Texas Longhorns: Paul Millard

The Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s captured three Super Bowls on the backs of their triplets. Running back Emmitt Smith churned out yardage between the tackles. Wide receiver Michael Irvin hauled in receptions downfield. And quarterback Troy Aikman captained the unstoppable attack.

Like with the Cowboys, big-time triplets usually translate to big-time offense. And the Big 12 over the years has showcased several notable ones. Oklahoma’s Jason White, Adrian Peterson and Mark Clayton in 2004. Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, Joseph Randle and Justin Blackmon in 2011. West Virginia’s Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey in 2012. Even last season, Baylor boasted one of the best triplets in the country in Bryce Petty, Lache Seastrunk and Antwan Goodley.

So which Big 12 teams will feature the most prolific offensive triplets in 2014? We rank them below:

1. Baylor

QB Bryce Petty, RB Shock Linwood, WR Antwan Goodley

The Bears remain atop this list, even with Seastrunk bolting early for the NFL draft. Despite being Baylor’s third-string running back last season, Linwood still finished sixth in the Big 12 in rushing and shined as the featured back while Seastrunk and Glasco Martin were injured. After totaling 46 touchdowns throwing and rushing, Petty should be even better in his second season as a starter. Goodley is an All-American-caliber wideout.

2. Oklahoma

QB Trevor Knight, RB Keith Ford, WR Sterling Shepard

Knight finally live up to his preseason billing with a sparkling Sugar Bowl performance against Alabama. Knight has the talent and potential to be one of the best dual-threat QBs in the country. Ford was one of the top running back recruits in 2013, and would have played more as a freshman had the Sooners not also had four senior running backs on the roster. Shepard has been a dependable starter the last two seasons, and he already has 96 career receptions going into his junior season. He seems ready to take over for Jalen Saunders as the go-to receiver.

3. Texas Tech

QB Davis Webb, RB Kenny Williams, WR Jakeem Grant

Webb broke out with a tremendous performance in the National University Holiday Bowl, throwing for 403 yards and four touchdowns in an upset of Arizona State. He had his moments during the regular season, too, and could be in for a monster sophomore campaign in Kliff Kingsbury’s air-it-out offense. Williams is a solid pass-catching running back out of the backfield, and he led the Red Raiders with 497 rushing yards and eight touchdowns last season. Williams has been taking first-team snaps at outside linebacker this spring, so he could wind up deferring carries to DeAndre Washington, who has been a capable backup. Grant is electric with the ball, burning Arizona State with a pair of touchdown catches. Grant was sixth in the Big 12 last season in receiving, and with Jace Amaro and Eric Ward gone, should take on an expanded role offensively.

4. Texas

QB David Ash, RB Malcolm Brown, WR Jaxon Shipley

The possibilities of this threesome hinges heavily on the health of Ash, who missed virtually all of the 2013 season with concussion issues. Ash is back with the team this spring, and he has had moments before of performing at a high level. After Johnathan Gray’s Achilles injury, Brown took over as the starting running back and performed admirably, rushing for more than 100 yards in each of Texas’ final three games. Shipley has sure hands, is a precise route runner and is capable of catching 70-plus passes in the right quarterback situation.

5. Kansas State

QB Jake Waters, RB DeMarcus Robinson, WR Tyler Lockett

The Wildcats would be ranked second here if John Hubert had another season of eligibility. But running back is a major question, with no back on the roster holding much experience. Robinson might be the favorite to win the job, but he’ll have to fend off Jarvis Leverett and incoming freshman Dalvin Warmack. Lockett is the best receiver in the Big 12 and one of the best in the country. Waters improved dramatically in his first season as the starter in 2013. If a running back emerges, the Wildcats could surge up this list.

6. Iowa State

QB Grant Rohach, RB Aaron Wimberly, WR Quenton Bundrage

Rohach first must win the starting quarterback derby this spring over Sam B. Richardson. But he played well down the stretch while leading Iowa State to a pair of wins to finish last year. Wimberly was banged up for much of last season, but he can be dynamic when healthy. Bundrage was third in the Big 12 in receiving touchdowns in 2013, and with a little more consistency, could be an all-league receiver. This could be the best triplet combination coach Paul Rhoads has enjoyed in Ames.

7. Oklahoma State

QB J.W. Walsh, RB Desmond Roland, WR Jhajuan Seales

Walsh was fifth in college football in Adjusted Total QBR as a redshirt freshman, but he took a step back as a sophomore and eventually lost the starting gig back to Clint Chelf. If he plays like he did as a freshman, Walsh could be one of the five-best QBs in the league. If he performs like his sophomore season, he could lose the job again. Roland is a touchdown machine and is as good as any back in the league in short-yardage situations. Seales could be on the verge of breaking out in a big way after starting as a freshman.

8. West Virginia

QB Clint Trickett, RB Dreamius Smith, WR Kevin White

The Mountaineers have plenty of weapons, but they will only score more points with more consistent QB play. Trickett tops the projected depth chart for now, but he’ll have to outperform Paul Millard, Skyler Howard and William Crest to stick there. Smith was very impressive at times last season backing up Charles Sims. He’ll get the first crack at starting, but Pittsburgh transfer Rushel Shell will be looming if Smith sputters. White gets the nod as the No. 1 wideout, but Daikiel Shorts and Mario Alford are not far behind as part of a deep and balanced wide receiving corps.

9. TCU

QB Trevone Boykin, RB B.J. Catalon, WR Josh Doctson

Boykin is back at quarterback again after splitting time at receiver the last two seasons. Boykin struggled as the starting QB last season but got little help from his offensive line or receivers. Reports are that he has been sharp this spring in the new Doug Meacham/Sonny Cumbie offense. Catalon is a solid cog at running back, and he averaged 5.3 yards per carry despite playing in an anemic attack last year. Brandon Carter was supposed to be the No. 1 receiver last season -- and still could be in 2014 -- but he wasn’t reliable on or off the field. In Carter’s stead, Doctson surfaced after transferring in from Wyoming, and led the Horned Frogs with 36 receptions and 440 receiving yards.

