The College Football Playoff isn’t the only thing new for the Big 12 this year. The league will welcome new bowl tie-ins, as well as old bowl tie-ins with new names. The playoff is obviously new. The Russell Athletic Bowl and AutoZone Liberty Bowl are new to the league, as well. The Cactus Bowl is the old Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (which before that was the Insight Bowl). Next year, the Champions Bowl, which will pit top teams from the Big 12 and SEC, will jump into the rotation as well.

But, without further ado, here are our preseason bowl projections for the Big 12, which, like the bowl tie-ins themselves, are sure to change before long:

Allstate Sugar Bowl, New Orleans (Jan. 1): Oklahoma vs. College Football Playoff semifinal
Cotton Bowl, Arlington, Texas (Jan. 1): Baylor vs. at-large
Valero Alamo Bowl, San Antonio (Jan. 2): Kansas State vs. Pac-12 No. 2
Russell Athletic Bowl, Orlando, Fla. (Dec. 29): Texas vs. ACC No. 2
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl, Houston (Dec. 29): Texas Tech vs. SEC
AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tenn. (Dec. 29): TCU vs. SEC
Cactus Bowl, Tempe, Ariz. (Jan. 2): Oklahoma State vs. Pac-12 No. 7

Chat wrap: CFB Opening Day Live

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
3:03
PM ET
After nearly eight long months, college football is back in our lives. To celebrate tonight's opening slate of games, 12 of our writers chatted it up with you the fans for three hours.

Here's how it went...

Big 12 players in Week 1 spotlight

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
2:59
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Are you guys ready? We're less than 48 hours away from the first kickoff of the Big 12 season. (There are some good games tonight, too, if you can't wait that long.) Once we finally get rolling, the guys worth watching closely won't just be the All-Americans like Bryce Petty and Tyler Lockett. We know what they can do, and they'll probably be even better.

But this is our first real chance, after months of speculation and projection, to see how newcomers and players in new roles fare. Here are 11 players we'll be keeping an eye on Saturday and Sunday.

Matt Joeckel and Trevone Boykin
Getty ImagesGary Patterson won't reveal who his starting quarterback is -- Matt Joeckel or Trevone Boykin -- until the Horned Frogs take the field Saturday.
Matt Joeckel, QB, TCU: Will he be the starter? Did Trevone Boykin do enough to regain the job? Gary Patterson won't reveal a thing until his Horned Frog offense takes the field Saturday against Samford. The guy who sets foot on the field won't matter as much as which one thrives, because it seems likely both will get a fair shot. TCU just needs a capable distributor.

Devin Chafin, RB, and Johnny Jefferson, RB, Baylor: Both backs dealt with injuries in fall camp but should be good to go. And if you ask Baylor players, they'll tell you Chafin and Jefferson are about to be stars on the rise. This should be a true stable of backs led by Shock Linwood, but you're going to see Chafin and Jefferson a lot -- especially if Baylor's second team gets a lot of playing time in a blowout.

DeAndre Washington, RB, Texas Tech: We could still see Kenny Williams in short-yardage opportunities, but otherwise, Tech is ready to roll with the 5-foot-8, 201-pound junior leading its run game. Freshmen Justin Stockton and Demarcus Felton are intriguing, but Washington has a chance to establish himself as the feature back and a sneaky good one.

Deandre Burton, WR, Kansas State: The local kid from Manhattan was named a starter this week and is about to get his first meaningful action on offense. The redshirt sophomore has good size and will be one of a few wideouts getting reps with Lockett and Curry Sexton. The competition for his spot will be ongoing, so a big play or two against Stephen F. Austin could go a long way.

Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State: Cyclones fans can't wait to see what Lazard, listed as the backup to Quenton Bundrage at X receiver, can do in his first career day. After all the boasting Paul Rhoads did on signing day (and rightfully so), expectations are awfully high. Let's see Sam B. Richardson lob a few up to him and see if the 6-foot-5 stud can make a splash.

Tyreek Hill, WR/RB, Oklahoma State: What more can we say? We've hyped him up as much as anybody in the Big 12 this offseason. OSU will get the ball in his hands as much as possible. Florida State will do whatever it can to stop him. Can Hill be the game-changer the Pokes need to keep up with the defending champs?

Julian Wilson, CB, Oklahoma: Wilson's transition from nickel to cornerback, where he'll replace a big-time player in Aaron Colvin, has received good reviews. Louisiana Tech will no doubt test him and new starting safety Ahmad Thomas early on to see if they can handle the pressure.

Dravon Henry, FS, West Virginia: Mountaineer coaches have been excited about Henry all year long, and the true freshman seemingly had no trouble earning a starting job. He'll get lots of help from veteran safety Karl Joseph, but you just know Lane Kiffin will take some shots deep to see if the young dude has instincts. He would be wise to keep an eye on Amari Cooper, one of the nation's best wideouts.

