Texas Longhorns: Stedman Bailey

Best WR tandems in Big 12 history

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
2:35
PM ET
The Big 12 has featured some prolific wide receiver tandems over the years.

Baylor’s Tevin Reese and Antwan Goodley, however, have a chance to top that list.

[+] EnlargeAntwan Goodley, Tevin Reese
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsAntwan Goodley and Tevin Reese rank 1-2 in the Big 12 in receiving yards per game.
This season, Reese is second in the Big 12 with 118 yards receiving a game. He trails only Goodley, who leads the league with an average of 128 yards receiving. They are a big reason why the Bears are on pace to break the FBS records for points (56.0) and yards (624.9) per game that were set by Army in 1944 and Houston in 1989.

But Reese and Goodley aren’t the only big-time duos in the Big 12 this year.

Kansas State’s Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett have been lighting it up since returning from injury. The last two weeks the two have totaled five touchdown catches.

Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard lead the Sooners with five touchdowns apiece. Texas Tech’s Eric Ward and Jakeem Grant are fifth and sixth in the league in receiving. Oklahoma State’s Josh Stewart and Tracy Moore are beginning to warm up with Clint Chelf at QB. And Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis have been stalwarts in this league for years.

But who are the best tandems ever to play Big 12? We lay it out below.

Tight ends were not included (sorry Jermaine Gresham and Chase Coffman). The tandems were evaluated on what they accomplished together, not on whether their careers simply overlapped (eliminating Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexander, for example); and, this is a list for duos, not singles, trios or quartets (apologies to Rashaun Woods, and the 2008 Oklahoma and 2010 Baylor receiving corps).

To the list:

1. Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, West Virginia (2012): In their only year in the league, this tandem was one-two in the Big 12 in receiving, combining for 224 receptions and 2,914 receiving yards. Bailey himself had 25 receiving touchdowns; nobody else in the league had more than 13. Austin, meanwhile, also rushed for 344 yards in one game at running back. As Bailey tweeted out earlier Monday morning on this topic, “case closed.”

2. Michael Crabtree and Danny Amendola, Texas Tech (2007): Crabtree got all the headlines in 2007 on his way to winning his first of two Biletnikoff awards. But out of the slot, Amendola quietly put up 109 receptions for 1,245 yards, as Tech went 9-4.

3. Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby, Texas (2008): Shipley and Cosby starred on one of the three best Big 12 teams that didn’t win a conference title. The two each had 1,000 receiving yards and double-digit TDs from QB Colt McCoy, as the Longhorns finished the year 12-1, their only loss coming on Crabtree’s game-winning touchdown in the final seconds in Lubbock. The two were also prolific on special teams, with Shipley’s kick return touchdown sparking Texas’ 45-35 comeback win over Oklahoma.

4. Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper, Oklahoma State (2011): As with Crabtree-Amendola, Blackmon got all the attention on his way to a second Biletnikoff award. But Cooper was a pivotal piece in OSU’s first Big 12 title team, as he racked up 71 receptions out of the slot. Blackmon, of course, had a monster year with 121 catches and 18 touchdowns.

5. Kendall Wright and Terrance Williams, Baylor (2011): Reese was actually the third wheel to this duo, which shined with RGIII at quarterback. Wright was an All-American with 108 catches, 1,663 yard and 14 touchdowns. Williams was big time, too, finishing fifth in the Big 12 in receiving before taking over the No. 1 role in 2012.

6. Ryan Broyles and Kenny Stills, Oklahoma (2010): Broyles led college football with 131 receptions on his way to becoming the all-time FBS leader in career catches. Stills broke OU’s freshman single-season receiving record, as the Sooners stormed back to capture the Big 12 crown after a pair of midseason losses.

7. Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas (2008): It might be difficult to remember now, but the Jayhawks used to play some ball. Meier tied Crabtree for second in the league with 97 receptions. Briscoe trailed only Dez Bryant with 1,402 receiving yards. This was an underrated duo.

8. Quincy Morgan and Aaron Lockett, Kansas State (1999): On one of the first passing teams in the Big 12, Morgan and Lockett shined. Morgan had 42 receptions for 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns and was a first-team all-conference selection. Lockett, Tyler Lockett's uncle, was a second-team all-league pick for the Wildcats, who went 11-1 and finished the year ranked sixth in the polls.

