Texas Longhorns: Tony Pierson

The 2014 season could be a critical one for several Big 12 seniors.

It’s their final chance to maximize their potential, show off for NFL scouts and push their teams to higher heights. In other words, it’s now or never for several Big 12 players who are poised to play the final 12 games of their college careers. Here’s a look at five seniors on the offensive side of the ball who could have a major impact on their team's success or hamper those chances for success if they struggle as individuals.

Receiver/running back Tony Pierson, Kansas

[+] EnlargeTony Pierson
John Rieger/USA TODAY SportsTony Pierson has the potential to stretch a defense, but has only received limited opportunities to do so thus far in his career.
Why he may excel: When he’s healthy, Pierson is a big play waiting to happen. In limited action in 2013, Pierson averaged 10.33 yards per play from scrimmage. He’s had the potential to be one of the Big 12’s top players since his sophomore season but this year is his last chance to cement his name alongside the conference’s top offensive threats. If he’s healthy, KU’s offense will be able to stretch defenses with his speed and quickness.

Why he may struggle: He struggled to stay healthy as a junior and, worse yet, it was a head injury that hampered him. Charlie Weis and the rest of the coaching staff will undoubtedly try to make sure to limit the hits Pierson takes this fall, but the ball will be in his hands so much he will be open to punishment. Having a healthy Pierson is critical for a Jayhawk offense searching for playmakers.

Quarterback Clint Trickett, West Virginia

Why he may excel: Trickett has another year in Dana Holgorsen’s offense and a much better feel for how the Mountaineers’ head coach wants things to run. The senior showed toughness even though he struggled in 2013, but he could put up solid numbers this fall if he makes better decisions and focuses on letting his playmakers do the hard work.

Why he may struggle: Trickett never looked comfortable or confident in Holgorsen’s offense in 2013 and then a shoulder injury forced him to miss the spring. He might not have enough tangible experience to make the offense hum this fall.

Receiver Bradley Marquez, Texas Tech

Why he may excel: Marquez finally gets the opportunity to see a bigger role in the Red Raiders’ offense after playing a supplementary role as a junior. And he’s focusing on football instead of spending the summer playing professional baseball. He’s flashed terrific ability, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him emerge as one of the Big 12’s most productive receivers.

Why he may struggle: Marquez saw a lot of one-on-one situations with Jace Amaro and Eric Ward making plays and forcing defenses to account for them last year. If he does start to emerge as a playmaker and garner extra attention, will his production remain steady?

Receiver Curry Sexton, Kansas State

Why he may excel: Teams will be focused on Tyler Lockett, the Big 12’s potential offensive player of the year, anytime Jake Waters drops back to pass. Sexton can make them pay if he matches his consistency in 2013, when he caught 39 of the 55 passes thrown his way. He’s not a game breaking threat like Lockett but he could be a valuable asset for the Wildcat offense.

Why he may struggle: He’s not the type of receiver who will overwhelm defenders with his physicality or speed. If defenses get physical with him, Sexton will have to make them pay for challenging him. If he doesn’t, KSU’s offense will have to look to other, less experienced receivers to fill to void.

Tackle Desmond Harrison, Texas

Why he may excel: Harrison has physical gifts and Joe Wickline has arrived to push him to that potential. If he responds, the Longhorns could have a quality left tackle to build around.

Why he may struggle: If he doesn’t respond to Wickline, he could find himself on the bench. The Longhorns’ new offensive line coach will push him to improve or Wickline will look elsewhere.
Earlier Thursday, we concluded our 22-round draft of current Big 12 players. Below are the three lineup outcomes of that draft, and as you can see, each of us went in different directions.

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Like the St. Louis Rams, Max and Brandon built up their defensive lines before worrying about the rest of their rosters. While I grabbed the best quarterback in the league and surrounded him with protection and weapons.

After each lineup, read our final takes on our teams. Then, decide who drafted best in the weekly Big 12 poll.

BRANDON CHATMON’S TEAM

OFFENSE
DEFENSE
What Brandon says about his team: “Offensively, as soon as Petty was gone with the first pick I knew I wouldn’t take a quarterback until my final pick. Knight could be the steal of the draft. Versatility is the name of the game with the rest of the offense. We can put Pierson and Smallwood in the backfield and go read option or really ruin your Saturday and throw Daje back there in the Diamond. When you bring more guys in the box, you leave Seales and Lockett one-on-one. Or we can just go five wide and you can try to cover running backs who run routes like receivers with your linebackers. And an experienced offensive line will be the foundation of it all. Defensively, it would be wise for opposing quarterbacks to tell their families to stay home when facing this group. We’re going to man up and have our mail forwarded to the opposing backfield and make you want to take your ball and go home. And with a secondary full of coverage guys, I’m not concerned about the back end of the defense holding up. We’ll win more battles than we lose. By the final whistle, my team will have earned the moniker 'Chatmon’s chaos creators' with Tapper, Reed, Brown, Hunter, Alexander and Robertson living in your backfield.”

MAX OLSON'S TEAM

OFFENSE
DEFENSE
What Max says about his team: “You do not want to play against my team. That was my goal going in, and I constructed exactly the team I wanted. I have a great QB in Webb who gets to throw to Goodley, one of the nation's best receivers, and he'd help Jaxon Shipley put up Jordan Shipley numbers. I have the two-back punch of Linwood and Gray. I have Hill, who can do everything, and a good line. We're going to spread the ball around like crazy. Good luck stopping that. On defense, you have Fields, Oakman and Grissom all rushing the passer. That's deadly. We can go three-man fronts or even put Oakman in the middle, letting the 6-foot-8 stud swat your passes down. And while you're worrying about him and Grissom, you have the Big 12's best defensive player [Fields] coming after you. Hager and Shannon will hold it down at the second level, and the secondary is full of playmakers. This is a fun team, plain and simple, and one that can frustrate the heck out of anybody.”

JAKE TROTTER’S TEAM

OFFENSE
DEFENSE
What Jake says about his team: “Max and Brandon are good at talking smack. I’ll give them that. But my players do their talking on the field. Once I was fortunate to land reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year Bryce Petty as my quarterback, my goal was two-fold: to keep him upright from pressure off the edge; and, to surround him with firepower. I accomplished both ends, and then some. I wasn’t able to get either of the two elite receivers in the league in Goodley or Lockett. But I put together the best overall receiving corps in Grant, Shepard and Bundrage, who could all deliver 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2014. On top of that, I snagged the best pass-catching tight end on the board in Bibbs, as well as Brown, so that we can pound the ball between the tackles when we need. Speaking of tackles, aware that Brandon and Max were focused almost solely on their pass rush in the early rounds, I also added two of the most reliable pass-protecting bookends in the league in Drango and Williams. Defensively, I can bring pressure, too, with Mueller and Striker, who last season respectively placed second and fourth in the Big 12 in sacks. Castleman and Britz are roadblocks, Heeney and Dawson are tackle machines and my entire secondary has All-Big 12 potential. We don’t talk. We just dominate.”
Following up on NFL draft weekend, we’ve been conducting our own draft, picking from current Big 12 players to fill out three 22-man lineups.