10. Kansas

QB Jake Heaps, RB Brandon Bourbon, WR Nick Harwell

Harwell should give Kansas what it hasn’t had in a long time -- a go-to receiver. Harwell was the nation’s second-leading receiver in 2011 at Miami (Ohio), and he should give the Kansas offense a much needed shot in the arm. Heaps lost time to freshman Montell Cozart last fall, but he has reasserted himself this spring amid a three-way competition with Cozart and UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard. Bourbon is battling Taylor Cox and Darrian Miller to see who replaces All-Big 12 running back James Sims.
In today’s mailbag, we discuss Texas Tech’s big recruiting prize, veteran quarterbacks at West Virginia and Texas and a cool idea for a Big 12-related “30 for 30.”

To the ‘bag:

Matt in Dallas writes: With news that Tech RB Kenny Williams is looking to move to OLB, will we be seeing Justin Stockton get carries as a true freshman in 2014?

Trotter: I have a hard time believing this move will stick. I suppose it’s possible Williams could help the Red Raiders in spots at outside linebacker next season. But I don’t believe it will come at the expense of his standing at running back. After Williams and DeAndre Washington, the Red Raiders aren’t exactly experienced at running back, either. Spring is the time for college football teams to experiment. For now, I don’t see this as anything more.


John in Boone, N.C., writes: Do you really think Paul Millard has any chance at winning back the QB job? Dana Holgorsen couldn't possibly make us sit through that again, could he?

Trotter: The way I see it, the only player who can beat out Clint Trickett to start the season opener is juco transfer Skyler Howard. It’s pretty clear the offense responds better to Trickett than to Millard. But it’s not clear yet how the offense might respond to Howard. With a banner spring followed up with a banner preseason, Howard could warrant a hard look.


Andy in Austin, Texas, writes: What are the chances David Ash hangs up his pads? With his NFL playing chances slim-to-none, wouldn't it be better for his health long term to retire and let Shawn Watson have more time to work with Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard?

Trotter: We’re not to this point with Ash. Sure, the concussion issues might resurface. That’s certainly a possibility. But those issues might be behind him, too. This is something that will be resolved here over the next few months. Either way, Texas is a better team with a healthy Ash. Jerrod Heard and Swoopes have potential, but Ash is the only QB on the roster who has proven he can quarterback Texas to wins in hostile environments.


Matty in Lubbock, Texas, writes: As a Red Raider fan looking forward to the future of the program, should I be more excited for Patrick Mahomes or Jarrett Stidham?

Trotter: There’s plenty to be excited about in Mahomes, who is a raw prospect for a quarterback that figures only to blossom in Kliff Kingsbury’s system. But Stidham is the No. 1 dual-threat QB recruit in the country for 2015 for a reason. Tech landed Stidham over Alabama, Auburn, Baylor, Florida, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon and Texas, among a host of many other suitors. In other words, snagging Stidham is the most significant recruiting victory for Texas Tech in a long, long time. Armed with Davis Webb, Mahomes and now Stidham, the Red Raiders are going to be very good at quarterback for the next several seasons.


Jake Jones in Oklahoma City writes: Hey Jake, instead of the 10-second rule I think the coaches should propose a rule on size/speed limits. Since force equals mass times acceleration, a better rule for player safety would be no players over a certain weight that can run a certain speed would be eligible to play. Thereby, slower players with less mass would result in less force and thus make the game safer. Tell Nick Saban at least that idea has physics behind it.

Trotter: Poor Nick Saban. This is the second time this week he has gotten burned by someone from the metro Oklahoma City area.


Neo in Olathe, Kan., writes: With the improved OL and a strong running game, do you think the Jayhawks have the receivers to win a conference game or two? The defense is the mighty mouse of the Big 12, but can the offense put up numbers to actually win?

Trotter: I agree. I actually think the defense is good enough for Kansas to win two or three games in the league. The Jayhawks are actually pretty solid and experienced at linebacker and in the secondary. But the Achilles' heel has been receiver, which has been an utter disaster since Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier left. There is reason for hope, however, things could be better in 2014. Nick Harwell was an all-conference player at Miami (Ohio) before transferring in. If he can become a viable No. 1 option at Kansas, too, that will go a long way in the Jayhawks scoring more points, and thus, being more competitive.


Bill in Manhattan, Kan., writes: How long until there is a 30 for 30 film about my "Miracle in Manhattan", the greatest turnaround in college football history?

Trotter: I don’t think this is a bad idea at all. I would definitely watch.

Spring preview capsules: Big 12

February, 24, 2014
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Spring football is rapidly approaching.

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

Baylor

Spring start: Feb. 28

Spring game: April 5

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

Iowa State

Spring start: March 10

Spring game: April 12

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

Kansas

Spring start: March 4

Spring game: April 12

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

Kansas State

Spring start: April 2

Spring game: April 26

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

Oklahoma

Spring start: March 8

Spring game: April 12

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

Oklahoma State

Spring start: March 10

Final spring practice: April 5

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

TCU

Spring start: March 1

Final spring practice: April 5

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

Texas

Spring start: March 18

Spring game: April 19

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

Texas Tech

Spring start: March 5

Spring game: April 12

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

West Virginia

Spring start: March 2

Spring game: April 12

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

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: QBs

February, 18, 2014
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As we wait for the start of spring ball, we’ll be examining and ranking the positional situations of every team, beginning Tuesday with quarterback. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how they compare at the moment:

[+] EnlargePetty
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesBryce Petty's return leaves Baylor sitting pretty at the most important position on the field.
1. Baylor: The Bears have the reigning first-team All-Big 12 quarterback in Bryce Petty, who should be even better in his second season as a starter. In 2013, Petty led the Big 12 in QBR, and was on the short list of Heisman candidates until mid-November. His play dipped a bit late in the season, but Petty still finished with 44 total touchdowns to just three interceptions. He will start out on the Heisman short list again in 2014. The Bears also have a viable backup in Seth Russell.