9. Jarrett Hicks and Joel Filani, Texas Tech (2005): Neither might be a household name around the Big 12 anymore, but these two were both first-team All-Big 12 selections in ’05 along with Iowa State WR Todd Blythe.

10. Mark Clayton and Travis Wilson, Oklahoma (2004): Clayton carried the moniker of best receiver in OU history until Broyles came around. Because of Adrian Peterson, Clayton’s numbers dipped in ’04, but he was still an All-American with 66 catches. Wilson led the Sooners with 11 TD grabs, as OU advanced to a second consecutive national championship game.

Trending up or down: Big 12 in 2013

December, 18, 2012
12/18/12
2:00
PM ET
Colleague Phil Steele checked in with our ESPN Insider folks for a look at all 70 bowl teams Insider... in 2013.

What can they all expect next season? You'll need Insider to see his full comments, but he weighed in on the nine Big 12 bowl teams.

Baylor's stock: Down

My take: I'd lean more toward even for the Bears. They're losing Nick Florence and Terrance Williams, but Tevin Reese is a strong candidate to continue the receiver tradition at Baylor under Art Briles, and Lache Seastrunk might end up being the Big 12's best back next year. Don't be surprised if new QB Bryce Petty is even better than Florence. It's very easy for me to see Baylor winning seven (or more) games next year, and once again, it's hard to see the defense getting worse.

WVU's stock: Even

My take: The record might be the same (7-5) next year, but I would lean toward trending down for WVU, just because it won't have the upside or potential of this year's team. WVU was good enough to win 9-11 games this year, but with a new QB, no Tavon Austin and no Stedman Bailey, it's tough to see next year's team being able to make that claim.

Texas' stock: Up

My take: How up depends on David Ash's development, once again. When he played well early in the season, Texas looked like it could beat a whole lot of teams. When he struggled against KU and Oklahoma, Texas didn't look like it could beat anyone. The defense can't be any worse.

TCU's stock: Up

My take: Way, way, up. Maybe more up than any team in the country. TCU was 70 percent freshmen and sophomore this year and still managed to go 7-5. It has tons of talent on both sides of the ball, and running back Aaron Green, a blue-chip transfer from Nebraska, will be on the field. Quarterback Casey Pachall may return, too. Big 12 title contenders.

Iowa State's stock: Even

My take: I'd agree. Sam Richardson showed some promise, but I don't know if I see a true impact player there. ISU still has to improve its skill position talent in a big way to truly make the jump from fringe bowl team.

Oklahoma State's stock: Up

My take: Other than TCU or Texas, no Big 12 team's stock should be more up next year. OSU can absorb the loss of Joseph Randle if he leaves, and if he stays, OSU will likely have the Big 12's best offense with a good O-line, maturing QBs and experienced backs. They'll go from seven wins to a Big 12 title contender.

KSU's stock: Down

My take: Agreed here. It's pretty simple. This is a very, very experienced team with two huge talents in Collin Klein and Arthur Brown that will be difficult to replace. K-State has a lot of potential at QB in Daniel Sams and juco commit Jake Waters, but Chris Harper will be gone, too. John Hubert and Tramaine Thompson will have to play big, and the offensive line will have to lead the way.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas coach Mack Brown had a simple and straightforward answer about the ills that have hit the Texas kick coverage team.

"The returners have been better than our tacklers."

Well, there you go. See how easy it was to clear all that up.

Couple that answer with a new-found commitment to the always inspiring squib kick and maybe everything will be fine at Texas. But still there is the lingering thought that things should be better than fine when it comes to Texas kick coverage team.

This after all was a celebrated group after the first two weeks of the season. They had dubbed themselves the Wild Bunch. Dalton Santos' legend was growing with every screaming trip he made down the field. Kicker Nick Rose's cannon leg was being canonized. Brown was talking about how he wants his special teams to be the best in the country. And the coach told the media of how Texas had dedicated more time to special teams in the preseason and were now seeing the fruits of its labor.

Then Ole Miss went and returned a kick 100 yards for a touchdown.

It was humid. The players were tired. They should have been subbed more.

Those excuses, offered by those in burnt orange, seemed plausible. Maybe indeed it was an aberration.

Or maybe not. Oklahoma State was forced into three touchbacks. But on its three kick returns it averaged 32 yards. Another kick, a squib, went out of bounds and allowed OSU to start on the 35. (There was some controversy over a missed call on the play. It appeared to hit an OSU player before going out of bounds.)

