Wildcats to finish in the conference? Second? Third? No worse than fourth. Outside Baylor, K-State is playing as well as anyone in the league and has the look of a team poised to close out the regular season with a six-game winning streak. TCU had a nice reprieve from a miserable year with a gutty fourth-quarter victory at Iowa State last week. But the hobbled Horned Frogs are headed straight into a Bill Snyder buzz saw.

Charlie’s pick: Snyder is a miracle worker. A turnaround specialist extraordinaire. A wizard. He continues to inspire his players, and they put another solid win in the books. K-State, 48-20.

Oklahoma State 31, Texas 27: The Cowboys and Longhorns have faced each other four times as BCS-ranked teams. And the Longhorns have all won all four. But never in those games have the Cowboys held the advantage defensively. Texas will be without its best offensive player, injured tailback Johnathan Gray, too. QB Case McCoy has been clutch for the Longhorns. But without Gray, against what might be the Big 12's best defense, that isn't quite enough this time.

Charlie’s pick: This pick had me spinning circles. Both great teams. Both playing their best ball at this point in the season. I think this game ends up being more of a defensive battle than people expect. This one to go into overtime, but this time Texas loses by a field goal. I will be glued to this one. OSU, 34-31.

Baylor 49, Texas Tech 31: A month ago, this game looked like it might be for the Big 12 title. Now, Baylor is a four-touchdown favorite. The Red Raiders have fallen apart defensively due in part to injuries, while their true freshman quarterbacks have been turning the ball over in droves. Baylor, however, has bigger games looming, and could get caught looking ahead. The Bears will also be adjusting to the absence of star wideout Tevin Reese, as well as a banged up backfield. The Red Raiders come out fired up to halt their late-season slide, and with receivers Eric Ward and Jakeem Grant delivering big plays in the passing game, Tech hangs tough for three quarters. Baylor’s talent, however, is too much in the fourth.

Charlie’s pick: Tech’s air-raid offense finds limited success against Baylor’s hyped-up defense, but ultimately their struggling run game limits their offensive output. Baylor puts this game away early in the fourth quarter. Baylor, 55-30.

Big 12's unsung heroes: Week 10

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
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The Big 12’s unsung heroes for Week 10:

Linebacker Jake Love, Kansas: Playing alongside Ben Heeney, it’s easy to overlook Love, a sophomore. He tied Heeney for the team lead with nine tackles, including six solo stops, in the 35-13 loss to Texas. Love added one quarterback hurry and one pass breakup against the Longhorns.

Linebacker Jonathan Truman, Kansas State: Lining up alongside Blake Slaughter and Tre Walker, the junior has been overshadowed this season. He had seven tackles, including six solo stops, to tie for the team lead in KSU’s 41-7 win over Iowa State. It was the first time he recorded seven tackles after beginning the season with four consecutive games recording at least seven tackles.

[+] EnlargeDeVondrick Nealy
Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY SportsDeVondrick Nealy rushed for 53 yards and Iowa State's lone score against Kansas State.
Running back DeVondrick Nealy, Iowa State: There wasn’t much to be proud of for the Cyclones in their 41-7 loss to Kansas State, but Nealy was one bright spot for ISU. The sophomore was seldom used in Iowa State's first five games but has 24 of his 29 total carries in the past three weeks. He led ISU with 12 carries for 53 yards and one touchdown against the Wildcats and finished with 96 all-purpose yards to lead the squad. It’s been a disappointing season, but Nealy’s emergence could pay off in the future.

Cornerback Tyler Patmon, Oklahoma State: A Kansas transfer, Patmon stepped in and stepped up with starting cornerback Kevin Peterson out. Patmon had six tackles, all solo, including one tackle for loss, a forced fumble and a pass breakup. It was just his second multiple-tackle game of the season. Patmon’s performance is the reason the Cowboys were interested in bringing the senior to Stillwater to provide quality, veteran depth at cornerback.

Receiver Jaxon Shipley, Texas: Running back Malcolm Brown received all the headlines with his four-touchdown performance, but Shipley recorded his best game during the Longhorns’ five-game winning streak. He finished with six receptions for 77 yards, with four of his receptions coming on third down in Texas' 35-13 victory over Kansas. The junior is a quarterback’s best friend with his quickness, route-running and sure hands.