Jason Hall, SS, and Dylan Haines, SS, Texas: Hall, a true freshman and former three-star recruit, was named the starter on Texas' depth chart released Thursday. But Haines, a walk-on, will play and so should Adrian Colbert. With safety Mykkele Thompson likely being used as Texas' top nickel, the Longhorns will have a lot of inexperience on the back end on passing downs. They need to play up to the considerable praise they received in camp.

Who are you excited to scout this weekend? Let us know any players we missed in the comments below.

Poll: Team most on upset alert?

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
1:40
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Last year, North Dakota State marched into Manhattan, Kansas and then marched down Bill Snyder Family Stadium in the fourth quarter with a game-winning touchdown drive to stun Kansas State.

The good news for the Wildcats is they open with a far less frightening opponent this weekend in Stephen F. Austin. While North Dakota State was capturing a third consecutive FCS national title, Stephen F. Austin was going 3-9 in the Southland Standings.

SportsNation

Which Big 12 team should be on upset alert Saturday?

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    65%
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    8%
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    4%
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    19%
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    4%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,140)

 Who in the Big 12 should most be on upset watch Saturday?

Iowa State is certainly a candidate. The Cyclones play the same Bison team that toppled K-State last fall. Sure, North Dakota State lost its head coach to Wyoming and the quarterback who engineered the game-winning drive to beat the Wildcats. The Bison, however, have reloaded before. And just last season, Iowa State fell in the opener to FCS opponent Northern Iowa.

North Dakota State, however, isn’t the only capable FCS team coming to Big 12 country this weekend. Central Arkansas, which travels to Texas Tech, received votes in the FCS Top 25 after winning seven games in 2013. So did TCU’s opponent, Samford, which finished in a tie for first with Chattanooga and Furman in the Southern standings. The Horned Frogs, meanwhile, will be debuting a new offense without a clear-cut starting quarterback. Texas Tech has the clear-cut starter at quarterback in Davis Webb, but it will be starting four underclassmen in its secondary.

The two traditional powers in the Big 12 both have curious games, as well. North Texas, which will head to Austin, went 9-4 last season. The Longhorns are still big favorites, but this will be just the fourth start quarterback David Ash has made since the 2012 season.

Oklahoma too is a heavy favorite to dispose of Louisiana Tech. The Sooners are riding high after taking down Alabama their last time out. But Oklahoma has a tradition under Bob Stoops of sputtering at times in openers. And while the Bulldogs struggled last season, they are only two years removed from going 9-3 and taking Texas A&M to the wire in a 59-57 shootout.

Now, we put it to you in our weekly Big 12 poll: Of these five teams, pick one to put on upset alert for this weekend.

Kickoff Live: Week 1

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
10:19
AM ET

To watch Kickoff Live on you mobile device click here.
Mark Schlabach, Heather Dinich and Ted Miller join host Chantel Jennings to preview Week 1 of the college football season that will for the first time end in a four-team playoff.
LUBBOCK, Texas -- One of Lubbock’s most popular families walked around the Jones AT&T Stadium field in April like they’d been there forever. But this was their first time back in almost three years.

The leaders of the Fehoko clan, Vili and Linda, passed out prizes from stuffed-full bags: Hand-woven headbands made of coconut leaves -- from their culture’s “tree of life” -- for each and every Texas Tech player after the spring game. Then fans started lining to snag one of the more than 150 headpieces, even offering to pay.

You can’t put a price on what the Fehokos were bringing back to Lubbock that day.

[+] EnlargeLinda, Sam, Breiden, Vili Fehoko
Max Olson/ESPNThe Fehoko family -- Linda, Sam, Breiden and Vili -- are back rooting for Texas Tech.
Their son Sam Fehoko, a Mike Leach-era linebacker known for his fiery spirit and game day war paint, had made the family from Honolulu a fan favorite. Now they’re back, and they’ll be Lubbock regulars for the next few years.

Sam's brother, V.J. Fehoko, transferred from Utah for his senior year and will start at Will linebacker for Tech. And their youngest brother, Breiden Fehoko, is an ESPN 300 recruit who recently signed financial aid papers to officially join the Red Raiders in January.

“The people around here welcome you with open arms, just like the people of Hawaii do,” Sam Fehoko said. “It’s amazing to me. That’s why I came here. I love the city of Lubbock, and I know the city loves the Fehokos.”

For Sam, a homecoming was overdue. He left the program early in his senior season of 2011, during ex-coach Tommy Tuberville’s first year, and tried to make it in the NFL. After two years away, he returned to Tech last fall to finish his undergrad degree.

“From the time I set foot back here in Lubbock, it was amazing,” he said. “With Coach Kliff Kingsbury here, he knows exactly how to relate to people. He’s such a people person. You feel this energy come off of him. I was watching the team and watching the culture and this new Texas Tech brand. I fell in love with it again. I fell in love with Texas Tech.”

V.J. took notice. He won’t discuss why he left Utah, but he hadn’t forgotten about Tech. He’d given a silent commitment to Leach during his recruitment in 2009 but had to change plans upon the coach’s firing.

“Coming back was kind of destiny, in a way,” V.J. Fehoko said. “It’s sort of full circle.”