Against West Virginia, Texas allowed kick returns of 44 and 67 yards before it decided it did not have the athletes or the lane discipline to kick it deep to the Mountaineers. So from that point forward Texas went with squib kicks.

Even then Stedman Bailey picked up a ball at the eight, wove through tacklers and made it to the 24.

Texas is 53rd nationally in kick coverage, allowing 20.37 yards. And for all the talk about Rose’s leg he only has 11 touchbacks in 40 attempts.

The counter to all this is that Texas does have very good returners itself. The Longhorns are 17th with an average of 26.47 pre return and have had a 100-yard score by D.J. Monroe.

This week’s opponent, Oklahoma, is 31st with a 24.63 average. That’s better than Ole Miss (72) and West Virginia (61).

Texas doomed by inability to get stops

October, 7, 2012
10/07/12
9:30
AM ET
AUSTIN, Texas -- Though things might not seem this way right now, not after Texas dropped a 48-45 shootout at home to West Virginia in head-shaking fashion, so much actually went right for the Longhorns on this night.

Consider, for a second, everything that played out in Texas’ favor.

Geno Smith threw for 268 yards. He hasn’t thrown a pick in five games yet he fumbled twice against Texas. He got sacked four times, as many as he had been all season.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Buie
Tim Heitman/US PresswireThe Longhorns allowed 192 rushing yards to West Virginia.
Between fumbles, field goal attempts and punts, West Virginia didn’t reach the end zone on six of its drives. WVU went 3 of 12 on third downs.

Texas wins the turnover battle. Texas scores a defensive touchdown. Texas blocks a field goal and a punt.

Another near-flawless game from David Ash. Another career-best performance from Johnathan Gray.

The list goes on, so long that even Mack Brown admitted it when asked about Texas’ good fortune after the game.

“If you had told me we would have done all those things,” Brown said, “I would’ve felt really good.”

This was as good a blueprint as you’ll find on how to beat West Virginia when the Mountaineers are playing their best. But stats weren’t winning this game, and Texas’ coaching staff had been saying that all week.

Despite all that had gone better than planned, this game came down to exactly what those coaches said it would come down to.

Texas couldn’t make a stop.

The Longhorns were supposed to have the Big 12’s best defense. On paper, it might’ve been the most talented starting 11 outside of SEC country. Who knows, it might still be down the road.

Right now, though, Texas can catch all the breaks in the world -- and it nearly did on Saturday night. Still have to make a stop.

“We knew that we were going to have to focus on getting stops,” cornerback Carrington Byndom said. “Throughout the game, that’s what our goal was. Just get one stop at a time.”

(Read full post)

Balanced attack pushes WVU over Texas

October, 7, 2012
10/07/12
1:52
AM ET
AUSTIN, Texas -- Geno Smith is used to having the game in his hands. It's been the story of West Virginia's season. Near the end of a chilly night in central Texas, that changed.

Smith's offensive line had a simple message for their Heisman candidate: "We got this. It's over. We're going to win this game," they said.

"Andrew Buie said, 'Put it on my back,' Smith said. "He put it on his back and led us to a victory."

Not just any victory. He led them to a 48-45 victory in West Virginia's first road trip in the Big 12, where they found a record crowd of 101,851 waiting at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium -- a crowd Texas coach Mack Brown called the loudest in 15 years.

Said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, who was an assistant in the Big 12 for nine years: "I've never seen this place like that."

It even got after Smith at one point, serenading him with a "Geno Sucks" chant as he gestured to the crowd, egging them on.

"Where does that come from?" Smith said. "Obviously, I don't suck. I'll let them believe that."

[+] EnlargeAndrew Buie
Tim Heitman/US PresswireThe second of Andrew Buie's rushing TDs gave West Virginia a 48-38 lead.
Buie led them to a victory that helped West Virginia clear the highest hurdle of its Big 12 (or national?) title "marathon," as Smith called it.

The Big 12 title runs through Morgantown, with Kansas State and Oklahoma waiting later in the season.

Saturday in Austin, though, it was Buie's time.

"He carried us," said Smith, the man used to carrying the Mountaineers. "We knew we were going to need to run the ball, because those guys like to get after the quarterback."

