Even though USC still has the top-ranked recruiting class in the Pac-12, things are a lot closer after Keisean Lucier-South picked UCLA over the weekend. Plus, Kansas is looking for positives on the recruiting trail and the Jayhawks have got a big one in quarterback Ryan Willis.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 13

November, 23, 2014
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Best of the visits: Big 12

November, 23, 2014
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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
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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
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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
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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.
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WACO, Texas -- Baylor got revenge for its late-season upset loss in Stillwater last year, knocking off Oklahoma State 49-28 in a rain-drenched game at McLane Stadium to keep its College Football Playoff hopes intact. Here’s how it went down:

How the game was won: The 9-1 Bears jumped ahead 14-0 in the first three minutes on two Bryce Petty bombs, but a heavy second-half commitment to the run game got the job done. Orion Stewart's interception of freshman Mason Rudolph with 5 minutes left and Petty's 21-yard TD run with 3 minutes left sealed the win after the rallying Pokes threatened to make it a one-score game.

Game ball goes to: Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin. The Bears’ running backs both surpassed 100 yards on Saturday and combined for 219 of the team’s 317 rushing yards along with four TDs. Baylor wasn’t operating at its usual rapid pace in the near-constant rain, but didn’t have to thanks to these backs putting the offense on their ... backs.

What it means: Baylor defeated Oklahoma State for just the third time in the past decade and still shares the lead atop the Big 12 standings with TCU and Kansas State. The Cowboys, now 5-6, have lost five in a row but have at least discovered a promising QB for the future in Rudolph, who threw for 281 yards in his first career game after OSU coaches burned his redshirt.

Playoff implication: Will this win significantly help the No. 7 Bears in the College Football Playoff rankings this week? Hard to say, though No. 6 Ohio State did have a tough time knocking off a 3-8 Indiana team on Saturday. Until that fourth-quarter Oklahoma State rally that almost made this game very interesting, the Bears were in control for most of the ballgame.

What's next: Baylor heads up Arlington next Saturday to take on Texas Tech at AT&T Stadium. Then comes the big championship-week showdown with Kansas State. Oklahoma State has one final chance -- a trip to Norman to face Oklahoma on Dec. 6 -- to achieve bowl eligibility.

Video: No. 21 Oklahoma 44, Kansas 7

November, 22, 2014
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video
Running back Samaje Perine eclipsed Melvin Gordon's single-game rushing record with 427 yards on 34 carries in Oklahoma’s 44-7 win against Kansas.
College football’s inaugural four-team playoff is still weeks away, but the FBS head coaches already want an eight-team playoff, according to ESPN’s weekly poll, #1QFor128.

Of the coaches that voted in ESPN’s poll, 44 percent want an eight-team playoff compared to 29 percent for the current four-team model, and 17 percent want a 16-team playoff.

Of the 128 FBS coaches, 102 participated in this week’s poll, conducted by ESPN’s Brett McMurphy.

Most of the coaches who want an eight-team playoff believe it should consist of the conference champions from the Power 5 leagues plus the next three highest-ranked at-large teams or the top-ranked Group of 5 champion and the two highest-ranked at-large teams.

This week, ACC commissioner John Swofford said that in terms of the number of teams, an eight-team playoff “would probably be ideal.”

This is the first year of a 12-year contract with ESPN to have the four-team College Football Playoff. CFB Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said they are committed to only four teams for the next 12 years and “there has been no discussion of expanding.”

Still, the coaches’ voting shows they already want an eight-team playoff – six weeks before the inaugural four-team playoff begins on Jan. 1.

Nearly 20 percent of the coaches favored a 16-team playoff. One Group of 5 conference coach suggested taking the eight highest-ranked conference champions (from the 10 FBS leagues) and the next eight highest-ranked at-large teams.

This coach even went as far to suggest the first-round and second-round games could be played at neutral sites, including cold-weather sites, with cities bidding to host the games like the NCAA basketball tournament regional model.

Four percent of the coaches are not in favor of a playoff, while two percent voted for a six-team and a 12-team playoff. One coach wants a 32-team playoff, another coach a 64-team playoff.

More than half of the coaches (53 percent) from the Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12) that voted chose an eight-team playoff, compared to 33 percent for the four-team model.

The coaches from the Group of 5 conferences (American, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt) that voted also preferred an eight-team playoff (39 percent). However, 25 percent of the Group of 5 coaches want a 16-team playoff, slightly below the 26 percent that voted for a four-team playoff.

One Power 5 conference coach said: “four is good” but “eight would be perfect.”

Swofford said he doesn’t think “all the controversy [of the four-team field] is going to go away.”

“You have four teams that get a chance to play for the national championship, which is twice as many as before,” Swofford said. “But whoever's fifth or sixth is not going to be happy. There will be some [Power 5] conferences that won't have a team in the playoff.”

Swofford is a member of the College Football Playoff management committee.

American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco said an eight-team playoff “increasingly will be a topic of conversation. But each FBS conference would want to take the temperature of its membership on something as significant as this.”