When he joined Sam in Lubbock this January, V.J. asked his brother for a crash course on Big 12 defense. The Pac-12 prepared him for high-speed offenses, but he’s still learned plenty in the past eight months. Like Sam, he quickly took a liking to the Red Raiders’ new leader.

“My goodness, man, Kliff Kingsbury, you can quote me on this: Best head coach in college football,” V.J. said. “He’s sort of like an older brother to you.”

[+] EnlargeV.J. Fehoko
Courtesy of Texas Tech Athletics V.J. Fehoko, who transferred from Utah for his senior year, will start at Will linebacker for Tech.
For Kingsbury, who’s adopted “Family Over Everything” as one of his program’s mottos, embracing the Fehokos and welcoming them back made too much sense.

"That’s been a great relationship,” Kingsbury said. “Their entire family, through and through, are big-time Red Raiders, obviously. They bring a lot of passion, a lot of energy to the football field.”

He’s seen that trademark passion in Sam, who’s working with program again as an off-field defensive intern, as well as in V.J., a backup for the Utes last year who’s already making Texas Tech’s defense better.

“Every day he's yelling, screaming, hopping around and excited to be out there,” Kingsbury said. “That's contagious to his teammates.”

What made Tech a natural fit for this family from 3,500 miles away? Sam says the seclusion of Lubbock out in West Texas -- “almost like you’re on an island, you know?” -- suits their dedication. No distractions, he says. Just football and school. That was enough to sway their youngest brother.

And if you ask the elder Fehoko brothers, the best is yet to come. Breiden, a defensive tackle at Farrington High in Honolulu, is ranked No. 56 in the ESPN 300 and committed soon after attending Tech’s spring game.

The 6-foot-2, 285-pound lineman already maxes out a 45 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and 585 pounds on squats. After growing up in the shadow of three brothers, he’s developed into a freak athlete -- Sam calls him a “rare breed,” V.J. says he’s a “whole ‘nother species” -- with a deep admiration for what his family has started.

“Tradition meant a lot to me. Carrying on a legacy meant a lot to me,” Fehoko said of his recruitment. "To have the Fehoko name as a household name in Lubbock, it only makes sense to continue it. Why go somewhere else? People there, with that West Texas hospitality, they took us in and treated us like their own.”

When Breiden made his commitment on April 14, his future head coach took to Twitter to celebrate. Now that Breiden has signed financial aid papers, Tech coaches can call, text and even visit as much as they want. He’s in the family.

“Whenever Kliff comes to Hawaii, I’ll be taking him out for surf lessons,” Breiden said. “Whatever he wants to do. Maybe a Hawaiian luau. You know, he’s single, he’ll probably want to go see all the Hula girls over here.”

Another tradition they’re bringing back: The Haka. In 2010, the three brothers and their father led a Maori war dance before the spring game. Vili and Breiden did another rendition at this year’s game and should be back for more this season.

The ritual, meant to invoke a warrior's spirit, isn't just an expression of the Fehoko family's culture. For the brothers, it's also a tribute to the parents who got them this far.

“We were raised tough," V.J. said. "We had six members of our family and we grew up in a one-bedroom house. Mom worked two jobs. Dad, with his health, was unemployed at times. We grew up in the struggle.

"We looked at each other and told each other we were going to make it out for our parents.”

For a family that didn’t come from much, the Fehokos can’t wait to bring a whole lot back to Texas Tech.

Big 12 Week 1 predictions

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
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Why Alabama will win: The Crimson Tide don't have a quarterback with a career start, but that seems to be the only question with this team. The losses to Auburn and Oklahoma are fresh on everyone's mind, but before those two games, Alabama had allowed an FBS-low 9.3 points per game last season. Coach Nick Saban's defense will be formidable again. Though the Mountaineers feature several intriguing skill players, it's unlikely they will be able to move the ball the way the Tigers and Sooners did. -- Jake Trotter

Why Florida State will win: Last week, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy called Florida State the best team he had ever faced as a player or a coach. The Seminoles are loaded, headlined by the return of Heisman winner Jameis Winston. The Cowboys, meanwhile, will be fielding almost a completely new squad after losing 28 seniors and returning the fewest starters among any program in a Power 5 conference. Those factors do not equal a recipe for an upset. -- Jake Trotter

More consensus picks: Iowa State over North Dakota State; TCU over Samford; Texas Tech over Central Arkansas; Oklahoma over Louisiana Tech; Kansas State over Stephen F. Austin; Texas over North Texas; Baylor over SMU.