Below is a recap of the first 15 rounds of the draft from the past two days, followed by rounds 16-22.

As another reminder, this is NOT a Top 25 player ranking. It’s only an exercise in determining where the value of the league lies, and the different strategies to putting a team together from the league’s present talent pool.

Jake Trotter:
Brandon Chatmon:
Max Olson:
Round 16

  • Olson: WR/RB Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State
  • Chatmon: OLB Pete Robertson, Texas Tech
  • Trotter: OLB Brandon Golson, West Virginia
  • Analysis: "To combat the offensive attacks I would face in the Big 12, I'm going with a 3-4 on defense. Golson, who led the Big 12 in forced fumbles last season, is another playmaking outside linebacker who would fit in nicely in this scheme opposite Striker." -- Trotter
[+] EnlargeJohnathan Gray, Tanner Jacobson
AP Photo/Eric GayGetting potential Big 12 rushing leader Johnathan Gray in the 17th round could be a big steal for Max Olson.
Round 17

  • Trotter: LB Paul Dawson, TCU
  • Chatmon: C Dominic Espinosa, Texas
  • Olson: RB Johnathan Gray, Texas
  • Analysis: “I ended up getting a potential All-Big 12 running back in the 17th round. So I feel pretty good about that. Gray should be healthy for the opener, and he leads all returning Big 12 rushers with 86 rushing yards per game last season." -- Olson
Round 18

  • Olson: OT Troy Baker, Baylor
  • Chatmon: SS Quentin Hayes, Oklahoma
  • Trotter: OG Mark Glowinski, West Virginia
  • Analysis: "I wanted a safety who is comfortable in holding his own in coverage, while also having the ability to make plays all over the field. Hayes is the guy. With Worley, Shepherd, White, Barnett and Hayes in the secondary, I can unleash the rest of my defense on the quarterback and feel comfortable about my secondary holding its own against anyone." -- Chatmon
Round 19

  • Trotter: OG Nila Kasitati, Oklahoma
  • Chatmon: WR Tony Pierson, Kansas
  • Olson: SS Terrell Burt, Baylor
  • Analysis: "With Max and Brandon hoarding centers, I needed to attack the interior of my offensive line. Kasitati can excel manning either guard or center, and Glowinski is one of the league’s top returning guards." -- Trotter
Round 20

  • Olson: OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, TCU
  • Chatmon: WR Jhajuan Seales, Oklahoma State
  • Trotter: WR Quenton Bundrage, Iowa State
  • Analysis: "The guys I wanted for my second guard spot weren't available at this round, so I'm going with the mammoth "Big V" Vaitai (6-foot-6, 308 pounds) and moving one of my other tackle selections inside. I ended up with a fairly good offensive line, which was pretty much my plan going in." -- Olson
Round 21

  • Trotter: CB Nigel Tribune, Iowa State
  • Chatmon: WR Wendell Smallwood, West Virginia
  • Olson: LB Nick Kwiatkoski, West Virginia
  • Analysis: “I picked up Bundrage in the previous round to seal up what I feel is the best all-around receiving corps, even if I didn’t get Goodley or Lockett. Tribune, the only true freshman to play for Iowa State in the past two seasons, is a corner with a ton of upside and, paired with Kevin Peterson, should provide me plenty of tenaciousness against the pass.” -- Trotter
Round 22

  • Olson: WR Jaxon Shipley, Texas
  • Chatmon: QB Trevor Knight, Oklahoma
  • Trotter: C Jared Kaster, Texas Tech
  • Analysis: “I just got the steal of the draft, and I knew I would wait until the final round to do so. As soon as Jake snapped up Petty, I knew I would be content with Davis Webb or Trevor Knight and wouldn’t draft a quarterback until the final round. The fact that Max opted for Webb made things even better for me as Knight has the versatility to run a run-heavy offense or spread things out and use his arm. He fits perfectly with the versatility I was striving for with each pick.” -- Chatmon

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: WRs

February, 20, 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, continuing Thursday with receivers (and tight ends). Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how we see them at the moment:

[+] EnlargeTyler Lockett
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesTyler Lockett had seven games with more than 100 yards receiving and two games with more than 200.
1. Baylor: Antwan Goodley hauled in a Big 12-best 1,339 receiving yards and is back for his senior campaign. Levi Norwood filled in well as a second option after Tevin Reese’s injury, and, like Goodley, can also fly. The Bears are also about to enjoy the fruits of back-to-back monster recruiting classes in the position, including five ESPN 300 players in the last two years. The best of those, incoming freshman K.D. Cannon, has the talent to be Baylor’s next great receiver.

2. Kansas State: The Wildcats have the Big 12’s finest receiver in Tyler Lockett, which warrants them a high ranking even if the supporting cast isn’t tantalizing. Lockett was basically uncoverable downfield last season, and exploded once QB Jake Waters got more comfortable. Curry Sexton has turned into a reliable possession target. The Wildcats also welcome one of the best juco receivers in the country in Andre Davis. If Davis pans out, this has a chance to be among the best receiving corps Bill Snyder has ever had.

3. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders lose an ultra-productive player in Eric Ward and a superstar in tight end Jace Amaro, but this position remains stocked with talent. Jitterbug slot man Jakeem Grant was sixth in the league last year in receiving, and showed in the Holiday Bowl how dangerous he can be when 100 percent focused. Bradley Marquez and Jordan Davis are reliable pass-catchers, but the player to watch here is Reginald Davis. A former high school quarterback, Davis has gradually picked up the nuances of playing receiver. But as he flashed in a kickoff return touchdown against Arizona State, Davis is a playmaker with the ball in his hands, and could be a major factor.

4. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys lose their top three receivers, but outside Baylor, no team in the Big 12 has more WRs ready to contribute in 2014 than Oklahoma State. Jhajuan Seales and Marcell Ateman combined for 61 receptions as freshmen, and will give the Cowboys a physical presence on the perimeter. Brandon Shepard and David Glidden were also part of the regular rotation, and Austin Hayes, who started nine games in 2012, would have been had he not missed virtually the entire season with injury. The two to watch here, though, have yet to play a down, but will bring major speed. Former ESPN 300 recruit Ra’Shaad Samples redshirted last year, but reportedly ran a 4.3-second 40 last summer. That might seem slow compared to Tyreek Hill, the nation’s No. 4 juco recruit, who doubles as a track phenom.