Receiver Josh Doctson, TCU: It’s probably fair to say more was expected from the Wyoming transfer heading into the season. However, the sophomore might have had a breakout performance against West Virginia with eight receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown. He had five receptions for 33 yards and one touchdown on first-down plays. He entered the game with 12 total receptions.

Safety Keenon Ward, Texas Tech: Making his first career start, Ward finished with four tackles, including one tackle for loss and one interception. The redshirt freshman wasn’t perfect, but he showed he could become a playmaker on the Red Raiders' defense for the rest of the season and beyond.

West Virginia offensive line: Charles Sims was the clear standout with his 24 carries for 154 yards and one touchdown in WVU’s 30-27 victory over TCU. The Mountaineers’ offensive line deserves a lot of credit as they paved the way for Sims to average 6.42 yards per carry. WVU’s offensive front was particularly nasty on first down, paving the way for Sims’ 14 first-down carries for 98 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 8

October, 21, 2013
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There was little change in this week’s power rankings, as the favorites held serve:

1. Baylor (6-0, 3-0 Big 12, last week 1): The No. 8-ranked Bears got some major help in the national title picture over the weekend, as LSU, Louisville, Texas A&M, Clemson and South Carolina all got knocked out of the mix. That really leaves only Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Missouri, Ohio State and Miami (Fla.) ahead of Baylor in the pecking order at the moment. Missouri will have to beat Alabama to get the title game, and Baylor has a decent chance of passing the Buckeyes, due to the weakness of the Big Ten. The Bears, however, have virtually no shot of passing Oregon or Florida State. Those are the two teams Baylor fans need to begin rooting against.

2. Texas Tech (7-0, 4-0, LW 2): The faith Kliff Kingsbury showed in true freshman QB Davis Webb on Saturday was extraordinary. Webb’s second-quarter fumble at the West Virginia 1-yard line completely changed the complexion of the game, but that didn’t shake Kingsbury’s confidence in his quarterback. And, even though Texas Tech’s defense had shut down West Virginia on four straight drives and led by a field goal, Kingsbury put the game on Webb’s arm by calling two third-down pass plays in the final two minutes. Webb completed both passes, which should also give him plenty of self-confidence heading into this weekend’s road tilt at Oklahoma.

3. Texas (4-2, 3-0, LW 3): Was the dominant performance against Oklahoma a one-game anomaly? The Longhorns have the talent to make a run at the Big 12 title. Maybe they have the identity now, too. If Texas keeps pounding the ball between the tackles with Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown, that will continue to set up one-on-one opportunities for Mike Davis downfield. As the Sooners found out, such a formula could make the Longhorns formidable the final month and a half of the season.

4. Oklahoma State (5-1, 2-1, LW 5): The Cowboys finally turned the offense back over to Clint Chelf and not a moment too soon, as J.W. Walsh threw another two interceptions in the first quarter. But, in reality, Oklahoma State’s offense would be best off utilizing both quarterbacks going forward. The Cowboys hit their stride offensively last season only when they used Chelf as the base quarterback, then brought in the Walsh package in certain situations. Chelf’s arm strength can get the ball to Oklahoma State’s talented receivers downfield, which, in turn, opens up the running game. But Walsh brings savvy, toughness and leadership -- and he can make plays with his legs. Perhaps that quarterback blend will finally ignite this offense, which looks pretty rough at the halfway point of the season.

5. Oklahoma (6-1, 3-1, LW 4): The Sooners’ downfield passing game continues to be incompetent, as Oklahoma completed just two passes longer than 16 yards at Kansas. One of those was a reverse pass from Lacoltan Bester to Sterling Shepard. That’s two straight games in which QB Blake Bell has completed only one pass downfield. The Sooners were able to grind out 235 yards on the ground, but that was against a Kansas defense missing its best player (linebacker Ben Heeney). If the Sooners can’t complete passes downfield against man coverage, they have little chance of getting to double-digit wins.

