Big 12: Baylor Bears
Teams of the week: Yes, West Virginia and Oklahoma State might have ultimately lost. But as heavy underdogs, they also took the top two ranked teams in the country to the wire on neutral sites. Both squads should gain a ton of confidence from their performances. And assuming they both play the way they did in their openers, their 2014 outlooks will look much different than they did in the preseason.
Disappointment of the week: Iowa State lost its season opener to an FCS opponent for the second straight year. The Cyclones jumped to a 14-0 lead, then got dominated by North Dakota State the rest of the way. Iowa State could be without leading receiver Quenton Bundrage for awhile. And the schedule doesn’t get any easier, with the next four opponents all coming off bowl appearances.
Big (offensive) man on campus: West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett was terrific in the loss, throwing for 365 yards -- the second-most a Nick Saban Alabama team had ever allowed behind Johnny Manziel in 2013. Trickett also completed 29 of 45 passes, and would have had more completions had it not been for several drops.
Big (defensive) man on campus: Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman was unblockable against SMU Sunday night. He had two of Baylor’s eight sacks, as the Bears held SMU to just 64 yards of a total offense in a 45-0 shutout -- the first time the Mustangs had been shutout since 2004.
Special teams player of the week: Tyreek Hill set an Oklahoma State record for all-purpose yards in a debut with 278. And he did it against the No. 1 ranked team in the country. Florida State has one of the nation’s fastest teams around, and yet they couldn’t catch Hill, whether it was on offense, on punt returns or kickoff returns. The Cowboys have one dynamic playmaker in their backfield, and on special teams.
Play of the week: Oklahoma State had the ball at midfield with five minutes left and a chance to take the lead over the Seminoles. But as quarterback J.W. Walsh dove for a first down, he was upended and lost control of the ball. The Seminoles recovered and scored two plays later to extend its lead to 37-24. Oklahoma State came right back and scored a touchdown, but couldn’t come up with the onside kick. The fumble was the difference maker.
Stat of the week: Baylor finished with more sacks (eight) than SMU did first downs (seven).
Quote of the week: “We can function. It’s not like it’s the end of the world.” – Texas coach Charlie Strong, after revealing Monday morning that quarterback David Ash would miss Saturday’s game with BYU due to concussion-like symptoms suffered in the opener.
Here is how the Big 12 stacks up after Week 1 of the season:
Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State: Running back Tyreek Hill drew the “oohs” and “aahs” with his speed, but Ogbah had just as big an impact for the Cowboys defensively. Facing off against an offensive line starting five seniors, Ogbah was dominant in his first career start, finishing with six tackles, two sacks and two pass breakups. The Big 12 is loaded at defensive end with Cedric Reed, Ryan Mueller, Charles Tapper and Shawn Oakman. Ogbah, just a sophomore, showed Saturday night that he might be in that class, too.
Kolby Listenbee, WR, TCU: The Horned Frogs have desperately been in need of playmaking at the wide receiver spot. They might have uncovered the answer in Listenbee. The burner hauled in 38- and 36-yard bombs from Trevone Boykin, and added a touchdown grab on a fade late in the game from Matt Joeckel. Listenbee was beating his man all game. The Horned Frogs might finally have a weapon at receiver who can cause concern for the opponent.
Demarco Cobbs, LB, Texas: Cobbs missed the entire 2013 season and was such a non-factor before that anyway that some speculated his college career might be over. But Cobbs appears to have something left in the tank and displayed that with a pick-six in the opener. If the Longhorns suffer any injuries at linebacker, Cobbs could prove to be a key backup.
Kevin White, WR, West Virginia: Other than quarterback Clint Trickett, there wasn’t a more impressive performer against Alabama than White. The senior wideout had nine grabs for 143 yards and a touchdown. The Mountaineers had a solid wide receiving corps last year, but they never had a go-to target emerge. White clearly established himself as the target for Trickett and could be in for a monster season.
Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech: In an otherwise dismal performance, Texas Tech’s running back trio of DeAndre Washington, Quinton White and Stockton looked solid against Central Arkansas. And with Stockton, a true freshman, contributing, the Red Raiders should be fine at the position even with Kenny Williams at linebacker. Stockton had a couple of nice runs while finishing with 38 yards rushing and a nifty 6-yard touchdown.
Tyler Evans, OG, Oklahoma: Evans is in his sixth year with the Sooners, but he hadn’t played since the 2011 season Insight Bowl due to knee injuries. Saturday, Evans got the start at right guard in place of an injured Nila Kasitati, and the offensive line didn’t miss a beat as the Sooners racked up 436 yards of offense. Evans at one point quit football because of the injuries. Instead, he’ll be a valuable cog for the Sooners up front.
