Texas Longhorns: Wes Lunt
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.
As hard as it is to play at Boone Pickens Stadium, this game still will come down to the players. Texas' two-deep is better than the two-deep of Oklahoma State. This is the game where the Texas defense stands up, and while I do not think they will have the dominating stats in sacks and interceptions, they will disrupt the flow of the Cowboys offense, and that will be more important.
This is the game where David Ash throws his first pick but will show strong resolve. Texas fans will walk out of this game feeling better about the Longhorns as a whole and about Ash in particular. The Texas running game will be the star of the show again, along with the UT defensive line that will be working against a retooled Cowboys offensive line.
- Sean Adams
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
1. Handling success
Texas doesn’t understand success. Not anymore. Not after going 5-7 and 8-5. After starting 4-0 last season, Texas was unable to string together wins against teams with winning records. For example, back-to-back wins against Kansas and Texas Tech were followed by back-to-back losses to Missouri and Kansas State. A win against Texas A&M was followed by a loss to Baylor.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
No. 1: 24
Oklahoma State leads the Big 12 in plays of 20-plus yards with 24 so far. That is to be expected. The Cowboys are all about getting into space, making a play and throwing it deep. They also played Savannah State, and that no doubt has played into inflating the stat.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
Conference: Big 12
Record vs. Texas: 4-22
Last game: The Cowboys got the win over a lowly Louisiana-Lafayette team but suffered the loss of quarterback Wes Lunt. The freshman was named the starter in the spring and as such took the majority of the snaps in the preseason. Lunt had set a Big 12 freshman record of 436 passing yards against Arizona the previous week. His status for the Texas game remains unclear. Another freshman, J.W. Walsh, finished out the Lafayette game for the Cowboys.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
The junior linebacker suffered a hip injury against Ole Miss a week ago and is still not 100 percent. Texas will check his health at Tuesday's practice. But the team's leading tackler is probably a longshot to make it on the field for Oklahoma State.
"Without Jordan, that's a leader on defense there," said Quandre Diggs.
The issue for Texas is it is not sure which of those young linebackers is ready to step up and play against the nation's top-scoring offense.
"We have the first three linebackers," said coach Mack Brown of Hicks, Demarco Cobbs and Steve Edmond. "Then we have a group. If the injury were on offensive line [offensive line coach] Stacy [Searels] would know to put Luke Poehlmann in. In the secondary, [secondary coach] Duane [Akina] would put in either Josh Turner or Mykkele Thompson. At linebacker there is a group of players."
Brown and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz sat down Sunday night to try and figure out contingency plans. The one thing they struck upon was that they did not want to have to be handcuffed by putting a certain player in at a certain position. Instead, Texas is going to play the next best linebacker no matter if his speciality is middle, strong side or weak side.
So that could force some shifting among the linebackers. When Hicks went out against Ole Miss, Cobbs slid from the strong side to the weak side and Kendall Thompson came in at the strong side. Edmond stayed in the middle.
But with an off week to prepare, Texas was able to shift guys around and experiment with sets that allowed for Dalton Santos, a natural middle linebacker, to be on the field with Edmond.
The Big 12 power rankings are heavily influenced by what each team did in the previous week, and aren't necessarily a reflection of the Big 12 standings.
Think of it this way: As of right now, this is how well each Big 12 team is playing. Here's how I slot it to begin the season:
1. Oklahoma: The Sooners have an awkward opener, kicking things off on the road out in the desert against UTEP at 10:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. Still, we'll get a first look at a revamped offensive line and the new, young receivers Landry Jones will be throwing to all season. Look out for a coming out party from Trey Metoyer, the Big 12 Preseason Newcomer of the Year.
2. West Virginia: West Virginia plays Saturday's first game, kicking off against in-state rival Marshall at noon. The Big 12 newcomers have all the offense they need, but what will the pass rush look like with new defensive coordinators Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson?
3. Kansas State: K-State opens with Missouri State on Saturday night, with Collin Klein's revamped arm on display after an offseason of development. Everyone's watching that. What they should be watching? How does the offensive line look after replacing three starters?