Big 12 morning links

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
8:00
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College football returns tonight:
  • Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy finally admitted on ESPN Radio that J.W. Walsh will be starting quarterback when the Cowboys take the field against Florida State. In other news, water is wet. Walsh being the starter was the worst-kept secret in Stillwater. What isn't known is how he'll play. To have any chance of beating the Seminoles, Oklahoma State will need Walsh to play the way he did two years ago in his first career start against Texas. The Cowboys lost that game, but Walsh was phenomenal, throwing for 301 yards and two touchdowns. Walsh was pretty phenomenal the entire 2012 season, and finished third nationally in QBR. But he took a step back last year, struggling with accuracy and decision-making before ceding the starting job back to Clint Chelf. Which Walsh will show up Saturday, and for that matter, the rest of the season? The answer to that will go a long way in determining what kind of the season the retooling Cowboys will have.
  • West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley will have a monumental test covering Alabama All-America wideout Amari Cooper, writes Dave Hickman of the Charleston Gazette. There might not be a better receiver in the country than Cooper, who is being projected to go in the top five of the first round of the NFL draft next spring. But Worley is one of the fastest-rising stars in the Big 12 and could be up to the challenge. He'll have to limit Cooper's big plays if West Virginia is to have any shot of hanging around in Atlanta. But at the least, the matchup will reveal how far along Worley has progressed in his second year and serve as a harbinger for how he'll fare against Antwan Goodley and Tyler Lockett during the conference season. Speaking of West Virginia-Alabama, the Crimson Tide won't have one of their starting linebackers this weekend.
  • TCU coach Gary Patterson was fuming in front of reporters Wednesday because of how poorly his defense looked in practice, according to Travis L. Brown of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "We better not play like that or we’ll give up 40," Patterson said. Look, TCU isn't giving up 40 to Samford. And while Patterson might be concerned, on the scale of 1-to-10, my worry factor with the TCU defense is a 0. As for the offense, well, that's a different story. We'll see. Also, Samford coach Pat Sullivan won't be making the trip to Fort Worth with his team due to complications from neck surgery. Sullivan was TCU's head coach from 1992-97.
  • The bronze statue of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III has arrived at McLane Stadium and is awaiting its Sunday unveiling. Between that, the stadium debut and the fact the Bears have another elite team, Sunday will be one of the great days in Baylor football history. Enjoy it, Bears fans.
  • In case you missed the previous post on this blog, Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford called out the Longhorn fans with 9,000 tickets remaining for the Charlie Strong debut against North Texas. "People out there: Get off your duff and go buy these tickets," Bedford said. "It should be standing room only. If not, don’t complain, don’t say anything." This isn't the first time Bedford has called out fans. Oklahoma State fans will remember well when he compared bandwagon fans to "roaches," as the Cowboys defensive coordinator in 2006. Bedford can call out fans all he wants -- as long as he doesn't lose to Oklahoma come Oct. 11.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Three days before Charlie Strong and his staff make their official Texas debut, defensive coordinator Vance Bedford sent a clear message to the fan base: Buy a ticket.

Bedford, the first-year DC who played at Texas from 1977-81, was told during a post-practice interview session Wednesday that about 9,000 tickets are still available for the season opener against North Texas.

He was then asked if he had a message for fans thinking about staying home on Saturday. Here's what he had to say:
Staying at home? What do you mean staying at home? I hear that the state of Texas is all about what? Football. Friday Night Lights. The University of Texas. What do you mean you have 8 or 9,000 tickets left? People out there: Get off your duff and go buy these tickets! It should be standing room only! If not, don't complain, don't say anything. Get in the stands right now and cheer us on to victory. North Texas, when they're on offense, should not hear a thing. They should not be able to check. Why? It's standing room only. There should be 105,000, the fire marshal's outside saying get out. Thank you.
Here's the video of Bedford's impassioned plea, courtesy of UT, in case you're curious about the context. Based on the instant reaction on Twitter, it's safe to say Bedford got Texas' fans attention.

Texas senior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson offered up a similar declaration during his post-practice comments.

"Hey, whoever ain't got their ticket yet, make sure you get your ticket!" Jackson said. "That's all I'm saying. Make sure you get your ticket. It's going to be a nice show out there."
Iowa State gave little notice to the biggest upset in college football in Week 1 of last season.

Because as North Dakota State was driving to knock off Kansas State in Manhattan, the Cyclones were licking the wounds after falling to another FCS power, Northern Iowa.

So its little surprise that Iowa State is giving its full respect to this weekend’s opener with North Dakota State, which not only knocked off the Wildcats, but went on to capture a third consecutive FCS national title.

[+] EnlargeBrock Jensen
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesBrock Jensen and North Dakota State shocked Kansas State last season.
“They have our kids’ full attention, as they should,” Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. “They can beat anybody in America on any given day, based on how they have executed and based on how extremely hard they’ve played.

“They are a well-coached, hard-playing football program.”

Iowa State, meanwhile, will try to stave off a second straight disappointing start to its season. After winning their opener in Rhoads’ first four seasons – three of which ended in bowl appearances – the Cyclones couldn’t stop Northern Iowa’s balanced offensive attack, which included 228 yards on the ground and 229 threw through the air. Iowa State fell behind 21-7, and its rally in the second half fell short in a 28-20 defeat.

The Cyclones never recovered, and started the season 1-9.

“I would argue that the start of our season, beyond the opener, was affected by that opening game loss,” Rhoads said.

That is why starting strong is a major goal for the Cyclones, who face a daunting September schedule that includes Kansas State, Iowa and Baylor. Including North Dakota State, Iowa State’s four September opponents went a combined 42-12 last year.