5. Texas: Jaxon Shipley isn’t his brother Jordan, but he’s still a quality college receiver. Even with all of Texas’ QB issues, Shipley already has 159 career receptions. The Longhorns have speed and playmaking elsewhere in downfield burner Marcus Johnson, Kendall Sanders and the versatile Daje Johnson. The Longhorns also signed one of three best incoming WRs in the Big 12 in Armanti Foreman. This group could really thrive with an uptick in QB play.

[+] EnlargeJordan Thompson
AP Photo/Chris BernacchiJordan Thompson showed near the end of the season the type of weapon he can be in West Virginia's offense.
6. Oklahoma: The Sooners graduate Jalen Saunders, who was “Mr. Everything” for the OU offense. But Sterling Shepard seems primed to take over the No. 1 role after hauling in 51 passes and seven touchdowns. But who will surround him? Durron Neal is the only other player on the roster with much experience. The good news for the Sooners is they’ve recruited superbly at the position. Among many options, the player to keep an eye on is freshman Jordan Smallwood, who was turning heads last summer, until a foot fracture forced him to redshirt.

7. Iowa State: Quenton Bundrage is one of the more underrated receivers in the league despite ranking third in the league. With Amaro gone, E.J. Bibbs becomes the best receiving tight end in the league after hauling in 39 passes last year. Iowa State’s standing here, though, is contingent on incoming freshman Allen Lazard, one the most highly touted WRs Iowa State has ever signed. If Lazard can make an immediate impact, like the Iowa State coaching staff is banking on, this could become one of the better units in the league.

8. West Virginia: There’s no corps in the Big 12 that could move up more spots than West Virginia’s. The Mountaineers didn’t have a receiver rank in the top 15 in the Big 12 last year, but Kevin White, Mario Alford and Daikiel Shorts all ranked in the top 20. All three are back, too, as is the diminutive Jordan Thompson, who finally came alive the second half of the season. Former ESPN 300 recruit Shelton Gibson, who redshirted, will also join the rotation. The Mountaineers rank eighth for now, but they are closer to Kansas State than to Kansas.

9. TCU: This week, TCU kicked receiver LaDarius Brown off the team. Considering Brown tied for the team lead in receptions last year, it’s a tough loss. This unit is obviously better with Trevone Boykin, but he might have to play QB, at least until someone else emerges there. The Horned Frogs desperately need Brandon Carter to become a No. 1 receiver. After a promising sophomore year, Carter was basically a non-factor, before showing signs of bouncing back the last month of the season. TCU needs him back in a big way in 2014.

10. Kansas: The Jayhawks didn’t have a receiver with more than 11 catches last year. Some of that was the quarterbacks. Some of it was, well, the receivers. The group had little overall impact, which put tremendous pressure on James Sims and the running game. With Sims gone, the receivers have to elevate their game significantly for Kansas to have a chance of taking a step forward. The Jayhawks do have a solid tight end in Jimmay Mundine, who had five TD catches. And Tony Pierson could play more receiver this year. But somebody else needs to emerge.

Big 12's lunch links

November, 20, 2013
11/20/13
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Hilarious: "I don't myface, I don't yearbook, I don't do any of those things."

Big 12 lunchtime links

October, 30, 2013
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One reason I'm glad the NBA is back.

First glance: Kansas Jayhawks

October, 28, 2013
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A look ahead at Kansas, Texas’ first home opponent in more than a month. The Longhorns and Jayhawks meet Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CT on the Longhorn Network.

2013 record: 2-5 (0-4 Big 12)

All-time record vs. Texas: 2-10

Last game: Baylor once again did what it usually does, blowing out Kansas 59-14 in Lawrence, Kan., on Saturday. Bryce Petty threw for 430 yards and three scores, two Bears backs surpassed 100 yards, and Baylor didn’t give up a score until late in the third quarter, when it already led 45-0. The Jayhawks’ offense sputtered, gaining 91 yards in the first half and settling for 10 punts on the day.

Last meeting with Texas: Who could forget? Texas pulled off a bizarre 21-17 road victory last season when Case McCoy replaced David Ash late and engineered two fourth-quarter touchdown drives after the Longhorns trailed 14-7 for nearly two full quarters. Kansas had absolutely no passing game (3-for-9, 39 yards) but got 234 yards on the ground and stifled Ash and the rest of the Longhorns offense. Texas escaped with a victory and a deep sigh of relief in the closest Big 12 game of Charlie Weis’ tenure.

Key player: Kansas running back James Sims burned Texas for 176 yards on 28 carries last season and will try to do it again on Saturday. He’s currently No. 4 in the Big 12 in rushing at 589 yards and has the second-most carries in the league behind Johnathan Gray. And don’t forget to watch out for Tony Pierson, the receiver/back hybrid who’s capable of breaking big plays at any moment.

Why Kansas might win: Seems like it would take something pretty crazy for KU to pull this upset. McCoy going down with an injury. The Texas defense completely collapsing. A six-hour rain delay. You know, something like that. All joking aside, though, Texas could overlook this foe, show up flat like in 2012, fall behind and come up short late. It’s not completely impossible, and Texas did play Iowa State way too close. But that kind of showing would be a complete reversal from what UT has done in its last two games.

Why Kansas might lose: Texas is finally playing like the team it was meant to be in 2013, and Kansas is fresh off a beatdown from Baylor and has now lost 25 straight Big 12 games. Mack Brown will use last season's sluggish showing and KU’s early 13-0 lead over Oklahoma this season as motivation. Don’t expect Texas to take this game lightly, especially when it means bowl eligibility and a 5-0 start in Big 12 play.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Back on Sept. 16, we looked at the slate ahead for Texas amid a 1-2 start and three intriguing Big 12 challenges up next, capped by a trip to Dallas to face Oklahoma and perhaps avenge three years of rough losses.

Coming off a home loss to Ole Miss, Texas seemed just as likely to be 2-4 as 4-2 by now. It was easy to picture this season falling apart quickly, especially if the Sooners delivered another beatdown.

And here we are today, with Texas indeed 4-2 and off to a surprising 3-0 start to its conference slate. So, once more, let’s look down the road and break down the next three tests. Just how legitimate are Texas’ Big 12 title hopes going forward?

Keep this in mind: Texas’ final three games are Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and at Baylor. Ending the year with that kind of a run, against three of the conference’s best, won’t be easy. But the Longhorns need to take care of business in these next three to make those games matter.