6. West Virginia (3-4, 1-3, LW 7): West Virginia has begun to show some life offensively. The Mountaineers gained 473 yards of offense against a Texas Tech defense that has been pretty solid. At one point, the Mountaineers scored on five straight possessions. Clint Trickett is all over the place with his throws, but at least he makes things happen. Running back Charles Sims is a star, and backfield mate Dreamius Smith is legit, too. The schedule also eases up considerably for the Mountaineers, as West Virginia has already faced four of the top five teams in the league. If the offense keeps developing, this could still be a bowl team. That wouldn’t be a bad season, either, considering the offensive firepower the Mountaineers had to replace from last season.

7. Kansas State (2-4, 0-3, LW 8): The Wildcats have not played poorly despite their 0-3 start in the league, but with Oklahoma and Texas Tech still on the schedule, K-State almost has to beat West Virginia at home this weekend if it’s going to advance to a bowl. The good news is that starting receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson are expected back, which should be a big boost to QBs Daniel Sams and Jake Waters.

8. TCU (3-4, 1-3, LW 6): The Horned Frogs are beginning to stake their claim as one of the worst offenses in Big 12 history. Switching coordinators or switching quarterbacks -- Gary Patterson tried both Saturday -- isn’t going to make any difference, either. Even with the best defense in the Big 12, the Horned Frogs will be in danger of missing out on a bowl game if they don’t beat Texas this weekend. QB Casey Pachall is close to returning, but not even he can salvage this dumpster fire of an offense.

9. Iowa State (1-5, 0-3, LW 9): After three straight promising performances, the Cyclones took a step back in Waco, Texas. Nobody expected Iowa State to win, but to get completely annihilated was disappointing, as coach Paul Rhoads called the game a “fiasco.” Now, yet again, the quarterback position has become a moving part. Sam B. Richardson is so banged up the Cyclones considered shutting him down for the season. Rhoads replaced Richardson with Grant Rohach in the second quarter to no avail. The No. 1 obstacle that’s kept Iowa State from becoming more than a .500 program has been the inability to find a long-term answer at quarterback. Dating back to last November, the Cyclones have put their chips on Richardson being that answer. Now, who knows what direction they'll go.

10. Kansas (2-4, 0-3, LW 10): Now that the Jayhawks have burned the redshirt of freshman QB Montell Cozart, they might as well turn the offense over to him. Jake Heaps just isn’t getting it done, as he completed five of 13 passes for 16 yards against Oklahoma. Sixteen yards. It’s not all on Heaps: The Kansas receiving corps is terrible. But that’s all the more reason to go with Cozart, who can at least make plays with his feet.

Big 12 Week 8: Did you know?

