Big 12 recruiting scorecard

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
1:30
PM CT
Here’s what's been cooking on the recruiting trail in the last week around the Big 12:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Baylor had a big weekend, hosting a pair of its 2016 commits in four-star running back Kameron Martin and four-star receiver Tren'Davian Dickson. 2015 ESPN 300 wideout Devontre Stricklin was in McLane Stadium for the Oklahoma State game as well. The Bears also bolstered their trenches for 2015 by snagging a commitment from 6-foot-7, 300-pound City College of San Francisco offensive tackle Dominic Desouza, who had offers from Big 12 foes Oklahoma State, TCU and Kansas.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Community College defensive tackle Demond Tucker visited Iowa State over the weekend. Tucker holds offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Arizona State and Big 12 rival Kansas State. He would be a huge pickup for the Cyclones, who badly need to fortify their defensive line.

KANSAS
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Jayhawks are in a battle with Minnesota for three-star Kansas City, Kansas, inside linebacker Colton Beebe. Two weekends ago, Beebe visited Minnesota, and though he’s visited Kansas unofficially several times, Beebe has indicated he will set an official visit with the Jayhawks after they name a head coach.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats have a big visit coming up this weekend in junior-college wideout DeDe Westbrook, who was at Oklahoma this past weekend and Oklahoma State the weekend before that. With Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton both set to graduate, Westbrook would fill a big firepower void at receiver for K-State.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 15
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Sooners got some much needed junior college cornerback help with William Johnson of Rochester (N.Y.) Monroe Community College committing after visiting Norman over the weekend. Oklahoma, however, missed out on one of its top targets, as 4-star defensive end Keisean Lucier-South stayed in state and committed to UCLA on Sunday.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Oklahoma State had a tough week on the trail, as the Cowboys parted ways from ESPN 300 cornerback Jaylon Lane after he was arrested. Earlier in the week, three-star safety Kenneth McGruder decommitted from the Pokes and reopened his recruitment. Oklahoma State turned McGruder’s spot into a commitment from Kilgore Junior College safety Jordan Burton, who had previously been committed to Memphis.

TCU
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: TCU remains in the mix for the top wide receiver in Texas in Cedar Hill’s DaMarkus Lodge. The former Texas A&M commit is also looking at Baylor, Ole Miss, LSU and USC and might not pick a school until signing day. The way the Horned Frogs have been throwing the ball around this season hasn’t hurt their chances with Lodge.

TEXAS
Total commits: 19
ESPN 300 commits: 9
The latest: Cistercian (Irving, Texas) quarterback Matthew Merrick committed to Texas, but will grayshirt and delay his enrollment by a year. Merrick had offers from Colorado State and Nevada. Merrick would give the Longhorns a fourth quarterback for 2016, along with starter Tyrone Swoopes, redshirting freshman Jerrod Heard and incoming freshman Zach Gentry.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: After missing the last month with a broken hand, Texas Tech QB commitment Jarrett Stidham returned with a vengeance Saturday, throwing for 318 yards, rushing for 193 and accounting for nine touchdowns in leading Stephenville to a 69-60 win over Estacado in a playoff game.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 22
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Former Iowa State defensive end commit Larry Jefferson could be on the cusp of pledging with the Mountaineers. His Itawamba (Miss.) Community College defensive end teammate Xavier Pegues has already made that switch, and the two have indicated they want to continue playing together.

Big 12 FPI rankings: Week 13

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
12:00
PM CT
ESPN's Football Power Index is a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of performance going forward for the rest of the season. Every week, ESPN will be updating its FPI to compile a ranking based on 10,000 simulations of the rest of the season using results to date and the remaining schedule.

This past weekend brought little change to the Big 12 FPI data.

After beating Oklahoma State 49-28, Baylor remained at No. 4. The Bears now have a 70.6 percent chance to win out, and a 72.7 chance to be the Big 12's representative champion. FPI also gives Baylor a 94 percent chance to beat Texas Tech in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday.

TCU's chance of winning out, meanwhile, stands at 64.2 percent, but FPI gives Texas a 33 percent chance of upsetting the Horned Frogs on Thanksgiving night. The Horned Frogs stayed at No. 11 in FPI rankings after having the weekend off.

Despite beating West Virginia on the road last week, Kansas State remained 18th in FPI. The Wildcats' chances of knocking off Baylor in the season finale, however, bumped up slightly to 25 percent.

Oklahoma State was better offensively at Baylor with freshman QB Mason Rudolph than it had been the previous month, making the Cowboys the Big 12's biggest riser in this week's FPI. Still, the metric only gives the Cowboys an 8.3 percent chance of upsetting Oklahoma on Dec. 6.

Iowa State tied Kansas for the Big 12's biggest FPI drop of the week. The Cyclones fell three spots after losing at home to Texas Tech. FPI only gives Iowa State an 18.7 percent chance to get off its Big 12 winless schneid this Saturday at home against West Virginia.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 13

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
10:00
AM CT
Taking stock of Week 13 in the Big 12:

Team of the week: K-State kept its Big 12 title hopes alive by winning at West Virginia on Thursday, 26-20. The Wildcats hardly played a perfect game. They frustrated Bill Snyder by committing a season-high 102 penalty yards. They also rushed for just a single yard on 29 carries offensively. But the defense harassed the Mountaineers into four turnovers, while K-State quarterback Jake Waters was on point with a career-high 400 yards passing. As a result, the Wildcats left Morgantown two wins away from earning at least a share of the Big 12 title and playing itself into a New Year's Six bowl.