Oct. 26: TCU

If you’re looking at these three games and chalking each up as easy wins, don’t overlook the fact Texas very nearly went 0-3 against these opponents last season.

TCU is a bit of a mess right now and would drop to 3-5 on the year if Texas can escape Fort Worth with a victory this weekend. All four of its losses have come to ranked teams -- LSU, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State -- and TCU hasn’t lost any game by more than two scores.

So the Frogs are playing people close, despite losing reigning Big 12 defensive player of the year Devonte Fields for the season and continuing to struggle offensively. Quarterback Trevone Boykin has been up and down and mistake-prone all season, but he did rush for 85 yards in Austin last year and did just enough to pull off the 20-13 upset.

[+] EnlargeCase McCoy
AP Photo/LM OteroCase McCoy will try to lead Texas past TCU.
Case McCoy gets the start for Texas, and while the Longhorns found their offensive identity in a power run attack against OU, TCU’s defense is good against the run. Will he be able to make the big plays that David Ash missed last time these teams met?

The Longhorns had an extra week to prepare for this game. If they really are as improved as they seem, they should be able to take care of this TCU team. But it could be a close one.

Nov. 2: Kansas

Remember, no game on Texas’ schedule is a trap game because they all are. Kansas came oh-so-close to stunning the Longhorns last year. If Greg Brown catches the game-clinching interception on McCoy’s first pass attempt, who knows what Texas football would look like today.

What we do know is that Charlie Weis has yet to win a Big 12 game at KU, the Jayhawks have lost 24 straight Big 12 games and 35 of their last 36 in conference play.

But because of the nail-biter in 2012, Texas will take Kansas seriously in its first home game in more than a month. Running back James Sims will test its run defense, and so will Tony Pierson if he’s back from his concussion.

A loss to the Jayhawks would probably be a damning blow to Texas’ hopes of making a conference title run. But that still seems exceptionally unlikely.

Nov. 9: West Virginia

Now this is a game that’s just hard to peg, kind of like when Texas went on the road to Texas Tech last year. West Virginia isn’t the easiest team to figure out in this year’s Big 12, what with its performances that were good (Oklahoma State), not good enough (Texas Tech) and plain ugly (Baylor).

WVU could have things turned around by the time Texas visits Morgantown. Or it could be in the midst of a four-game losing streak -- couldn’t K-State and TCU both beat this team? -- and clawing just to reach bowl eligibility. Time will tell, but this is no doubt a winnable game for UT.

The offense that tore up Texas last season in a 48-45 win is now filled with transfers, freshmen and new faces. The Baylor blowout loss skewed its numbers, but WVU’s defense is at this point a below-average unit in the Big 12 by most measures.

Texas has a legitimate chance at 6-0 in the Big 12 here, which is a pretty crazy statement considering that 1-2 start to 2013. Slip up against one or more of these next three foes and the rest will be an uphill climb, especially with Baylor looking poised to possible run the table.

Either way, the win over Oklahoma has set this schedule up to once again be a favorable one. The Longhorns could be in for a wild finish, but first they’ll have to win these next three.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 7

October, 14, 2013
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After a Red River upset, the power rankings have a new top two:

1. Baylor (5-0, 2-0 Big 12, last week 2): Kansas State coach Bill Snyder had the right game plan to slow Baylor. Run the ball, chew up clock, bottle up Lache Seastrunk, take away the quick passing attack and hope you can somehow survive Baylor’s vertical speed downfield. But that’s what makes the Bears so prolific. Take away the short stuff, and Bryce Petty will beat you deep with Tevin Reese & Co. Back off, and Baylor will tear you apart with quick passes and a heavy dose of Seastrunk with a side of Glasco Martin. K-State proved the Bears could be slowed. But can they be stopped?

2. Texas Tech (6-0, 3-0 Big 12, last week 3): In 2012, West Virginia was 5-0 when it traveled the 1,500 miles to Lubbock, Texas, where its season began to go the wrong direction. Can the Red Raiders avoid a similar fate against a likewise backloaded schedule? There’s reason to believe Tech is better equipped to do so than last year's Mountaineers. At the moment, the Red Raiders’ balanced offense claims four of the top eight receivers in the Big 12, while the defense has been tremendous at getting off the field on third down. The next two games, on the road at West Virginia and Oklahoma, will determine whether Tech is a contender or pretender. If the Tech quarterbacks keep spreading the ball around and the defense continues to buck up in key situations, it very well might be the former.

3. Texas (4-2, 3-0 Big 12, last week 5): The 1989 Longhorns and 1996 Sooners also pulled off big upsets in the Red River Rivalry. Both teams, however, went just 2-4 the rest of the season. The biggest question for Texas coming off its most impressive victory in four years is whether it can keep it going. At 3-0 in the Big 12 standings, the Longhorns have plenty to play for. If Texas keeps running its offense through running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown and its veteran offensive line, and defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed keep wreaking havoc, it’s not unthinkable that Texas could be playing for the Big 12 title in Waco, Texas, on Dec. 7.

4. Oklahoma (5-1, 2-1 Big 12, last week 1): Quarterback Blake Bell was completely off in his first Red River start, but he didn’t get a lot of help from Josh Heupel, either. The offensive coordinator kept Oklahoma’s designed quarterback running plays that had been so effective on the shelf even though Texas had been vulnerable all year to stopping the quarterback run game. While Texas finally elected to ride Gray in the running game, the Sooners are the ones that now seem confused about who to ride. Is it Brennan Clay? Damien Williams? True freshman Keith Ford? The good news is that Bob Stoops is 14-0 the game after Texas, with an average winning margin of 27 points; OU visits Kansas on Saturday, too. But if the Sooners don’t figure out who they are offensively soon, they could be staring down yet another second-half swoon.

5. Oklahoma State (4-1, 1-1 Big 12, last week 4): An interesting question to think about: Had he not transferred to Illinois, would Wes Lunt be Oklahoma State’s starting quarterback this weekend against TCU? My hunch is he would. Spotty downfield passing is restricting the potential of this Cowboys offense, which still has the playmakers at receiver to form the the basis of a prolific attack. Problem is, J.W. Walsh can’t consistently get them the ball. And now the best pass defense in the conference comes to town. If the Cowboys sputter again, they’ll have to give serious thought to giving Clint Chelf another shot to open up an offense that has looked shockingly mediocre against Big 12 competition.