October, 18, 2013
10/18/13
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Another week of great tidbits and numbers thanks to ESPN Stats and Information along with sports information departments around the conference. Did you know …
  • Baylor is looking to become bowl-eligible for the fourth straight season for the first time in school history.
  • Baylor is looking to start 6-0 for the first time since 1980 and the sixth time in school history.
  • Baylor is the highest ranked Big 12 team in both the AP and Coaches Poll for the first time ever.
  • Baylor joins Florida State as the only two teams in the nation that are top 5 in total offense and top 25 in total defense.
  • The Bears starting offense has scored touchdowns on 35 of 48 drives (72.9 percent) this season.
  • Baylor’s defense has forced two or more turnovers in nine of its last 12 games.
  • Baylor leads the nation in total offense (715.4 yards per game) and scoring offense (63.4 points per game).
  • Baylor’s Bryce Petty leads the nation in Raw QBR at 94.5, yards per attempt (14.87) and yards per completion (21.27).
  • Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk leads the nation in yards per carry at 9.97. He leads the Big 12 with 648 rushing yards despite ranking seventh in total carries (65).
  • Baylor’s Antwan Goodley leads the nation with 26.76 yards per reception. His 669 receiving yards lead the Big 12.
  • Baylor’s 9.38 yards per play is a full yard better than anyone else in the nation. Florida State’s 8.27 yards per play is second nationally.
  • Baylor averages 17 yards per pass attempt on third down and 9.91 yards per third down play. Both marks lead the nation.
  • Iowa State has yet to lose by double digits, averaging 5.5 points per game margin of defeat in its four losses.
  • ISU ranks second in the Big 12 and 13th nationally in turnover margin at 1.2.
  • The Cyclones have seen 20 different players earn their first career start this season.
  • ISU gave up more than 40 points for the first time in 24 games during its 42-35 loss to Texas Tech last week.
  • Sam Richardson has a touchdown pass in eight straight games, tying him for the third longest streak in school history.
  • Richardson’s 10 touchdown passes puts him second in the Big 12 behind Petty.
  • Oklahoma defensive end Geneo Grissom and Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney won two Kansas state championships together at Hutchinson (Kan.) High School.
  • Kansas has stopped every opponent from scoring on its opening drive this season, limiting those teams to three first downs through five games.
  • Jayhawks tight end Jimmay Mundine has a touchdown reception in three straight games, the longest streak since Dezmon Briscoe’s three-game streak in 2009 for the Jayhawks.
  • The Jayhawks’ pass defense has been overlooked by KU’s offensive troubles. KU allowed 5.91 yards per pass attempt, ranking third in the Big 12 this season and 15th nationally.
  • Kansas State quarterback Daniel Sams leads Big 12 quarterbacks in rushes (86), rushing yards (522) and rushing touchdowns (7).
  • Sams ranks No. 7 nationally in adjusted QBR (which takes into account level of competition) at 86.8. He’s second in the Big 12 in the category behind Petty.
  • Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has never lost in a game immediately after the Red River Rivalry. He’s looking to improve to 15-0 in that scenario against KU.
  • The Sooners have won 20 straight games after a regular season loss since 2004.
  • OU has won 29 straight games when allowing 21 points or fewer.
  • OU has held KU to 17 points or less in eight of its nine victories over the Jayhawks under Stoops.
  • The Sooners lead the Big 12 in points allowed per game (16.8), yards allowed per game (308.8), passing yards allowed per game (172), yards allowed per pass attempt (5.55) and first downs allowed per game (15.5).
  • Beginning in 2011, Oklahoma State is 14-1 in its last 15 home games.
  • The Cowboys have won 20 straight home games against unranked opponents.
  • OSU has a touchdown drive of two minutes or less in 27 straight games.
  • OSU will host TCU for the second straight season because the Horned Frogs inherited Texas A&M’s conference schedule after joining the league and the Aggies were scheduled to face the Cowboys in Stillwater in 2012 and 2013 after OSU agreed to move the 2011 game from Stillwater to College Station.
  • OSU has 71 players from Texas, more than any other program outside of the state of Texas.
  • OSU ranks second nationally in turnovers forced since 2009 (142). Only Oregon has forced more turnovers during that span (147).
  • OSU has ranked no lower than 19th nationally in fewest sacks allowed each season since 2006.
  • OSU quarterback J.W. Walsh ranks third in adjusted QBR at 74.4 behind Petty and Texas’ David Ash.
  • The Cowboys defense leads the conference in opponent adjusted QBR at 19.0.
  • OSU ranks No. 2 in the Big 12 in rushing yards allowed at 115.8 and yards per carry allowed at 3.16.
  • Longhorns running back Johnathan Gray leads the conference in total carries with 111 and ranks second in rushing yards (562) behind Seastrunk.
  • OSU is the fourth ranked opponent TCU will face in its first seven games.
  • Saturday marks the fourth time TCU will kickoff at 11 a.m. this season. The Horned Frogs are 5-1 in early starts in the past two seasons.
  • Over 40 percent of the players who have seen action for the Horned Frogs this season are sophomores.
  • TCU has scored more points in the third quarter (58) and fourth quarter (65) than in the first half combined (44) this season.
  • Wyoming transfer Josh Doctson is the only active player in the nation who has scored a touchdown against his current team. Doctson had a touchdown catch for the Cowboys against TCU in 2011.
  • TCU’s 100 receptions have been divided among 15 different receivers.
  • Texas Tech will play in the eastern time zone for the first time since 2008 when they face West Virginia in Morgantown, W. Va., on Saturday. The Red Raiders defeated Virginia 31-28 in the Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day in 2008.
  • The Red Raiders have never played at Milan Puskar Stadium and this is just the third meeting between the two schools, first in Morgantown.
  • For the first time in school history, the Red Raiders ran at least 100 plays for two straight games. Tech had 100 offensive plays against Kansas and 101 against Iowa State.
  • Texas Tech leads the Big 12 in third down conversion defense, allowing just 28.2 percent of third down conversion attempts. The Red Raiders also led in rush defense, allowing 113.2 rushing yards per game.
  • TTU is bowl eligible for the 20th time in 21 seasons. The Red Raiders are one of 11 teams nationally that have already secured bowl eligibility.
  • TTU forced 11 Iowa State punts, the most by an opponent against the Red Raiders in Big 12 play.
  • Davis Webb is the sixth Red Raider quarterback to throw for more than 400 yards in his first career start. He passed for 415 yards in TTU’s 42-35 win over ISU last weekend.
  • West Virginia is 7-3 under Dana Holgorsen when the Mountaineers have more than seven days to prepare. WVU had a bye last weekend.
  • TTU leads the Big 12 in yards per play allowed on third down at 3.66 and points allowed per drive at 0.99.