“We want to be 1-0, and that is pretty much the only thing right now,” said Sam Richardson, who was named Iowa State’s starting quarterback this year after losing the job in part due to injuries last season. “We want to start fast.”

That might be easier said than done. The Bison lost head coach Craig Bohl to Wyoming, as well as several key offensive players, including quarterback Brock Jensen, who engineered the 18-play, game-winning touchdown drive against Kansas State. But North Dakota State also is riding a 24-game winning streak, has the bulk of its defense back and has defeated an FBS opponent – Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado State and Kansas State – in each of the last four seasons.

“There isn’t anyone in that program that doesn’t know how to win and expect to win when they take the field,” Rhoads said. “They will get on the buses and come into Ames, Iowa, expecting to win their first game of the season.”

The Cyclones know it can happen, and how critical it is to the rest of their season that it doesn’t happen again.

“Our guys' eyes are wide open,” Rhoads said.
When thinking of Baylor and Oklahoma State, defense is rarely the first thing that comes to mind.

Yet those two teams featured the Big 12’s top defenses in 2013, a main reason they combined for 21 victories and found themselves atop the conference standings heading into the final day of the regular season a year ago.

But neither the Cowboys nor Bears found themselves among the nation’s top 15 defenses in points allowed or yards allowed, and only Oklahoma State's 21.6 points allowed per game, which ranked No. 19 nationally, was among the nation’s top 25 in either category.

[+] EnlargeShawn Oakman
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezShawn Oakman and Baylor's defense give up yards, but measure up well in the most important statistics.
“I think people are getting educated a little bit about what is good defense and what is good defense against spread offenses when having to defend 18, 19 series a game,” Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. “It’s not yardage, it’s the winning game. Saying you’re the best defense in the nation because you gave up 375 yards per game? That’s ridiculous. That has no bearing on what the best defense in the nation is; that’s the most ridiculous stat ever.”

Recognizing good defense in the Big 12 is a little different.

“How are you going to win the game? How many points per possession?” Spencer asks. “We have a lot more possessions to defend than a lot of teams in the nation.”

So with the new season on the horizon, here are other ways to define good defense in the Big 12.

Yards per play: More important than total yards allowed, yards per play is a better representation for a defense’s success. For example, Oklahoma led the Big 12 in total yards allowed at 305.2, yet the Sooners were sixth in yards per play at 5.38. Why? The Sooners offense played a major role in OU’s strong overall yardage numbers by controlling the clock with its running game. Oklahoma's defense faced 65.1 plays per game, five plays fewer than any other Big 12 team. By comparison, Baylor allowed 4.77 yards per play, which led the conference, while facing 75.8 plays per game. The Bears allowed more yards than the Sooners, but BU’s defense clearly had more success stopping opponents than OU on a play-by-play basis.

Points per possession: Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Kansas State finished 1-2-3 in points allowed in 2013, but only the Cowboys finished in the top three in points per possession. Oklahoma State led the conference with 1.22 points per possession, followed by Baylor (1.38), TCU (1.5) and Oklahoma (1.6). Those four teams combined to win 36 games, including the Horned Frogs' disappointing four-win season. It’s also a meaningful stat nationally, with Florida State leading the nation in the category (0.9) followed by Michigan State (0.99), Louisville (1.05) and Alabama (1.09). Those four teams combined to go 50-4 in 2013.

Third down conversion defense: Getting off the field on third down is critical in any conference. The conference’s three teams that had double-digit wins finished 1-2-3 in third-down conversion defense. Oklahoma State led the Big 12 at 31.4 percent, followed by Oklahoma (33.7) and Baylor (33.9). Excellence on third down is one reason the Sooners still had one of the Big 12’s top defenses a year ago, even though they faced fewer plays. Oklahoma's offense controlling games wasn’t the only reason the Sooners faced fewer plays, as their defense consistently got off the field on key third downs.

“[In the Big 12] you have to defend the whole full of playmakers and you are going to give up some yardage,” Spencer said. “But you have to get off the field.”

Turnovers: Much like third-down excellence, turnovers are critical in any conference. Oklahoma State (33) and Baylor (28) finished 1-2 in turnovers forced, and it’s not a coincidence. Both defensive coaching staffs make creating turnovers a top priority, even more than stopping the opponent. For the Cowboys and Bears, taking the ball away from the opposing offense is the primary goal.

Percentage of possible yards allowed per drive: This is another terrific stat to monitor the overall success of a Big 12 defense against opponents. BU led the conference at 32.4 percent followed by Oklahoma State (34.7), TCU (35.1) and Oklahoma (37.1). Those four teams could easily be considered the Big 12’s top four defenses in 2013.

Three-and-out percentage: The Bears led the Big 12 by forcing a three-and-out on 28.2 percent of opponent’s drives. Oklahoma State (26.8), TCU (26.7) and Texas (25.8) rounded out the top four. One of the reasons Bryce Petty and the Bears’ offense set scoring records was the ability of Baylor's defense to immediately put the ball back in the hands of the offense.