6. TCU (3-3, 1-2 Big 12, last week 6): Announced attendance of Saturday’s home game against Kansas was almost 42,000. But based on photos taken of the stands, it looked like there was less than half that. As one of the preseason favorites, the Horned Frogs carried plenty of hype into the season. But after three early-season losses, apparently the excitement surrounding the program for this season has completely evaporated. It might be too soon, however, to give up on TCU. Nobody has played a tougher schedule thus far. And few teams have been bit harder by the injury bug. If the Frogs can pull off the upset in Stillwater, Okla., they could fight their way back into the Big 12 race, especially if quarterback Casey Pachall can return to the field from a broken forearm before month’s end.

7. West Virginia (3-3, 1-2 Big 12, last week 7): The West Virginia defense has had a week to recover from the TKO it suffered in Waco. No matter who Dana Holgorsen goes with at quarterback this week, the Mountaineers’ best chance of getting bowl eligible is with solid defense. But is this a solid defense? It’s hard to tell. The Mountaineers have had two good defensive performances (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State) and two bad ones (Maryland, Baylor). What West Virginia does against Texas Tech this weekend will be revealing about where this defense really is.

8. Kansas State (2-4, 0-3 Big 12, last week 8): The Wildcats have been in every game, and yet don’t have much to show from it. This still could be a bowl team, however. Getting starting receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson back from injury after the open week would be a boost. But the real key will be limiting turnovers. The Wildcats are last in the Big 12 in turnover margin, a year after they led the conference in the category. If quarterback Daniel Sams can take better care of the ball, K-State is good enough and well coached enough to get to six wins despite the tough start.

9. Iowa State (1-4, 0-2 Big 12, last week 9): With a bounce here or there, the Cyclones could easily be 2-0 in the conference. This young team is making plays, but it still has to figure out how to win games in the fourth quarter. Now, the Cyclones find themselves in a tough spot this week. They face a Baylor offense looking to prove it’s better than it showed over the weekend. The Bears also haven’t forgotten about losing in Ames, Iowa, last year. If Iowa State is still in the game at halftime, that will be a victory in and of itself.

10. Kansas (2-3, 0-2 Big 12, last week 10): You have to give it up to the Jayhawks for showing some fight at TCU. The early start, the paltry crowd, the loss of running back Tony Pierson -- there were many reasons for Kansas to mail it in. Instead, the Jayhawks took TCU to the brink and had the ball three different times in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie the game. The Jayhawks might not win a Big 12 game this season, but if they keep scrapping and clawing like they did Saturday, they'll have more chances.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 7

October, 10, 2013
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The Red River Rivalry is always must-watch television, and Baylor will play its first game outside of Waco, Texas, when it visits Manhattan, Kan., on Saturday. It's another intriguing week in the Big 12.

Here’s what to watch in the Big 12 for Week 7.

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Gray
Jim Cowsert/USA TODAY SportsDo Johnathan Gray and the Longhorns have the ability to hang with and upset the Sooners?
Does Texas stand a chance in the Red River Rivalry? Yes. The Longhorns have the chance to win anytime they step on the field thanks to a talent-laden roster. But their odds of beating Oklahoma on Saturday aren’t high. UT simply cannot seem to find an identity on either side of the ball, injuries are crippling the roster and distractions surround the 40 Acres. In a rivalry game like the RRR, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see a hard-fought, close battle, but UT will have to completely turn things around to make that happen in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday.

How will Bryce Petty fair in its first road test? Petty has never stepped on the field as Baylor's starting quarterback on any turf outside of Floyd Casey Stadium. The BU quarterback has been exceptional, but nobody knows how he will respond in an uncomfortable conference road environment at Kansas State. Odds are it won’t matter since Petty has been the best and most efficient quarterback in the league thus far, but there’s no way to know how the junior will handle his first road start.

Can Texas Tech continue its undefeated start? Even with quarterback Baker Mayfield hobbled, there’s no reason to think it won’t. The Red Raiders’ defense is holding teams to 4.5 yards per play, second in the Big 12 and 16th nationally, helping to offset the unrest at the quarterback position. No matter who is under center for Tech against Iowa State, it might not matter because its defense has played at an extremely high level through the first five games.

Iowa State looks to rebound after the disappointing loss to UT. The Cyclones have been insistent that they are moving forward after feeling robbed during their 31-30 loss to Texas. Nonetheless, it is hard to believe a loss like that will not have ill effects in Lubbock, Texas, on Saturday. How will they respond if a call goes the opposite way? Could an early deficit take away the Cyclones’ resolve?

Will Oklahoma’s offense get back on track with Blake Bell under center? The Sooners' passing game struggled against TCU, passing for 152 yards against the Horned Frogs. Bell couldn’t seem to get on track after two stellar performances against Tulsa and Notre Dame. OU needs the junior quarterback to respond to his worst performance of the season with a strong outing against the Longhorns.

Will the Longhorns start to lean in their playmakers more? For some reason the Longhorns aren’t leaning on running back Johnathan Gray and receiver Daje Johnson to make game-changing plays for their offense. Gray’s exceptional feet and vision along with Johnson’s acceleration and speed could change games for UT. If the Longhorns make it a point to put the ball in those guys' hands against OU, it will make the Red River Rivalry much more interesting.

Daniel Sams in the Wildcats’ backfield. The Kansas State quarterback showed he has the potential to be one of the Big 12’s top playmakers in his squad’s 33-29 loss to Oklahoma State last Saturday. Sams could be the Big 12’s most dynamic running quarterback, and the Wildcats are starting to lean on him to spark their offense. If they continue to do so against Baylor, their chances of keeping up with the Bears increase.

The impact of Devonte Fields' season-ending surgery. It’s probably the best move for Fields, who was struggling through his sophomore season. Yet it’s bad news for the Horned Frogs, as the hope of him returning at some point this season to be a healthy, productive terror on the edge is now gone. And that makes TCU’s goal of getting its season back on track just that much harder.

How will Kansas handle the loss of Tony Pierson? Just as he was starting to take his game to another level the Jayhawks’ multipurpose threat suffered a head injury against Texas Tech and is listed as day-to-day. KU will turn to Brandon Bourbon to shoulder a portion of the load with Pierson out, but the Jayhawks need someone to step up on offense if they hope to have any success against a stout TCU defense.

Who will step up and become a legend on the Cotton Bowl field? OU fullback Trey Millard had the play of the day with his highlight-reel catch and run against Texas in 2012. Memories are made on the Cotton Bowl turf, and great plays become legendary in rivalries such as these. Expect someone to step up and announce themselves to the world. Can't wait to see who it will be.

Big 12 predictions: Week 7

October, 10, 2013
10/10/13
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It was mass panic this week on the Big 12 blog.

