Texas Longhorns: Jared Barnett

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

Let's do this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. David Ash/Case McCoy, Texas: Mack Brown insists it's still a contest. My jaw will be on the floor if Ash doesn't trot out on the field for the first game of the season. Ash has some potential and promising targets in Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley, but he hasn't shown the big-play ability of Jantz or Barnett. Expect Ash to move up this list by season's end, but for now, it's all just potential.
Yesterday, the Big 12 unveiled its team-by-team lineup for Big 12 media days, which begin on July 23 at the Westin Galleria in north Dallas.

Here's a few things of note:
  • Oklahoma, Iowa State, Kansas State, Texas Tech and TCU will be meeting with the media on Day 1, July 23. Texas, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Baylor and West Virginia will meet with the media to close out Day 2.
  • The programs who bring an extra stowaway always attract a little more attention, but it never means very much. This time, it's West Virginia and Baylor, who are both bringing four players to Day 2, instead of just three.
  • Oklahoma State is sticking to its policy of not allowing first-year players to speak to the media. That's no surprise. Coach Mike Gundy expressed that earlier this offseason, but true freshman starter Wes Lunt won't be coming to media days. Oklahoma State joins Texas and Iowa State as the only three teams not bringing a QB to media days. Texas hasn't officially announced a starter, and Iowa State has a legitimate battle between Steele Jantz and Jared Barnett in fall camp next month.
  • The most memorable media days absentee? Remember when Baylor didn't bring RG3 in 2010? Turned out to be pretty interesting.
  • A little surprising to see Oklahoma State bring Cooper Bassett, a relative unknown across the league, though he's a senior who has put in a lot of work in Stillwater.
  • Kansas didn't get very much attention last year, but expect that to change this year. Charlie Weis will be a hit with the horde of media, and the media outside of Lawrence hasn't had a real chance to get to interact with newcomer Dayne Crist, who could morph Kansas into a respectable squad this year. Those two won't be twiddling their thumbs much in Dallas. Bring water and prepare to talk a whole lot.
  • The star power isn't as high this year. Oklahoma's contingent last year was a complete zoo. Landry Jones, Ryan Broyles and Travis Lewis could hardly go anywhere last year without being hounded, but this year, Jones is the player with the biggest profile in the league among players.
  • The West Virginia folks in town should be a hit, especially coach Dana Holgorsen, who coached in the Big 12 but never needed to attend media days since he wasn't a head coach. The Big 12 media will learn very soon that Geno Smith is a great interview, arguably one of the best in the Big 12. He's my pick as the guy who'll leave media days as a new star, even if folks are well aware of what he brings on the field.

I know it's a little hokey and in today's media landscape, probably a bit unnecessary. Still, I can't help it. I love media days. It's always fun, and good to see the league's players and media in one place, if only for a few days. I'm looking forward to it, and you know we'll have wall to wall coverage right here. Want to know what you can expect? Here's a sampling of our coverage from last year.
The Big 12 season is approaching, and there's no league in which the quarterback position is more important. Want success? Experience is a good place to start. How do the QBs rank in experience? Let's take a look.

1. Landry Jones, Oklahoma (37 starts): Jones is the league's elder statesman by a long, long ways. He took over as a redshirt freshman in 2009 when Sam Bradford injured his shoulder, and didn't miss any of his 27 starts in 2010 and 2011.

2. Geno Smith, West Virginia (26 starts): Smith has been the team's unquestioned starter for each of the past two seasons, and should be ready for a big 2012 after topping 4,000 yards in 2011.

[+] EnlargeCollin Klein
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesNo doubt, Kansas State QB Collin Klein drew a ton of attention from opposing defenses in 2011.
3. Collin Klein, Kansas State (15 starts): Klein had two more starts at receiver earlier in his career, but we're not counting those. Klein was a gadget QB in 2010, but took over as the team's offensive workhorse in 2011, accounting for nearly 70 percent of the team's total offense.

4. Casey Pachall, TCU (13 starts): Pachall played well in his first year as a starter, but often relied on his three star running backs in the offense and didn't top 3,000 yards. He's ready for more responsibility if necessary this year.

