Texas Longhorns: James Sims

All-Big 12 players such as Lache Seastrunk, Aaron Colvin and Ahmad Dixon had to wait until the final day to be drafted. Jackson Jeffcoat, James Sims and Josh Stewart settled for free-agent deals after going undrafted.

You have expectations going in, but truthfully, you just never know how the NFL draft is going to play out. The good organizations know, however, that you can't construct a contender without finding high-impact player in the draft's final rounds.

Borrowing a page from our friends over at ESPN.com's SEC blog, who authored this thoughtful post earlier this week, here's a reminder why you shouldn't sleep on the late-round choices.

Here are a handful of active players from Big 12 schools who were not selected in their respective drafts' first three rounds but have still managed to develop into big-time talents, starters and contributors. The round they were drafted in is listed in parentheses, and FA indicates the player was an undrafted free agent.
Seventeen Big 12 players heard their names called during the 2014 NFL draft. Many other Big 12 alums will have a chance at the next level as undrafted free agents.

Below is a list of undrafted players who reportedly have agreed to free agent deals. This is not a final list, as teams are still working to sign undrafted free agents. But these are the players we know of so far.

Baylor
Iowa State
Kansas
Kansas State
Oklahoma
Oklahoma State
TCU
Texas
Texas Tech
West Virginia

Reviewing the Big 12 pro days

March, 31, 2014
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Pro day season has come and gone. Draft-eligible players returned to school this month and hit the weight room and practice field to give NFL scouts a taste of their potential. Here’s a rundown of how the Big 12’s top draft prospects fared as well as a few who surprised.

TCU (March 6)
Big name: CB Jason Verrett. A total of 26 NFL teams had reps at the Horned Frogs’ pro day, and you know many of them came for Verrett. He didn’t look to improve his 40 time from the NFL combine (4.38), but he did show off a 39 -inch vertical and benched 19 reps.
Sleeper: QB Casey Pachall. While he’ll have to answer lots of questions about his off-field issues, Pachall’s on-field work at pro day was encouraging. He checked in at 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds, ran his 40 in the mid-4.9s and completed 62 of 72 passes, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Kansas State (March 11)
Big name: S Ty Zimmerman. Though 20 Kansas State players worked out at pro day, Zimmerman was not one of them. He’s still recovering from labrum surgery and reportedly plans to hold a workout next month to show his progress.
Sleeper: OT Cornelius Lucas. Hard to project how things will play out for Lucas, a mammoth tackle at 6-8 and 316 pounds, after he discovered a stress fracture in his left foot at the NFL combine. He’s supposed to be out up to eight weeks but plans to work out along with Zimmerman on April 28.

Oklahoma (March 12)
Big name: CB Aaron Colvin. The Sooners had 28 NFL organization represented at their pro day, but a few key players were still on the mend. Colvin, who suffered a torn ACL at the Senior Bowl, did not work out but hopes to be running again by late April and vowed his recovery is ahead of schedule.
Sleeper: C Gabe Ikard. While Ikard elected to stand by his combine numbers, which were strong for his position group, he did use the pro day to show in position drills just how athletic an interior lineman he can be for an NFL club. Running back Damien Williams also made a solid impression, and receiver Jalen Saunders drew mixed reviews after poor shuttle times.

Oklahoma State (March 13)
Big name: CB Justin Gilbert. The Steelers have the No. 15 pick, so it made sense that Mike Tomlin and his GM were among the many coaches in Stillwater to scout Gilbert. He stood by his 4.37 in the 40 from the NFL combine but did agility drills and reportedly wowed in his position drills. He’s a first-rounder, no doubt.
Sleeper: WR Josh Stewart. Well, OK, he’s not much of a sleeper. But Stewart had work to do to raise his stock, and pro day should’ve helped. He improved his 40 slightly, from 4.69 at the combine to 4.59 at pro day, and showed what he can do as a receiver and returner. Safety Daytawion Lowe also made a good impression.

Texas Tech (March 14)
Big name: TE Jace Amaro. The All-America tight end tried to secure a spot in the first round with improvements in the 40 (4.68) and vertical, and at 6-5 and 266 pounds he evoked comparisons to Vernon Davis from one 49ers scout.
Sleeper: CB Bruce Jones. He’s undersized at 5-7 and 183 pounds, but Jones did grab some attention at pro day with a run of a 4.5-second 40 time and team-best vertical of 41 inches.

Kansas (March 14)
Big name: RB James Sims. A dozen scouts showed up for the Jayhawks’ pro day, and the highlight was probably Sims busting off a run of 4.56 seconds in the 40. The 6-foot, 205-pound back was not invited to the NFL combine and told the Lawrence Journal-World he felt good about the numbers he put up.

Baylor (March 19)
Big names: OT Cyril Richardson, RB Lache Seastrunk, S Ahmad Dixon. Richardson shed 20 pounds after his senior season, which had to encourage NFL scouts, and he did nothing at his pro day to diminish his chances of being a top-50 pick. Seastrunk was as explosive as expected, with a time of 4.37 in the 40 and a 4.36 second shuttle, and tried to show off his pass-catching ability. Dixon ran a 4.64 in the 40 at the NFL combine and improved that to 4.48 at pro day.
Sleeper: TE Jordan Najvar. At nearly 6-6 and 280 pounds, Najvar certainly has the size to make the NFL. His speed had been a question mark, but his reported best for pro day was 4.86 seconds in the 40.

West Virginia (March 21)
Big name: RB Charles Sims. A nice showing at the NFL combine (40 time: 4.48) meant Sims needed only to do positional drills, and he drew good reviews for his pass-catching ability despite small hands.
Sleeper: DE Will Clarke. Knowing it’s possible he’ll be asked to play outside linebacker in an NFL scheme, Clarke worked out at both end and linebacker on pro day and tried to show what he can bring to pass coverage as a nearly 6-6, 268-pound defender.