Disappointment of the week: Not since Gene Chizik's final season in Ames in 2008 has Iowa State gone winless in Big 12 play. But after falling 34-31 at home to Texas Tech, Iowa State is on the cusp of finishing without a victory in the conference for the first time in the Paul Rhoads era. The Cyclones had the lead in the fourth quarter, and a chance to at least send the game to overtime late. But when the game was on the line, Iowa State couldn't come up with the critical play. The Cyclones will have two more chances to avoid the ignominy of going winless. But after losing to Kansas and Texas Tech the last two weeks, it's difficult to envision that happening.

Big (offensive) man on campus: Samaje Perine made this the easiest decision of the year. The Oklahoma true freshman running back ran for an FBS record 427 rushing yards and five touchdowns in the Sooners' 44-7 win over Kansas. Just a week ago, Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon broke the FBS single-game mark held previously since 1999 by TCU's LaDainian Tomlinson. But Gordon's record lasted a mere seven days. Perine took his first carry 49 yards for a touchdown, and finished with 222 yards in the first half to draw within striking distance of the record. Then, Perine's opening touch of the third quarter went 66 yards for another score. He went on to break the record early in the fourth quarter. “He was sensational," Bob Stoops said. Sensational, indeed.

Big (defensive) man on campus: Linebacker Pete Robertson led the Texas Tech defensive effort at Ames with nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a quarterback hurry. Robertson delivered a couple of key tackles in the fourth quarter, which forced the Cyclones into a 42-yard field goal attempt they would miss. That allowed Tech to retake the lead on the ensuing drive with a game-winning touchdown.With 10 sacks on the season, Robertson has been one of the bright spots for the Tech defense.

Special-teams player of the week: Tyler Lockett, who else? Sure, his 43-yard punt return touchdown came via a West Virginia coverage bust that left a hole the size of the Monongahela River. But Lockett, who leads the country in punt returns, added 10 receptions and 196 yards receiving. K-State's all-time leading receiver is also having an All-American-caliber season as a specialist.

Play of the week: Perine made history early in the fourth quarter, when he barreled through a trio of Kansas defenders, then raced 42 yards to give him an FBS record 427 rushing yards in the game. After the play, Perine was subbed out to the rain-soaked Owen Field crowd chanting his name.

Stat of the week: According to ESPN Stats & Information, Perine had eight rushes of 20 yards or more against the Jayhawks, the most in a game by any player the last 10 seasons, and more than 19 FBS teams had entering the weekend.

Quote of the week: "It hurts, man. But records are meant to be broken. Congratulations to that guy." – Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, on Perine breaking his single-game FBS rushing record after just seven days. LaDainian Tomlinson's rushing record, meanwhile, lasted for 5,466 days, before Gordon broke it last week.

Best of the visits: Big 12

November, 23, 2014
Nov 23
12:25
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Three Big 12 games took place Saturday, but there was one that caught extra national attention. Oklahoma defeated Kansas 44-7, and Sooners freshman Samaje Perine set the FBS single-game rushing record with a 427-yard performance.

It was a chance for recruits to see how good the Oklahoma offense can be when everything is clicking on all cylinders. One player who was impressed was junior college receiver Dede Westbrook, who was in Norman on an official visit. Westbrook enjoyed his third of five scheduled official visits.


Westbrook had a chance to spend time not only with coach Bob Stoops but also a future teammate in wide receiver Sterling Shepard.


Any time a running back has a rushing game like the one Perine had, the offensive line deserves recognition. Perine’s performance allowed ESPN Junior 300 OT Jean Delance to see how good the Oklahoma offensive line can be. Delance was in attendance on an unofficial visit.


One player very impressed with what he saw was 2017 ATH Quindon Lewis. Still relatively early in his recruiting process, Lewis -- at 6-foot-2 and 165 pounds -- can play either cornerback or wide receiver. While he doesn’t have an Oklahoma offer, Lewis is receiving interest from the Sooners -- and a few other schools.


While Perine was setting records in Norman, Baylor was trying to stay relevant in the College Football Playoffs race -- and also stay dry. Storms swept through the Waco area, but Baylor managed to take home a 49-28 win against Oklahoma State and earn its 15th consecutive home victory.

Texas high school playoff games on Saturday prevented some athletes from attending, and the weather may have scared off others. However, two ESPN Junior 300 athletes were on hand in RB Kameron Martin and WR Tren’Davian Dickson.


In Ames, Iowa State hosted several athletes in an effort to improve on its commitment list, which currently is at 11. The Cyclones fell 34-31 to Texas Tech, but the recruits in attendance enjoyed their stays.

A few junior college prospects were in Ames, and juco DT Demond Tucker was one of the primary targets. The Cylones are looking to add to a 2015 class that doesn’t have a defensive tackle commit as of yet.


Iowa State loves to find hidden gems, and one player who could be a diamond in the rough is 2016 prospect Jeff Gurley. A defensive end who also can play tight end, Gurley had a chance to take in Saturday’s atmosphere.


Look for next week’s games in the Big 12 to have a big-named recruit or two watching. Texas will host TCU on Thanksgiving in a key matchup that should have several unofficial visitors in attendance. Also, Baylor will take on Texas Tech at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Kansas State hosts Kansas in a battle of the Sunflower State and West Virginia collides with Iowa State in Ames.

Playoff picture: Week 14

November, 23, 2014
Nov 23
10:40
AM CT
No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Florida State are the closest things to locks for the inaugural College Football Playoff. Should all three of those teams win out -- which, of course, is no guarantee -- they should finish the season in the top four of the selection committee’s rankings.

It’s that coveted fourth spot that remains the greatest debate.

“It's also fair to say the differences between teams four through seven -- Mississippi State, TCU, Ohio State and Baylor -- are narrow, very narrow,” committee chair Jeff Long said Tuesday. “There are more games to play and these teams are knocking on the door, and they're not the only ones.”