Texas did exactly that, sacking Smith four times and twice forcing fumbles inside the West Virginia 20-yard line. Before tonight, Smith had been sacked three times in four games.

Buie's 207 yards? Holgorsen said he wasn't surprised by those. But the 31 carries? That was a head-turner.

"We did commit to the run," he said. "That was something we talked about early in the week, and there weren't any tricks, either. We lined up and we just ran it right at 'em. We felt like that was gonna be the difference. If we could do that, it was going to alleviate some of the pressure on Geno."

On West Virginia's final drive, needing points to ice the game, the Mountaineers handed the ball to Buie on seven of eight plays. He turned them into 63 yards, capping his big night with a five-yard touchdown run, his second score of the night. While his teammates ran wild and kicked off the party on the West Virginia sideline, he trotted back through a parade of backslaps before being bearhugged by his position coach, Robert Gillespie.

"If we would have just drop back pass after drop back pass, they would have had 12 sacks. Maybe 20," Holgorsen said. "We just felt like it would be in the best interest of our football team to commit to the run."

Texas stuck in its nickel package for most of the night with just two linebackers on the field, even when West Virginia used its jumbo packages with bigger bodies. Buie saw it as a sign of "disrespect," and proved he'd make the most of his opportunities.

"With coach Holgorsen, you never know what the game plan is going to be fully," Buie said. "You just always want to be prepared to run from whatever he's put inside the menu for that week. When he calls your number, obviously he has confidence in you to make plays."

Holgorsen (and Smith, who often checked to various running plays at the line of scrimmage) had confidence in Buie 31 times on Saturday night. Buie was likely West Virginia's No. 3 back entering the season behind Shawne Alston and a recuperating Dustin Garrison. He looked like a man well deserving of the No. 1 spot against one of the Big 12's top defense. Before last week's 25 carries, Buie had never had more 15 carries in a game, and hadn't topped even 100 yards in a game. He had 52 carries in his entire freshman season in 2011.

Since 2009, Texas was 18-0 when winning the turnover battle. The Horns won it 2-1 on Saturday, but Buie's effort helped the Mountaineers overcome both of Smith's fumbles and move into the driver's seat for the Big 12 title.

"We're not going to force the ball. We're not going to force the issue. We'll take what you give us. I'm a smart quarterback, I understand defenses. I understand how to exploit them." Smith said. "The offensive line did a great job of getting all those guys, finishing blocks, getting to the second level. Buie was reading it and cutting back. Yards after contact was big. He ran hard tonight."

Think West Virginia's offense is just Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey? West Virginia proved otherwise.

Instant analysis: WVU 48, Texas 45

October, 6, 2012
10/06/12
10:18
PM ET


AUSTIN, Texas – If there was any doubt as to whether West Virginia is the best team in the Big 12, the Mountaineers gave their answer on Saturday night.

In front of a Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium-record crowd of 101,851, West Virginia didn’t flinch even despite two Geno Smith turnovers. Its much-maligned defense made stops on two crucial fourth-quarter Texas drives, and its offense -- thanks to a remarkably potent rushing attack - was as good as advertised in the 48-45 victory.

Here’s how it all played out:

It was over when: Anthony Fera missed a 41-yard field goal with 5:25 left in the fourth quarter. A Smith fumble put Texas at WVU’s 12-yard line, but the Longhorns took a 16-yard loss on a bad snap on third down. Fera, a Penn State transfer making his Texas debut after a groin injury had sidelined him all season, pulled the kick wide right.

Game ball: Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin. Their Heisman-favorite quarterback gets most of the press, but Bailey and Austin were what broke this Texas defense. Bailey caught three touchdown passes, and Austin added another score, 102 receiving yards and 111 yards on kick returns.

Game ball, part II: Andrew Buie. The West Virginia running back burned Texas time and time again on Saturday night, hitting the soft middle spot of the Longhorns defense for a season-high 207 yards and two scores on 31 carries. He entered the night averaging 56 rushing yards per game.

Stat of the game: 5-for-5. West Virginia was perfect on the night on fourth-down conversions despite going 3-for-12 on third downs. The biggest pickup came in the first quarter, when Smith hit Austin on fourth-and-4 and he broke upfield for a 40-yard touchdown.