4. Texas: The Longhorns settled on David Ash at quarterback, but the season opener Saturday night against Wyoming on the Longhorn Network. The defense will be fiendishly fun to watch this year, but how much better is Ash? We'll get somewhat of a feel in this one.
5. TCU: Oh, you poor Frogs. TCU is officially a Big 12 member, but has to sit and watch all Saturday as the rest of the Big 12 opens their respective seasons. It gives Amon G. Carter Stadium one more week to prepare for the debut of its facelift, but by the time it does next week against Grambling, 13 Big 12 games will have been completed.
6. Oklahoma State: The defending Big 12 champs are the sixth team in the mix for a Big 12 title in 2012, but their hopes rest on the 18-year-old shoulders of Wes Lunt, a true freshman we haven't heard much out of all summer or fall camp. The Pokes don't know who his top target will be just yet, but the defense that supports the offense should be improved from 2011. We'll see them open up against the poor saps at Savannah State (yuck) on Saturday night.
7. Baylor: The post-RG3 era doesn't officially kick off until Sunday, when Nick Florence takes a snap against Baylor's old Southwest Conference rival, SMU. Last year's opener against TCU proved to be one of the most memorable games of the season. Florence and receivers Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese have the firepower to outgun the Mustangs in a shootout. Hyped transfer Lache Seastrunk will make his long-awaited debut after coming back home from Oregon.
8. Texas Tech: Tech opens against Northwestern State on Saturday night. That's no big challenge. Staying healthy could be after two injury-riddled years to start the Tommy Tuberville Era. Keep an eye on how running back Eric Stephens looks after returning from a catastrophic knee injury last season.
9. Iowa State: The Cyclones should be challenged in their 3:30 p.m. visit fron Tulsa. Steele Jantz quarterbacked ISU to three fourth-quarter comebacks to open last season, and he may need another one. Paul Rhoads' Cyclones are a slight underdog in this windy weather showdown.
10. Kansas: Kansas' last coach, Turner Gill, opened with a disastrous 6-3 loss against FCS outfit North Dakota State two years ago. This time, Charlie Weis takes on South Dakota State. He's got a better team. Expect a better result Saturday for the former Notre Dame coach and a former Irish quarterback, Dayne Crist.
The favorite: Oklahoma. The Sooners lost a shot at the Big 12 title in the season finale against Oklahoma State last year, but they bring back QB Landry Jones and a handful of the team's best defenders. Jones needs to find more receivers opposite Kenny Stills, and injuries on the offensive line pose a few questions, but the Sooners are in the familiar spot of the team to beat entering 2012.
The new guys: West Virginia and TCU. Texas A&M and Missouri checked out for the SEC in 2012, but the Big 12 replaced them with a pair of teams who would have been in the Big East this season. The Horned Frogs, in nearby Fort Worth, and the Mountaineers, in far-away Morgantown, bring with them two high-powered offenses that should fit right in with their new Big 12 brethren.
The stirring giant: Texas. The Longhorns have won just 13 games the past two seasons. By comparison, they won the same number in 2005, the last time they won a national title. Mack Brown has revamped his staff with new coordinators and position coaches, and young talent is taking over in Austin. Texas isn't back yet from a five-win season in 2010, but this could be the year it starts making everyone take the Longhorns seriously again as a perennial title contender.
The up-and-comer: Baylor. The Bears broke through for their best season ever and the school's first Heisman winner. Robert Griffin III is gone and the 10 wins are in the past. Still, the Bears have a new stadium under construction and enough talent to get back to a bowl in 2012. That's pretty amazing. Art Briles is building something out of nothing at Baylor. The Bears look like they're in position to go to a bowl nearly every year moving forward after reaching their first bowl in Big 12 history back in 2010.
The guys with something to prove: Oklahoma State and Kansas State. K-State's got to prove last year's 10-win season was legitimate, despite the number of games won in the final minutes. Despite returning 17 starters and all the key pieces from a 10-win team, the Wildcats aren't even in everyone's top 20. Oklahoma State, meanwhile, has to prove last year's Big 12 title was more than an accident or a one-time thing. They'll roll true freshman Wes Lunt out at quarterback to start the road back to a second league title.