2. Kansas State: Junior college transfer Jake Waters was one of the most improved players in the league over the course of the season. Waters split time with Daniel Sams through the first half of the year, but eventually took command of the starting position and spearheaded the Wildcats to wins in six of their last seven games to ride a wave of momentum into the offseason. Like Petty, Waters should only get better in his second season as a starter. Sams figures to be moved around this spring, but he has proven he can step in at QB, too.

3. Oklahoma: The Sooners were one of the most inconsistently quarterbacked teams in the league, notably during double-digit losses to Texas and Baylor. But with one game, OU’s situation looks completely different. In just his fifth career start, freshman Trevor Knight torched Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, leading the Sooners to one of the biggest upsets in BCS bowl history. Insiders in Norman always thought Knight had the talent. The switch just finally flipped in New Orleans. Even with Blake Bell moving to tight end, the Sooners have depth with former four-star QBs Cody Thomas and Justice Hansen.

4. Texas Tech: Davis Webb also delivered one of the best bowl performances of any quarterback. After Baker Mayfield transferred, the plan was for Webb to split snaps with Michael Brewer against Arizona State. But Webb played so well, that plan was scrapped. Webb had the fourth-best QBR of any bowl to lead Tech to the upset. Webb actually played pretty well before the bowl, too, and has a promising future in Lubbock. The Red Raiders, however, are thin here. With Mayfield and Brewer transferring, Patrick Mahomes is Tech’s only other scholarship QB, and he doesn’t arrive until the summer.

5. Oklahoma State: To enjoy success here, the Cowboys will need J.W. Walsh to return to his efficient 2012 form. Or, they will need Mason Rudolph to emerge as a true freshman the way Wes Lunt did two springs ago. Walsh took a step back as a sophomore. He completed 67 percent of his passes in 2012, but just 59 percent last season, and eventually lost his job back to Clint Chelf. Rudolph, the gem of the 2014 recruiting class, had no such issues completing passes in high school, connecting on 72 percent for 64 touchdowns while leading his team to a state championship. If Walsh’s arm strength continues to be a problem, Rudolph could quickly go from QB of the future to QB of the now.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ash
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesA healthy David Ash would be a welcome sight for Charlie Strong.
6. Texas: The Longhorns might have the most fluid quarterback predicament in the Big 12. Quarterback play haunted Mack Brown the last four years, but will it haunt Charlie Strong in his first season? That could hinge heavily on the health of David Ash, who missed almost all of last season because of concussion issues. The school says Ash will be ready to go for the spring. But if he suffers another head injury, the Longhorns could be in a fix. Tyrone Swoopes has wheels and a big arm, but still needs a lot of polish, and four-star signee Jerrod Heard won’t be in Austin until the summer.

7. West Virginia: The Mountaineers have no fewer than four quarterbacks with a reasonable chance of becoming the starter. Paul Millard and Clint Trickett shared duties last season, though neither seized the position. Millard is playing baseball, and Trickett is still banged up. That could open the door for junior-college transfer Skyler Howard to make a move on the job. Keep an eye on true freshman William Crest, though. Crest, the No. 11 dual-threat QB in the country, won’t arrive until after the spring. But the Mountaineers have had success with mobile freshman quarterbacks before.

8. TCU: The Horned Frogs first must decide what they’re going to do with Trevone Boykin. But they can’t afford to leave him at receiver until another viable option surfaces at QB. Tyler Matthews didn’t look ready in limited action, but the Horned Frogs have a pair of intriguing possibilities in Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein. Neither, however, will arrive until the summer, meaning TCU’s QB situation will remain unresolved past the spring.

9. Iowa State: The Cyclones have the requisite skill talent to bounce back from a disappointing season. But that won’t happen until they stop playing musical quarterbacks. The answer could be Grant Rohach, who played well late in his redshirt freshman season. Sam B. Richardson will also be in the mix. Richardson was never healthy last year, and had the same kind of promising finish in 2012 that Rohach delivered last season. The darkhorse will be Joel Lanning, who redshirted last year. Lanning, who signed with Iowa State over Nebraska, has the arm to make this a three-way battle.

10. Kansas: The Jayhawks add another player to the Jake Heaps/Montell Cozart timeshare in UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard. Neither Heaps nor Cozart did enough to warrant full-time snaps, so Millweard, a former four-star recruit, will have his chance this spring.
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.

What we learned: Week 11

November, 10, 2013
11/10/13
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas survived and knocked off West Virginia 47-40 on Saturday in the first overtime game of Mack Brown's career, improving to 7-2 and 6-0 in Big 12 play. Here are three big takeaways from the Longhorns' last-second win.

1. Give West Virginia some credit
We usually stay Bevo-centric with these lessons learned on Sundays, but let's stop for a moment and acknowledge West Virginia's performance. The Mountaineers were truly just as resilient as the Longhorns, overcoming the loss of quarterback Clint Trickett to an apparent concussion and rallying repeatedly. Paul Millard was put in a tough spot in replacing Trickett, even if he inherited a 9-3 lead, and played well. Charles Sims is the real deal. The Mountaineers made a few big plays on defense, found ways to exploit Texas' soft pass coverage and scored 40 on a defense that hadn't given up two touchdowns in a game in more than a month. Give them credit.

2. Take what the D gives you
It's hard to believe that Texas' defense was able to force five turnovers and it still wasn't enough to prevent this game from going to overtime and down to the final play. Texas did score off each of its first four takeaways but settled for field goals three times. This isn't a nitpick, just the truth: Texas needs to get six points on more of those opportunities if it hopes to knock off its final three opponents. In big games like these, every takeaway has the potential to be a game-changer, especially if your opponent is scoring off your mistakes. You have to capitalize when your defense is playing as well as Texas' was early Saturday night.