5. Seth Doege, Texas Tech (13 starts): Doege earned one start all the way back in 2009, but ceded that spot by the end of the game. He did no such thing in a strong 2011 season, though Tech missed a bowl game and had a losing season (5-7) for the first time in almost two decades.

6. Dayne Crist, Kansas (10 starts): Crist's 10 starts all came at Notre Dame, but there doesn't look to be much challenge from any other QBs on the roster this season. Does he have the offensive weapons to be productive?

7. Nick Florence, Baylor (seven starts): Florence started seven games in 2009 when Robert Griffin III suffered a knee injury, and earned a half of playing time last season against Texas Tech that cost him his redshirt season.

8. Steele Jantz, Iowa State (seven starts): Jantz got off to a strong start, but never figured out his very serious turnover issues. That cost him his starting job in midseason, despite three fourth-quarter comebacks to begin the 2011 season 3-0.

9. David Ash, Texas (six starts): Ash was the fourth-string QB last summer, but when Garrett Gilbert and Connor Wood transferred, it was up to him and Case McCoy to carry the load. By season's end, Ash had established himself as the future at the position, at least immediately, but Texas' coaches haven't given him the official designation yet.

10. Jared Barnett, Iowa State (six starts): Barnett took over for Jantz in the middle of the season and engineered wins over Texas Tech, Kansas and a historic win over No. 2 Oklahoma State, but struggled with inconsistency late and opened up the competition to Jantz in a Pinstripe Bowl loss to Rutgers. There's no assurance for either to be the starter after the spring.

11. Case McCoy, Texas (five starts): McCoy's gutsiest performance came in a comeback win over Texas A&M, but his lack of arm strength limited what the Longhorns could do in 2011. McCoy's got all the heart you could ask for, but his physical attributes bring about plenty of questions about his ability to carry the team over the course of his career.

12. Wes Lunt, Oklahoma State (zero starts): Lunt shocked even his own offensive coordinator by beating out junior Clint Chelf and redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh in the spring to earn the starting job. He still has to validate that spot in the fall, but Lunt is in a class of his own at the bottom of the Big 12 when it comes to experience. He's a big, NFL-sized QB with a big arm, though. Can his mind catch up fast enough to help the Cowboys defend a Big 12 title?
Another spring has come and gone in the Big 12. In this league, it's a long one. Texas Tech kicked things off on February 17, just two weeks after signing day.

Kansas and Kansas State didn't wrap it up until spring games on April 28.

Through it all, we learned a lot. Here's a taste.

Texas is inching much closer to contention: The offense? Well, it's still a work in progress, though David Ash showed some solid progression during the spring. But the defense? It's leading the way for the Longhorns' road back from the 5-7 implosion in 2010. Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom might just be the two best cornerbacks in the Big 12, and Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat are probably the two best defensive ends. Great coverage and a great pass-rush? Sounds like a good start to slowing down Big 12 offenses. Add in junior college man-child Brandon Moore, and solid linebacker play with Jordan Hicks, Demarco Cobbs and Steve Edmond, and the Longhorns have a unit that can help them get back into title contention.

Only one team doesn't know who its quarterback will be: Baylor hardly had a competition to replace RG3. Kansas replaced Jordan Webb with transfer Dayne Crist. Oklahoma State pulled the trigger on a youngster. Texas hasn't officially named him, but Ash has all but sewn up the job in Austin. That leaves Iowa State, which has sophomore Jared Barnett and senior Steele Jantz competing for the job for a second consecutive fall. Anything could happen there.

Mike Gundy has guts: Oklahoma State said goodbye to a mature, big-armed passer in Brandon Weeden, who won 23 games in two seasons. However, the reigning Big 12 champion again will have a big arm at quarterback. Gundy made the league's gutsiest move this spring, handing the reins to 18-year-old Wes Lunt from Illinois. He's one of just six players in the Big 12 from Illinois, and he's a decade younger than Weeden. Robert Griffin III was the league's last true freshman to start a majority of games, but Lunt might be the first to win the job in the spring.