Iowa State (March 25)
Big name: LB Jeremiah George. After a subpar showing at the combine, George had a nice day in front of 30 NFL officials. He hit 4.69 in the 40-yard dash, posted a big improvement in his broad jump and was solid in positional work.
Sleeper: CB Jeremy Reeves. How’s this for a success story? Reeves played at ISU from 2010-12, missed last season with a pectoral injury and showed up to pro day to prove he’s still got it. He had a crazy good day: 4.29-second 40, 43-inch vertical, 11-foot broad jump. The New York Jets signed him on Friday.

Texas (March 26)
Big name: DE Jackson Jeffcoat. Like most other top prospects, Jeffcoat stuck with his NFL combine testing numbers. The 6-3, 253-pound end demonstrated his coverage ability in position drills amid talk that he might have to be a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level.
Sleeper: CB Carrington Byndom. Questions about the three-year starter’s speed were put to rest when he ran his 40 in 4.37 seconds. Byndom was happy with his positional drills and is starting to line up meetings.

2013 Big 12 Super Seniors

January, 27, 2014
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Before we wrap up our review of the 2013 season, it’s time to pay homage to the Big 12’s top seniors.

After much deliberation, we’ve selected the best 12 seniors in the league, period. These players all raised their game this season with their on-field production, leadership and impact to their respective teams.

[+] EnlargeJustin Gilbert
J.P. Wilson/Icon SMIOklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert had 12 career interceptions.
This wasn’t easy, and a lot of talented and deserving seniors did not make the cut. This was a particularly challenging season, with more than 30 seniors earning All-Big 12 honors from the league’s coaches. We looked closely at how these players fared in conference play, their consistency and whether they were able to make it through the full season.

Here are our 2013 Big 12 Super Seniors, listed in alphabetical order:

Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma: His senior-year stats weren’t stunning -- Colvin recorded 55 tackles, an interception and three pass breakups -- but it’s not as if opposing quarterbacks were interested in throwing his way. The three-year starter was a longtime leader of this Sooners defense and now has a long road to recovery ahead after suffering a torn ACL at the Senior Bowl.

Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor: Love him or hate him, the All-American is one of the best playmakers in the Big 12. The hard-hitting safety racked up 81 tackles, six pass breakups and one interception and served as the enforcer over the middle of a much-improved Bears defense.

Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State: After an unsatisfying junior season, Gilbert stepped up big again for the Cowboys with a Big 12-leading seven interceptions along with seven pass breakups and 42 tackles. He’ll go down as both a lockdown corner and elite kick returner in his time at OSU.

Gabe Ikard, C, Oklahoma: No player is more deserving of making this list than Ikard, an All-America lineman on the field and Capital One Academic All-American of the Year in the classroom. He won the Wuerffel Trophy for his combination of athletic, academic and community service success. He was one of the nation’s best at his position and brought off-the-charts leadership to the Sooners.

Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas: Finally injury-free for a full season, Jeffcoat shined in his last year as a Longhorn and led the Big 12 in sacks (13) and tackles for loss (19) to earn consensus All-America honors. When Texas lost its defensive coordinator and two of its first three games, Jeffcoat stepped up and played a big role in turning Texas’ season around.

Eddie Lackey, LB, Baylor: The Bears found one heck of a steal in Lackey, a junior college transfer who finished with 108 tackles (13 for loss), 4.5 sacks and three INTs in his senior season. He earned All-Big 12 honors for his play and probably deserved more than that for what he brought to this unit.

Caleb Lavey, LB, Oklahoma State: Sure seems like this guy was a little too underrated during the 2013 season. Lavey led the Pokes in tackles with 93 and a team-high 13 tackles for loss, and he chipped in four interceptions, three pass breakups and 2.5 sacks. Oklahoma State’s defense emerged as the league’s best for much of the season and Lavey was a big reason why with his play over the middle.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsBaylor linebacker Eddie Lackey was a big part of the Bears' improved defense.
Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor: The unanimous All-American entered the season with considerable hype and managed to surpass expectations. He paved the way for the No. 1 offense with 89 knockdown blocks and, at 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds, is the kind of menacing guard any coach would love to have leading a line.

Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia: In his only season with the Mountaineers, the Houston transfer was a do-everything workhorse who had no trouble adjusting his game to Big 12 competition. He led the league with 1,496 yards from scrimmage (1,095 rushing, 401 receiving) and scored 14 total touchdowns. The guy wanted to make a name for himself and did just that.

James Sims, RB, Kansas: Sims was quietly one of the best running backs in the Big 12 over the past four years, finishing his career with 3,592 rushing yards after surpassing 1,000 for the second straight year. Though he played for struggling offenses, he made a bigger impact on this program than most realize.

Jason Verrett, CB, TCU: In his only two seasons in the Big 12, Verrett earned All-America honors in back-to-back seasons and was one of the league’s most feared defenders in his final year. The former junior college transfer broke up 14 passes and picked off two, and he didn’t see many more thrown his way.

Ty Zimmerman, S, Kansas State: He dealt with some injury issues in his final season, but the few games he missed made clear just how important Zimmerman was to this K-State defense throughout his career. He finished with 74 tackles, three interceptions and four pass breakups as a senior and started nearly every game of the past four seasons.

Other Big 12 shoes to fill in 2014

January, 23, 2014
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Earlier this week, we examined the three underclassmen leaving the Big 12 and who could replace them at their respective schools. Below, we look at 10 of the biggest shoes to fill in the Big 12 in 2014.

[+] EnlargeAhmad Dixon
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsWill Baylor's defense be able to replace Ahmad Dixon's leadership?
BAYLOR

Ahmad Dixon, S: Dixon was the heart and soul of coach Art Briles’ best defense at Baylor. The All-American was the Baylor defense’s tone-setter and a tackling machine. He was also its vocal leader, and as someone who grew up in Waco, he fully understood the significance of Baylor’s resurgence. With QB Bryce Petty back, the Bears figure to put up the points again. But whether they find another defensive leader like Dixon will play a big part in whether Baylor can repeat as Big 12 champs.

IOWA STATE

Jeremiah George, LB: George finished first in the Big 12 with 133 tackles and ranked fourth nationally with an average of 11.1 per game. That level of defensive production isn’t easily replaced. The onus will be on heir-apparent Luke Knott to keep Iowa State’s strong linebacking tradition rolling next season.