Here’s a closer look at those teams still “knocking on the door” and how Week 13 affected their playoff chances:

Mississippi State

Pros: Although many other top teams struggled against lesser competition, the Bulldogs took care of business in a 51-0 dismantling of Vanderbilt. Mississippi State needed to win with style, and the game was never in doubt. “If you don't think we controlled that game,” quarterback Dak Prescott told The Associated Press, “then I don't know what you're looking for."

Cons: Ole Miss self-destructed in a 30-0 loss to Arkansas, the second straight opponent the Razorbacks have shut out. That doesn't bode well for Mississippi State, which is teetering on the edge of the bracket and has just one win over teams currently ranked in the selection committee’s top 25 (Auburn). The Bulldogs finish the season on the road against Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl and their résumé could have used another boost, but the Rebels should drop out of the top 10 after suffering a third loss.

TCU

Pros: The Horned Frogs were off to prepare for Thursday night’s Thanksgiving game at Texas, but they were still helped by K-State’s Thursday night win in Morgantown and Minnesota’s 28-24 win over Nebraska. For the fourth straight week, TCU was ranked ahead of Baylor, and Long said it was because “strength of schedule is an important factor that came into play, and [Baylor's] body of work is not quite comparable in the view of the committee.” That Minnesota win has a lot to do with it, and it keeps looking better. Until Baylor adds a convincing K-State win to its résumé, there’s no reason to think the committee will reward Baylor's head-to-head win over TCU.

Cons: Ohio State won again. The Buckeyes were pushed by an unheralded Indiana team, but they clinched the Big Ten’s East Division and earned a spot in the conference title game. Ohio State is one team both Baylor and TCU need to be worried about, as the Buckeyes jumped Baylor in the committee’s rankings last week.

Baylor

Pros: The Bears beat Oklahoma State and have now won three straight since their Oct. 18 loss at West Virginia, which is one result the committee has held against Baylor in its comparison to TCU. Baylor also benefited from K-State’s Thursday night win in Morgantown. The Bears need to punctuate their playoff résumé with a season-ending win against a highly ranked K-State team at home Dec. 6. If Baylor and TCU both win out, the Bears should wind up on top.

Cons: Ohio State, which jumped Baylor in the rankings last week, won again and clinched the Big Ten’s East Division in the process. Baylor also didn’t beat Oklahoma State as convincingly as TCU did, but that's splitting hairs: Baylor won 49-28, while TCU beat the Cowboys 42-9. The committee will compare results against common opponents. Baylor's biggest problems are its nonconference schedule and the loss at West Virginia.

Ohio State

Pros: The Buckeyes beat Indiana to clinch the Big Ten’s East Division, and Wisconsin also won at Iowa, putting the Badgers one victory from clinching the West Division. Ohio State should be able to avoid an upset against a middling Michigan team this coming week. There’s certainly no margin for error after the Week 2 home loss to Virginia Tech, but if Ohio State can pull off an impressive win against a ranked Wisconsin team to win the Big Ten title, that loss to the Hokies just might be forgiven.

Cons: It was an underwhelming first three quarters against the Hoosiers for the Buckeyes, who had three turnovers and continue to struggle with ball security. Every other bubble team the Buckeyes are up against found a way to win, too.

UCLA

Pros: After an impressive 38-20 win against USC, the No. 9-ranked Bruins are now in the driver’s seat to win the Pac-12 South Division. UCLA can clinch the division with a win against Stanford on Friday. If the Bruins lose to Stanford, Friday’s Arizona/Arizona State winner would win the division. UCLA remains the Pac-12’s best hope at getting a two-loss conference champ in the playoff. If the Bruins can beat Oregon in the conference title game, they should have at least three wins over teams still ranked in the committee’s top 25.

Cons: Those two losses. The Oct. 4 home loss to Utah took another hit this weekend when Arizona trounced the Utes 42-10, dropping Utah to four losses and out of the division race. Utah will also likely drop out of the committee’s top 25.

Group of 5

Pros: Marshall, Memphis, Northern Illinois, Colorado State and Boise State all continued to win. Undefeated Marshall didn’t win any style points against UAB, but the Thundering Herd remain the only undefeated Group of 5 team.

Cons: The selection committee hasn’t ranked a Group of 5 team for three weeks, citing strength of schedule as the main reason. There’s nothing left on Marshall’s -- or any other Group of 5 front-runner’s -- schedule likely to change that reasoning.

“Again, Marshall's body of work, their strength of schedule, what they've done to this point in time, the committee does not feel that they warrant being ranked in the top 25,” Long said last week. “Again, they're very close. We've talked a lot about Marshall, we've talked about Boise State, Colorado State, Memphis, Northern Illinois -- all Group of 5 teams that are good teams and that we've certainly discussed.”

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 13

November, 23, 2014
Nov 23
8:00
AM CT
It was a good weekend to be a running back, and a trio of signal-callers staked their claim for the future. Here are the Big 12's top performers for Week 13:

Oklahoma RB Samaje Perine: The numbers say plenty: 34 carries, 427 yards, five touchdowns, 12.6 yards per carry. But it was a record-setting day for the true freshman, who broke Melvin Gordon’s week-long record for single-game rushing yardage in the FBS in OU's 44-7 win over Kansas. Perine also became the first player in FBS history to rush for at least 200 yards in both halves of a single game, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Vision, physicality, durability, speed ... Perine has it all.

Oklahoma blockers: Sure, the Sooners' offensive line deserves the bulk of the credit as Perine repeatedly cruised untouched into the Jayhawks' secondary. But the Sooners' fullbacks, tight ends and receivers deserve their share of the accolades as well because Perine doesn’t have eight carries of 20 yards or more without downfield blocking by OU’s skill players. OU’s starting line of Daryl Williams, Ty Darlington, Adam Shead, Nila Kasitati, Tyrus Thompson built the foundation and fullbacks Aaron Ripkowski and Dimitri Flowers built upon that foundation.

Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes: The Red Raiders might have something in the true freshman quarterback who spurned professional baseball to play in Lubbock. Making his third collegiate start, Mahomes was 23-of-35 for 325 yards and four touchdowns with one interception in Tech’s 34-31 win over Iowa State. He was clutch in the fourth quarter, leading the Red Raiders on a touchdown drive to take the lead then converting a key third down with a 9-yard run to seal the win on the next drive.

Iowa State RB Aaron Wimberly: The Cyclones running back averaged 5.4 yards per carry in the loss. He had 19 carries for 102 yards and two touchdowns. He also added three receptions for 22 yards. Wimberly was a consistent threat for ISU’s offense, helping the Cyclones finish with 569 total yards.

Texas Tech RB DeAndre Washington: A dynamic running threat for Tech all season long, Washington had 20 carries for 186 yards (9.3 yards per carry) and one touchdown. He added two receptions for 51 yards and another score. He becomes the first Red Raider to rush for 1,000 yards since 1998 (Ricky Williams) and the seventh in school history.

Baylor RBs Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin: The Bears' pair of running backs combined for 219 rushing yards in Baylor's 49-28 win over Oklahoma State. Linwood had 21 carries for 113 yards and one touchdown. Chafin had 21 carries for 106 yards and three touchdowns. On a rainy night at McLane Stadium, Art Briles' squad turned to the running game and the Bears' running back duo didn’t disappoint.

Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph: The Cowboys may have found themselves an answer at quarterback for the final game against Oklahoma and beyond. The true freshman finished 13-of-25 for 281 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in his first collegiate game. OSU’s 28 points was its most since a 37-20 win over Iowa State on Oct. 4.

Kansas State WR Tyler Lockett: The Wildcats' dynamic playmaker had 321 all-purpose yards in K-State's 26-20 win over West Virginia on Thursday night. Lockett had 10 receptions for 196 yards and added a 43-yard punt return for a touchdown. Week in and week out, Lockett makes a strong case to be known as the Big 12's toughest player to stop.

West Virginia QB Skyler Howard: The junior college transfer came off the bench to pass for 198 yards and two touchdowns. He completed 15 of 23 passes to spark a late rally by the Mountaineers and could get the opportunity to see more time behind center in WVU's final regular-season game against Iowa State next Saturday.

What we learned in the Big 12: Week 13

November, 23, 2014
Nov 23
12:10
AM CT
Here’s what we learned Saturday in Week 13 of the Big 12:

[+] EnlargeSamaje Perine
Brett Deering/Getty ImagesOklahoma running back Samaje Perine proved too physical for Kansas' defense on Saturday.
1. Perine is a star already: Melvin Gordon’s FBS single-game rushing record lasted all of seven days. One week after the Wisconsin Heisman hopeful rushed for 408 yards, Oklahoma's Samaje Perine eclipsed that mark with 427 yards on 34 carries in a 44-7 win over Kansas. Perine didn’t even start the game, and he only got one carry (he took it 49 yards for a touchdown) through Oklahoma’s first three possessions. But he took over the game after that and ran for five touchdowns before capping his amazing afternoon with a 43-yard dash that broke Gordon’s record early in the fourth quarter. The scariest part? Perine is a true freshman. Although Gordon will likely be taking his talents to the NFL after this season, Perine will be terrorizing Big 12 defenses for years to come as one of the fastest rising stars in college football.

2. The Cowboys appear to have their QB of the future: Oklahoma State pulled the redshirt off true freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph with only two games left, after Daxx Garman was ruled out with a concussion. In his much anticipated collegiate debut, “The Reindeer” electrified a previously dormant Cowboys offense, and Oklahoma State hung tough with the seventh-ranked Bears before they pulled away 49-28. Rudolph wasn’t perfect; he did throw a couple freshman interceptions. But he gave the Cowboys the jolt they’ve desperately been craving, offensively, since J.W. Walsh was injured in Week 2. Displaying veteran poise and an accurate arm, Rudolph threw for 281 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Dating back to halftime Oct. 11 against Kansas, Oklahoma State had scored just three offensive touchdowns coming into the weekend. On Saturday, with Rudolph at quarterback, the Cowboys scored four TDs on the road against the Big 12’s best statistical defense. Overall, this has been a disappointing season for the Cowboys. But with Rudolph behind center, they have plenty to be excited about for the future.

3. Baylor misses a prime chance for style points: Earlier in the day, No. 6 Ohio State struggled at home against Indiana, which opened the door for Baylor to jump the Buckeyes in the playoff rankings with an impressive performance. The Bears appeared to be on their way to doing just that, after they bounded to a 14-0 lead over the Cowboys in the game’s first three minutes. But the rest of the way, Baylor sputtered offensively and had problems stopping Rudolph. This might come off like nitpicking. After all, Baylor did win the game by three touchdowns. But with “game control” being utilized by the playoff committee as a subjective component, Baylor missed out on an opportunity to deliver a statement on the same weekend Ohio State struggled and TCU was off.

4. Mahomes is making a move on the Tech QB job: Coming into the season, the Red Raiders had high hopes for sophomore quarterback Davis Webb. But Webb’s struggles with turnovers, followed by an ankle injury, have given true freshman Pat Mahomes the opportunity to show what he can do with the job. After he threw four touchdowns last week against Oklahoma, Mahomes was terrific again in a 34-31 win at Iowa State. He threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns and led the Red Raiders on a 75-yard, game-winning drive, which he capped with a 44-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Williams late in the fourth quarter. Perhaps most impressively, Mahomes has thrown only one interception the past two weeks. Tech coach Kilff Kingsbury said earlier in the week that the quarterback that doesn’t turn the ball over would have the best chance to be the program's long-term starter. Right now, that appears to be Mahomes.