3. McCoy magic is indisputable
Case McCoy is not playing flawless by any means. His INT-TD ratio is now 8-6 on the year, and yet Texas is still 6-0 in the league. He'll mix in a bad ball or two on most possessions. But he made some terrific throws against West Virginia, none better than the corner route to Jaxon Shipley. He found Shipley on fourth down and Mike Davis for the 49-yard bomb. He made a good toss on the overtime touchdown pass to Alex De La Torre. He led critical drives and finished strong. He'll need to cut down on the miscues, but McCoy continues to surprise.

Ranking the Big 12's top 25 quarterbacks

October, 29, 2013
10/29/13
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Naming the best quarterback in the Big 12 is easy. Deciding who's second-best right now is near-impossible. So we went a step further: Why not rank them all?

This continues to be been a strange, unpredictable year for Big 12 quarterbacks. We’ve already seen 18 start at least two games. Only three schools -- Baylor, Kansas and Iowa State -- have started the same guy for every game, and even they've used multiple quarterbacks.

The following rankings judged how these QBs are playing right now as well as their full 2013 resumes. Deciding where to slot injured passers was tricky. You might not agree with all or any of these rankings, but this is how we'd size up the competition after nine weeks:

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesConsidering how well he's run Baylor's high-scoring offense and the fact he leads the Big 12 in nearly every passing statistic, there is no debate that Bryce Petty is the Big 12's top QB.
1. Bryce Petty, Baylor: Best passer in the Big 12 by nearly every statistical measure, first in FBS in yards per attempt, TD-INT ratio of 18-1 and it's only his first season of starting. The gap between No. 1 and everyone else on this list right now is tremendous. -- Max Olson

2. Case McCoy, Texas: The career backup has been a huge part of Texas' resurgence. In wins over Oklahoma and TCU, McCoy has Adjusted QBRs of 83.9 and 95.4. -- Jake Trotter

3. Davis Webb, Texas Tech: Webb hasn’t been perfect but he’s averaging 420.67 passing yards and 5.67 completions of 20 yards or more in TTU’s past three games. He’s been very solid for a true freshman. -- Brandon Chatmon

4. Daniel Sams, Kansas State: He might be too high at No. 4, but Sams is the best athlete of the bunch and already has 538 rushing yards on just 100 carries. Still has plenty to prove as a passer. -- MO

5. Blake Bell, Oklahoma: Great against Texas Tech and Notre Dame, bad against Texas. Has promising moments as a passer, firm grasp on the job and a chance to prove he's league's second-best QB. -- MO

6. Baker Mayfield, Texas Tech: The walk-on made waves while leading the Red Raiders to a 5-0 start before a knee injury sidelined him, but he threw more interceptions than touchdowns in his final three starts before the injury. -- BC

7. Clint Chelf, Oklahoma State: Chelf finally has the job again, but he'll have to complete more passes to keep it. His completion percentage this year is less than 50 percent. -- JT

8. David Ash, Texas: Ash is throwing again, and could be cleared to return soon. But will he resume his starting role? The way McCoy is performing, probably not. -- JT

9. J.W. Walsh, Oklahoma State: His combination of moxie and leadership is hard to deny but his struggles connecting on deep passes led to Chelf replacing him in the starting lineup. He remains a valuable piece as the disposal of Mike Gundy’s squad, however. -- BC

10. Jake Waters, Kansas State: Juco transfer is starting to get the hang of Big 12 ball and his own offense, and coming off an impressive showing against West Virginia. -- MO

11. Casey Pachall, TCU: Pachall has only played in seven games over the last two seasons. It would be difficult for anyone to overcome that level of rust. -- JT

12. Clint Trickett, West Virginia: Trickett’s season has mimicked the roller coaster nature of WVU’s offense, but he did lead the Mountaineers to a win over Oklahoma State, the highlight of their season. -- BC

13. Seth Russell, Baylor: Getting mop-up time and experience in every game this season and has 427 yards on 60 percent passing. Would he start for a couple Big 12 teams? -- MO

14. Sam B. Richardson, Iowa State: Richardson has been banged up all year, and it's shown. At some point, the Cyclones may be forced to go with the healthier option in Grant Rohach. -- JT

15. Jake Heaps, Kansas: The BYU transfer just can’t seem to find any confidence or rhythm for the Jayhawks passing attack, forcing Charlie Weis to start drastically experimenting with KU’s offense. -- BC

16. Trevone Boykin, TCU: Dual-threat sophomore has his moments, but five touchdowns and nine turnovers in 2013. Back to backing up Pachall and could play some receiver. -- MO

17. Trevor Knight, Oklahoma: Knight won the job out of camp, but lost it to Bell two games in after moving the chains ineffectively. Bell's performance against Texas Tech means Knight will remain on the sidelines. -- JT

18. Michael Brewer, Texas Tech: Generally expected to be the Red Raiders starter heading into fall camp, Brewer has been surpassed by the true freshman quarterbacks. -- BC

19. Paul Millard, West Virginia: Started first two games for the Mountaineers before losing his job, got another chance late against K-State. -- MO

20. Ford Childress, West Virginia: The freshman quarterbacked West Virginia's worst performance of the year, a 37-0 loss to Maryland, before suffering a pectoral injury that could keep him out the rest of the year. -- JT

21. Grant Rohach, Iowa State: He’s come off the bench to replace Sam Richardson in ISU’s last two games but has yet to surpass 100 passing yards in the game. -- BC

22. Montell Cozart, Kansas: True freshman is now splitting snaps with Heaps and got half the reps against Baylor. Can make plays in the run game and be a spark. -- MO

23. Michael Cummings, Kansas: Cummings started five games in 2012 but has lost the No. 2 spot to Cozart, and is unlikely to play much going forward with Heaps also part of the offense. -- JT

24. Tyrone Swoopes, Texas: The 6-foot-4, 245-pound true freshman made his debut on Saturday and is a talented rusher, but he didn't attempt a pass. If McCoy goes down, he'll have to take over. -- MO

25. Tyler Matthews, TCU: The Horned Frogs got so desperate for production they turned to the redshirt freshman on multiple occasions, yet he’s seen very limited game reps and hasn't completed a pass this season. -- BC
Mack Brown was widely mocked last month for saying tackling had become a problem in America, not just at Texas. He wouldn’t be laughed off if he made this claim: Quarterback instability is a national epidemic.