KANSAS

James Sims, RB: The past two seasons, Sims has been -- by far -- Kansas’ top player. With 211 rushing yards and three touchdowns, he carried the Jayhawks to a 31-19 win over West Virginia to snap the school’s 27-game Big 12 losing streak. Sims was able to produce, even when the focal point of defenses was squarely on him. The All-Big 12 back will not be easily replaced.

KANSAS STATE

Ty Zimmerman, S: The Wildcats just weren’t the same defense when Zimmerman had to sit because of injury. With the hard-hitting safety on the sidelines, Oklahoma gashed the Wildcats for 301 rushing yards. When Zimmerman was on the field, K-State was so much steadier defensively. Just ask Michigan, which struggled to move the chains in Zimmerman’s return in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, which the Wildcats won going away, 31-14.

OKLAHOMA

Gabe Ikard, C: Ikard was the constant on an offensive line that held up throughout the season despite constantly changing parts. In the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Ikard was the only Sooners offensive lineman to start in the same spot as the team’s Big 12 opener. And yet, OU became the first team to put 31 first-half points on Alabama under Nick Saban. The Sooners have a nice center prospect in Ty Darlington. But he’ll be stepping in for one of the top centers in college football.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Clint Chelf, QB: The Cowboys lose some key players defensively, notably CB Justin Gilbert, DT Calvin Barnett and LBs Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey. Chelf, however, was the biggest reason for Oklahoma State’s November surge, which put the Cowboys in position to win the Big 12 title on the final day of the regular season. The Cowboys will have to replace him with either J.W. Walsh, who struggled before losing the job back to Chelf, or true freshman Mason Rudolph, who has enrolled for spring ball.

TEXAS

Jackson Jeffcoat, DE: Jeffcoat was the only player from the Big 12 to win a national award, capturing the Ted Hendricks Award, given annually to college football's top defensive end. When the switch was turned on, Jeffcoat was as dominant as any end in college football, tying for third nationally with 13 sacks. The Longhorns return one of the nation’s best non-senior defensive ends in Cedric Reed. Jeffcoat, however, was a special talent.

TEXAS TECH

Eric Ward, WR: Overshadowed somewhat by tight end teammate Jace Amaro, Ward too had an outstanding final season in Lubbock. He finished fifth in the Big 12 in receiving and was a consistent big-play threat on the outside. The Red Raiders will be counting on Reginald Davis to replace Ward on the perimeter.

TCU

Jason Verrett, CB: The co-Big 12 defensive player of the year had a stellar senior season, even though the Horned Frogs struggled as a team. Matched up one-on-one, Verrett completely shut down Baylor All-Big 12 wideout Antwan Goodley in TCU’s final game. The Horned Frogs have some talented players coming back in the secondary, but nobody at the level of Verrett.

WEST VIRGINIA

Charles Sims, RB: The Houston transfer was West Virginia’s best and most consistent offensive weapon all season. Even without the best blocking up front, Sims always managed to produce. Sims was superb at making the first tackler miss and led all Big 12 running backs in receiving. Dreamius Smith is a solid returning running back, but West Virginia will have to improve elsewhere offensively to compensate for the loss of Sims’ versatile skill set.

Big 12 predictions: Week 13

November, 21, 2013
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So, I received this email from Charlie “Bear” Boyd, last week’s guest picker:
I do not know how you pulled off that Kansas pick, but you better believe I will be launching an all-out investigation to see if there was any foul play involved. Seriously, though, well done! You were probably one of five people in the known universe who picked Kansas to beat West Virginia. Props where props are due.

I cannot confirm or deny whether foul play was involved. But Charlie is right about one thing -- props are due.

Like Clint Chelf in his return as Oklahoma State’s quarterback, I’m back with a vengeance in the picks following a sparkling 5-0 week. Sources have told ESPN that KU officials are planning to erect statues of both me and Charlie Weis outside Memorial Stadium to commemorate the West Virginia victory.

Can I keep the train rolling against this week’s guest picker, Wichita, Kan., resident Drew Hays?
Hey, I’m currently wrapping up my masters in sports management at Wichita State, however I graduated undergrad at Oklahoma State in 2012. I currently work in baseball, for an American Association Independent Baseball team called the Wichita Wingnuts (#GoNuts)! Currently, we are in our offseason, which means I get to sit around the house all-day on Saturday's doing nothing but watching football. You were one of two people that had the Jayhawks winning last weekend (very impressive pick I might add) -- my girlfriend was the other one. As a big Jayhawks fan, she likes to constantly remind me that her team beat the team that beat my team. So pick this Wingnut as your guest picker, so I can silence my girlfriend (until Marcus Smart does backflips again in Allen Fieldhouse).

Good luck silencing your girlfriend, Drew. Hope you have better luck than me with my wife (don’t worry, I got permission before writing that).

This weekend, Brandon and I will be in Stillwater manning the game of the week in college football. It should be a good one.

To the Week 12 picks:

SEASON RECORD

Trotter last week: 5-0 (1.000)

Guest picker (Charlie “Bear”) last week: 4-1 (.800)

Trotter overall: 52-15 (.776)

Guest picker overall: 38-12 (.760)

Kansas State 31, Oklahoma 24: An early start with a freshman quarterback (Trevor Knight) with two more key offensive players (RB Damien Williams and WR Lacoltan Bester) out against a well-coached team? This is a tough spot for the Sooners. K-State is on a roll and playing with confidence, while 13 weeks into the season, Oklahoma is still trying to find its footing offensively. Even if QB Trevor Knight shines again, which he does, the Sooners lack the adequate firepower around him to keep up. Instead, K-State drops off 30 for the fifth straight week to thwart Bob Stoops’ attempt to break the Oklahoma record for coaching victories. With a road trip to Stillwater and the bowl game (Holiday Bowl?) all that’s remaining, it could be awhile before Stoops breaks that record, too.