I had a guest picker lined up: Tyler, a K-State fan in California who is getting married. He pulled at my heartstrings with this submission:

Jake, I'm getting married on the 19th. How about an early wedding present for a Big 12 fan raised in Manhattan, Kan., now living in Pac-12 country?

Well, Tyler flaked out. Either the fiancée was getting on him about focusing more on the wedding and less about Big 12 football, or he got too depressed to send his picks in after his ‘Cats fell to 0-2 in Big 12 play.

I was, however, able to secure another guest picker at the final hour in Curtis, an OU fan in Washington, D.C., who submitted the following:

I'm in Washington, D.C., in the middle of a year-long military deployment, and while I can't say exactly what it is I do, suffice it to say the schedule is not conducive to going to a lot of live games. In fact, every other weekend I'm stuck in a room that we can't even take a phone into. That said, through lurking on various Big 12 message boards when I’m not on duty, I am eminently qualified to pick games.

Last week, Big 12 officials helped derail my upset special, as Texas escaped Ames with a controversial victory. West Ham not only scored its first road goal, but stunned Tottenham 3-to-nil to hand me yet another defeat. Bollocks!!

I’m feeling a bounce-back week, though.

To the Week 7 picks:

SEASON RECORD

Trotter last week: 4-2 (.667)

Guest picker (David in England) last week: 5-1 (.833)

Trotter overall: 30-10 (.750)

Guest picker overall: 17-6 (.739)

SATURDAY

TCU 44, Kansas 3: Led by All-American cornerback Jason Verrett, TCU is playing championship-level defense, even without a healthy Devonte Fields, who will undergo season-ending surgery. If only the Horned Frogs could find a way to muster just a little more offense, this could be a dangerous team the second half of the season. Kansas could barely move the ball with playmaking running back Tony Pierson. Without him, it becomes a long day for the Jayhawks in Fort Worth against this TCU defense.

Curtis’ pick: While Kansas has shown some signs of life, they will face a TCU defense far better than any they've seen. TCU, 45-13

Texas Tech 31, Iowa State 23: Iowa State has somewhat had Tech’s number recently, winning two of the last three, including the 41-7 stunner in Lubbock the week after the Red Raiders had upset Oklahoma in 2011. Coach Kliff Kingsbury, however, seems to have the Red Raiders on more solid ground than Tommy Tuberville did. The quarterback position continues to be a moving part due to injuries, but thanks to the defense, that hasn’t cost the Red Raiders yet. The Cyclones, meanwhile, should arrive in Lubbock angry after the way they lost to Texas last week. They also bring an offense that is rapidly improving, thanks to the healthy return of center Tom Farniok and emergence of speed-demon running back Aaron Wimberly. As a result, Iowa State hangs around. But the Cyclones come up short in the fourth quarter again against a Tech defense that continues to buck up in the red zone. By the way, this pick should please Iowa State fans, and concern Red Raiders. I’m 0-4 picking Iowa State games this year.

Curtis’ pick: A little tough to pick this game as there's still no word on who Texas Tech will have under center. Iowa State suffered a controversial loss last week after getting jobbed by the refs, so Paul Rhodes will have his team fired up for this one. The Cyclones are usually good for one upset a year, and this will be their week. Iowa State, 31-28

Oklahoma 34, Texas 16: There’s not much to like about the Longhorns in this game. Texas enters without starting quarterback David Ash or much momentum after a lackluster victory at Iowa State last Thursday. The Longhorns are lacking identity, and have shown little heart recently against the Sooners, as Oklahoma has completely run Texas out of the Cotton Bowl before halftime the last two years. Usually, the pressure is on the favorite in this game. But because of the way Texas has lost to OU the last two games, and because of Mack Brown’s tenuous standing in Austin, all the pressure is on the Horns. The Sooners have their vulnerabilities. The offense has sputtered at times. The defense will be without linebacker Corey Nelson, who is out for the year with a torn pectoral muscle. But the Cotton Bowl seems to bring out the best in the Sooners and the worst in the Longhorns. This game is no different.

Curtis’ pick: They should just rename this game the "Texas Turkey Shoot." While most OU fans would love to see Mack Brown finish out the final seven years of his contract, this game will be his last in the series. (Oh, and in front of a home "sellout" crowd, Oklahoma State drops a heartbreaker to "Bye", 10-3). Boomer Sooner! OU, 50-13

Baylor 55, Kansas State 19: The Bears have looked virtually unbeatable through four games. The offense has been unstoppable and the defense quietly has been sound since November of last year. But this will be Baylor’s first game away from Floyd Casey Stadium. And it’s worth nothing that the Bears have won just one Big 12 road game in their last nine tries -- the lone victory being at Kansas. This Baylor team, however, is at another level. This is the best defense Art Briles has had, and the offense has no weaknesses. And even though Bill Snyder has a solid defensive game plan in place, the Bears still drop off 50-plus to secure their first Big 12 road win in two years.

Curtis’ pick: It's tough to find a superlative to apply to Baylor’s offensive output this year, but their defense has also played pretty darn well. KSU isn't playing the mistake-free football characteristic of a Bill Snyder coached team, and their offense isn't built to get into a shootout. The only upset here is if Baylor doesn't drop another 60-point performance. Baylor, 63-27

Big 12 lunchtime links

October, 8, 2013
10/08/13
12:00
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Oklahoma and Texas will wear uniforms with gold trim on Saturday. The Longhorns will wear orange jerseys with gold trim, while the Sooners will sport white jerseys with gold trim.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 6

October, 7, 2013
10/07/13
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This week's Power Rankings after a weekend in which there were no upsets:

1. Oklahoma (5-0, 2-0 Big 12, last week 1): The Sooners currently have the top-ranked defense in the Big 12. However, on Sunday they learned they’d likely be without linebacker Corey Nelson for the rest of the season. Nelson, who suffered a partially torn pectoral muscle, had been one of the defense’s three most valuable players. Can the Sooners overcome his loss? The answer to that question will go a long way in determining whether OU emerges with the Big 12 title.

2. Baylor (4-0, 1-0, LW 2): West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said he’d never seen an offensive line establish the line of scrimmage the way Baylor did Saturday night. Quarterback Bryce Petty and Lache Seastrunk are getting the headlines, and for good reason, but Baylor's offensive line is another reason it has been putting up points in record fashion. Led by All-American guard Cyril Richardson, Baylor’s line is one of the best units in the country. Just ask Holgorsen.

3. Texas Tech (5-0, 2-0, LW 3): Texas Tech is beginning to look like last season's Oklahoma State, which had to shuffle through three different quarterbacks because of injuries. Michael Brewer finally returned to the field from a back injury, but not before starter Baker Mayfield left with an undisclosed knee injury. The Oklahoma State offense survived its QB injury shuffle. Can the Red Raiders follow suit?