There's a new sherriff in town: The Big 12 knew Chuck Neinas was a quick fix at the commissioner spot, but the league made a quick move in pegging Stanford AD Bob Bowlsby as the new commissioner to replace Dan Beebe, who was fired in September. The Big 12 is likely to cash in on a nice TV deal shortly after Bowlsby takes over, but he'll have to help reconnect a league that must work through some possibly divisive issues like expansion in the near future. He'll also need to manage the relationship between Texas, who he referred to as an "800-pound gorilla," and the rest of its Big 12 brethren. The relationship sounds good now, but over time, issues could arise.

Charlie Weis is making sure KU looks nothing like its 2011 team: Kansas has undergone the biggest change of any team in the Big 12 this offseason. New coach Weis saw a lot of problems at KU, and went about fixing them quickly. He welcomed six Division I transfers, including three from Notre Dame, which included his new quarterback, Crist. He also saw gaping holes along the defensive line and tried to fill them with junior college players and high schoolers who will be challenging for playing time in the fall. Kansas will look a lot different, but will it be better?
The spring is nearing its end with just a little over a week remaining for some.

Oklahoma State and West Virginia will wrap up their spring practices this weekend. Until then, it's time to break down where we stand in the quarterback competitions around the league.

Baylor: Bears coach Art Briles said it was Nick Florence's job to lose entering the spring, and Florence did nothing to let Briles down. Instead, he seized the job ahead of talented backup Bryce Petty, who has a bright future ahead of himself. Florence gave up his redshirt last season by playing the second half against Texas Tech, but he'll try to make his senior season count. For now, this is his team.

Iowa State: Nothing's been settled after Iowa State's spring game last Saturday. Steele Jantz got back into the race when Jared Barnett struggled in the bowl game, and the competition was too close to call at the end of spring. ISU coach Paul Rhoads even said redshirt freshman Sam Richardson isn't out of the race. Former QB Jerome Tiller is, though. He was in the four-man competition last spring, which Jantz eventually won, but missed the season because of academic issues. He's a receiver now, and doing well at the position.

Kansas: Charlie Weis brought in his guy, Dayne Crist, from Notre Dame, and last year's starter, Jordan Webb, transferred. Crist has entrenched himself as the starter midway through spring practice, which ends with the spring game on April 28. BYU transfer Jake Heaps is taking reps with the second team now, but he'll be phased out in the fall while he sits out his NCAA-mandated redshirt season after transferring.

Kansas State: Collin Klein is still developing as a passer, but he is K-State's offense. Moving on ...

Oklahoma: Landry Jones returned for his senior season, but with a healthy set of running backs, the Belldozer, a power formation named after big-bodied backup Blake Bell, may be phased out this season. Bell, though, showcased his arm in the spring game and outperformed the older Drew Allen. The backup QB race should be interesting to watch this fall.

Oklahoma State: Coach Mike Gundy really wanted to name a starter by the end of spring, but it doesn't look likely to happen. No quarterback has established any distance, but they'll have a huge chance in Saturday's spring game. For now, true freshman Wes Lunt is still in the race, though dual-threat man J.W. Walsh may be the favorite ahead of junior Clint Chelf, who has some game experience the past two seasons. This is the league's best race, but also its most difficult to predict. Just about anything could happen.

Texas: Coach Mack Brown isn't making anything official, but sophomore David Ash was getting nearly all the first-team reps in the spring, ahead of Case McCoy. There's no official title yet, but there would be major shock if anyone but Ash starts the season opener. Now, if Ash struggles...

TCU: Casey Pachall had a great first year, and brings back his top three targets in Josh Boyce, Skye Dawson and Brandon Carter. The sky is the limit for Pachall.

Texas Tech: The Red Raiders' staff liked what Seth Doege did as a first-year starter, but the defense and injuries to his offense put too much strain on him in 2011. He'll look a lot better if his receivers and running backs can stay healthy.

West Virginia: Geno Smith may be the league's best quarterback, and coach Dana Holgorsen can't quit calling him "special." That's not to say he should. It could be a special season for him and the Mountaineers as they join the Big 12.
Spring is already underway at three Big 12 schools (Texas, TCU, Texas Tech), but it's March today, and we're headed for full swing this month.