Fighting to stay relevant: Texas Tech. The Red Raiders used to be the only team who could seem to beat Oklahoma and/or Texas with any consistency. Everyone feared making a trip out to the Plains of West Texas to face Mike Leach's band of pirates. Now? When teams walk into your home stadium and beat you by 60, it's hard to still be taken seriously. Coach Tommy Tuberville's been handcuffed by injuries, but he's got to get it turned around in Lubbock -- and fast. Fans are unhappy after last year's 5-7 campaign, the first losing season in almost two decades.
Trying to take the next step: Iowa State. Iowa State's cracked a bowl game in two of three seasons under Paul Rhoads, but did so just barely in both seasons, and needed huge upsets against Nebraska and Oklahoma State to make it happen. Iowa State's still trying to build, but enters 2012 with a quarterback controversy on its hands. The Cyclones were once again picked eighth in the league, but can Rhoads keep gaining momentum in Ames?
Trying to catch up: Kansas. The Jayhawks are just 1-23 in their last 24 Big 12 games, and the one team they beat (Colorado) left the Big 12. That stretch has included a whole lot of embarrassing losses for one reason or another, but former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis is in charge now, with four Super Bowl rings and a renewed sense of purpose in tow. Can he turn it around in Lawrence after KU bottomed out following its Orange Bowl win to close the 2007 season?
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.
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.
Here's how I voted:
Offensive Player of the Year: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. In talking with people involved with the conference voting process this week at media days, I learned that the final vote between Smith and Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones was very, very close. I went with Geno. It's pretty close, but I didn't debate this one very much. Smith was inconsistent at times last year, sure, but when it mattered most, he was great. Jones faltered in big spots. Sure, Jones doesn't have the same quality of targets for all of last season after Ryan Broyles went down, but when it came to numbers, Smith dominated. Additionally, he takes care of the ball much more efficiently than Jones. That counts for a lot. Even though Smith has never played a down in the Big 12, I went with the Mountaineers' man for the preseason award.
Defensive Player of the Year: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State. There's no slam dunk here. You could probably make a case for no fewer than seven or eight guys. After a lot of debate, I voted for Brown. I mostly did so because of his importance to Kansas State's defense. His speed in the middle and locked-in tackling make him more valuable to his team than any other player in the league. The SnyderCats aren't loaded on depth and athletes, but Brown has the measurables to play for anybody in the league. He's irreplaceable for Kansas State and his speed and athleticism make him a specimen anybody would love to have. Anybody else remember him hurdling a blocker in the Cotton Bowl against Arkansas? Not many guys can do that.
Newcomer of the Year: Trey Metoyer, WR, Oklahoma. This was a tough vote, too. You hear a lot about these guys and have to go by players' words in these days of closed practices. For me, Newcomer of the Year comes down to opportunity and need, though. Metoyer has been hyped by coaches and teammates since he arrived on campus as a freak athlete, but he's got to do more than contribute. Oklahoma needs him to be a huge factor, and he'll have every opportunity to do so. He's got a Heisman candidate in Jones throwing him the ball, an established weapon in Kenny Stills to take some attention from defenses and a great offensive line. All the pieces are in place for him to be very, very productive. For me, that earned him my vote just ahead of guys like Wes Lunt and Blake Jackson at Oklahoma State, Dayne Crist at Kansas, Brandon Moore at Texas, Will Smith and SaDale Foster at Texas Tech and Lache Seastrunk at Baylor.
As for the conference members, the hype surrounds newcomers West Virginia and TCU as well as the usual suspects: Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State.
Each team has question marks and issues and anyone who thinks they have a clear-cut conference winner is off their rocker.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
When: Monday, July 23 and Tuesday, July 24. TCU, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech will be up on Day 1. Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Texas and West Virginia will be speaking to the media on Day 2. Here's the full player roster.
Where: Westin Galleria hotel, north Dallas. The players could wander outside the hotel and hit up the skating rink at the Galleria mall, but they'll probably be a little too busy to strap on skates or go shopping.
Big names in attendance: West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith and Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones top the list of guys who will be hounded by media from start to finish. The same goes for Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, last season's breakout star.