What it means: West Virginia is firmly in the driver’s seat for the Big 12. Its much-hyped Air Raid attack had no problem scoring on an athletic Texas defense that was supposed to be among the conference’s best. Texas, meanwhile, must go back to the drawing board and figure out how to fix its still-porous D. The loser of Texas-Oklahoma next Saturday may need lots of help to get back into the conference title discussion.
Shipley-Bailey US PresswireTexas' Jaxon Shipley and West Virginia's Stedman Bailey have been clutch for their QBs in 2012.
Texas and West Virginia have a pair of quarterbacks leading the nation in passer rating.

That's no big surprise for the Mountaineers' Geno Smith, who earned a nod as the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year without playing a down in his new conference.

But the Longhorns' David Ash? No Big 12 quarterback had worse numbers a year ago, and he ranked last in the Big 12 in passer rating as a true freshman.

Smith and Ash had different stories entering the season, but through four games, they have one big thing in common: They're getting a lot of help from a corps of receivers who have been overshadowed by their quarterbacks' accomplishments.

That, and they'll both be playing Saturday night in Austin, Texas, when West Virginia heads to Texas for its first Big 12 road trip.

"You start looking at all three receivers, Marquise Goodwin, Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley. They’ve helped us so much," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "[Receivers coach] Darrell Wyatt's got them blocking downfield, maybe more than ever before. They're very unselfish."

Shipley hauled in three touchdowns in the Longhorns' 41-36 win over Oklahoma State, but Davis had one of the game's biggest plays, catching a jump ball for 32 yards to set up Joe Bergeron's game-winning, albeit disputed, touchdown run.

Ash said after a 66-point outburst against Ole Miss that he was the "master of the underthrow," but his receivers made him look good, turning questionable accuracy into touchdowns.

Goodwin caught only two passes against the Rebels but turned them into 102 yards and a touchdown. He carried the ball just twice but rushed for 80 yards, highlighted by a 69-yard touchdown run.

"It's been a different guy that seems to get the ball in his hands each week, and they've caught the balls when they're thrown to them," Brown said. "This time last year, I don't think Marquise had even caught a pass. He was just trying to learn the offense. Mike Davis stayed hurt all year, and Jaxon Shipley was a true freshman.

"One of the reasons we're playing better on offense is all three of those receivers have really stepped forward."

At West Virginia, though? High octane has become even higher octane. Anybody who saw Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin a year ago had high expectations, and they've exceeded them.

"They made a lot of plays last year. You guys didn’t see it because of the different conference and all that, but you're still talking about two returning 1,000-yard receivers who made a lot of plays at a pretty high level," coach Dana Holgorsen said. "Year 2 in this system obviously helps, and just the rapport that they've got with Geno is helping as well."

The duo combined to catch 27 passes and make up 518 of Smith's 656 passing yards in last Saturday's 70-63 win over Baylor. Austin leads the nation in receptions per game, and he has topped his previous week's reception totals and receiving yards each week of the season.

Bailey and Austin are No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, nationally in receiving yards per game, behind only Baylor's Terrance Williams.

"The rapport they have with Geno is going a long ways," Holgorsen said. "They've been hanging out together for going on four years now, been playing a whole lot of football now for four years, and Geno and Stedman goes back even further than that."

The former high school teammates have hooked up for 10 of Smith's 20 touchdowns. Smith leads the nation in touchdown passes by four. Bailey's caught three more touchdowns than anybody in the country. Who's No. 2? Well, it just happens to be Austin (tied with USC's Marqise Lee and New Mexico State's Austin Franklin).

"There's a lot of reasons why things are working the way they are. It's always about what have you done lately and all that," Holgorsen said. "In addition to those guys, the O-line is playing tremendous. Joey Madsen’s probably had his best game since he's been here, and he's going on being a four-year starter. We've got some pretty good experience up front, and Year 2 in this system makes everybody a little more comfortable as well."

For Austin and Bailey, it shows. The same is true for Shipley, Goodwin and Davis in Year 2 under new coordinator Bryan Harsin in Austin.

Texas and West Virginia have seen better quarterback play than anybody in the country so far. It's clear, though, that neither has done it alone.
AUSTIN, Texas -- For as much publicity as West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is receiving, he’s not racking up these video game-type numbers without someone catching his passes.

The collection of wide receivers he has are about as good a group as one will find anywhere in the country, and it begins with the trio of Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin and J.D. Woods.