Here's what you can expect when it comes to quarterback competitions this fall. Each spot is ranked from most to least secure entering spring 2012.

FASTEN YOUR SEATBELTS

1. Oklahoma State: This should be the best battle by far. Junior Clint Chelf is the elder statesman of the group, but redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh and early enrolling true freshman Wes Lunt were both much more highly recruited. Lunt hails from Illinois and Walsh from Denton, Texas, but Chelf, from nearby Enid, Okla., will try to hold off the younger guys to grab the reins of one of the most powerful passing offenses in the country.

2. Texas: The Longhorns didn't resolve much late in the season, but David Ash had the best finish, helping Texas win the Holiday Bowl. Case McCoy is back, too, though, and the coaches say the competition is still wide open. Early enrolling freshman Connor Brewer would like to crash the party, and he and Ash are more physically gifted passers, but McCoy made plenty of plays during the season. He'll be right there fighting, too.

TIME TO LOCK IT DOWN

3. Iowa State: Jared Barnett looked like the future of the program over the second half of the season, but struggled down the stretch and opened the door for senior Steele Jantz, who helped Iowa State start the season 3-0 before being benched for Barnett. It's probably Barnett's job, but he's got to earn it. If he doesn't improve, Jantz could take advantage.

4. Baylor: Nick Florence started nine games in 2009 with mixed results, but looked good in relief of Heisman winner Robert Griffin III in a win over Texas Tech. Coach Art Briles says it's Florence's job to lose to start the spring, but Bryce Petty will be looming during the spring, too.

5. Kansas: Last year's starter, Jordan Webb, has transferred, and ex-Golden Domer Dayne Crist is on campus and taking part in promotional videos for the program. He looks like the guy, but juco national champion Turner Baty is joining the team, too. Could Michael Cummings be a factor, too? Jake Heaps is waiting his turn until 2013 while he sits out his NCAA-mandated redshirt season after transferring from BYU.

FIX ALL THE LITTLE THINGS

6. Oklahoma: Hush, Sooner fans clamoring for Blake Bell. He's part of the Belldozer gadget formation that produced 13 rushing touchdowns in the final half of 2011. But it's exactly that, a gadget formation. If OU can run the ball between the tackles well next year, we may not even see much of it. He's not touching Landry Jones' spot, though. Jones enters 2011 as a legitimate Heisman contender.

7. Kansas State: Collin Klein is the guy at Kansas State, but he's still got to develop as a passer. We'll see what kind of growth he shows this offseason.

8. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders' coaches were pleased with Seth Doege's performance in all but two games (Iowa State, Oklahoma State), but the defense gave him almost no chance to succeed. He's back this spring. Michael Brewer's development is encouraging, but it's highly unlikely we see any shift in the starter's status.

9. TCU: Casey Pachall threw for 25 touchdowns, seven picks and completed 66.5 percent of his passes. His top three targets return. When it comes to the QB spot, the spring is about preparing for a big year on offense at TCU.

10. West Virginia: Geno Smith makes WVU's offense go, and he'll be back for his senior year with big hopes in Morgantown. Smith threw for 4,385 yards and 31 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. Like Pachall, Smith's spring is about getting ready for a memorable Big 12 debut.

Big 12 position rankings: Quarterback

January, 25, 2012
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Today, we'll kick off a look at the postseason rankings for each position in the Big 12. Here's a look back on where our first position, quarterback, stood in the preseason.

Quarterbacks' rushing talents are factored into these rankings. As such, it's tough to figure out how to weigh that vs. passing acumen. Ultimately, teams ranked 4-7 were really, really close.

In these position rankings, we take into account backups, though that impact is minimal at the quarterback spot.