4. Oklahoma State (4-1, 1-1, LW 7): The Cowboys won, but it has been four seasons since an Oklahoma State offense has looked anywhere near this discombobulated. J.W. Walsh engineered the game-winning touchdown drive, but the offense was largely ineffective otherwise, as the Cowboys went the entire second half without a first down until that drive. Oklahoma State’s intermediate and downfield passing game has fallen off a cliff, as Walsh had only two completions go for more than 15 yards (though he should have had a third that Josh Stewart dropped). This has allowed opponents to zero in on Oklahoma State’s rushing game, which has been poor since the opener against Mississippi State. If the Cowboys don’t make a QB change and give Clint Chelf a chance, or find some way for Walsh to be more effective through the air, they stand little chance of contending in the Big 12.

5. Texas (3-2, 2-0, LW 5): The Longhorns' season and Mack Brown’s tenure at Texas comes down to one game. If the Longhorns somehow knock off Oklahoma, the conversation in Austin changes. If the Longhorns get blasted like they have the past two seasons, the conversation is effectively done. And, for all intents and purposes, the season is, too.

6. TCU (2-3, 0-2, LW 6): It’s a shame this TCU defense can’t be paired with a more effective offense. Even though the Horned Frogs opened at Oklahoma with seven straight three-and-outs, the defense somehow kept the Frogs in the game. I was told over the weekend that QB Casey Pachall is ahead of schedule on his recovery from a broken forearm -- but he is still weeks away from actually returning. Until then, TCU will have to find a way to generate a little offense. And with the way its defense is playing, that would still be enough to win most games.

7. West Virginia (3-3, 1-2, LW 4): It’s about time to end the honeymoon with the West Virginia defense. The Mountaineers were completely and utterly torched in Waco, 73-42. The last time West Virginia gave up that many points was in 1904, when Michigan beat the Mountaineers 130-0. This Baylor game was almost as bad. West Virginia is definitely improved defensively, but good defenses don’t give up 73 points, regardless of who they are facing.

8. Kansas State (2-3, 0-2, LW 8): KSU coach Bill Snyder finally gave QB Daniel Sams a chance Saturday in Stillwater to run the offense. You have to wonder when he might give Sams a chance again. Sams moved the chains but turned the ball over four times, which ultimately proved to be K-State’s downfall. Sams showed he’s capable of being an effective Big 12 quarterback, but Snyder is not a coach who will tolerate turnovers from his quarterback.

9. Iowa State (1-3, 0-1, LW 9): What a bummer it’s been to be an Iowa State fan this year. I don’t know which was worse, losing twice in overtime in hoops to Kansas, getting bounced from the NCAA tournament by Aaron Craft’s leaning jumper or falling to Texas the way the Cyclones did Thursday. Iowa State has shown rapid improvement offensively the past two games, but it’s a challenge finding five more wins on the schedule that will get the Cyclones to a bowl game.

10. Kansas (2-2, 0-1, LW 10): Even if Charlie Weis didn’t call for the fake punt, it’s on him for even giving punter Trevor Pardula an option to take off that deep in his own territory. The Jayhawks probably wouldn’t have beaten Tech anyway, but the botched fake punt ensured that they wouldn’t. With running back Tony Pierson now out indefinitely, the Jayhawks will be without their best offensive weapon now, too.

Big 12 Week 5: Did you know?

September, 27, 2013
9/27/13
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Oklahoma and Notre Dame have tradition that is readily apparent in the college football record books, while Oklahoma State makes its first trip to Morgantown, W.Va., since the 1920s. Those tidbits and more are featured in another great package of Big 12 stats thanks to ESPN Stats and Information.

Did you know ...
  • Coaching staffs at Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and TCU will be wearing Coach to Cure MD patches this week to help raise awareness and funding for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy research.
  • Baylor leads the nation in points per game (69.7), point margin per game (62), total yards per game (751.3), total yards margin (454), yards per play (9.84) and passing yards (444.33).
  • Baylor's defense has been superb in its own right. BU ranks No. 5 nationally in yards per play allowed (3.82), yards per carry allowed (2.3) and No. 2 in points allowed (7.7).
  • BU's Lache Seastrunk is averaging 10.97 yards per carry, ranking No. 2 nationally behind Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon.
  • Seastrunk's seven straight games with at least 100 yards rushing is the nation's longest current streak.
  • BU quarterback Bryce Petty is averaging 25.89 yards per attempt on third down.
  • Baylor's defense has scored more touchdowns (4) than it has allowed this season (3).
  • The Iowa State Cyclones were one of three teams that have played only two games heading into this week's action. Colorado, which postponed its Sept. 14 meeting with Fresno State due to flooding, and Navy are the others.
  • Iowa State receiver Quenton Bundrage's three-touchdown receptions against Iowa was the third time in 11 games that a Cyclone receiver has recording three touchdown catches. Yet, it only happened three times from 1951 to 2005, a span of 590 games.
  • Nigel Tribune, ISU's true freshman cornerback, is the only true freshman who has played for the Cyclones during the past two seasons.
  • Kansas running back/receiver Tony Pierson is averaging 11 yards per touch. He has 26 touches for 286 yards and one touchdown.
  • Kansas ranks No. 9 nationally in yards per pass attempt allowed, with a 4.9 yards per pass attempt allowed average.
  • KU punter Trevor Pardula's 78-yard punt against Louisiana Tech is the second-longest punt in the FBS this season.
  • Pardula's 49.7 yards per punt average leads the Big 12.
  • Kansas State leads the nation averaging 33.75 per punt return.
  • Wildcats receiver Tramaine Thompson is the main reason for KSU's outstanding return game. He's averaging 33.75 yards per punt return (4 for 135 yards) and 56 yards per kickoff return (2 for 112 yards, 1 touchdown).
  • KSU receiver Tyler Lockett leads the conference with 7.2 receptions per game for 117.2 yards. Lockett also leads the Big 12 in all-purpose yards with 157.2 per game.
  • Oklahoma is looking to become the first current member of the Big 12 to defeat Notre Dame since Texas knocked off the Fighting Irish, 21-17, in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 1970.
  • OU has won 36 straight games when leading at halftime.
  • OU and Notre Dame have combined to win 1,702 games. ND is third nationally with 868 all-time wins; OU is sixth nationally with 834 all-time wins.
  • OU and Notre Dame combined have spent 1,476 weeks in the AP Poll.
  • OU is 11-7 against ranked teams on the road under Bob Stoops.
  • Notre Dame is 28-4-1 all-time against current Big 12 opponents.
  • Oklahoma State has outscored its first three opponents 108-13 in the first three quarters of its games this season.
  • Four different Cowboys have scored a special teams touchdown during their career at OSU.
  • Oklahoma State and West Virginia will meet for just the fifth time ever on Saturday. It's the Cowboys' first visit to Morgantown, W.Va. since 1928.
  • WVU has three members of its staff with strong OSU ties. Head coach Dana Holgorsen was OSU's offensive coordinator under Mike Gundy in 2010. Special teams coordinator Joe DeForest coached at OSU from 2001-11 and graduate assistant Andrew McGee played at OSU in 2009 and 2010.
  • Holgorsen recruited OSU quarterback J.W. Walsh to play in Stillwater. Walsh kept his commitment to the Cowboys after Holgorsen left for WVU in Dec. 2010.
  • OSU has gained at least 400 yards in 28 of its last 29 games.
  • Cowboys linebacker Shaun Lewis has started 35 straight games.
  • OSU has scored 15 touchdowns in 15 trips to the red zone this season.
  • Ten different players have scored touchdowns for OSU this season.
  • Texas is averaging 6.98 yards per play on second down, helping them gain 41 first downs on second-down plays. They've gained 48 first downs on first- and third-down plays combined.
  • Texas Tech's Jace Amaro leads the Big 12 with 12 receptions on third down for 205 yards and one touchdown. KSU's Lockett is second with seven third-down catches.
  • TCU is 3-1 in 11 a.m. games during the past two seasons.
  • TCU coach Gary Patterson is 9-2 as a head coach against SMU.
  • TCU has a seven-game win streak in games following a bye week.
  • Under Patterson, TCU is 25-8 in games following a loss.
  • TCU has won five of the last six games against SMU.
  • TCU has faced SMU 92 times, tying the Mustangs with Texas A&M for the second-most meetings with the Horned Frogs.
  • Trevone Boykin's 101 rushing yards against Texas Tech made him the first TCU quarterback since David Roscoe (vs. BYU in 1987) to reach 100 rushing yards in a game.
  • Texas Tech ranks No. 4 nationally with 408.5 passing yards.
  • The Red Raiders rank No. 4 nationally in red zone efficiency allowed at 22.2 percent.
  • Texas Tech ranks No. 5 nationally in goal-to-go efficiency allowed at 16.7 percent.
  • The Red Raiders rank No. 7 nationally in kickoff return yardage allowed at 16.63 yards per return.
  • Fourteen players have made their first start for West Virginia this season, including quarterback Ford Childress and running back Charles Sims.
  • West Virginia is eighth nationally with 30 underclassmen on its depth chart, making the Mountaineers the Big 12's youngest team.
  • West Virginia is 97-93-1 all-time in nationally televised games. Saturday's game against OSU is WVU's 192nd network television appearance.
  • WVU's shutout loss to Maryland was the first time in 151 games that the Mountaineers were held scoreless since Oct. 6, 2001, against Virginia Tech.