Drew’s pick: Did anyone honestly think I would pick the dark side? The Cats are hot right now, and while the Sooners won’t make this easy, Jack Cantele nails another fourth-quarter field goal to start the party in Aggieville. K-State, 30-27



Kansas 28, Iowa State 24: Usually this time of year, the Jayhawks are the only ones in full basketball mode. But last week, Iowa State fans stormed the court after a home victory over Michigan (come on, guys, it’s November). Then again, given how south this season has gone in Ames, it’s understandable. Meanwhile, James Sims shows again why he’s one of the best running backs in the Big 12, while QB Montell Cozart makes enough plays with his feet to give Kansas -- that’s right -- the third-longest winning streak in the Big 12.

Drew’s pick: As an OSU fan, seeing anyone play a night game at Jack Trice Stadium makes me feel queasy. I don’t expect a repeat performance from Sims from last week, and Iowa State holds on for its first Big 12 win. This pick ensures I will be in the doghouse with my girlfriend for at least a week, but probably longer. Iowa State, 24-17



Baylor 49, Oklahoma State 45: Baylor coach Art Briles said this week that the Bears have played in comparable road environments this season. In actuality, Baylor has only played at Kansas State during the day and Kansas at night. A sold-out Stillwater, with “College GameDay” in town, will be a completely different animal. Especially against these Cowboys, who seem to be improving with every passing week. Especially against this veteran Oklahoma State defense, which is the class of the Big 12. This Baylor offense, however, is the class of college football. And with Levi Norwood emerging at wideout and Lache Seastrunk back to flank Shock Linwood in the backfield, the Bears outgun Oklahoma State in a Big 12 thriller to solidify their No. 3 ranking ahead of Ohio State in the BCS standings.

Drew’s pick: First, I would like to thank the Baylor faithful for returning almost your entire ticket allotment back to OSU. This will only make Boone Pickens Stadium louder. Behind the home crowd, "Choo-Choo" Chelf and Desmond Roland establish the run game early and the Oklahoma State defense keeps forcing turnovers, as the Cowboys prevail in another wild Stillwater shootout. OSU, 45-42

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 12

November, 18, 2013
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Taking stock of Week 12 in the Big 12:

[+] EnlargeCharlie Weis
John Rieger/USA TODAY SportsKansas and coach Charlie Weis were finally able to celebrate a Big 12 win on Saturday, ending a 27-game conference losing skid.
Team of the week: Oklahoma State was dominant in its 38-13 victory at Texas. But team of the week honors go to Kansas, which finally snapped a 27-game Big 12 losing streak with a 31-19 victory over West Virginia. The Jayhawks snapped the streak with authority, too, leading the Mountaineers 31-7 at one point in the fourth quarter. Kansas had been showing mild improvement throughout the season but couldn’t string together a performance over the course of an entire game. Saturday, Charlie Weis’ bunch finally did just that, giving the Jayhawks something tangible to build off moving forward.

Disappointment of the week: The Longhorns had a chance to set up a de facto Big 12 title game with Baylor in the regular-season finale. Instead, Oklahoma State handed Texas its biggest home loss of the Mack Brown era. The Cowboys completely shut down the Texas offense, including quarterback Case McCoy, who threw three interceptions. Texas is still technically alive in the Big 12 title race. But Brown has a better chance of being the coach in Austin next year than Texas does of winning the Big 12 championship.

Big (offensive) men on campus: Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf, Kansas running back James Sims and Baylor receiver Levi Norwood.

Chelf delivered the second-highest adjusted QBR (97.3) of the weekend in college football while leading Oklahoma State to its biggest win of the season. He threw for 197 yards and ran for another 95 while accounting for four touchdowns.

Sims was phenomenal against West Virginia, with 211 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries. His 68-yard scoring run 28 seconds before halftime proved to be the pivotal play in the game. Sims (914 yards) trails only West Virginia’s Charles Sims (946 yards) for the Big 12 rushing title.

Norwood picked up where Tevin Reese left off. With Reese out with a dislocated wrist, Norwood exploded against Texas Tech with 156 yards receiving. Norwood also had touchdown receptions of 40 and 58 yards and a 58-yard punt-return touchdown.

Big (defensive) men on campus: Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert and Kansas linebacker Ben Goodman.

Gilbert had maybe the finest game of his career, picking off McCoy twice. Gilbert leads the Big 12 with six interceptions.

Goodman halted a potential West Virginia scoring drive in the third quarter. He picked off quarterback Paul Millard at the line of scrimmage, then rumbled 54 yards to the Mountaineers' 14-yard line. Sims capitalized on the turnover with a 2-yard touchdown that put the Jayhawks up 24-7.

Special-teams players of the week: Kansas State kicker Jack Cantele and Oklahoma returner Jalen Saunders.

Cantele had never attempted a game-winning field goal before. But when the time came, he delivered, nailing a 41-yard kick with three seconds remaining to lift the Wildcats to a 33-31 win over TCU. Cantele converted his other three field-goal attempts, too, and the Wildcats needed every one of them.

With Iowa State leading OU 10-3 in the second quarter, Saunders broke off a 91-yard punt return TD to tie the game. The Sooners scored 45 unanswered points the rest of the way to rout the Cyclones.

Play of the week: Late in the second quarter of Oklahoma State's victory at Texas, Gilbert intercepted a McCoy pass intended for Kendall Sanders (who decommitted from Oklahoma State to sign with the Longhorns) and then raced 43 yards for his second pick-six of the season. The play put the Cowboys up 28-10 just 18 seconds before halftime, and Oklahoma State was firmly in control the rest of the way.

Stat of the week: Baylor now has six 60-point games this season. The only other FBS team with more than two is Ohio State, which has three.

Quote of the week: “I've warned them, this is different than the Big East. The days of just showing up and playing [are over].” -- West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, after his team became bowl-ineligible after a loss to Kansas

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 12

November, 17, 2013
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Recognizing the best of the best from the Big 12 in Week 12:

RB James Sims, Kansas: The senior rushed for 211 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries, and you know he would’ve traded the stats for a victory if given a chance. On Saturday he got both, as Kansas broke its 27-game Big 12 losing streak with a 31-19 upset of West Virginia. With freshman Montell Cozart at QB, Kansas ran the ball 55 times and threw on 12 plays, with just five completions. Going all-in on the run game paid off big, and the Jayhawks have Sims’ monster day to thank.