[+] EnlargeJ.D. Woods
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesJ.D. Woods is one of several West Virginia pass-catchers who have put up big numbers this season.
“They are unbelievable,” said Texas coach Mack Brown. “Two of them are 5-foot-10 and can fly. Woods is 6-foot-1. They’ve caught 19 of the 20 touchdowns.”

Eight of those touchdowns -- yes, eight -- came in last week’s 70-63 victory over Baylor.

Bailey had the game of a lifetime by catching 13 passes for 303 yards and a school record five touchdowns (47, 20, 2, 87 and 39). He played most of the game from the slot as opposed to the outside receiver position he has normally played.

His outrageous performance, which included setting the Big 12 record for most receiving yards in a game only to have Baylor’s Terrance Williams break it in the same game with 314, has pushed his season totals to 41 receptions for 635 yards and an FBS-leading 10 touchdowns. His 158.8 receiving yards per game is second best in the country.

(Read full post)

Campus location: Morgantown, W.Va.
Nickname: Mountaineers
Conference: Big 12
Record: 4-0, 1-0
Record vs. Texas: 1-0

Last game: The Mountaineers put 70 on the board against Baylor in a 70-63 win. The combined 133 points in the game set a record for the Big 12 Conference. The two quarterbacks, WVU’s Geno Smith and Baylor’s Nick Florence, combined for 1,237 yards. That total is only 16 yards shy of the single-game record of total yards thrown for by opposing quarterbacks.

Today is the next step in a new series on the Big 12 blog that we've never done before. I love predicting the standings from top to bottom, but we're going to do it week by week leading up to the season. The goal is to offer my official prediction for each Big 12 team's record heading into the bowl games.

Remember, these are preseason predictions. We'll obviously still do week-to-week picks once the season arrives, and they might change between now and then. There are a lot of preseason practices, and a lot of games between now and the end of the season.

There are always teams that disappoint and teams that surprise. But here's how I see the Big 12 shaking out in Week 10.

PREVIOUS PREDICTIONS
WEEK 10

West Virginia 38, TCU 28: The Horned Frogs will be walking into a powder keg in Morgantown. A year ago, these teams were to meet in a conference game, but who would have figured it'd be a Big 12 game instead of a Big East game? WVU takes care of business against a TCU secondary that can't handle the Tavon Austin-Stedman Bailey duo. Big game for Geno Smith. Two consecutive losses for TCU after starting 7-0.

Texas 31, Texas Tech 17: Texas has had some tough games in Lubbock, including a hard-fought win in 2010 to stay undefeated before the wheels fell off on a five-win season. Texas does the same thing it did last season and walks away a winner again, just not as emphatic. Texas uses a powerful running game to control the pace from start to finish.

Kansas State 28, Oklahoma State 24: Kansas State nearly knocked off the title contender in Stillwater last season. Kansas State got better. Oklahoma State's not as good. Kansas State takes care of business in Manhattan this time around, keeping the ball out of the offense's hands. OSU's biggest strength on defense is at cornerback. Collin Klein takes advantage of its biggest weakness, the defensive line. Snyderball, baby.

Oklahoma 37, Iowa State 24: These two played in maybe the windiest conditions of any game in the conference last season. Oklahoma didn't play its best, and receivers' drops were maddening for the Sooners' coaching staff. This time around, the Sooners' talent gap is pretty large when you compare the depth charts. Ames is proving to be a difficult place to play these days, but Oklahoma's got this one.

Baylor 27, Kansas 24: Baylor needed overtime and a three-touchdown comeback last season, and Kansas gives the Bears another scare. Nick Florence leads a game-winning touchdown drive in the final minutes with a touchdown pass to Jordan Najvar to win it. Kansas is threatening to break the barrier and its Big 12 losing streak, now at 15 games.

BIG 12 STANDINGS (after Week 9)

1. Oklahoma: 8-0 (6-0)
2. West Virginia: 7-1 (4-1)
3. Kansas State: 7-2 (4-2)
3. TCU: 7-2 (4-2)
3. Texas: 7-2 (4-2)
6. Oklahoma State: 6-2 (3-2)
7. Baylor: 5-3 (2-3)
8. Texas Tech: 4-5 (1-5)
9. Iowa State: 3-6 (1-5)
10. Kansas: 3-6 (0-6)
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.
College football guru Phil Steele is previewing his must-read offseason magazine, and with it, he's releasing his all-conference and All-America teams.