Thanks for all of your questions during my chat. You can read the full transcript here.

Joy (Arkansas) Based on performances to date, who is the better team, Baylor or Oklahoma?

Brandon ChatmonOU gets the edge thanks to its road win at Notre Dame. It's the best win of the two. But there's no part of me that thinks Baylor cannot beat the Sooners. It should be a great game.

Jennifer (Austin) In your opinion was that a fumble at the end of the UT/Iowa State game? On the replay it didn't sound like the whistle had blown until after the ball was out.

Brandon Chatmon Yes. I thought it was a fumble immediately. The officials thought otherwise.

Papa Bear (BU) I had someone tell me that yeah Baylor scored 73, "but they gave up 42." Twenty-eight of those were against the second team and 7 were due to the muffed punt catch. How real is the Baylor offense that put up crazy numbers against WVU defense that held OU to 16 in Norman and OSU to 21?

Brandon Chatmon Anyone who told you that isn't paying attention Papa Bear. Either that or they're scared to admit Baylor is legit. It's one or the other. Baylor's offense is as legit as it gets.

Gandalf (Middle Earth) Don't you think OU is a little overrated this year? I mean come on anybody in their right mind could see this. 34-0 to LA-M? 16-7 to WV? Even the win over ND (who is VERY overrated, not sure why they are still ranked in the top 25). Just wondering if I am the only who sees this.

Brandon Chatmon I think it is possible but the Sooners are better defensively this season and their win at Notre Dame is the best nonconference win by a Big 12 squad. But, if you've been following my thinking I've consistently said I think they will lose a game in Big 12 play so I'm not convinced they are a dominant, BCS title type team quite yet. We shall see though.

Nathan (Dallas) Brandon, love the work you guys are doing. As a Baylor grad it drives me crazy to constantly hear people blow off our record this year because of any number of reasons. But I get the impression that if the jersey said TCU or Tech or just about any other school no one would think twice about giving them credit as a legit team. Am I totally off base or are people just hung up on the fact that it's BAYLOR doing this and not UT or OU?

Brandon Chatmon I think that is definitely part of it. I think there are some people who simply don't want to admit that Baylor is for real, they just have something against the Bears for some reason. But anyone who has seen them play, seen how they pick apart teams with relentless efficiency, they know Baylor is legit and can contend for a Big 12, even BCS title if things fall right and they continue to play this way.

Daje Johnson (Austin) Do you think I will actually be utilized like I should this Saturday?

Brandon Chatmon No, Daje, I don't. It's unfortunate too because you're one of the most explosive players in the ENTIRE LEAGUE. Sorry, I dunno what to tell ya.

Will Muschamp (Gainesville) Why hasn’t my name come up on the Texas head coaching job rumors?!?!?!? I was successful there, better that Diaz guy!!

Brandon Chatmon Maybe they're scared you're mad at them? Judging by your use of exclamation points you are.