1. Baylor

If your quarterback wins the Heisman, you're not finishing below No. 1 on this list. Robert Griffin IIIlit up defenses and broke the NCAA record for passing efficiency, even though Wisconsin's Russell Wilson did the same this year, and finished higher than RG3. Even when RG3 suffered concussion-like symptoms against Texas Tech, backup Nick Florencecame in and burned Texas Tech's defense in a 66-42 win. Griffin finished with as many touchdowns as Brandon Weeden (37), but threw as few interceptions as Collin Klein (6), despite throwing the ball 121 more times than Klein.

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The Big 12's top 10 moments of 2011

January, 12, 2012
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As quickly as it arrived, the Big 12 season is gone.

Alas, here's a look at the 10 moments we'll remember most from the 2011 season. These aren't necessarily the best or worst moments, but simply that: memorable. When we look back on 2011, this is what will stick out.

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Final Big 12 Power Rankings

January, 10, 2012
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Welp, this is it. The college football season is over, and two teams have closed up shop in the Big 12. This will be Texas A&M's and Missouri's last time to make an appearance in the Big 12 Power Rankings.

After 14 weeks of the regular season and eight bowl games (the Big 12 went 6-2), here's how the league sits.

1. Oklahoma State (12-1, beat Stanford, 41-38 in overtime): The Cowboys needed some help from Stanford's kicker to get their BCS win, but their spot atop the Big 12 was never at stake. The Cowboys proved themselves as the Big 12's best team throughout the season and beat Stanford to make history. Stillwater's never seen a season like this, and Mike Gundy was rewarded with a $1.6 million raise after the season for his efforts.

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Early 2012 Big 12 power rankings

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

It makes us all look like geniuses.

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

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

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

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

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

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Time to dish out a few predictions for the Big 12's non-BCS bowls.

I notched perfection in the season's final weekend, but bowl picks are always tough.

For the curious, here's how I've done predicting each team's games this year. You guys gave me a solid B. I'll take it.

Last week: 3-0

Overall: 57-18 (.760)

Today

Missouri 34, North Carolina 28: The Tigers match up pretty well with UNC, and take care of business with a solid performance from James Franklin, who tops 125 yards rushing and throws for 225, accounting for four touchdowns. The Tigers head to the SEC on the right note.

Dec. 28

No. 24 Texas 20, California 17: The Longhorns suffocate another offense in this one, quieting Keenan Allen and Zach Maynard. Texas has seen better offenses and played well. They take care of business out in San Diego to notch a Holiday Bowl win. A healthy backfield of Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron get back down to business and build toward a big sophomore year.

Dec. 29

No. 12 Baylor 47, Washington 31: RG3 doesn't give many clues as to his future plans, but he looks the part of an NFL quarterback in this one, sending Kendall Wright into the NFL with a big day. We expected plenty of offense in this one, and both teams delivered. Chris Polk racks up big yardage on a suspect Baylor defense, but the Bears pull away late.

Dec. 30

Iowa State 24, Rutgers 21: Doubt Paul Rhoads' teams in bowl games at your own risk. They say the team that wants to be in bowl games the most wins them, and games like these are huge for the Cyclones. They'll be ready to go against a mediocre Rutgers team. It should be interesting to see what Jared Barnett looks like with a month to prepare, and I'm betting he looks pretty good.

No. 14 Oklahoma 23, Iowa 21: On the flip side of the "Bet who wants to be here more" coin is Oklahoma, whose trip to the Insight Bowl is far from what they'd hoped in a season that began with national title hopes. The Sooners are banged up and dealing with player exits, but they're still significantly better than Iowa. We see a pretty lackluster performance from the Sooners, but they survive. Iowa is, after all, a team that lost to Iowa State, Minnesota and Penn State, and is playing without its top two running backs.

Dec. 31

Texas A&M 31, Northwestern 21: The Aggies are shaken up, too, with one coach (Mike Sherman) fired and its interim coach (Tim DeRuyter) getting ready to take over at Fresno State. The Aggies talent takes over in this one, and Cyrus Gray is expected to return. The Wildcats rebounded later in the season to reach a bowl game, but have only one quality win all season: Nebraska. Texas A&M's talent takes over this big lead is safe.