Here's who he slated as his first-team All-Big 12 squad:

OFFENSE

QB: Landry Jones, Oklahoma
RB: Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State
RB: Malcolm Brown, Texas
WR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia
WR: Kenny Stills, Oklahoma
WR: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
TE: Jordan Najvar, Baylor
C: Ben Habern, Oklahoma
OL: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
OL: LaAdrian Waddle, Texas Tech
OL: Cyril Richardson, Baylor
  • I'd probably go with Geno Smith ahead of Jones, but it's close. You could definitely make a compelling case for both.
  • I'd also lean more toward Terrance Williams at Baylor for that third receiver spot ahead of Stills. Stills' upside is still really high, but again, it's close between those two.
  • Good grief, the tight end spot in the Big 12 is a rough. Navjar is a good selection. Travis Tannahill at Kansas State could grab that spot, too. You're almost better off picking a sixth offensive lineman or a fullback like Trey Millard at Oklahoma, who's more valuable than any of the league's tight ends.
DEFENSE

DL: Alex Okafor, Texas
DL: Stansly Maponga, TCU
DL: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
DL: Jamarkus McFarland, Oklahoma
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
LB: Tom Wort, Oklahoma
LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State
LB: Arthur Brown, Kansas State
CB: Nigel Malone, Kansas State
CB: Brodrick Brown, Oklahoma State
S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
S: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma

SPECIALISTS

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
K: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
PR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia
KR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
  • No complaints among the specialists, but I'd definitely have kept a more traditional three linebackers. You could afford to leave Tom Wort off that list. Not so with the other three.
  • After a sad group of cornerbacks in 2011, the position looks pretty loaded this year. There's no fewer than five guys in my book who deserve strong consideration and probably a spot on the first team. It's too bad there are only two spots. Clearly, Malone and Brown are deserving, but so are Justin Gilbert, Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs.
  • Safeties are both loaded. Maybe two of the best defenders in the league.

Here's who Steele tabbed as All-Americans, too.

FIRST TEAM
  • Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
SECOND TEAM
  • Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
  • Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
  • Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
  • Quinn Sharp, K, Oklahoma State
THIRD TEAM
  • Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma
  • Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia
  • Lane Taylor, OL, Oklahoma State
  • Quinn Sharp, P, Oklahoma State
  • Tyler Lockett, KR, Kansas State
FOURTH TEAM
  • Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
  • Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State
  • Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
  • Gabe Ikard, OL, Oklahoma
  • Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
  • A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State
  • Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma
  • Tavon Austin, KR, West Virginia

100 Days Countdown: Big 12

May, 22, 2012
5/22/12
11:30
AM ET

As part of “College Football Live’s” 100 Days Till Kickoff countdown, here’s a look at the top 10 players in the Big 12.

Note: This is a separate list from our preseason top 25 players. We'll tackle that later. It might be a lot different. It might be much of the same.

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Geno's a newcomer to the Big 12, but putting up big numbers is nothing new for the senior, who threw for 4,385 yards last season. Only one quarterback threw for more, but Smith had two more touchdown passes and eight fewer interceptions than the No. 2 quarterback on this list. Smith also completed nearly 3 percent more of his passes.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
Kim Klement/US PresswireGeno Smith led the Big East last season in pass efficiency and average passing yards per game.
2. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: Jones checks in at No. 2 as the Big 12's leading returning passer, and will try to climb back in 2012 to give the Sooners another Big 12 title. Jones is the Big 12's most experienced quarterback, which should pay off the fall.

3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: Klein was the league's No. 4 rusher and threw for 1,900 yards? You can't argue with that production, and Klein accounted for 69.8 percent of the Wildcats' offense. That's insane. His importance to K-State can't be understated.

4. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia: Austin's the most dangerous playmaker in the Big 12, a true triple threat as a receiver, runner and kick/punt returner. He's the Big 12's No. 2 returning receiver, but he also returned two kicks for touchdowns in 2011, joining two other Big 12 returners who duplicated that feat last season.

5. Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State: Knott was outplayed by teammate A.J. Klein last season, but not by much. Knott was also playing through injuries. He's a superior talent, and like Klein, there's no arguing with his production. He's made 244 tackles in the past two seasons.

6. Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State: Randle is the Big 12's leading returning rusher and should see an increased workload from his 208 carries last season. He turned those into 24 touchdowns to come three short of the Big 12 record.

7. Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State: Brown's one of the league's most impressive freak athletes, a cruise missile of a linebacker who doesn't miss tackles in the open field and gets there faster than any true linebacker in the league. (You nickelbacks don't count.)

8. Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas: Vaccaro's the most versatile talent on a loaded Texas defense, and as a roaming nickelback, offenses must account for where he is on every snap. He's also got a case as the hardest hitter in the Big 12.

9. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas: Who has two last names and is the Big 12's returning sack leader? This guy. His 8.5 sacks were 1.5 more than any other returner in the Big 12, and he made four more tackles for loss (17) than any other returner, too.

10. Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia: Bailey's a more traditional receiver in WVU's offense and he's taken advantage. He's the league's leading returning receiver and offers the Mountaineers a steady, dangerous target with sure hands who will help make WVU arguably the league's most dangerous offense.
You gotta love an ambitious spirit, no?

Well, let's say you were going to craft a season-long road trip going to the best game in the Big 12 each week. We'll take you on that journey in our new series: The Ultimate Big 12 Road Trip.

I've been inspired by the boys at the Big Ten Blog, and this should be a fun walk through each week in the new-look Big 12 next season. I'll pick one game a week during the season that I'd attend if it were entirely up to me. I don't make the call, and things change as games are played of course, but right now, this is how it'd look if it were up to me. I'll include road nonconference games, too.

Let's get started.

Here's the Week 1 slate:
  • Baylor vs. SMU
  • Iowa State vs. Tulsa
  • Kansas vs. South Dakota State
  • Kansas State vs. Missouri State
  • Oklahoma at UTEP
  • Oklahoma State vs. Savannah State
  • TCU: Bye
  • Texas vs. Wyoming
  • Texas Tech vs. Northwestern State
  • West Virginia vs. Marshall
My pick: West Virginia vs. Marshall

There are only two real candidates here, and it would come down to the renewal of the old Southwest Conference rivalry in Waco or a brand-new look at West Virginia's in-state rival, the Thundering Herd.

What better way to be introduced to the Mountaineers? Marshall finished 7-6 and won a bowl game last year after a 5-3 year in Conference USA. There's no blockbusters in Week 1, but this should be a great look at a really good rivalry. We'll get a chance to see WVU at its best and the debut of Year 2 under Dana Holgorsen. Geno Smith should be better, and RB Dustin Garrison will be healthy while Smith finds Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey for a firework-filled first time out with the Big 12 logo on Mountaineer Field.

West Virginia won last year's game by 21, but the two teams went into overtime back in 2010 at Marshall, Bill Stewart's last year at the helm. That sounds close, but the Mountaineers have never lost in 11 games against the Thundering Herd. I'd love to start 2012 by seeing West Virginia defend its status as the state's top program, wouldn't you?
Milan Puskar Stadium Andrew Weber/US PresswireWest Virginia's Milan Puskar Stadium offers new experiences for Big 12 fans.
After a bit of a delay, thanks to some legal wrangling, West Virginia is finally free.

The Big East and the Mountaineers have settled their lawsuit, and West Virginia is officially on its way to the Big 12 for 2012.

That means it's off the Big East blog and onto the Big 12 blog, too.

To help the Big 12 get to know its newest member, Big 12 blogger David Ubben asked Big East blogger Andrea Adelson for her thoughts.

David Ubben: AA, Les Miles had my favorite quote of the 2011 season in relation to West Virginia. "They were having a football party and invited us. I knew our guys would show up."

You were there, Andrea. What can Big 12 fans expect when they go to Morgantown? Is it a football party every weekend?

Andrea Adelson: Define "every weekend." West Virginia fans show up for the super gigantic games against teams like LSU and Pitt, but there has been concern that the fan base is "fair weather." Note -- 46,000 fans came out to watch Bowling Green. Now, the truth is, no fan in America gets up for the cupcake patsy schedule. But this rubbed Dana Holgorsen the wrong way, and he ripped on the fans after that game:

(Read full post)

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Longhorn Trio Share Experience with Concussions
In the wake of David Ash's concussion battle, Tre' Newton, Nolan Brewster and Kendall Thompson discuss their experiences with sustaining concussions and the subsequent decisions they made for their careers and individual health.
VIDEO PLAYLIST video