What we learned in the Big 12: Week 4

September, 22, 2013
9/22/13
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Iowa State, TCU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were all off. But we still learned plenty about the Big 12 in Week 4:

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsBaylor QB Bryce Petty leads the nation in QBR and the Bears have been nearly unstoppable in its nonconference games.
1. Baylor can’t be stopped: What the Bears have accomplished in three nonconference games has been incredible. Sure, the nonconference slate was bad. But the numbers Baylor is putting up are absurd. Capped with the 70-7 win over Monroe, the Bears outscored their three nonconference opponents by a combined score of 209-23 -- the largest scoring differential in an opening three games, according to ESPN Stats & Information, by any FBS team of the past 10 seasons. The Bears lead the nation in scoring, Bryce Petty leads in the nation in QBR and running back Lache Seastrunk is averaging 11 yards per carry. This offense, obviously, faces tougher tests ahead. But Baylor has the look of an offense that will be scoring on everyone it faces.

2. West Virginia can’t score: How far the West Virginia offense has fallen since that 70-point outburst in the 2011 Orange Bowl. In the first half against Maryland, the West Virginia offensive effort was futile. West Virginia compiled 65 yards compared to 61 yards in penalties; the Mountaineers also had as many first downs (two) as interceptions in the first half, as Maryland jumped to a 30-0 halftime lead before coasting to the 37-0 victory in Baltimore. Coach Dana Holgorsen said afterward he’s sticking with Ford Childress at quarterback, but the quarterback can only do so much with the West Virginia offensive line and receivers. Had running backs Charles Sims and Dreamius Smith not transferred in, this offense would be completely hopeless -- assuming it isn’t already.

3. Texas proved it doesn’t always lie down: During Big 12 media days, Kansas State linebacker Tre Walker was quoted saying that “Texas laid down a little bit” in their game last season because “that’s what they do.” Despite tumbling in with a two-game losing streak, the Longhorns didn’t lie down Saturday, instead grinding out a 31-21 win over the Wildcats. Who knows what -- if anything -- the win will do for Mack Brown or the Longhorns’ season? At the least, the win offered a little respite for a team that’s had to endure nothing but negativity since the first week of the season.

4. The Kansas schools have issues offensively: Both Kansas and Kansas State should be better offensively than what they’ve showed. Despite having former blue-chipper Jake Heaps at quarterback and one of the league’s better running back tandems in Tony Pierson and James Sims, the Jayhawks needed 10 points in the fourth quarter to edge out Louisiana Tech, 13-10. Meanwhile, against a Texas defense that had been porous stopping the run, the Wildcats managed just 115 yards rushing on 38 carries. If not for wideout Tyler Lockett, K-State might not have scored the whole night. Both the Kansas and K-State offenses have good players. Just not good offenses at the moment.

5. Texas Tech is back to square one at QB: For the second straight game, Davis Webb replaced fellow true freshman Baker Mayfield at quarterback. Last week, it was due to injury. In Saturday’s sloppy 33-7 win over Texas State, it was due mostly to the offense remaining stagnant, though Mayfield did get shaken up after taking a shot to his back. Mayfield completed 13 of 18 passes for 122 yards and an interception before getting replaced. But Webb didn’t fare all that much better, going 19-of-43 passing for 310 yards and an interception. Webb also badly missed Jakeem Grant and Jace Amaro wide open in the end zone near the end of the game. Coach Kliff Kingsbury said both quarterbacks would play going forward, but he also noted the position “just has to get better.” It’s unclear how Kingsbury will use his quarterbacks, but Michael Brewer is getting closer to practicing again after sitting out the past several weeks with a back injury. Brewer, the projected starter going into the preseason, could ultimately become Kingsbury’s answer at quarterback once he returns.

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