WR Levi Norwood, Baylor: The Bears were in need of a big-play threat after losing Tevin Reese for the year. They’ve found one in Norwood, who helped save the day in the first quarter with a 40-yard touchdown catch and a 58-yard punt return for a score after Baylor fell behind 14-0. Norwood finished with seven catches for 156 yards and two scores and 244 all-purpose yards in all.

CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State: Gilbert was the game-changer for OSU in a 38-13 win at Texas. He returned his first interception of Case McCoy 43 yards in the final minute of the first half to put the Cowboys up 28-10, and he snagged another interception off McCoy on a deep ball late in the third quarter. He also finished second on the team with nine tackles on the day.

RB Damien Williams and QB Trevor Knight, Oklahoma: Neither started the game for Oklahoma, but both got the Sooner offense running with their own running. Knight replaced Blake Bell and had a modest passing day, but he ran for 123 yards on 10 carries with a 56-yard score. Williams put up 128 yards and two touchdowns, with one coming from 69 yards out, to put Oklahoma back on track to a blowout win.

K Jack Cantele, Kansas State: Let’s give some love to a kicker for once. Cantele was a perfect 4-for-4 on his attempts against TCU, hitting the easy ones from 31, 34 and 23 and then making a 41-yarder with 3 seconds remaining to give K-State the 33-31 win and secure bowl eligibility.

RB Shock Linwood, Baylor: We’re giving a bonus one to Linwood for another stellar performance filling in for the injured duo of Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin. Linwood carried 29 times for 187 yards and one touchdown. The third-stringer remains No. 2 in the Big 12 in rushing at 101.5 yards per game. He got some help from freshman Devin Chafin, who ran for 100 yards and two scores on 11 rushes.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 10

October, 31, 2013
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Here’s what to watch in the Big 12 for Week 10.

Will Texas Tech rebound after losing to the Sooners? Kliff Kingsbury’s squad pulled out all the stops in their 38-30 setback in Norman. Fake punt returns, halfback passes, onside kicks, nothing was left on the table. Yet, they still lost. It had to be deflating for the Red Raiders. But TTU comes back home to Lubbock with the realization that its Big 12 title hopes remain intact with Oklahoma State, Texas and Baylor remaining on their schedule. If they simply win out and get some help with another conference loss by the Sooners, their title hopes would be well within reach.

Will Oklahoma State remind people it remains in the Big 12 title hunt? The Cowboys still control their destiny with the rest of the top half of the league still on their schedule. OSU can send a message that it has been forgotten during discussions about the Big 12 with a road win in a tough night environment in Lubbock. Multiple starters remain from the 2011 Big 12 title squad so don’t expect the Cowboys to sit back and watch the title be decided without having their say.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports
Can Texas look dominant for the third game in a row? The Longhorns still have doubters thanks to their stumbling, bumbling start to the season. Yet they sit at the top of the Big 12 standings unbeaten in conference play alongside Baylor and have been as impressive as any team in the league during their past two games. If they come out and hammer Kansas, it will display the type of consistency that tends to be a trait of championship squads.

Will Roland keep rollin’? OSU running back Desmond Roland set a career high with 219 rushing yards and four touchdowns in his first collegiate start. What will he do as an encore against a Red Raider defense that has allowed 460 rushing yards in their past two games? TTU will likely try to take the running game away and force Clint Chelf to beat them with his arm.

Who will be the best running back on the turf at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium? Texas’ Johnathan Gray (93.71 rushing yards per game) and Kansas’ James Sims (84.14 ypg) sit at No. 2 and 3 among the Big 12 leaders for rushing yards per game behind Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk (124.14). Clearly, Gray has more help as he strives to make plays but Sims did rush for 176 yards against the Longhorns last season. It should be fun to see two of the Big 12’s top running backs in action on the same field.

How strong is OSU’s defense? The Cowboys are, statistically, one of the best defensive units seen in Stillwater in recent memory. Yet they haven’t seen anything like they will see against Texas Tech on Saturday. The Red Raiders feature a bag full of tricks and receiving corps full of treats unlike any other in the conference. Jace Amaro is an automatic mismatch, Eric Ward can make teams pay for leaving him in one-on-one situations, Jakeem Grant is slippery and fast and Bradley Marquez will hit you with a big play when you least expect it. Few envy the task of Cowboys’ defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer this weekend.

Can Kansas State’s two-quarterback system continue to excel? Each week Bill Snyder is asked about his two-quarterback system and the Wildcats’ head coach commonly responds by saying both guys are good players who can help his team win. While far from colorful, his consistent message is dead-on accurate. Daniel Sams has caused havoc for Big 12 defenses all season and when West Virginia came out with a plan to stop Sams, Jake Waters promptly made the Mountaineers’ pay with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to spark KSU’s win. There's no reason to think the two-quarterback system won't continue to excel against Iowa State on Saturday.

Can WVU finally finish? Every week the Mountaineers show more and more signs that they are starting to find a rhythm. While many are quick to brush WVU off, the Mountaineers would have beaten Tech and K-State if they made key plays when it mattered in the fourth quarter. If they ever finally learn how to finish, they could finish the season with a strong final month, starting Saturday at TCU.

Will Casey Pachall look better in his second game back? Pachall didn’t look like the savior against Texas in his first game back from injury last Saturday but he still represents the biggest reason for hope as TCU tries to battle its way into a bowl game. If he looks like a healthy and confident Pachall against WVU and leads the Horned Frogs' offense to a high-scoring output, it would be hard to bet against Gary Patterson’s squad finding its way into a bowl game.

Someone help Quenton Bundrage: No, seriously, anyone? Bundrage keeps finding ways to make an impact on games despite not having another consistent threat alongside him in Iowa State’s offense. The Cyclones have been ravaged by injuries, but it would be interesting to see what the sophomore could do with someone alongside him forcing defenses to account for them. Regardless, Bundrage is a name to watch against KSU on Saturday.

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.

Big 12 Week 9: Did you know?