Q&A: Baylor WR Antwan Goodley

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
1:00
PM ET
WACO, Texas -- Baylor wide receiver Antwan Goodley is ready to follow up his breakthrough All-Big 12 junior season with some more fireworks. After putting up 1,339 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns on 71 receptions, he'll be asked to not only beat defenses as Bryce Petty's go-to target, but also help guide a young and promising group of wide receivers.

We caught up with Goodley last week after a Baylor fall practice to talk about his expectations, his quarterback, his receivers, his stadium and much more.

What did you work on this offseason? What aspects of your game needed to improve?

Antwan Goodley: Making all the tough catches look easy. Being more efficient with my routes. Really, just my hands. That was my main focus. Lots of JUGS machine. That's about it.

Do you get excited when people talk you up as a potential All-American?

Goodley: I mean, it's exciting finally seeing your name get put out there and getting noticed, but I try not to worry about it to much and just focus on the team. All the rest will come.

How has Bryce Petty looked to you during fall camp?

Goodley: Great. Hungry. He's ready. He's ready to be out there. I know he's excited and looking forward to it. We'd come here and run routes probably two or three times a week after our summer conditioning. We got some pretty good work in outside of everything else.

Do you have that rapport now where he can wink and you know what he wants you to run?

Goodley: Oh, yes sir. We know everything. We've been here so long so we've learned a lot. Whenever he sees something and wants to do something different, I already know. Whatever he wants to do, I see it too. Hey, 14 plus 5 always equals 6. That's what we always say.

Think you'll get a little work at running back this year? At 5-foot-11 and 220, you have the perfect size for it.

Goodley: Yeah, we haven't really been doing it yet but I know I'll probably get a couple handoffs later in the season. I'm excited. I love that. People don't really know I grew up playing running back my whole life until I got to high school. I love getting back there and getting some handoffs. It's a different atmosphere, but I like it back there.

How is being one of the veterans now after learning from a lot of great receivers?

Goodley: It feels great. Those guys are gone now and they taught me the ropes, taught me a lot, and I'm just trying to pass it on to these younger guys and try to keep the Wide Receiver U tradition going. We're trying to get these other guys acclimated to the offense, but as far as everything, we're doing good, taking it day by day and trying to get better.

What's been your first impression of those freshman receivers?

Goodley: Might be the best receiver group he we've had as freshmen coming in so far. Davion Hall, K.D. Cannon, Chris Platt and Ishmael Zamora, they're all great athletes and they can all do great things in this offense. K.D. is God gifted and he's just a player. He's an animal. he attacks the ball, he's fast, he has great hands. He wants to be out there and he'll do whatever it takes.

Can Corey Coleman become that big-play guy who replaces what Tevin Reese gave you?

Goodley: Oh yeah, definitely. We lost T-Reese and Corey is definitely going to help us fill that position. He's physical, he's fast. Really, the physicality of that guy, he doesn't look too big but he can do some thing.

What'd you think when you first practiced at McLane Stadium and saw its locker room?

Goodley: Man, just being in there, knowing that we've got a lot of people behind us that took the time to put it on campus, the program is on the rise. It's a bunch of relief. We've been waiting on this for a long time. We deserve it and we're going to show it.
At some point this weekend, Dravon Henry will trot onto the field against SEC power Alabama. It will be baptism under fire for West Virginia's true freshman safety.

He's not alone.

More and more, true freshman skill position players are stepping on campus ready to take jobs and play immediately at schools across the Big 12.

Seven of the nine Big 12 schools that play this weekend had released their depth charts by Tuesday afternoon. Twenty-two true freshman find themselves on those depth charts at skill positions around the conference with every school featuring at least one true freshman on its depth chart.

TCU and Oklahoma lead the league with five apiece while ISU receiver Allen Lazard is the lone true freshman skill position player on the Cyclones depth chart. Coaches at Kansas, Oklahoma State and Texas — the other three schools — have already said they have true freshmen are in set to play for them at the skill positions in 2014.

The growth of pass-heavy spread offenses, increased summer and offseason football -- specifically 7-on-7 competitions -- and elite camps like The Opening are at the heart of the increased readiness of true freshman. Henry and Texas Tech cornerback Tevin Madison are the lone true freshman to earn a starting spot heading into the season but that duo is could be joined by other impressive freshmen -- like Lazard, Kansas running back Corey Avery or Kansas State safety Kaleb Prewitt -- in their squad's starting lineup at some point this season.

The additional offseason work's ability to help groom quarterbacks is well-documented but those extra reps are helping receivers, running backs and defensive backs as well.

"All the skill players, receivers, quarterbacks, tight ends, they all grow up throwing the football," Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "So they're much more developed at an early age. We're seeing that we can do things with freshman that we could never do before because a lot of them have been doing it in high school."

Recruits step on campus having been seasoned in competitive situations like never before. Their understanding of offensive concepts gained in high school makes transitions to similar systems in college easier than before.

"As much as anything it's the offenses they're growing up in," OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. "They're playing in those [offenses] 365 days of the year. You go to certain parts of the country and they're practicing every day. They're growing up in those systems."