Jan. 6

No. 6 Arkansas 24, No. 8 Kansas State 23: This could be a classic. The Wildcats win the time of possession game (they always do. K-State ranks fourth nationally in the stat) and suffocates Arkansas' offense, which has struggled running the ball all year, ranking ninth in the SEC. K-State finally loses a close game, though, and like the loss to Oklahoma State, a late drive comes up short. A strong performance from the defense though, and K-State enters 2012 as one of the Big 12 favorites.

Crowning the best freshmen in the Big 12

December, 13, 2011
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The regular season is over, but with the end of any season, you can't help but look to the future. In college football, that means youth, i.e. freshmen.

There were plenty of big talents playing their first season in the Big 12 this year, and here were the best of the bunch.

It should come as no surprise that the bulk of the young talent plays offense, assuring that the Big 12's reputation as an offense-driven league looks like it'll remain a constant.

Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas: The Longhorns were tentative to let Brown start early in the season, but he emerged as the team's top back and into the starting slot, finishing the season as the team's leading rusher, at 707 yards and five touchdowns.

Tyler Lockett, WR/KR, Kansas State: Lockett became one of K-State's best playmakers late in the year, and the Big 12's best kick returner. He returned two kicks for scores and averaged over 35 yards per return, catching 18 passes for 246 yards and three scores. No small accomplishment in the Wildcats' run-heavy offense.

Jaxon Shipley, WR, Texas: Shipley was hampered by a knee injury for much of the season, but he was the Longhorns most reliable receiver, leading the team with three touchdown catches. He was narrowly edged for the team lead in catches (40) and receiving yards (593).

Jared Barnett, QB, Iowa State: Barnett's best known for playing an unbelievable game against Oklahoma State. He took over for Steele Jantz in midseason and led the Cyclones from 3-4 to 6-4 and a bowl berth, with a blowout win over Texas Tech and dramatic wins over OSU and Kansas. He threw for 376 yards and three scores against OSU and ran 84 more yards.

Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas: Diggs has star written all over him. Don't be surprised if he's the Big 12's best defensive back next year. He showed flashes in the spring game after enrolling early, and started nine games for Texas as a true freshman. A rare feat in most years, especially for the defense. He led the team with three interceptions forced two fumbles with 43 tackles and 13 pass breakups. Unbelievable freshman year for the Horn.

Darrian Miller, RB, Kansas: Miller's got some great wiggle to his running style as one of the league's most elusive backs, and ran for 559 yards and four scores on just 136 yards.

Blake Dees, LB, Texas Tech: Dees looked like a potential starter in spring practice and showed up once fall came for the Red Raiders. Despite an ankle injury that basically erased the second half of his season, he made 32 tackles with four tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.

Tony Pierson, RB, Kansas: Memo to Charlie Weis: You've got a heck of a backfield, better use it. Pierson, Miller and James Sims are all solid for the Jayhawks, and Pierson might have as much upside as any of them. He's an electrifying player like Miller, but with more size and averaged over 5.5 yards on his 71 carries, scoring three times. Here's guessing the scoring numbers and touches go up next year.

Josh Stewart, WR, Oklahoma State: Stewart was a nice piece of a powerful OSU offense and showed plenty of promise as a kick returner, too, averaging better than 20 yards on his 11 returns. He caught 19 balls for 291 yards and two scores.

Blake Bell, QB, Oklahoma: Bell redshirted before showing up midseason in the valuable BellDozer formation that OU came up with after Dominique Whaley went down with a fractured ankle. He scored an unbelievable 10 touchdowns on 34 carries, but the throwing thing could use some work. In four attempts, he completed as many passes to the other team (1) as his own.

Ranking the Big 12 bowl games

December, 12, 2011
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Bowl season approacheth. Two games featuring Big 12 teams will be as good as any this postseason, especially with the impending rugby match that we'll tentatively call the BCS National Championship.

Here's how the Big 12 games rank from top to bottom.

[+] EnlargeWeeden
Richard Rowe/US PresswireOklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden could be a second-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft.
1. Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 2: No. 3 Oklahoma State vs. No. 4 Stanford - Just imagine if the opponents were switched and these two took on SEC opponents in national semifinals as part of the college football Final Four. Oh, what could have been. Either way, Brandon Weeden and Andrew Luck assure us that this will be a tight, cleanly played game with two of college football's best passers. Outside of the SEC rematch for the title, this is the best bowl game of them all.