[+] EnlargeDaniel Sams
AP Photo/Eric GayKansas State is one of several Big 12 teams that have played musical quarterbacks, alternating Daniel Sams (pictured) with Jake Waters.
More than 50 FBS programs have already been afflicted, including nearly a third of the AP top 25. A total of 184 quarterbacks have started at least one game for the 126 programs, and we’re only a month and a half into the 2013 season.

No major conference has dealt with more insecurity behind center than the Big 12. Good luck naming the second-best quarterback in the Big 12 behind Baylor’s Bryce Petty, or even naming off all 18 who have made starts.

“This year, it seems like everyone is kind of juggling one to try to find answers and two to try to keep them healthy,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “I know Texas Tech is dealing with it, we’re dealing with it, TCU has dealt with it, Texas has dealt with it, Kansas State has dealt with it.

“So just until guys get established and remain healthy, that’s just the reality of college football. The next guy has got to get ready to go in there and play at the highest level possible to try to get a win.”

Kansas State became the seventh Big 12 team to give a second quarterback a start Saturday when Daniel Sams got the nod over Jake Waters against Baylor.

Thus far, injuries have been more at issue than ineffective play. TCU’s Casey Pachall, Texas’ David Ash and Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight lost their jobs when they went down with injuries, and that could be the case for Texas Tech’s Baker Mayfield as well.

Oklahoma State pulled Clint Chelf for J.W. Walsh in the opener, and Cowboys coach Mike Gundy is sticking with him. Same with Blake Bell, who’s holding onto his job despite the return of Knight.

And then there’s the situation at West Virginia, where Holgorsen has been dealing with a quarterback calamity all season long. Paul Millard, Ford Childress and Clint Trickett have each started two games, and the job is still very much up for grabs.

“Unfortunately by the time we settle on somebody, then he gets hurt and you’ve got to put somebody else in there,” Holgorsen said. “That’s not an excuse. Whoever is going to be our quarterback this week, we’ve got to get him prepared to play and we’ve got to get him to where we’re playing at a higher level than what we’ve got out of him.”

This isn’t exactly unprecedented for the Big 12. During its 12-team era, two seasons were especially chaotic: 2005 and 2009. In both years, eight Big 12 teams started at least two quarterbacks. In both years, Texas rolled through the conference thanks to Heisman finalist-caliber quarterbacks Vince Young and Colt McCoy.

But take note of this: A team with multiple starting quarterbacks has not won the Big 12 Championship since Kansas State in 2003.

[+] EnlargeClint Trickett
Brad Davis/Icon SMIClint Trickett is the third player to start at QB for West Virginia this season.
Bill Snyder’s quarterback situation is no doubt an outlier from the rest. He likes both Sams and Waters. He likes playing both, and Sams has paired his 522 rushing yards with just 32 pass attempts. The Wildcats are just trying to find the right combination, the right rhythm.

“We just have two young guys that are competing in a very positive way to be the No. 1 quarterback, and both of them have demonstrated the capabilities beyond the field and deserve to play,” Synder said.

There was a three-season stretch in this conference, from 2006 to 2008, when no more than four backups earned a start in a single season. In 2011, only Texas and Iowa State tried multiple starters.

ISU coach Paul Rhoads is now one of the three Big 12 coaches who hasn’t needed his No. 2 guy this fall thanks to the solid play of Sam B. Richardson. He doesn’t consider the problem facing his colleagues to be an unexpected one.

“With the number of new quarterbacks in the league, first of all, and then the game is physical, the game is violent and teams’ quarterbacks are more active in their offenses in these leagues,” Rhoads said. “There’s going to be some vulnerability. So no, not surprised.”

This is a problem everywhere. Forty percent of FBS schools have started two quarterbacks. Seven SEC, seven Big Ten and five ACC schools have rolled out more than one starter. The national number of 184 total starters is ahead of the 2012 midseason total (170), which finished at 210 starters by season’s end.

What all that uncertainty creates, at least in the Big 12 landscape, too many unpredictable conference title contenders ... and one great advantage for Baylor.

Petty is No. 1 in the Big 12 in every passing statistic. But it’s a good thing his backup, Seth Russell, already has 30 attempts, 381 yards and three scores on his 2013 resume.

Considering how this season is already playing out, the Bears just might end up needing him.

Big 12 mailbag

October, 4, 2013
10/04/13
4:00
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In today’s mailbag, Cyclones are feeling heartbroken, Mountaineers are feeling confident and I am called an idiot.

To the 'bag:

Matt in Seattle writes: It’s a disgrace what the Big 12 refs did to Iowa State. Please talk about it on the blog.

Jake Trotter: I have a feeling we’re going to be discussing it plenty.


Timothy in Ames writes:What did you make of the call at the end last night?

Jake Trotter: Looked like a fumble to me.


Cade in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, writes: After watching the Iowa State-Texas game, I am nothing but frustrated. I live in Romania and for the past two years I've stayed up numerous times till 6 in the morning to watch my beloved ISU football and basketball, only to be let down in the last minute of the game. This loss is heartbreaking, but how much will this loss affect the rest of ISU's season? Is there any hope for resurrection later this season? Or should I get my rest and not mind to watch any more games that are in the evening? I'll probably watch them anyways because that’s what ISU fans do, but it would be nice to hear your opinion.