Big Ferm (San Diego) Brandon, OU and Baylor have both played WVU and ULM. An apples to apples comparison of the results of those games should show who the clear Big 12 favorite is. Thoughts?

Brandon Chatmon That's true. If I based things strictly off those games, then Baylor is the clear favorite. I do not however. I still have OU as the favorite but let's not pretend I would mark it down in pen instead of pencil. The Bears are just as good as the Sooners, I just think OU has the better defense so they get the edge as of right now.

John (Houston) Baylor keeps getting hyped with an offense that just won't quit, and rightly so. And everyone talks about how they better watch out for Texas Tech as a trap game, but what about TCU? They have probably the best cover secondary in the Big 12. Don't you think they will make it very difficult for Baylor to get a W?

Brandon Chatmon I think they will make it difficult but let's say TCU has a great game against Baylor and say they hold BU to four touchdowns, one per quarter. Can TCU score enough to beat them? I don't think so, at least not based off what I've seen from the Horned Frogs offense lately. So, I'd imagine, that's why people don't bring up TCU as a stumbling block.

Tony (Richmond, CA) Who are your Big XII offensive and defensive MVPs?

Brandon Chatmon Lache Seastrunk and Ben Heeney from Kansas (gasp!)

Rett (Oregon) Should stats vs. rent-a-win teams count for a player-team? Does running up the score against terrible competition really prove anything accept that the competition is terrible?

Brandon Chatmon Yes. Because not everybody does that (or can do that for that matter).

Tyler (San Antonio) Do you see this week's game against Iowa State as a possible trap game for Tech? 11 o'clock kickoffs are tough to get up for student body wise, and let’s not forget what happened last time the Cyclones rolled into Lubbock.

Brandon Chatmon Interesting that you say that Tyler because that game is one I will keep an eye on. I expect Texas Tech to win but if they don't get out early on the Cyclones I could see it being a closer game than many would expect. I still pick the Red Raiders though, their defense can pull them through, I think.

Big 12 unsung heroes: Week 4

September, 23, 2013
9/23/13
3:00
PM ET
Several Big 12 schools had a bye but other squads saw several players step up when they needed them on Saturday. Here's a look at the Big 12's unsung heroes during Week 4:

Receiver Antwan Goodley, Baylor: On an offense full of stars, Goodley is quietly making a major impact with the Bears. He had five receptions for 156 yards and two touchdowns in Baylor’s 70-7 win over Louisiana-Monroe. He brings excellent size and speed to the Baylor offense, adding yet another explosive threat at quarterback Bryce Petty's disposal. He has 14 receptions for 370 yards and four touchdowns this season, with 13 of those 14 receptions ending up in a first down or touchdown.

Linebacker Ben Heeney, Kansas: The junior was exceptional for the second straight week. Heeney gets overlooked because of KU’s struggles but he’s one of the league’s top defenders. He had 10 tackles -- including a half-tackle for loss -- one interception and one pass breakup. He’s a linebacker who is comfortable in space with the ability to make plays in the running game or passing game. He should be an anchor of KU’s defense for the rest of the year, he just needs help from his teammates.

Linebacker Blake Slaughter, Kansas State: Slaughter was a beast against the Longhorns, making Wildcats fans momentarily forget Arthur Brown. He had 10 tackles, three pass breakups and one quarterback hurry, but his activity on the second level of KSU’s defense should be encouraging with the heart of Big 12 play right around the corner.

Receiver Marcus Johnson, Texas: Who? That’s exactly what Kansas State was saying as Johnson made clutch reception after clutch reception in UT’s 31-21 win over the Wildcats. He finished with five receptions for 70 yards, with three of those catches coming on third down. The sophomore stepped up with Mike Davis and Daje Johnson out against KSU and could emerge as a clutch playmaker who can take advantage of one-on-one opportunities when that playmaking duo returns to the Texas’ lineup.

Linebacker Will Smith, Texas Tech: The Red Raiders defender is constantly around the ball, evidenced by his 9-yard fumble return after Kerry Hyder's fumble in Tech’s 33-7 win over Texas State. He had eight tackles and one tackle for loss against the Bobcats. It’s rare to watch a Red Raiders game and not notice No. 7’s active nature. His continued consistency could be a key for Texas Tech as they enter the heart of Big 12 play.