5. Iowa State is now on the cusp of a winless Big 12 season: Texas Tech was Iowa State’s best chance to get a Big 12 win to give the program at least a dash of momentum going into 2015. The Cyclones needed one last stop and then one last scoring drive. Instead, they failed to get either, and Tech rallied to take the lead, then held Iowa State on a final fourth-down attempt. The Cyclones entered this season hoping to regain bowl eligibility after going 3-9 last year. But if they don’t knock off West Virginia at home next weekend or somehow pull the upset of the year Dec. 6 at No. 5 TCU, they will finish winless in the conference for the first time since Paul Rhoads took over as coach in 2009.

Jonathan Holmes keeps Texas on track

November, 22, 2014
Nov 22
12:10
AM CT
video

The game was already over. Two minutes left, Texas up 64-51. Cruise control.

Texas forward Jonathan Holmes was on the right baseline corner when he caught the bounce-pass product of Javan Felix's scuttled dribble penetration. Cal's defense stretched. Holmes slid past the close-out, gathered his dribble in his right hand, and jumped at the right side of the rim. For maybe a second, it looked like another easy gliding finish.

Cal center Roger Moute a Bidias had other ideas. He jumped too, and when he did he awkwardly and (probably) unintentionally caught his arm around Holmes' neck. The Longhorns forward went down hard.

[+] EnlargeJonathan Holmes, Tyrone Wallace
Jim O'Connor/USA TODAY SportsTexas' Jonathan Holmes drives to the basket against Cal's Tyrone Wallace during the Longhorns' win. Holmes has proven to be Texas' most indispensable player early on.
A few seconds later, Holmes was up again. Rick Barnes, and anyone with a shred of investment in the Texas men's basketball program, could breathe a sigh of relief.

The alternate ending to that collision -- an injury -- would have been next-level cruel. On Thursday night, Longhorns point guard Isaiah Taylor, in the midst of an aggressive 15-point start to his sophomore campaign, likewise soared to the rim, was likewise battered by an opposing center (in this case, Iowa's Melsahn Basabe) and suffered a left wrist injury that will keep him out of the Longhorns' lineup for weeks. Another key injury on an exact replica of Taylor's garbage-time play would have been unfortunate. Star-crossed, even, and we've barely cracked Week 2.

But an injury to Holmes would have been much worse than that, and not just because Texas has a quality backup point guard in Felix. If two nights at Madison Square Garden told us anything, it's that no player is more important to the Longhorns' success than its one and only senior.

In Texas's two 2K Classic wins, Holmes scored 40 points on 13-of-23 from the field, 4-of-6 on 3-pointers, and 10-of-13 from the free throw line. He grabbed 13 rebounds in Friday's end-to-end dismantling of the Bears. On Thursday, his perimeter shooting was the key ingredient to the Longhorns' second-half burst against Iowa, wherein Texas turned a six-point halftime deficit into a 71-57 blowout. (The Longhorns scored 24 points in that first half and 47 in the second. By the 10-minute mark, the Hawkeyes looked astonished. Understandably so.)

And yes, he was more impressive than his lines. Holmes defended multiple areas on the floor, his length allowing him to pinch in to the paint and spread to the wing in nearly equal measure. He disrupted shots, tracked back on fastbreaks. When Cal went to a zone, Holmes was devastating in the pivot -- his best play of Friday night may well have come with 15:11 left in the second half, when he fired a quick high-low bounce pass to Prince Ibeh that made Cal's 2-3 zone look like an art installation. In an event featuring four legitimate NCAA tournament hopefuls, celebrated veteran players like Aaron White and David Kravish and a fair number of talented newcomers -- to say nothing of Holmes' own teammates -- the Texas swingman had no obvious peer.

It wasn't always supposed to be this way. After two mostly nondescript seasons, Holmes was versatile and plenty efficient as a junior, but the fact that he took even 88 3s -- he made 33 percent of them -- was a sign less of his own strengths than of the Longhorns' weaknesses. He averaged nearly two turnovers per assist. In the spring, Texas landed center Myles Turner, the No. 2-ranked player in the class of 2014 (behind only Jahlil Okafor). With Turner en route and Cameron Ridley already on the block, it was fair to wonder whether Holmes' minutes as a quasi-power forward would be displaced.

Put another way: When people talked about Texas, they talked about Taylor and Turner, and how it would all work out.

Holmes has immediately made that conversation seem silly. He was braced for a change in his role, so, as he said at Big 12 Media Day in October, he worked on becoming a "true" small forward. Passing, ballhandling, shooting. Playing away from the rim on the offensive end. Playing anywhere Barnes needed him, really.

Turns out he didn't need to brace himself much. Turner has been introduced to the college game as a reserve. Barnes is starting forward Connor Lammert and giving Ibeh plenty of minutes, too. Turner's game has been tantalizing in spots; a 7-footer with soft baby hooks and quality footwork can't help but get the blood boiling. But he also has had his share of ill-advised shots and missed defensive rotations. He hasn't set the world alight, or forced Barnes to give him for 30 minutes a night.

No matter. With Taylor injured and Turner figuring it out on the fly, Texas has had the most impressive start to the season of any team in the country not named Kentucky or Gonzaga. Soon, people are going to start talking about Texas' odds of unseating Kansas from its 10-year reign atop the Big 12 -- if they haven't started already. As long as Holmes is on the floor, you'll know why.
In today's Twitter mailbag, we examine TCU and Baylor's playoff possibilities, the future of Texas and the chances of Bob Stoops and Mike Gundy going to Florida.

Max will be in Waco this weekend covering Oklahoma State-Baylor. I will be in Norman to see if Kansas can give another ranked team a scare.

Now, on to the 'bag:

Trotter: I don't think so. Nobody in the top eight plays a noteworthy opponent.