Jake Trotter: Between last night’s game, the overtime losses to Kansas in basketball and the way Ohio State knocked the Cyclones out of the NCAA tournament, it’s been a rough year for Iowa State fans. I wouldn’t give up on this team, though. The offense is finding a groove, and I think the Cyclones finally have their QB in Sam Richardson, who was marvelous against Texas. A bowl game is probably a longshot, but with so many inexperienced players, this team should get better every game – as long as they can put what happened last Thursday night behind them.


Schawki in Anderson, S.C., writes:Hey, man. Hawkeye fan here who generally pays very little attention to the Cyclones. I watched the Texas game, and that was gross! I actually found myself actually cheering for the 'Clones simply because that was the worst case of officials helping a team win that I have ever witnessed in all my years of watching college football.

Jake Trotter: I’m glad this forum could bring Hawkeyes and Cyclones together in perfect harmony.


Andy in Austin writes: Who suspends Mike Davisfirst? The Big 12 or UT? His cheap shot was garbage. Do you believe either organization will make an example of him?

Jake Trotter: I doubt either suspends him. The precedent is not strong for the conference to suspend players for nontargeting hits. OU offensive tackle Tyrus Thompson punched TCU’s Stansly Maponga in the head last year after Maponga was on the ground and the ball had left their vicinity. Nothing happened. I doubt anything will happen here, either, even though it was a pretty sorry cheap shot that could have seriously injured Deon Broomfield.


Caleb Weaver in Lubbock, Texas, writes: As a Tech student, I'm loving the publicity and hype that Kliff Kingsbury has brought back to Lubbock. The game atmospheres have been crazy so far. Before the season, I was expecting, best-case scenario, eight wins. Tech definitely has exceeded a lot of expectations, and is much further in the rebuilding process than what I was expecting. How shocked are you that Texas Tech is where it is in the conference, and are you even more shocked that it is their defense that has taken them there?

Jake Trotter: I’m not shocked, but I am surprised. I didn’t think Tech would emerge into the top tier of the conference with so many questions at quarterback. But the defense has been stout, and the skill guys have made plays for the freshman QBs. At this point, anything less than a top-four finish in the league would be a bit disappointing.


Vivek in San Diego writes: I am a Texas Tech alum, and I keep hearing Kliff's name (and Kevin Sumlin's name) in USC's search for a coach here. Just when I thought there is stability and standards being maintained in the coaching staff, should I start worrying about Kliff leaving the program? What are the chances of him getting offers from big programs (USC or Texas)?

Jake Trotter: There’s always a chance, but I think Kingsbury is where he wants to be. Mike Gundy always called the Oklahoma State gig his New York Yankees job because it was his alma mater. I think Kingsbury feels similarly about being at Texas Tech.


Bob in Fort Worth, Texas, writes: As a former Red Raider I wanted to add a sane perspective on the whole Baylor thing. I have grown a massive amount of respect from what they have done thus far. I don’t think they are a lock to win the Big 12 or anything, but you cannot help but be impressed by their offensive performances no matter who they were against. Every game was out of reach in the first half by. That’s something we are not able to say. One of the most frustrating things about being a Red Raider is having to listen to our fans say stupid stuff about football.

Jake Trotter: A Red Raider complimenting Baylor? What’s next, a Big 12 official making a controversial call against Texas?


Josh in Dallas writes: Give your odds on the following coaches coming to the great state of Texas: Will Muschamp, Charlie Strong, Nick Saban, David Shaw.

Jake Trotter: The ship seems to have sailed on Muschamp; don’t see Saban leaving Alabama, unless Texas makes him a ridiculous financial offer. Strong and Shaw seem the most likely of the four.


Josh in Wichita, Kan., writes: Please make my day and give me a very long list of reasons why Texas wouldn't be interested in John Currie.

Jake Trotter: My impression is that Texas would want to make a splashier hire to replace DeLoss Dodds. But Currie has done a tremendous job at K-State. Last academic year, the Wildcats captured Big 12 titles in football, men's basketball and baseball. In the BCS era, only Stanford (1999-2000), Texas (2005-06) and Louisville (2012-13) accomplished the same feat.


Rob in West Chester, Pa., writes: Why is everyone so hyped over Clint Trickett and saying WV may have found their QB? He was terrible and a lot of his throws were ridiculous. The Mountaineers should go back to Paul Millard. WV's QB problem still exists. This will show over the next couple weeks.

Jake Trotter: I agree that West Virginia’s QB problem still exists. But I completely disagree that Trickett played terrible. He gave the offense something it desperately needed – a spark. Ford Childress is the QB of the future in Morgantown. But at this moment, Trickett gives West Virginia the best chance to win.


Nick in Frisco, Texas, writes:I'm not sure what to think of this WVU defense. They played OU well, though Bell wasn't there really. They didn't look good against Maryland, but then they looked decent to good against Oklahoma State. Is this defense for real or not?

Jake Trotter: Honestly, I think we’ll find out for sure this weekend. The Maryland game wasn’t as bad as it seemed because of all the offensive turnovers. But then the Sooners weren’t playing Blake Bell yet when the Mountaineers went to Norman. If West Virginia keeps Baylor under 40, we can go ahead and proclaim this to be a solid defense. If the Mountaineers give up 70, well, it was all smoke and mirrors.


Patrick in Charleston, S.C., writes:With the way WVU's defense has been playing, if the offense keeps improving, is it crazy to think of WVU hanging around and possibly beating Baylor in Waco?

Jake Trotter: I don’t see this West Virginia offense scoring with Baylor.


Bit in Knoxville, Tenn., writes:With the win over Oklahoma State, WVU has placed themselves firmly in the Big 12 race. Can they remain there? We'll find out more after the Baylor game next week. I like WVU's chances with this defense.

Jake Trotter: I wouldn’t put them firmly in the race. But I would if they somehow knocked off Baylor this weekend.