Chat: CFB Saturday Live

November, 21, 2014
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Chat live with our writers from 9 a.m. to noon ET and then again starting at 8 p.m. ET for the prime-time games. In between, keep this page open as we bring you the latest real-time reaction, analysis, pics and video from our ESPN crew scattered throughout the nation.

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
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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."

Analyzing Kansas State-West Virginia

November, 21, 2014
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Here are seven thoughts from Kansas State's 26-20 win over West Virginia on Thursday night:

1. K-State is really tough: Coming off the deflating loss at TCU, this trip to Morgantown could have been tricky for the Wildcats. Instead, Grind State went to work on the Mountaineers with a methodical performance in all three phases. It was far from a flawless performance, prompting Bill Snyder to say afterward it “was as undisciplined as I can ever remember.” The Wildcats missed two field goals, couldn’t run the ball a lick and committed an atypical plethora of penalties. But as one Big 12 alum texted me during the second half, K-State has a bunch of players “you can tell just want it.” The Wildcats can still win at least a share of the Big 12 title. Doubt them at your own peril.

[+] EnlargeTyler Lockett
AP Photo/Chris JacksonKansas State's Tyler Lockett carried the load with 196 receiving yards and a punt-return touchdown in Thursday's victory over West Virginia.
2. Lockett deserves to be an All-American: He doesn’t get the love nationally he should, but Tyler Lockett should be a consensus All-American as a punt returner. After taking another one to the house in Morgantown, Lockett leads the country in punt returns. He also had another monster night receiving with 10 catches for 196 yards. After a slow start, Lockett has been on a tear since the beginning of October with 53 receptions, 800 yards and five touchdown catches in K-State’s last six games. Lockett has been a joy to watch the last four seasons, and his legacy is secure as one of the finest players to ever come through the Big 12.

3. K-State’s running game has vanished: Snyder offenses in recent years have been forged on efficient ground games. But K-State’s rushing offense has completely disappeared the last two games. After gaining just 34 yards at TCU, the Wildcats rushed for one yard on 29 carries in Morgantown. That’s an average of 0.03 yards per carry. Despite winning the game, Snyder was annoyed afterward, sarcastically noting that he’d “like to run the ball and get a yard or two. That would work for us.” To have any hope of toppling Baylor in two weeks, the Wildcats will have to run the ball much better. Shawn Oakman & Co. are too adept at getting to the passer for K-State to resort into a one-dimensional offense again. No doubt fixing the running game will be the focus in practice for the Wildcats leading up to their trip to Waco.

4. Waters continues to shine: With the running game stagnating again, K-State had to rely on Jake Waters for offense. And again, Waters delivered, completing 22 of 34 passes for a career-high 400 yards and a touchdown. Waters has been the model of consistency this year, throwing for at least 200 yards in every game with only five interceptions. After Snyder, Waters is as big a reason as any for why the Wildcats remain alive in the Big 12 title race. With Trevone Boykin and Bryce Petty also in the league, Waters probably won’t earn All-Big 12 honors. But he’s performed at an All-Big 12 level all year, including Thursday night.

5. West Virginia has run out of steam: If you told most any Mountaineers fan before the season that West Virginia would finish 7-5 this year, he or she would probably take it. Still, with three straight losses, this season has a bittersweet tinge. West Virginia produced a memorable October with wins at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State and a 14-point victory over seventh-ranked Baylor. But since falling 31-30 to No. 5 TCU, the Mountaineers have looked out of gas. That said, Dana Holgorsen has saved his job and has plenty to build on for 2015. The Mountaineers can also still rebound to finish strong with a win at Iowa State and then a victory in a bowl game (likely the AutoZone Liberty Bowl against an SEC foe). This West Virginia season hasn’t been everything it could have been. But considering the preseason expectations and the brutal schedule, it’s still been pretty good.

6. Skyler Howard auditions well: With Clint Trickett graduating, the Mountaineers will be left with another QB battle in 2015. Talented true freshman William Crest opened the season as Trickett’s primary backup before suffering a shoulder injury. But while Crest remains the likely heir apparent, Howard could have a say in that. After Trickett left for the locker room with a concussion Thursday, Howard sparked the offense with his arm and his wheels. He completed 15 of 23 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a key 16-yard run on a third down that led to a touchdown. The Mountaineers could have a fun QB competition to follow in the spring.

7. West Virginia punt return a disaster, again: Despite cycling through several returners, West Virginia’s ineptitude fielding punts this year has been staggering. The Mountaineers lead the country with five punt return fumbles. It’s been so bad, @fauxholgorsen published a satirical memorandum on “how to be a punt returner” earlier this year. Another punt return blunder cost West Virginia again Thursday at the end of the third quarter as Vernon Davis inexplicably allowed the punt to bounce off his foot when he could have easily moved out of the way. The turnover sapped West Virginia’s budding momentum and allowed K-State to kick a field goal to extend its lead to 23-10. At the top of the real Holgorsen’s offseason to-do list should be unearthing a reliable punt returner.