2. AT&T Cotton Bowl, Jan. 6: No. 8 Kansas State vs. No. 6 Arkansas - The Wildcats have played heart-stoppers in what seems like every week. They're 8-1 in games decided by fewer than seven points. Why change now? This will be just the second Big 12 vs. SEC matchup this year, and both games have been in Cowboys Stadium. Texas A&M allowed a Hogs comeback, but Arkansas' potent offense will be nothing new for Kansas State, which has been compensating for them all year. The Wildcats nearly beat OSU and beat Baylor this year. Expect a wild finish.

3. Valero Alamo Bowl, Dec. 29: No. 12 Baylor vs. Washington - Beware of fireworks. Baylor's first Heisman winner, Robert Griffin III, will take the field for perhaps the final time, and expect tons of points in this one. The Huskies and Bears combine to average 75 points and give up an average of 69 points. QB Keith Price keys a good Washington attack with running back Chris Polk, who burned Nebraska for 177 yards in the Holiday Bowl last season.

4. Insight Bowl, Dec. 30: No. 14 Oklahoma vs. Iowa - The storylines are rich in this rare Big Ten meeting for the Sooners. Last year, Stoops cheered on the Hawkeyes in the Insight Bowl against Mizzou. Oklahoma will take on Stoops' alma mater this year in the warmup game for the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona. The Sooners will be without receivers Jaz Reynolds and Ryan Broyles, but Landry Jones will try and bounce back from a Bedlam blowout.

5. Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas: Texas A&M vs. Northwestern - The Aggies will take on QB Dan Persa and the Wildcats in nearby Houston, where the crowd should be heavily maroon. Running back Cyrus Gray is questionable, but it'll be interesting to see how A&M looks without coach Mike Sherman and a new man running the offense. Defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter will serve as interim coach, and this will be the last time Ryan Tannehill throws to receivers Jeff Fuller and Ryan Swope.

6. Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl, Dec. 28: No. 24 Texas vs. California - Texas should be mostly healthy by the time this one kicks off, and running back Malcolm Brown could carry some nice momentum into his sophomore season with a big day. After numerous bowl practices leading into this one, it'll be interesting to see what Texas does at quarterback, too.

7. New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Dec. 30: Iowa State vs. Rutgers - Last year's Bronx Salute was an ugly end to a classic, but the picturesque setting in Yankee Stadium still has a big novelty factor for fans watching and in attendance for this one. The 8-4 Scarlet Knights are fourth in the Big East and should offer an interesting contrast to the eighth-place team in the Big 12. We'll see how Iowa State's offense is impacted by a maturing freshman quarterback in Jared Barnett. But it will be an offense playing for the final time with offensive coordinator Tom Herman, who will join Urban Meyer's staff at Ohio State after the season.

8. AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl, Dec. 26: Missouri vs. North Carolina - The 7-5 Tigers, like 6-6 Texas A&M, didn't go to the SEC in the fashion they would have liked. But even if it's a middling bowl game, don't underestimate the momentum that can be established by a win. Ask Oklahoma, which grew up a lot in a win over Stanford in the 2009 Sun Bowl before winning the Big 12 in 2010. That's especially true for a team returning a lot next year like Mizzou, even if it will take on a whole new schedule.

How would you rank the bowls?

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 11

November, 10, 2011
11/10/11
10:56
AM ET
Here's what I'm watching in this week's games.

1. The first half in Lubbock. Upsets happen when the underdog hangs around or races to an early lead. Oklahoma State has been really strong in the first half, but if it's close early on or if the Red Raiders jump out to a lead? We've got a ballgame.

2. The line of scrimmage in Columbia. Who wins the battle up front in Mizzou and Texas' game on Saturday? Both running games are versatile, with Henry Josey and James Franklin going up against the Longhorns' Malcolm Brown, David Ash and others. That said, this boils down to the battle up front. Lose that, and none of those ballcarriers will do much.