Charlie Bear in Panama City, Fla., writes: Hey guys, first of all, I love the work you guys are doing on the Big 12 blog this year. You have brought a much-needed balance to our conference coverage. What would it take for Baylor to get a shot at the BCS title this year? I think we can all agree that Baylor going undefeated this year isn't impossible; though it is unlikely. So, I guess what I am asking is this: What apocalyptic events would have to transpire in the SEC, ACC, and the Pac-12 for an undefeated or one-loss Baylor to be given a title shot? Thanks again for doing what you do – you keep office drones like me sane.

Jake Trotter: No problem, Charlie. Baylor’s only chance is to go undefeated. And the Bears would probably need Ohio State, Oregon, Stanford, Clemson and Florida State to all lose, too, unless the SEC ate its own.


Kurt Vonnecat in San Lorenzo, Ecuador, writes:In a recent mailbag you stated, "Kansas State is coming off its best season in school history..." I beg to differ. It was one of the best, but actually the 1997 season would have to be the best. K-State went 11-1, won the Fiesta Bowl and its lone loss was to Nebraska in Lincoln. Don't you agree ’97 was best?

Jake Trotter: What about 1998? The 'Cats were three points away from playing for the national title. I think you could argue the ’97, ’98 or ’12 seasons as being the best in K-State history.


Gentry in Las Vegas writes: With the OU D getting better, does Mike Stoops stay as defensive coordinator or does he entertain head-coaching jobs?

Jake Trotter: I think the possibility is there Mike could be Bob’s heir apparent in Norman, especially if the OU defenses get back to the level they were at early in the Stoops era.


Hollis Bartholomew in the Dallas area writes: I know Keith Fordis a true freshman and all, but he's shown that he's a physical running back and gives his all every play that he's been in. So what I don't understand is why he didn't get in the game on offense at all against a physical Notre Dame team. Not complaining, but he could've done very well, in my opinion. Do you agree?

Jake Trotter: In that setting, Bob Stoops wanted his veterans on the field. Ford will get more and more work as the season goes on – the Sooners want him ready to step into the starting role in 2014.


Ohn Thomas in DeBary, Fla., writes: Welcome aboard. I enjoy reading your insight of the Big 12. Regarding future conference realignment, why isn't there more consideration given to UCF? I'm a Tech-san living in Florida; I have seen UCF grow all of their programs. The central Florida area would be a great road trip and would return the favor to the SEC and A&M by opening up Florida to the Big 12. UCF has a student population of almost 50,000 and as the competition has improved, the fan support has grown.

Jake Trotter: If the Big 12 ever committed to expansion and a current BCS conference school were not available, both UCF and South Florida would be interesting options, for all the reasons you point out. The only drawback would be travel. Lubbock, Texas, is 1,488 miles from Orlando, Florida. The football programs could overcome that. But for the other sports, it would be taxing.


John Barnard in Dallas writes:I've noticed that you continually talk about the Big 12 imploding, as if the conference was somehow on its last legs. I would have thought that someone who covers the Big 12 would be a little better informed about the facts. In 2011, the Big 12 members agreed to sign their first-tier media rights over to the conference, essentially locking all the members in from leaving. What evidence do you have that the Big 12 is somehow a faltering conference that is near falling apart?

Jake Trotter: I’ve never suggested that the Big 12 is on the verge of imploding. But if there’s anything to be learned from the past three years, it’s that contracts can always be circumvented in college sports.


Mary in Prairie Village, Kan., writes:You really think the Big 12 is only the fourth-best conference? You're an idiot. Stop insulting us with your lack of intelligence!

Jake Trotter: My wife said the exact same thing to me this morning, except the discussion wasn't centered on conference rankings in college football.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 4

September, 23, 2013
9/23/13
9:00
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Texas moves back up in this week's Power Rankings, West Virginia moves back down and the top four remain steady:

1. Oklahoma State (3-0, 0-0 Big 12; last week: 1): When he was the coordinator in Stillwater, Dana Holgorsen recruited quarterback J.W. Walsh to Oklahoma State. This Saturday, Holgorsen's Mountaineers must deal with stopping Walsh, who’s been terrific since taking over the starting quarterback job in the opener. Walsh ranks sixth in the country in QBR and is a major reason why the Cowboys are three-touchdown favorites for their game in Morgantown.

2. Baylor (3-0, 0-0 Big 12; last week: 2): The Baylor-hasn’t-beaten-anybody argument only holds so much water. Who in the Big 12 has really beaten anybody? Oklahoma State over Mississippi State? Texas Tech over TCU? Oklahoma over West Virginia? The fact is, even against three doldrums, Baylor has been as impressive as any team in the league. This offense has a chance to be as prolific as the 2011 Oklahoma State Cowboys or the 2008 Oklahoma Sooners.

3. Oklahoma (3-0, 1-0 Big 12; last week: 3): After opening with three home victories, the Sooners will finally find out about their team during a road trip to South Bend, Ind., this weekend. They should find out a lot about quarterback Blake Bell, too -- he was marvelous after replacing Trevor Knight two weeks ago against Tulsa. But that was against Tulsa in Norman. This is Notre Dame in South Bend. If OU wins this game, people will begin to mention the under-the-radar Sooners as a possible dark horse national title contender.

4. Texas Tech (4-0, 1-0 Big 12; last week: 4): The Texas Tech defense continues to play well, but the offense was sluggish again in a 33-7 victory over Texas State. Kliff Kingsbury has to decide whether he’s going to stick with Baker Mayfield as his starting quarterback or go with Davis Webb, who has made plays the last two weeks in relief of Mayfield. Kingsbury might secretly and anxiously be waiting on the return of Michael Brewer, who’s been injured since the summer with a bad back but is close to rejoining the team on the practice field.

5. Texas (2-2, 1-0 Big 12; last week: 8): After winning their Big 12 opener 31-21 over Kansas State, the Longhorns still have plenty to play for. But they are also beaten up. Linebacker Jordan Hicks is out for the season again with a ruptured Achilles tendon, quarterback David Ash continues to deal with concussion issues and offensive playmaker Daje Johnson remains out with an ankle injury. The game with Oklahoma (Oct. 12) looms, too. A victory in Dallas is about the only thing that can save Mack Brown’s job and completely reverse momentum in Austin.