The state of Texas is at the forefront of trend with everything from weather and strong high school coaching helping to prepare signees to play from Day 1 at Big 12 schools.

"With the 7-on-7 aspect and the level of high school coaching in the state of Texas helps us," Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "They're throwing the year round, they're catching the ball year round, quarterbacks go through reads year round, so by the time they get to us, they're college ready.

"As far as throwing, catching and seeing defenses, they're more prepared than ever."

The rise of elite national and regional football camps could also be helping to increase the readiness of true freshmen. Players like OU's Michiah Quick, a 2013 participant in The Opening who is listed as a backup slot receiver and punt returner for the Sooners, are stepping on campuses across the country having been tested in ways they had not been a decade ago.

"I think anytime you get to go against competition, you're going to come out more confident if you have a good showing," Kingsbury said. "The kids we have that have attended such camps come out of it knowing they belong and they fit in."
Bob StoopsKevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsBob Stoops hasn't been shy about publicly questioning the perceived dominance of the SEC.
NORMAN, Okla. -- Bob Stoops' former players swear he hasn't changed.

Instead, the rest of us are just getting to know Oklahoma's head football coach a little better.

The last year and a half, college football's third longest-tenured coach -- Stoops moved up a spot after rival Mack Brown resigned -- has become a walking, talking national newsmaker.

But his ex-players say he's always spoken his mind to them. Now, he's just speaking his mind to everyone else, too.

"Coach is the same person," said Dusty Dvoracek, who was an All-Big 12 defensive tackle for the Sooners in 2003 and 2005. "But like anything else, once you've established yourself, and had as much success as he'd had, naturally your guard comes down a little bit. I don't think it was always the case for him, but now he feels comfortable and confident to speak his mind. He's garnered enough credibility that when he gets asked questions he can answer them honestly."

Stoops isn't quite as loquacious as his mentor and godfather of his twin boys, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who just this week cracked that he hopes fans don't egg a banner of his likeness if this season goes badly for the Gamecocks.

But Stoops also has some Spurrier in him. And of late, that side has surfaced in the public domain more and more.

"You're seeing that side of Coach more than ever before," Dvoracek said. "When you've been in the profession that long, you get to a point where you can tell it how it is, and not worry about the fallout. Depending of what side of the fence you're on, you might like it and you might not. But he's not afraid to be honest."

The southern side of that fence most definitely has not liked it.

More than any other figure in college football, Stoops has taken on the SEC hype machine head on. No holds barred. Like Rooster Cogburn charging into a posse, Stoops rides alone in daring to proclaim what his colleagues might think, yet don't say.

"Oh yeah, he can bristle," said former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer, who has never himself been accused of holding back. "Bob says what he feels. I admire that about him. That's a good quality. I always reacted the same way. I never cared what people thought about my opinion. Bob is that way, too .... and when you're the coach at Oklahoma, you carry a megaphone. You reach everybody."

Like Switzer, Stoops has utilized that megaphone in recent months.

In May 2013, he used the word "propaganda" while taking aim at the bottom half of the SEC, which Stoops correctly pointed out had gone winless the season before against the top half of the league.

A few months later, he questioned the reputation of SEC defenses, which were having difficulty slowing down Aaron Murray, AJ McCarron and Johnny Manziel.

"Funny how people can't play defense," Stoops said then, "when they have pro-style quarterbacks over there ... which we've had."

When the Sooners were paired with the Crimson Tide in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, virtually everyone from College Station, Texas, to Gainesville, Florida, was eager to see Stoops' comeuppance. Instead, he delivered another blow to SEC pride, toppling -- in his words -- "the big, bad wolf" 45-31.

"Coach always let our football do the talking for us," said former Oklahoma safety Roy Williams, the 2001 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. "But sometimes, enough is enough. The media pumps up the big, bad SEC as some unstoppable force; that they were going to kick our butt. But that didn't happen. Look, we're not whipping boys in Oklahoma. We're a force to be reckoned with, too, and that was proven."

With his credibility cemented, Stoops hasn't backed off.

[+] EnlargeBob Stoops and Nick Saban
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertBob Stoops wasn't sympathetic to Nick Saban's suggestion that he couldn't get the Crimson Tide motivated in the 2014 Sugar Bowl.
This summer, he tagged Texas A&M for all the "toughies" -- Lamar, Rice, SMU and Louisiana-Monroe -- on its nonconference schedule. And when Alabama coach Nick Saban suggested he couldn't get his team up to play in the "consolation" Sugar Bowl, Stoops fired right back.

"We've played in a bunch of national championship games, right?" he said. "So that means I've got a built-in excuse the next time we don't play for a national championship?"

Switzer especially enjoyed that retort.

"I laughed when I heard that," he said. "I understood what [Stoops] meant. It doesn't matter what game it is, you have to be ready to go play. They outcoached Alabama and they outplayed Alabama."

For the coup de grace, after being introduced as "the man who single-handedly shut up the SEC" during a preseason booster event, Stoops noted he's only been "stating facts."