[+] EnlargeJoe Bergeron
Erich Schlegel/Getty ImagesWhere does Joe Bergeron, who had a career day Saturday, fit in Texas' offense?
3. Joe Bergeron. The freshman burst on the scene with a career-high 191 yards and three scores last week while Brown was sidelined with turf toe. Against Missouri this week, is Brown back to health after spending this week in a boot? If he is, how are carries distributed? What did Bergeron earn with his performance last week?

4. Texas A&M's second half. The Aggies were right there with Oklahoma last week, trailing just 13-10 after a physical first half. Then, after a span of about seven minutes, the Aggies trailed 41-10. Second halves have become the story of this team this season, and by now, correcting it won't bring back the goals already lost.

5. Collin Klein's passing. Klein had a career day through the air against Oklahoma State and took a step in the right direction. He'll get more opportunities this week against the nation's last-ranked pass defense. The Aggies' front seven is stingy, but Klein might lead the Wildcats to a win with his throwing.

6. Texas Tech's run defense. I mentioned this Wednesday, but the only chance Texas Tech has to win on Saturday is if it slows down Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith. If OSU gets the running game going, the game's over. If it slows that down, OSU might still win with the pass, but the chances of an upset are much higher. Tech may do that with points early on like it did against OU, but the rushing yards will tell the story of this one.

7. Robert Griffin III's rushes. Iowa State quarterback Jared Barnett ran for 125 yards in a win over the Jayhawks last week. He's the Big 12's least experienced quarterback. Griffin is the Big 12's most experienced quarterback and much more athletic than Barnett, as well as a better passer. Griffin's topped 100 yards on the ground just once this week. He might not need to on Saturday, but will he do it anyway?

8. Kansas' offense. The Jayhawks were improving big time early in the season, but they've hit a snag the last two games, averaging just five points a game in their last two Big 12 games. Kansas is the only Big 12 team worse in total defense than Baylor. If the Jayhawks can't put a few points up against the Bears, who are they going to score against?

Predictions: Big 12 Week 10

November, 3, 2011
11/03/11
9:37
AM ET
Week 9 wasn't my best, but it always gets a lot tougher in conference play.

Last week: 3-2 (.600)

Overall: 42-12 (.777)

Texas Tech 31, No. 21 Texas 27: Tech showed what it's capable of two weeks ago against Oklahoma, and Texas hasn't dealt well with dynamic offenses. The Red Raiders are getting healthier and healthier, and will pose major problems. Seth Doege and the Red Raiders are angry, and this challenge looks a lot different than Kansas. A word of advice, Horns: Look out for that slip screen.

Iowa State 38, Kansas 28: All of a sudden, there are major questions about Kansas' offense, but the Jayhawks will get back on track this week. Once again, though, the defense will keep the Jayhawks from capitalizing on their best chance to grab a conference win. Jared Barnett continues to mature, and Darius Reynolds gets back to early season form with a big game.

No. 6 Oklahoma 45, Texas A&M 21: I went back on a fearless prediction once. Not this time. You wouldn't like the Sooners when they're angry, and this team isn't real happy about what happened the last time they played on their home field. Oklahoma protects the quarterback better than anybody, and Landry Jones is smart enough to get the ball out to prevent putting the offense in holes. Texas A&M's poor pass defense is exposed, and the Sooners roll.

Missouri 34, Baylor 30: Missouri has by far the Big 12's best rushing offense in conference play. Baylor has the league's worst rush defense. That'll be too much for Robert Griffin III to overcome, though he'll get back on track with a huge day. E.J. Gaines on Kendall Wright will be a fun matchup to watch, but Henry Josey and James Franklin carry the Tigers to a second consecutive road victory in Texas, the first time all season Missouri has won consecutive games.

No. 3 Oklahoma State 44, No. 14 Kansas State 28: There will be too much offense for the Wildcats to handle in this one. Oklahoma State's is playing at Oklahoma's level, and this one won't be pretty for the K-State defense. Come back later Thursday for a video that further explores this matchup.

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