Trotter: The one thing to keep in mind is the playoff committee has said that it's viewing teams individually and not through the prism of what conference they play in. In other words, the committee is examining Ohio State when it does these rankings. Not the Big Ten. So in the eyes of the committee this is about TCU and Baylor vs. Ohio State. Not the Big 12 vs. the Big Ten. What can TCU and Baylor do? Annihilate their upcoming opponents and hope for the best.

Trotter: Russell Athletic Bowl against Notre Dame?

Trotter: I put it at less than 10 percent. But the only place Stoops would ever leave for would be Florida. And if he was ever going to do it, it would be now. He loves the weather there, he always talks fondly of his time as a defensive coordinator at Florida and he has a great relationship with Florida AD Jeremy Foley. That said, my money is on him staying at Oklahoma. He has the full support of the president and athletic director. He has 100 percent job security. He has his brother Mike coaching with him. He just built a multimillion dollar home. His kids are coming up on high school age. And I'm not sure he wants to coach all that much longer. Going to Florida would prolong that. I'm not sure that's something he wants at this point.

Trotter: Without a doubt. Texas has played excellent football the last three weeks. The defense has been dominant. The offensive line continues to get better. This will be a very tough test for TCU, whether the playoff selection committee realizes it or not.

Trotter: This is an interesting thought. It won't be next year. TCU, with QB Trevone Boykin back, will probably be next year's preseason favorite. But by 2016? Yeah, Texas would have a chance to be the preseason favorite, if it continues on the current trajectory we've seen from Charlie Strong's bunch this season.

Trotter: I've been told that the only way the league would look at expansion is if it got left out of the playoff year after year. That could happen this year. If it happened a couple more times, the league would be forced to rethink its current format.

Trotter: I sense you're being sarcastic. But if Mike Gundy did bolt after this season, Oklahoma State would be in a position to court several viable candidates. Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris would make a bunch of sense. Memphis coach Justin Fuente is an up-and-comer with ties to the state. Gundy's coaching tree includes Southern Miss head coach Todd Monken (who is very popular in Stillwater), North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora and TCU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham. The Cowboys would also have an in-house candidate in Glenn Spencer, who has flourished as Oklahoma State's defensive coordinator. The Cowboys would have intriguing options.

TCU AD not stressed over CFP ranking

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
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TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte is supposed to be stressed these days, right?

His Horned Frogs are perpetually on the move in the unpredictable College Football Playoff rankings, from seventh to sixth to that oh-so-coveted No. 4 spot. Now they’re No. 5. Everything this team has done and everything that comes next will be held up to extreme scrutiny. Every margin of victory now matters. So does the impending threat of Baylor moving ahead of TCU and that still-treacherous path to a Big 12 championship.

That’s plenty of fodder for an AD to worry about and overanalyze. How’s Del Conte handling it? He’s trying his best not to get too high or too low when the rankings are unveiled each Tuesday night. You can’t let a poll stress you out.

[+] EnlargeChris Del Conte
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezTCU AD Chris Del Conte, left, tries not to get too high or too low over where the Horned Frogs end up each week in the College Football Playoff rankings.
“You've got to buy a bottle of Pepto-Bismol if you did!” Del Conte said Thursday with a laugh. “I'm telling you right there, every time it comes out -- high or low, up or down -- you want to go right down to Walgreens and get me some of that Pepto-Bismol.”

Del Conte recognizes these are great problems to have for a team that was 4-8 in 2013 and projected to finish seventh in the Big 12 this year. You’re not going to get him to complain about where TCU ranks this week. He’s enjoying this season too much to fret.

“We’re 9-1! It's awesome!” Del Conte said. “Yeah, KU was cold and we won by 4. We're 9-1! And yet I'm down at Walgreens buying Pepto-Bismol. That's ridiculous. In the old system, you're down at a local bar ordering a round of champagne for everybody if you're 9-1. These days, you've got to order a bottle of Pepto-Bismol.”

He might want to stock up. The Horned Frogs could be in for an extended stay in the no man's land right outside fourth place so long as they keep winning.

TCU coach Gary Patterson told the AP last week he knows Baylor earned the Big 12 tiebreaker, but "you still get a trophy for being co-champions, and that's the one thing that I can control." His boss is handing these uncertain times just fine, too, no matter which bowl game ends up taking the Frogs.

“The playoff committee has been good for college football,” Del Conte said. “It's been stressful a lot of times, because you're up and down, in and out, who's going where? It's an interesting dynamic. I do like the fact the playoff talks about your total body of work -- nonconference schedule, conference schedule, when you played it, how you played, where you played, rank of teams -- and I think they're doing as good a job as they can possibly do right now.”

Baylor AD Ian McCaw told ESPN.com earlier this month he’d prefer an eight-team playoff in the near future. Del Conte said he hasn’t thought much about it, but mentioned that a system with five conference champions and three at-large selections could eventually become a discussion point.

“But by that time, you'll be talking about not Nos. 5-6-7, but about Nos. 9-10-11. That's always going to be the case,” Del Conte said. “Right now, I think because you have five great conferences for four spots, it creates a different sense of urgency and a different set of circumstances. So I can see why that would be a possibility.”

All he can hope for right now is that his Frogs take care of business on Thanksgiving night at Texas and in their regular-season finale against Iowa State. He'll cross his fingers that, by Dec. 7, the playoff committee has a thorough appreciation for the season this TCU team put together. Del Conte will try to lay off the Pepto until then.

"We've got a chance. We've got to go out and play a great Texas team first," he said. "They're surging at the right time. Tough team. They've got a defense that's loaded and it's going to be a typical Charlie Strong team and we've just got to go down to Texas and see what we can do.

"Our main objective is just taking care of business next weekend against Texas. If we do that and do what we need to do against Iowa State, I feel great about our résumé."

Big 12 viewer's guide: Week 13

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
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Lesson learned.