"Every now and then," he said, "a few things need to be pointed out."

Days later, he was given the option to back down from his comments questioning SEC depth, SEC defenses, SEC scheduling and SEC motivation in games that don't decide national titles. He didn't budge.

"Oh, get over it," Stoops said. "Again, where am I lying?"

There's an obvious means to an end to Stoops' newfound role of Big 12 advocate. In college football, perception is reality, especially once 13 people will arbitrarily be determining who gets included in the four-team playoff.

But Stoops' loosened public persona isn't all business. And it hasn't been limited to needling the SEC.

The same Dallas hotel that hosted Big 12 media days was also home to a convention for Mary Kay, of which Stoops' wife, Carol, is a national director. While she gave a TV interview, Stoops purposely photo-bombed the shot. Twice.

Then, at the end of two-a-days, Stoops came rolling into practice on the Sooner Schooner and passed out frozen treats to the players while wearing a cowboy hat and wielding a "RUF/NEK" shotgun.

"Coach is the same," Williams said. "But when you're a young coach, you have to keep your head down and prove yourself. When you've won a lot of games, and you have the job security ... of course, you become more comfortable. Maybe that all comes with age, too. When you get to a certain point, you can say, ‘I'm going to let my hair down' in front of people a little bit more."

J.D. Runnels, who once was the lead blocker for Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma, agreed that age, success and tenure have contributed to Stoops' less guarded public approach. But Runnels believes the return of Stoops' brother, Mike, to the coaching staff has eased Stoops' mind, too.

"Mike is Bob's enforcer," Runnels said. "He takes some of that pressure off Bob. That's less micromanaging Bob has to do."

Whatever the reason, the rest of the world seems to be getting to know the real Stoops. The one who enjoys having fun. The one who says what he thinks. The one his former players say has always been there.

"He's always had the willingness to tell it how it is," Dvoracek said. "That was one of the things that stuck out to me when he recruited me.

"The players, we've always seen that. Now you're starting to see that shine through on the other side, too."

Stats that matter: North Texas-Texas

August, 27, 2014
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Are you ready for some numbers? It's time once again for our weekly stat digs, in which we team with ESPN Stats and Info to find the numbers that matter most for the Longhorns and their next opponent. Here are the stats to remember going into Texas’ season opener against North Texas (7 p.m. CT, Longhorn Network).

No. 1: 101.6

Charlie Strong admitted on the Big 12 coaches' teleconference Monday there's one number he cares about (after the final score) when he's handed the postgame stat sheet: Rushing yards allowed.

His defense at Louisville led FBS in run defense last season, allowing just 81.5 yards per game. Texas gave up an average of 183.1 rushing yards per game a year ago. You better believe Strong and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford intend to close that 101.6-yard gap as much as possible in 2014.

In the past four years, only one Big 12 defense has given up fewer than 100 rushing yards per game: The 2011 Longhorns, who held teams to 96.2 yards per game on the ground.

For what it's worth, and maybe not much, Georgia's defense did hold North Texas to 7 total rushing yards on 25 attempts last year.

No. 2: 123

We know very little about North Texas starting quarterback Josh Greer, a juco transfer who spent 2012 at UAB and 2013 at Navarro College. He's seen as a guy who has some similar traits to the successful guy he replaces, Derek Thompson, and he was a 63.5-percent passer at Navarro. He's a bit of an unknown otherwise.

But we do know he'll be protected by an offensive line that, on paper, looks impressive with 123 career starts among the five starters. Cyril Lemon, a first-team All-CUSA guard last year, moves from right tackle and has 37 career starts. He's one of four senior starters along with Mason Y'Barbo (37 starts), Antonio Johnson (34) and Shawn McKinney (2).

Texas players think they have the best defensive line in the Big 12, if not the nation. Those boasts will be put to the test Saturday as they try to rattle a QB making his first college start.

No. 3: 434

When you talk about David Ash's best games as Texas' starting quarterback, his 2013 season opener against New Mexico State doesn't usually get brought up. But in his only compete game of that injury-wrecked season, Ash accounted for 434 total yards (343 passing, 91 rushing) and offered an appealing glimpse of what he might've been able to do had he stayed healthy.

Texas struggled to get rolling until late in the second quarter, but Ash got the offense to open up from there. He threw for four touchdowns, busted off a 55-yard touchdown scramble and showed poise in the second half to guide an offense that put up a school-record 715 total yards.

North Texas should be a better foe than NMSU, which went on to finish 2-10 with the fourth-worst scoring defense in the country. But will we see a version of Ash that's as good or better than the one that showed up in last year's opener?

Three more to remember

Eight: The number of kicks North Texas blocked last season, most in FBS. Four were blocked punts. Against Georgia last year, UNT blocked a punt for TD and also returned a kickoff for a TD.

Two: North Texas coach Dan McCarney coached the defensive line on Strong's Florida defenses for two seasons, in 2008 and 2009.

35-21: The score of North Texas' last game against a Big 12 program, a loss at Kansas State in 2012. UNT is 7-57 all-time against the Big 12 but 0-9 in the past decade.

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