Big names not in attendance: The biggest will be Oklahoma State quarterback Wes Lunt, who's staying home per Mike Gundy's rule against first-year players speaking with the media. He'll be sticking to it, even though he named the true freshman his starting quarterback in the spring. Texas also won't be bringing either of its quarterbacks, including likely starter David Ash. West Virginia is leaving its leading receiver, Stedman Bailey, at home, and Texas star defenders Alex Okafor and Kenny Vaccaro are banned from representing the team to media after an offseason incident. Oklahoma stars and two-thirds of the California trio -- safety Tony Jefferson and wide receiver Kenny Stills -- won't be representing the Sooners, either.
What to watch for:
- Media days are traditionally full of mostly fluffy fodder, but the TCU players in attendance will face some pressing, difficult questions. Coach Gary Patterson withheld his players from media interviews for the entirety of the spring after an offseason campus drug sting that resulted in four player arrests and removals from the team. The players haven't been asked about anything surrounding the incidents since, and they're bound to come up in the first interviews since.
- Look out for a debate on which Big 12 quarterback is the best. You could make a case for Smith, Jones or Klein, but this blog's readers are firmly in the "Smith" camp.
- This year expect the main topic of conversation to center around "How will TCU and WVU adjust?" It's already been talked about plenty, but for the Big 12, that's better than "Is the league really stable?" or "Will Texas A&M leave?" -- a few of the simmering topics of conversation last year.
- Each coach gets 15 minutes at the podium before a break for lunch and a return to the breakout room. Players will be available in the afternoon, too. Last year, Art Briles stole the show on the podium, and expect him to do the same with a few one-liners this year. Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville and Texas' Mack Brown are also usually pretty entertaining, but West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen might have a few cracks up his sleeve too, as he looks to make a name for himself in his first Big 12 Media Days.
- Expect Kansas' Charlie Weis to be disarmingly honest, a refreshing change from his predecessor and the majority of coaches in attendance. Expect Oklahoma's Bob Stoops to drop an "in the end" more than a few times. Kansas State's Bill Snyder will be frivolous in referring to his players as "youngsters."
- It'll be civil. The SEC has a few coaches who love to prod each other -- mostly Steve Spurrier. The Big 12 coaching fraternity is largely a boring one when it comes to feuds. Everybody looks up to Snyder, respects Stoops and Brown, and gets along with everyone else. If anybody's going to spice it up, it'll be Tuberville or Holgorsen. There aren't many issues or opportunities, unless they want to go out of their way to stir the pot.
- Here's hoping Paul Rhoads shows up and is so proud of a thick beard. The Big 12 doesn't have a coach with any facial hair, and Rhoads has been rolling with one of the greatest beards in existence all offseason. Please, let it live. This is my plea.
- We may get a little talk on what the coaches think of bringing in new teams, whether it be Florida State, Notre Dame or Louisville. For now, it's a little early, but realignment is always in the back of any college football fan's mind.
Remember, these are preseason predictions. We'll obviously still do week-to-week picks once the season arrives, and they may change between now and then. There are a lot of preseason practices and a whole lot of games between now and the end of the season.
There are always teams who disappoint and teams who surprise. But here's how I see the Big 12 shaking out in Week 5.
Texas Tech 41, Iowa State 31: Iowa State has beaten the Red Raiders in each of the past two seasons, but the Red Raiders get their revenge in Ames this time. Seth Doege shreds an underrated Iowa State secondary, and with an offense that's finally healthy, gets Texas Tech looking like it's back on the right track. The heat on Tommy Tuberville feels pretty nil so far.
Texas 31, Oklahoma State 14: Growing pains had to happen sometime. Texas scored on its first two possessions and forced Oklahoma State to miss a field goal on its first to take a 14-0 lead. Wes Lunt forced balls at the worst possible time against the league's best defense and the true freshman finishes with four interceptions. Texas looks like a serious Big 12 title contender, and Oklahoma State's conference opener is a rough one. Both teams will only get better, though.
TCU 38, SMU 31: TCU struggles early, but earns its revenge in Dallas over a fast-improving June Jones team. Garrett Gilbert's Redemption Tour crashes back into the Big 12, but TCU's offense is too much. The powerful running game wears down the Ponies in the fourth quarter and keeps Gilbert, Zach Line and the rest of the offense off the field.