Last weekend appeared like it would have minimal impact on the race for a College Football Playoff berth, with TCU visiting Kansas and Baylor sitting at home during a bye week. Instead, KU gave TCU everything it could handle and the Horned Frogs ended up dropping out of the CFP rankings top four despite a win.

This weekend, Baylor faces a similar scenario as the clear favorite over Oklahoma State, which is in the midst of a four-game losing streak.

Here are the storylines to watch in the Big 12 during Week 13:

[+] EnlargeCody Thomas
AP Photo/Alonzo AdamsCody Thomas will get his second start at QB this weekend for Oklahoma.
Kansas at No. 21 Oklahoma, noon ET (Fox Sports 1): The Sooners returned to the Top 25 after a 42-30 road win over Texas Tech last Saturday, but it has been a while since Bob Stoops' squad looked like one of the nation’s elite. Redshirt freshman quarterback Cody Thomas will get his second start and a second opportunity to show he should be in OU’s future plans. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks are coming off a strong performance, albeit a loss, against TCU. KU’s offense is more explosive with Eric Kiesau handling the play-calling duties and could make enough plays to put another ranked team on upset alert.

Texas Tech at Iowa State, 3:30 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Networks): Both teams badly need a win with one conference victory combined between the Red Raiders and Cyclones. Texas Tech showed plenty of fight in the loss to OU and has the better offense of the two with either Patrick Mahomes or Davis Webb at quarterback. But the Red Raiders also have an ugly trend of shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers and penalties. The Cyclones are coming off a bye week with a renewed focus on righting the ship after a blowout loss to KU in their last game. In a lot of ways, the 2015 season starts now for the Red Raiders and Cyclones with players on both teams looking to solidify themselves as key playmakers of the future.

Oklahoma State at No. 7 Baylor, 7:30 p.m. ET, (Fox): There is no shortage of reasons for Baylor to want to win -- and win impressively. Not only did Oklahoma State hammer Baylor 49-17 in 2013, but the Pokes have been the biggest thorn in the Bears' side in the entire conference in recent years, having won four of the past five meetings. Combine Baylor’s pursuit of a College Football Playoff berth and desire to impress the committee with Oklahoma State’s recent struggles and it could be an explosive night at McLane Stadium.

Poll: Big 12 DPOY biggest snub?

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
1:00
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Earlier this week, we took a look at five candidates for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney, Kansas State safety Dante Barnett, Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown, Baylor defensive tackle Andrew Billings and TCU linebacker Paul Dawson made the list.

SportsNation

Biggest Big 12 Defensive Player of Year snub?

  •  
    16%
  •  
    31%
  •  
    32%
  •  
    21%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,945)

Who was the biggest snub? Plenty of top-notch playmakers found themselves on the outside looking in.

Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah is hard to overlook, even with the Cowboys falling apart around him. The redshirt sophomore leads the Big 12 in sacks (10) and tackles for loss (16.5). He’s even turned it up during OSU’s current four-game losing streak with five sacks in his past four games. His team’s horrible recent stretch has overshadowed Ogbah’s excellence.

Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker has been a terror at times and has been taken out of games at other times. The junior has 6.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss this season but just three tackles for loss and two sacks in OU’s past four games. When he’s at his best, Striker is second to none coming off the edge, constantly forcing offensive coordinators to build their game plans with him in mind.

Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman sets the tone for the Bears defense and backs it up with terrific production. He has 12.5 tackles for loss and ranks third in the Big 12 in tackles for loss per game (1.39), and he’s fourth in the Big 12 at 0.67 sacks per game (six total sacks).

TCU safety Chris Hackett seems to make a big play for the Horned Frogs every week. The junior leads the Big 12 with six interceptions including an interception in each of TCU’s past four games. Hackett has added 66 tackles, including 45 solo stops.

Other potential candidates include Texas Tech’s Pete Robertson, Texas linebacker Jordan Hicks and Kansas State linebacker Jonathan Truman.

Which Big 12 defender was the biggest snub? Vote now and leave your comment below.

Big 12 morning links

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
9:10
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Well, that didn't take long.
  • The Dallas Morning News' Chuck Carlton gave his thoughts on the 2015 Big 12 schedule being released. Carlton noted Baylor's November slate, which, while brutal, will also give the Bears an opportunity to impress. The Bears travel to Kansas State (on a Thursday), Oklahoma State and TCU (on a Black Friday) and then play host to Oklahoma before welcoming Texas the first week in December. Whatever happens, the Bears won't be flying under the radar against that stretch.
  • The West Virginia and K-State defenses will be in the spotlight tonight, notes the Charleston Gazette's Dave Hickman. K-State is tough against the run. West Virginia is second in the Big 12 in pass defense. Hickman believes that whichever defense limits the big plays in Morgantown will give its team a win in a Big 12 matchup that will go a long way in determining the bowl fates of both sides.
  • The Tulsa World's Bill Haisten reported that Oklahoma State QB Daxx Garman was able to practice Wednesday. According to Haisten, Garman had been rendered inactive by what is believed to have been concussion symptoms. What will be interesting is if Garman is ruled out this weekend at Baylor. The Cowboys could pull the redshirt off freshman Mason Rudolph with only two games left in the season. The Cowboys would obviously like to avoid that, and end the season with Garman behind center. But finally getting the chance to see what Rudolph can do will would be intriguing.
  • TCU coach Gary Patterson said the College Football Playoff selection committee has a hard job, and he’s trying to make it harder. “I just want to make it tough on them,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Carlos Mendez. “I want to win the next two, be 11-1, and let them decide. That’s all I can control. I just want to finish the journey.” All the Horned Frogs can do is beat Texas. But there's still a lot of ball to be played around the country. And Patterson seems to realize, if college football has taught us anything over the years, we could be in for a major upset or two.
  • Kansas coach Clint Bowen told the Lawrence Journal-World's Matt Tait that he's been hearing the voices of support, including from Patterson and from Iowa State offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, who both suggested that Bowen deserves the permanent job. “Anytime someone says something positive about you, obviously you notice,” Bowen said. “And it means a lot." Bowen has done everything possible to show the Kansas administration he deserves the permanent job. A strong finish these final two games will only help, too.
  • Great read today by Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News on Texas' beloved loudmouth, cornerback Quandre Diggs. The senior four-year starter gets called an old soul by his family and teammates, which is an apt label. He grew up fast and has always brought a mature presence to this Texas team. Referring to Diggs as his team's "conscience" is spot-on. He's the kind of hard-nosed competitor Charlie Strong would love to have a lot more of at UT.
  • Two years ago, we got Collin Klein vs. Geno Smith in Morgantown. This time around, the QB showdown of Jake Waters vs. Clint Trickett promises to be a good one. The second-year starters have more in common than you might think -- both are transfers who've raised their game now that they're more at ease operating their respective offense. Keep this in mind, too: Among Big 12 teams, only WVU, KSU and TCU have managed to avoid starting multiple QBs this season. Excited to see how two of the league's most efficient passers respond in coming back from crushing losses.
  • Texas Tech is wondering whether left tackle Le'Raven Clark will be back next season. The junior, a three-year starter, could pursue the NFL draft this spring if he gets good feedback from the league. Clark admits he wouldn't like to leave Tech behind after this season, but Kliff Kingsbury and his coaches went through this with Jace Amaro last year and will support Clark no what matter what he decides. The fact that Clark is versatile and experience at playing multiple spots on the line should help his cause.