6. TCU (1-2, 0-1 Big 12; last week: 5): Gary Patterson was not pleased with his team during the off week. Patterson told reporters last week the Horned Frogs were “feeling sorry for themselves” after the 20-10 loss at Tech. “If we don’t grow up,” Patterson said, “we’re not going to win any more ballgames.” The Frogs had better grow up quickly if they want to avoid letting this season turn into a catastrophe. TCU faces road trips at Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in October.

7. Kansas State (2-2, 0-1 Big 12; last week: 7): Even though Texas had been a sieve stopping opposing quarterbacks on the ground, Bill Snyder elected to use Daniel Sams sparingly in Austin. Sams averaged 6 yards a carry but got only eight carries as Jake Waters again took the bulk of the snaps at quarterback. Even though wideout Tyler Lockett is having a monster season, the Wildcats with Waters behind center have been just average offensively, which is flirting with disaster in the Big 12. Especially when the defense is just average, too.

8. West Virginia (2-2, 0-1 Big 12; last week: 6): So much for the idea that the Mountaineers could just replace Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. West Virginia looked completely inept offensively in a 37-0 loss to Maryland, which is a good team, but not that good. The Mountaineers, who had one of the best passing attacks in the country last year, suddenly can’t pass. Quarterback Ford Childress threw for just 62 yards with two interceptions Saturday, not that Paul Millard fared any better in West Virginia’s first two games. Holgorsen said he’s sticking with Childress at quarterback, which is a sign the Mountaineers are building for the future. The present is not a pretty sight.

9. Kansas (2-1, 0-0 Big 12; last week: 9): With the bottom half of the Big 12 struggling so much, the Jayhawks have the opportunity to win a couple of games in the league. But Kansas has its own problems. An offense that was supposed to be improved actually has been worse so far this season. After scoring just a field goal over three quarters against Louisiana Tech, the Jayhawks had to scramble late to escape with a 13-10 win. Jake Heaps owns the worst Total QBR (32.2) in the league and the Kansas wide receivers so far have been a disappointment. There is some talent on Charlie Weis’ offense, especially in the backfield. But it has yet to manifest on the field.

10. Iowa State (0-2, 0-0 Big 12; last week: 10): The Cyclones have back-to-back Thursday night games on deck: at Tulsa and at home against Texas. If Iowa State can’t prevail in either, this will end up being the worst season of the Paul Rhoads era. The only way the Cyclones can avoid that fate is by conjuring something in the run game, which has been abysmal so far this season.

Big 12 lunchtime links

September, 3, 2013
9/03/13
12:00
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How does a self-proclaimed OU fan dream of going to Texas?
As we continue our season wrap, we'll be looking to 2013 today. Let's take a look with some bold predictions in 2013.

1. The Big 12 will not expand or institute a championship game. I get the questions every day, but I simply don't believe the Big 12 will seriously consider expansion before the new college football playoff is in place, and the Big 12 gets an idea for where it stands in the college football landscape. Bob Bowlsby turned heads when a report surfaced that he'd inquired to the NCAA about bringing back the championship game, but that's a long way from actually doing so. Bringing back a No. 1 versus No. 2 league title game unless the Big 12 is a 12-team league with divisions is the surest way for the Big 12 to find it difficult to crack the four-team playoff.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
Michael C. Johnson/US PresswireTexas could face a difficult decision should coach Mack Brown and the Longhorns fall short of expectations in 2013.
2. Neither Texas nor Oklahoma will win the Big 12's automatic BCS bid. Simply put, TCU and Oklahoma State are likely better teams. One of those two will win the league and represent the Big 12 in the Fiesta Bowl as its BCS representative. Texas is good, but not quite good enough and will have a difficult decision to make about Mack Brown's future after falling short. Oklahoma is just losing too much on defense and trying to live without Landry Jones, which fans will find more difficult than they imagined.

3. The Big 12 will have a Davey O'Brien Trophy finalist. The Big 12 is reloading at quarterback, and will likely have only one starting quarterback in 2013 (barring what happens at TCU) who started at least half of his team's games in 2012: Texas' David Ash. It won't necessarily be him at the awards ceremony, but I believe in the Big 12's quarterback development, and we'll see a breakout star next year. Will it be Michael Brewer at Tech? Bryce Petty at Baylor? Ford Childress/Paul Millard in Morgantown or Blake Bell in Norman? What about Daniel Sams or Jake Waters at K-State?

4. Three Big 12 teams will finish in the national top 35 in total defense. This year, the Big 12 had only one team (TCU) crack the top 35. There will be great defenses coming back. Look for Texas, TCU and Oklahoma State to grab this accomplishment, and Texas Tech might not be far off, too. Offenses as a whole will be down from their crazy pace next year, and that's an opportunity for some experienced defenses.

5. The Big 12 will not play for a national title ... again. It's getting old for the league these days. Texas and Oklahoma both played a part in the SEC capturing seven consecutive national titles, but the Big 12's sat on the sidelines on that Monday night in January for each of the past three seasons. Make it four next year.

6. Texas Tech will be the Big 12's biggest overachiever. They'll do it on the back of Brewer, who I buy as the most likely breakout star for the Big 12 next year. He's got great running backs, a great system and great, experienced receivers. Having Eric Ward back will be huge, and Jace Amaro and Jakeem Grant will continue to grow. I'm a little cautious on picking them in the top half of the league in the preseason, but I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Red Raiders finish in the top three or four next year.

7. Baylor will win at least eight games again. The Bears' offense will be back, and the defense will be a little bit improved. It'll be enough to win eight games in three consecutive seasons with three different quarterbacks. That's crazy, and yet another testament to what Art Briles has done in Waco.

8. Kansas will win a Big 12 game. It has to happen eventually, doesn't it? The Big 12 losing streak now stands at 21 games. It won't reach 30 this time next year.

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