Latest Dish: Five things I learned

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
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Here are five things I learned in college football this week:

1. Might Georgia Tech end up being the fly in the ointment in the race to the inaugural College Football Playoff?

The No. 18 Yellow Jackets (9-2, 6-2 ACC) have won four games in a row, and they captured the ACC's Coastal Division after Duke lost to North Carolina 45-20 on Thursday night. Georgia Tech will play No. 3 Florida State in the ACC championship game in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Dec. 6, and might end up being the last big obstacle for the Seminoles in their quest to reach the playoff.

[+] EnlargeJustin Thomas
Daniel Shirey/Getty ImagesWith Duke's loss Thursday night, Justin Thomas and the Yellow Jackets won the Coastal and are slated to play FSU in the ACC championship game.
After Duke lost, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson wrote on Twitter: “Proud to see hard work our team has put in all year pay off with Coastal title!! Lots of work to do next 2 weeks!!”

Before playing the Seminoles for the ACC title, the Yellow Jackets will play at No. 10 Georgia on Nov. 29. The Bulldogs are still trying to reach the SEC championship game, but need No. 20 Missouri to drop one of its two remaining SEC games (at Tennessee on Saturday or home against Arkansas on Nov. 28) to win the SEC East.

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher might be happier if his team was playing the Blue Devils instead for the ACC championship. The Seminoles beat Duke 45-7 in the 2013 ACC title game, and Tech’s triple-option spread offense isn’t much fun to prepare for on short notice. FSU already has won the ACC's Atlantic Division title and hosts Boston College on Saturday and intrastate rival Florida next week.

Tech’s triple-option spread offense also can take a toll on an opponent’s defensive line because of its use of cut blocks. The Seminoles lost three defensive linemen -- Eddie Goldman, Nile Lawrence-Stample and reserve Justin Shanks -- after they suffered lower-leg injuries in the first half of a 37-12 win over The Citadel on Sept. 6. The Citadel also runs the triple-option and uses cut blocks, which are designed to knock down defensive linemen by hitting them at the knees.

“Those guys that cut and chop like this, it’s crazy,” Fisher said after that game. “I’d rather play more conventional teams. Just because of the chance of injuries that occurred.”

Of course, Florida State, assuming it reaches the College Football Playoff, would have about a month to recover from playing Georgia Tech before its semifinal game.

2. FSU quarterback Jameis Winston's student conduct-code hearing is still scheduled for Dec. 2, and his attorney, David Cornwell, continues to plead his case on Twitter.

On Friday morning, Cornwell tweeted four times, apparently in response to the accuser’s attorney, John Clune, filing a legal brief to FSU officials. Under the school's student conduct code rules and procedures, Clune and Cornwell will be able to attend the hearing and counsel their clients, but won’t be allowed to speak on their clients’ behalf.

Winston and the woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her in December 2012 will be required to present evidence, question witnesses, and answer questions posed by retired Florida State Supreme Court Chief Justice Major Harding, who will hear the case.

Under the rules and regulations in place, Winston isn’t required to answer any or all of Harding’s questions. Winston faces four potential student conduct code violations, including two related to sexual misconduct.

On Friday morning, Cornwell tweeted:

3. There seems to be a possibility that Texas and Texas A&M could meet in a postseason bowl game because of where they currently sit in their respective conference standings.

The rivalry was one of the biggest casualties in college football’s realignment, and the best chance for a meeting would be at the Dec. 29 AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl in Houston.

Earlier this week, Chip Brown of HornsDigest.com reported that the Aggies and the SEC would block a postseason matchup against the Longhorns.

But Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman said the SEC will determine the bowl lineup, and he insists the Aggies won’t try to duck the Longhorns. Under the SEC’s new bowl selection process, schools rank the available bowls, and bowls rank the available teams, in order of preference, and then the league slots its teams.

“Quite frankly, that’s a decision made by the conference,” Hyman told the Houston Chronicle. “The configuration is so different than it’s been in the past.

“It doesn’t matter if I speculate about playing this team or that team in a bowl. It’s out of our control . . . Wherever they tee us up, we’ll play.”

4. A Georgia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would make it an aggravated misdemeanor to jeopardize the eligibility of a college student-athlete by providing him or her with illegal benefits.

Under the terms of House Bill 3, anyone who causes a student-athlete to lose his or her eligibility would face a potential $5,000 fine.

State Rep. Barry Fleming told the Athens Banner-Herald that he introduced the bill for consideration next year at the request of House Speaker David Ralston. In October, University of Georgia running back Todd Gurley was suspended four games for improperly accepting $3,000 to sign autographs.

“A 20-year-old in college is not a child, but that 20-year-old is [vulnerable], particularly if they are from a humble background, if someone waves hundred-dollar bills in front of his face,” Fleming told the Athens Banner-Herald.

The bill, if it passes, wouldn’t take effect until next year, so the memorabilia dealers who paid Gurley couldn’t be punished.

5. UCLA had to cancel Thursday night's bonfire at a pep rally.

The Bruins play USC on Saturday, but the annual rally was shut down by students protesting a proposed tuition hike at the school.

That didn’t stop UCLA coach Jim Mora from, uh, fanning the flames. (Warning: His language might not be suitable for all ages.)

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.

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