Big 12 Week 13 predictions

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
9:00
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Why Kansas State will win: West Virginia will bounce back and give K-State a heck of a fight in Morgantown. The Wildcats haven't gone on the road much this season (three times, in fact), but they'll be locked in and angry. KSU's defense gets after Clint Trickett just as Texas did. Kansas State 38, West Virginia 34 -- Max Olson

Why West Virginia will win: After battling four top 10 teams, the Mountaineers finally looked like a tired bunch in Austin. The week off should have done wonders for them physically and psychologically. I expect West Virginia to come out fired up for this game, knowing a win over the Wildcats would ensure this season will be deemed a success. West Virginia 34, Kansas State 31 -- Jake Trotter



Why Iowa State will win: Trotter has a two-game lead in our picks contest. I have to catch up. Fortune favors the bold. The Cyclones are fresh off a bye and will be able to move the ball on Tech. This is their best (only?) chance to avoid a winless conference season. If Davis Webb is back and dealing, I might be dead wrong. Iowa State 27, Texas Tech 24 -- Olson

Why Texas Tech will win: The Red Raiders simply have more firepower. Neither defense is great, so the team with the bigger arsenal should triumph, and that team is Tech. Texas Tech 38, Iowa State 24 -- Chatmon

Unanimous selections:

Baylor over Oklahoma State: Have you been watching the Oklahoma State offense? The Cowboys lead the Big 12 in three-and-outs, and since the Bears are gunning for style points, this could get ugly fast in Waco. The only variable to this game will be whether Oklahoma State is forced to pull the redshirt off freshman Mason Rudolph if a banged up Daxx Garman can't go. Yet even though Rudolph is an intriguing quarterback prospect, he won't have enough help around him and up front for it to make much of a difference against the speedy Bears. Baylor 66, Oklahoma State 13 – Trotter

Oklahoma over Kansas: If the Sooners lean on their running game, KU could struggle to find answers. Even though Clint Bowen’s Jayhawks are much improved, a road win at OU still seems out of reach. Oklahoma 31, Kansas 17 – Chatmon

But...

Why Kansas will keep it close: The Jayhawks will find a way to force OU to pass the ball. KU plays great pass defense. Without Trevor Knight, Oklahoma isn't playing great pass offense. Oklahoma 31, Kansas 21 -- Olson

Season records:
  • Trotter: 58-6
  • Chatmon: 56-8
  • Olson: 55-9
USA Today released its annual list of the 2014 salaries for college football coaches on Wednesday.

But which coaches in the conference provide the best value for the dollar? Here’s a look at the Big 12’s top five coaches in terms of value -- i.e. cost per win -- in 2014.

1. Art Briles, Baylor: Not only did Briles lead Baylor to its first Big 12 title a year ago, he’s still bringing terrific value to BU at $391,893.25 per win (eight wins). His salary of $3,135,146 makes him the nation’s 22nd-highest paid coach.

2. Bill Snyder, Kansas State: The veteran coach brings terrific value at $414,285.71 per win (seven wins) as his Wildcats still have hope to secure their second Big 12 title in three seasons if they can win out. His salary of $2,900,000 makes him the nation’s 29th-highest paid coach.

3. Gary Patterson, TCU: He’s really earned his money this season with his decision to revamp the offense, potentially at the expense of his defense, during the offseason. As a result, Patterson has brought great value at $445,350 per win (nine wins) this season. He’s the nation’s 11th-highest paid coach at $4,008,150 in 2014.

4. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia: After seeing WVU’s bowl streak snapped a year ago, Holgorsen’s squad has responded with six wins thus far this season, making him one of the Big 12’s top values at $513,333.33 per win. Holgorsen’s salary of $3,080,000 makes him the nation’s 23rd-highest paid coach.

5. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State: Even with his squad in the midst of a four-game losing streak, Gundy finds himself in the top half of the conference in terms of value. OSU is paying Gundy $700,000 dollars per win (five wins) in 2014. His salary of $3,500,000 ranks him 15th among college coaches this season.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is the Big 12’s highest-paid coach and the nation's third-highest paid coach at $5,058,333 in 2014. You can find the entire list and where each Big 12 coach lands here.

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