October, 25, 2013
10/25/13
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More great tidbits and stats courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information and SIDs across the Big 12. Did you know …
  • Opponents average an AQ-low 4.2 yards per attempt when passing off play action against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are one of five AQ teams that have not allowed a touchdown off a play-action pass this season.
  • Texas Tech is averaging 220.9 yards after catch per game, second most among AQ teams. The Red Raiders had 266 such yards last week against West Virginia, their second most in a game this season (288 vs. Stephen F. Austin).
  • Blake Bell is completing 25.8 percent of his passes thrown 15 yards or longer this season, second lowest by a Big 12 quarterback (minimum 25 attempts). Bell has one completion in his last 12 such passes dating back to Week 6 against TCU.
  • Bell has a 62.4 third-down Total QBR this season, which is slightly lower than the Big 12 average of 62.7. One reason why Bell is not higher was he posted a 0.1 third-down Total QBR against Texas. In that game, he had more interceptions (2) than completions (1) on eight third-down attempts.
  • Oklahoma leads the Big 12 with 3.6 yards before contact per designed run this season. The Sooners have 73 designed runs on which first contact was not made until 5 yards past the line of scrimmage, tied with Baylor for the most in the Big 12.
  • Oklahoma State scored a touchdown on all 15 of its red-zone drives in its first three games. In their last three games, the Cowboys have scored a touchdown on 5-of-16 red-zone drives (31.3%), including 2-of-7 drives last week against TCU.
  • Oklahoma State has scored a touchdown on 73 percent of its red-zone drives with J.W. Walsh at quarterback and 44 percent with Clint Chelf under center.
  • Iowa State has allowed 12 touchdowns of 20 yards or longer, five more than any other Big 12 team. Oklahoma State has 33 such touchdowns since the start of last seasons, tied for ninth most in the FBS.
  • Baylor, Washington State and Texas A&M are the only AQ teams that have had at least 150 yards after the catch in every game this season.
  • Bryce Petty has completed 60 percent of his passes thrown 25 yards or longer this season, best among AQ quarterbacks with at least 20 attempts. He has nine touchdowns on such passes, tied with Stanford’s Kevin Hogan for the most in the FBS.
  • Baylor averages a play every 20.3 seconds, tied for the eighth-fastest pace in the FBS. In the first half, the Bears are even faster, averaging a play every 16.2 seconds, which is more than one second faster than any other FBS team.
  • Baylor averages 42.8 points per game in the first half, which is more than 114 FBS teams average in a game. In the first half, Baylor has scored a touchdown on 68 percent of its drives, by far the highest percentage in the FBS. Oregon ranks second with a touchdown on 54 percent of its first-half drives.
  • Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk averages 3.6 yards after contact per rush, best among AQ running backs with at least 75 carries.
  • Seastrunk has made it at least 5 yards past the line of scrimmage before first contact on 39 percent of his rushes, the highest percentage among AQ running backs with at least 75 carries.
  • Bears receiver Antwan Goodley has gained 451 yards after the catch, most among AQ wide receivers.
  • A win over Iowa State would make Oklahoma State bowl-eligible for the eighth straight season, a school record.
  • OSU is allowing 1.1 points and 24.49 yards per drive to opponents this season.
  • 78.8 percent of OSU’s third-down plays defended have been third-and-medium (4-6 yards) or third-and-long (7+ yards).
  • OSU ranks No. 2 nationally in explosive plays allowed (20 yards or more from scrimmage) behind Florida State.
  • Josh Stewart passed Dez Bryant on OSU’s all-time receptions list with his 10-catch performance against TCU. The junior has 151 catches during his career, ranking sixth on OSU’s all-time list.
  • Stewart is averaging 16.4 yards per touch this season.
  • Stewart’s 95-yard punt return against TCU is a OSU and Big 12 record.
  • OSU is the third straight ranked opponent on Iowa State’s schedule. Texas is the lone unranked squad the Cyclones will have faced in October.
  • Only one player on the Cyclones offensive line, Daniel Burton, has started every game. ISU has had a different starting offensive line in all six games this season.
  • Jeremiah George leads the Big 12 in tackles per game at 11.5. The ISU linebacker ranks fifth nationally in that category.
  • ISU is one of two teams to have two players averaging double digit tackles (George and Jacques Washington).
  • ISU defeated OSU 37-31 in the teams’ last meeting in Ames, Iowa. OSU was the No. 2 team in the BCS at the time, making the win one of the best in Cyclones’ history.
  • Baylor’s 71 points were the most ISU has given up since allowing 77 to Nebraska in 1997.
  • Sam Richardson had taken every snap for the Cyclones until Grant Rohach replaced him against Baylor in his first career appearance.
  • ISU coach Paul Rhoads is 4-17 against ranked opponents.
  • Oklahoma and Texas Tech have split their last six meetings with the Red Raiders snapping OU’s 39-game win streak with a 41-38 victory in Norman, Okla. in their last meeting at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Oct. 22, 2011. OU won 41-20 in Lubbock last season.
  • TTU’s 7-0 record assures the Red Raiders of a winning season for the 18th time in 19 years.
  • Kliff Kingsbury is the first coach in Big 12 history to win his first seven games.
  • The Red Raiders have already surpassed their turnover total from 2012. Their 12 forced turnovers are one more than the 11 they forced a year ago.
  • TTU leads the major BCS conferences with four different Red Raiders with 30 receptions in Jace Amaro (56), Eric Ward (37), Bradley Marquez (33) and Jakeem Grant (30).
  • Texas Tech and Baylor are the lone Big 12 teams ranking in the top 30 nationally in total offense and total defense.
  • Amaro’s nine receptions for 136 yards against West Virginia made him the second Red Raider with at least eight receptions in six straight games.
  • Davis Webb is the first freshman in Tech history to pass for more than 400 yards twice in a season. He passed for 462 against WVU and 415 against Iowa State in back-to-back TTU wins.
  • Oklahoma is 17-1 in Big 12 games at home in October under Bob Stoops. The Red Raiders are the only Big 12 team with a October victory over Stoops in Norman.
  • The 16 passing yards allowed to Kansas is the second-lowest total at OU during the Stoops era.
  • OU has averaged 213.4 rushing yards per game in six home games against TTU under Stoops.
  • Heads up, Kliff Kingsbury. Stoops is 22-1 in his first meetings with Big 12 coaches since 2000. Oklahoma State’s Les Miles was the lone victor in his initial meeting with OU’s veteran coach.
  • OU defensive end Matt Dimon’s blocked punt against Kansas was the Sooners’ first blocked punt since Corey Nelson blocked a punt against Texas A&M in 2010.
  • LaColton Bester’s 47-yard touchdown throw to Sterling Shepard was the first touchdown pass by a Sooners’ non-quarterback since 2003.
  • West Virginia is 6-5 in road games under Dana Holgorsen.
  • Kansas State is 15-6 in games after bye weeks under Bill Snyder.
  • Since 1990, K-State is 141-27 when scoring first and 2-1 this season.
  • The Wildcats have converted 36 of 68 third-down conversion attempts (53 percent) in their last five games.
  • KSU has returned a kickoff for a touchdown in nine straight seasons. Tramaine Thompson continued the streak this year with a 94-yard return against Louisiana-Lafayette.
  • Daniel Sams’ 199 rushing yards was the second most by a Kansas State quarterback. He had zero negative yards in the game.
  • West Virginia is making its first trip to Manhattan, Kan., to play the Wildcats on Saturday.
  • A win at Kansas would set a school record for consecutive wins for Baylor (10).
  • The Bears have started 6-0 for the first time since 1980.
  • BU is 3-0 in the Big 12 for the first time ever.
  • Baylor ranks No. 1 nationally in points per game (64.7), yards (714.3) and yards per play (9.06).
  • Baylor has won six straight Big 12 games, a school record.
  • Baylor is second in the FBS and first in the Big 12 in tackles for loss per game (9.2).
  • The Bears lead the nation in three-and-outs forced at 7 per game.
  • Baylor has gained at least 400 yards for 33 straight games.
  • Baylor has five 3-and-outs in 89 drives this year, leading the nation.
  • BU has four 70-point games this season. The school had three 70-point games in its 111 years of football before this year.
  • Bears quarterback Bryce Petty leads the nation in yards per completion (19.83) and leads the Big 12 in passing yards (337.2) and completion percentage (70.8).
  • Tevin Reese has 22 touchdown receptions -- 20 of those touchdown catches were 40 yards or more. He averages 53.38 yards per career touchdown catch.
  • Aaron Jones has the NCAA’s longest active streak of 155 straight made PATs, a school record.
  • KU is 8-7 in games on Oct. 26.
  • KU’s defense hasn’t allowed a opponent to score on its first drive this season after forcing OU to punt last Saturday.
  • KU held the Sooners scoreless until the 7:05 mark in the second quarter, the longest the Jayhawks have held an opposing team scoreless this season.
  • Jayhawk running back James Sims has two 100-yard games against OU and his 129-yard effort against the Sooners was his 13th 100-yard game.
  • Sims became the fourth player in KU history to surpass 3,000 career rushing yards against the Sooners. He is fourth on KU’s all-time rushing list.
  • Texas is 20-5 following regular-season bye weeks under Mack Brown.
  • Texas is playing at TCU for the first time since 1994 when both schools were in the Southwest Conference.
  • TCU coach Gary Patterson is 1-1 against Texas.
  • TCU will play a home game at night for the first time this season after playing its first three home games at 11 a.m.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 9