Running back Dreamius Smith, West Virginia: Really? An unsung hero after the Mountaineers’ 37-0 shellacking at the hands of Maryland? Well, Smith actually had 12 carries for 74 yards, 6.2 yards per carry and, most importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over in the loss. On a squad searching for playmakers on offense, it’s been unusual to watch Dana Holgorsen use Smith sparingly at times. Expect that to change in the future as WVU tries to find some type of identity on offense.

Note: Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU had a bye.
HornsNation is breaking down Texas' 2013 football schedule every Monday this summer. This week: The Longhorns' eighth game of the season vs. the Kansas Jayhawks on Nov. 2 at DKR.

Kansas Jayhawks

Kansas' 2012 record: 1-11, 0-9 in the Big 12

Last time against Texas: Texas won 21-17 in Lawrence in 2012.

Record against Texas: Texas leads series 10-2

Returning starters: OL Randall Dent, OL Aslam Sterling, RB James Sims, RB, Tony Pierson, DT Jordan Tavai, DT Kevin Young, LB Ben Heeney, DE Keba Agostinho

Starters lost: QB Dayne Crist, WR Kale Pick, S Bradley McDougald, CB Greg Brown, CB Tyler Patmon, DE Toben Opurum, S Lubbock Smith, LB Huldon Tharp, TE Mike Ragone

Statistical leaders

Passing: Michael Cummings (43 of 94 for 456 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions)
Rushing: Sims (1,013 yards)
Receiving: Pierson (291 yards)
Tackles: Heeney (112)
Sacks: Young (1.5)
Interceptions: KU does not have a returning player with an interception.

Texas defense pressures Jake Heaps
Brendan Maloney/US PresswireNew Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps has experience against Texas, as he started for BYU against the Longhorns in 2011.
Did you know: For the second year in a row, KU coach Charlie Weis is hanging is hopes on a high-profile transfer quarterback. (Dayne Crist proved to be a failed experiment in 2012.) This time it is Jake Heaps, a transfer from BYU. Texas fans might remember Heaps. As a sophomore in 2011, Heaps started against Texas and went 22 of 38 for 192 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in a 17-16 Texas win.

What to watch for

Team transfer: Not only does KU have a transfer quarterback but the Jayhawks are attempting to rebuild their receiving corps with transfers. Weis has brought in two junior college receivers, Rodriguez Coleman and Mark Thomas, as well as Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay. Coleman could prove to have the biggest impact as he had 70 catches and more than 1,000 receiving yards in his two years at Garden City Community College.

Passing out: Kansas was ranked 116th in pass efficiency defense a year ago. (Anyone who witnessed Greg Brown drop a bread-basket interception thrown by Case McCoy can attest to why the Jayhawks had such a low rating.) And now all KU has to do is replace its entire secondary and three other defensive starters. The Jayhawks do not have a player on their roster who intercepted a pass last season and only have two players on the roster who recovered a fumble last season.

Rushing to judgment: The one area where KU was effective on offense was in the running game. Kansas was No. 22 nationally in rushing offense and has its two running backs, Sims and Pierson, returning. Kansas, which rushed for negative yards against Texas in 2011, had 234 rushing yards against the Longhorns in 2012.

View from the other side: Rustin Dodd, Kansas beat writer, The Kansas City Star

Another year and another new quarterback for KU. Any chance Jake Heaps is better than KU's last transfer?

The answer is probably yes, but that's partly because KU's quarterbacks set a pretty low bar last year. The Jayhawks' receivers failed to record a receiving touchdown and the passing game was anemic all year. Heaps had a solid freshman year at BYU -- before some second-year struggles -- and he has the skills and pedigree to be a vast improvement. He's much more mobile than Dayne Crist, and he could benefit from having transfer receiver Nick Harwell (Miami of Ohio), who is attempting to become eligible as a graduate transfer.

With only five starters returning on offense, is there any hope that KU can become competitive on that side of the ball?


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