BIG 12 STANDINGS (after Week 4)
1. TCU: 4-0 (1-0)
1. Texas: 4-0 (1-0)
1. Texas Tech: 4-0 (1-0)
1. West Virginia: 4-0 (1-0)
5. Oklahoma: 3-0 (1-0)
6. Oklahoma State: 3-1 (0-1)
6. Baylor: 3-1 (0-1)
6. Kansas State: 3-1 (0-1)
6. Kansas: 3-1 (0-1)
10. Iowa State: 2-2 (0-1)
To get more information on the Cowboys, Carter Strickland spoke to The Oklahoman (Oklahoma City) beat writer Gina Mizell:
Carter Strickland: No. 1: The obvious layup question of the day when it comes to Oklahoma State has to be about the quarterbacks. Mike Gundy made a lot of noise this spring when he named a true freshman, Wes Lunt, his starter. Texas fans know how that usually goes, so what makes Gundy think Lunt is ready for the Big 12?
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
1. Landry Jones, Oklahoma (37 starts): Jones is the league's elder statesman by a long, long ways. He took over as a redshirt freshman in 2009 when Sam Bradford injured his shoulder, and didn't miss any of his 27 starts in 2010 and 2011.
2. Geno Smith, West Virginia (26 starts): Smith has been the team's unquestioned starter for each of the past two seasons, and should be ready for a big 2012 after topping 4,000 yards in 2011.
4. Casey Pachall, TCU (13 starts): Pachall played well in his first year as a starter, but often relied on his three star running backs in the offense and didn't top 3,000 yards. He's ready for more responsibility if necessary this year.
5. Seth Doege, Texas Tech (13 starts): Doege earned one start all the way back in 2009, but ceded that spot by the end of the game. He did no such thing in a strong 2011 season, though Tech missed a bowl game and had a losing season (5-7) for the first time in almost two decades.
6. Dayne Crist, Kansas (10 starts): Crist's 10 starts all came at Notre Dame, but there doesn't look to be much challenge from any other QBs on the roster this season. Does he have the offensive weapons to be productive?
7. Nick Florence, Baylor (seven starts): Florence started seven games in 2009 when Robert Griffin III suffered a knee injury, and earned a half of playing time last season against Texas Tech that cost him his redshirt season.
8. Steele Jantz, Iowa State (seven starts): Jantz got off to a strong start, but never figured out his very serious turnover issues. That cost him his starting job in midseason, despite three fourth-quarter comebacks to begin the 2011 season 3-0.
9. David Ash, Texas (six starts): Ash was the fourth-string QB last summer, but when Garrett Gilbert and Connor Wood transferred, it was up to him and Case McCoy to carry the load. By season's end, Ash had established himself as the future at the position, at least immediately, but Texas' coaches haven't given him the official designation yet.
10. Jared Barnett, Iowa State (six starts): Barnett took over for Jantz in the middle of the season and engineered wins over Texas Tech, Kansas and a historic win over No. 2 Oklahoma State, but struggled with inconsistency late and opened up the competition to Jantz in a Pinstripe Bowl loss to Rutgers. There's no assurance for either to be the starter after the spring.
11. Case McCoy, Texas (five starts): McCoy's gutsiest performance came in a comeback win over Texas A&M, but his lack of arm strength limited what the Longhorns could do in 2011. McCoy's got all the heart you could ask for, but his physical attributes bring about plenty of questions about his ability to carry the team over the course of his career.
12. Wes Lunt, Oklahoma State (zero starts): Lunt shocked even his own offensive coordinator by beating out junior Clint Chelf and redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh in the spring to earn the starting job. He still has to validate that spot in the fall, but Lunt is in a class of his own at the bottom of the Big 12 when it comes to experience. He's a big, NFL-sized QB with a big arm, though. Can his mind catch up fast enough to help the Cowboys defend a Big 12 title?
Texas' Strong Discusses Aggressive Offense, Defense
BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
TBD North Dakota State Iowa State TBD Louisiana Tech Oklahoma TBD North Texas Texas TBD Stephen F. Austin Kansas State TBD Samford TCU TBD Central Arkansas Texas Tech 3:30 PM ET West Virginia Alabama 8:00 PM ET Florida State Oklahoma State