October, 24, 2013
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A huge showdown in Norman, a statement game in Fort Worth and a must-win game (for both teams) in Manhattan are just a few of the many things we’ll be keeping an eye on Saturday. Here’s what to watch in the Big 12 for Week 9:

[+] EnlargeDavis Webb
AP Photo/Chris JacksonOklahoma will be the biggest test to date for Davis Webb and undefeated Texas Tech.
1. Time to earn that top-10 ranking, Red Raiders. Texas Tech debuted at No. 10 in the initial BCS standings thanks to the not-so-fine work of five top-10 teams who lost last week. This week, the nation finds out just how good these Red Raiders really are. Oklahoma has been in an unmistakably odd funk the past two weeks but is still the No. 15 team in the country. A win by any margin in Norman would be huge.

2. So … who’s Oklahoma State’s starting quarterback? Hate to be intellectually lazy and go for the low-hanging fruit, but this battle is ultimately a pretty big deal in the context of the Big 12 title race. Clint Chelf finally got the second chance he’d been waiting for and helped Oklahoma State finish off TCU last week. Does Mike Gundy go with the fairly logical choice of starting Chelf against Iowa State and working in J.W. Walsh as a run-pass option? Does Walsh win his job back in practice this week? Or, more important, will OSU even have an answer to its QB question after Saturday?

3. Sooners looking to plug the leaks. Since losing Corey Nelson and Jordan Phillips for the season, Oklahoma has given up a combined 440 rushing yards the past two weeks. This is still, statistically, the No. 1 pass defense in the country, but you know Kliff Kingsbury will draw up a plan to try to exploit OU’s deficiencies up the middle early on. And he did operate the No. 1 rushing offense in the SEC last season, so it’s not as if he’s afraid to lean on his rushing attack if necessary. The Sooners have to find some answers this weekend.

4. Does TCU keep its up-down streak one more week? Through seven games, the Horned Frogs have followed every loss with a win … and every win with a loss. So, following the loss in Stillwater last Saturday, doesn’t this week call for a victory over Texas? The timing might be just right. The Longhorns, after all, are coming to Fort Worth bursting with confidence following their Oklahoma victory and would be in trouble if they underestimate TCU.

5. Rebuilding West Virginia’s confidence. West Virginia defensive coordinator Keith Patterson had one of the best, most honest quotes of the Big 12 season this week when he said this about WVU’s 73-42 loss to Baylor: "The deal at Baylor was unlike anything I've ever been associated with in my life. It was just catastrophic in a lot of ways to our psyche." Then Texas Tech escaped Morgantown with a 37-27 win. The big question is if the Mountaineers defense will respond this week against Kansas State.

6. Is the Texas defense becoming legit? Texas’ defense made such drastic improvements against Oklahoma, in so many areas, that you have to wonder how much was the Longhorns’ doing and how much was OU ineptitude. Greg Robinson got another two weeks to work with the defense since that win, and a repeat performance -- even against a struggling TCU outfit -- would send a message that Texas is in fact on the right track.

7. What does Sams do for an encore? Remember, anyone and everyone still has a shot at winning the silver medal at quarterback in the Big 12. In his most significant action of the season, quarterback Daniel Sams rushed for 199 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries and gave Baylor a serious test two weeks ago. That wasn’t enough to end K-State’s losing streak, but a similar performance against West Virginia might be more than enough for a 'W.'

8. Can Iowa State get its magic back? So it’s not exactly on par with Iowa State’s revered "Hilton Magic" home-court advantage in basketball, but the Cyclones have pulled off a few upsets at Jack Trice Stadium. You might remember the big one from 2011, when ISU stunned No. 2 Oklahoma State in two overtimes on Nov. 18. Think Paul Rhoads is going to use a little tape from that game as motivation this week? His teams are good for one big upset every year, and the Pokes already have suffered that road loss at West Virginia.

9. Can Kansas find a weakness in the Baylor D? Kansas running back James Sims is coming off probably his best game this season, a 129-yard, two-touchdown performance against a typically difficult Oklahoma defense. He played a big role in KU’s early 13-0 lead in that game. Can he make a dent against Baylor’s defense? We’ll also be keeping an eye on true freshman quarterback Montell Cozart, who could be called upon as a rushing weapon in this game and just might catch the Bears by surprise.

10. Will Baylor surpass 70 again? Maybe the better question is, will Baylor cover? The Bears are 34.5-point favorites entering their trip to Kansas. This game is basically the Big 12’s version of Broncos versus Jaguars, except for one thing: The Bears have played on the road only once this season and were held to 35 points by Kansas State. A win over KU probably won’t impress many, but road play is one of the only question marks facing Baylor at this point.

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.

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.

Diagnosing the Big 12

September, 18, 2013
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Texas is crumbling, Oklahoma appears to be on the right track, Texas Tech has surprised and Oklahoma State remains the favorite. Here are some things that are ailing the Big 12 and some cures for those ailments:

What’s ailing the Big 12

Losing to FCS teams. After a summer in which Big 12 coaches touted the overall depth of the conference, Iowa State and Kansas State -- both bowl teams in 2012 -- lost to FCS opponents in Week 1. West Virginia escaped with a late win over FCS opponent William and Mary. Big 12 teams already have lost seven nonconference games, including against Ole Miss (over Texas), LSU (over TCU) and Iowa (over Iowa State).

The cure

Don’t talk about it, be about it. Oklahoma State did knock off Mississippi State and OU gets a shot at Notre Dame on Sept. 28, so all is not lost. But the league’s reputation has taken a hit.

On to Part II:

What’s ailing the Big 12

Lack of defense. The Big 12 has a reputation for poor defense. While nobody in the league likes that reputation, nobody’s done much to change it during nonconference play. The league average is 19.3 points and 384.5 yards allowed per game against FBS schools during the first three weeks of the season. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech have had strong single-game performances, but no Big 12 defense looks dominant.

The cure

Is there one? Things aren’t going to get any easier for Big 12 defenses when conference play begins. All is not lost for Big 12 defensive coordinators, however, because several Big 12 squads remain riddled with uncertainty at quarterback. This isn’t the Big 12 of old when defenses had to slow Robert Griffin III one week, then deal with Brandon Weeden the next. So there’s hope for Big 12 defenses. But based on the first three weeks, don’t hold your breath.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Zuma Press/Icon SMIPotential Big 12 breakout stars haven't emerged yet in 2013, but Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty could be on the verge of becoming one.
Part III:

What’s ailing the Big 12

Fluid quarterback situations. The season is 3 weeks old, yet 22 quarterbacks on Big 12 teams have thrown at least one pass this season, and 17 of them are in double digits in pass attempts. Blowouts have played a role in those numbers, but 15 quarterbacks have started a game in the 10-team league. Meanwhile, Oklahoma, West Virginia, TCU and Oklahoma State already are pinning their futures on the shoulders of a quarterback who didn’t take the first snap of the 2013 season.

The cure

Better quarterback play. Oklahoma State's J.W. Walsh, Oklahoma’s Blake Bell and West Virginia’s Ford Childress appeared to have upgraded their team’s offenses when they took over. TCU’s Trevone Boykin has a ton of talent, but he hasn’t become the run-pass threat he should be to this point. And Texas ... they’ve got other problems.

Part IV:

What’s ailing the Big 12

What happened to RG III, Tavon Austin, etc? There seems to be a lack of star power in the league. Stars were expected to emerge early this season, but they’ve been few and far between. Several standouts such as Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk, Kansas’ James Sims and Oklahoma State's Josh Stewart have performed well, but supplemental stars haven't emerged. Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty is showing good signs and several other players have had strong single-game performances. But the lack of legitimate game-changing performers is a surprise.

The cure

Time will tell. Petty, Oklahoma's Bell, TCU’s B.J. Catalon and others have the shown the potential to be stars, but the difference between stars and good players is pretty simple. Stars play like stars. Every single week. No excuses.

And finally, Part V:

What’s ailing the Big 12

Nobody has been challenged. Oklahoma State, Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas Tech are the current favorites to win the conference. Now, which from that foursome has recorded the best victories so far? Oklahoma State's victory over Mississippi State leads the pack, followed by Texas Tech’s win over TCU. Do we really know anything about these favorites? And what about Texas, West Virginia, Kansas State and TCU? It’s not crazy to think they can recover and insert themselves in the Big 12 race. (Sorry, Kansas and Iowa State, but you’ll have to prove it on the field.)

The cure

Conference play. We’ll start to learn how good Baylor and Petty really are in October. And the same can be said for a host of Big 12 teams and players. True favorites will start to separate themselves and pretenders will fall by the wayside. Some players with potential will blossom into stars, and other potential standouts will continue to flash some upside, but lack consistency. Should be a fun October.

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TCU Defense Shuts Down Texas
The No. 5 Horned Frogs forced six turnovers in their 48-10 win over the Longhorns.
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BIG 12 SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 11/27
Saturday, 11/29