- A lot of great reads came out of Baylor's Sunday night christening of McLane Stadium. The Dallas Morning News' Kevin Sherrington wrote that the Bears left their inhibitions -- and their tarp -- on other side of I-35. Baylor fans marveled at the new stadium, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald's Regina Davis. And the paper's John Werner added that it's time for Baylor to believe again. Brandon was in Waco and and has more on the unveiling on the blog this morning. But from the view of my TV set, the stadium looked awesome. It should be a game-changer for the Bears, especially in recruiting. Who wouldn't want to play in that venue? Underscoring that theme, Robert Griffin III, took this spectacular selfie in front of the Baylor student section. A great night all around for Baylor.
- Back to Saturday's games, Oklahoma State did not fear the spear, The Oklahoman's John Helsley wrote. And according to the paper's Berry Tramel, the Cowboys should be dejected about the night, and euphoric about the future. As I wrote last week, Oklahoma State's sustainability was going to be tested this season. And despite the loss, the Cowboys passed that test with flying colors against the top-ranked team in the country. Despite having to lean on several young players, the Pokes gave Florida State everything it wanted, and might have been a J.W. Walsh fumble away from flat pulling off the upset. Oklahoma State's 2014 outlook looks completely different now than I had it pegged in the preseason. This is a team to be reckoned with. And no matter the circumstance, a program to be reckoned with, too.
- Speaking of giving an opponent everything it wanted, West Virginia took second-ranked Alabama to the wire in an inspired performance from Dana Holgorsen's bunch. The game showed how far the Mountaineers have come, wrote the Charleston Daily Mail's Chuck McGill. The biggest difference for West Virginia was the play of quarterback Clint Trickett, who was terrific against the Crimson Tide. With Rushel Shell also pounding out yards between the tackles and Kevin White hauling in passes downfield, this could be a dynamite offense. If the Mountaineers play the entire season the way they did Saturday, there is no doubt they will get back to bowl eligibility. The schedule might still be brutal. But do you think Oklahoma and Baylor and Kansas State are looking forward to their trips to Morgantown now?
- We addressed the good. Now, to the ugly. The Des Moines Register's Randy Peterson believes Iowa State's 34-14 defeat to North Dakota State was the worst loss of the Paul Rhoads era. I can't disagree. After jumping on the Bison 14-0, the Cyclones simply were dominated the rest of the way. Most disheartening was how Iowa State was obliterated in the trenches. If an FCS team can do that to the Cyclones this weekend, what are Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State going to do? Adding injury to insult, Iowa State suffered injuries to a pair of its key players in center Tom Farniok and wideout Quenton Bundrage. Farniok might be back this weekend, but it doesn't look promising for Bundrage, who was Iowa State's leading receiver last season. This now has the look of a very rough year for the Cyclones, whose next four opponents went a combined 37-14 last season.
- Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury was not happy with his team's performance over the weekend, either, as the Red Raiders narrowly escaped Central Arkansas 42-35. Kingsbury called the showing "embarrassing," according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's Don Williams. The Red Raiders have high hopes for the season and for the future of the program, illustrated by the extension the school agreed to with Kingsbury the day before. But all hope is not lost. Plenty of teams have looked lackluster in their openers, then gone on to great seasons. But quarterback Davis Webb will have to be sharper, and the defense will have to be better for the Red Raiders to have the season they envision.
For the first time since he arrived in Waco, the Baylor Bears' head coach stepped onto the field in a brand new stadium with a team considered a national title contender.
He couldn't have even dreamed of this.
"I don't dream big enough, don't think big enough, don't foresee big enough," Briles said. "It was unbelievable. The atmosphere was everything we hoped it could be."
Those expectations could be seen and heard around the stadium as the pregame festivities led to an exceptional atmosphere for a season opener.
"The atmosphere was unbelievable," tackle Spencer Drango said. "We had the 'Walk of the Bears' and we had to stop before we were supposed to because there were so many people. It felt like it went on forever. It was an amazing environment. It was something special. I can't find the words to describe it."
Sitting alongside I-35 as the on-campus jewel of Baylor, the $266 million, 45,140-seat stadium is a physical representation of how far Briles program has come since he took over the Bears prior to the 2008 season.
Few college football cathedrals can match McLane. Fans can arrive by boat and tailgate on the Brazos river before entering one of the most innovative venues in the nation, one which also features an in-game app that can be downloaded to enhance the game-day experience.
Just outside the stadium's South entrance, a statue of Robert Griffin III sits just yards away from the Brazos river, serving as another representation of a new era in Waco.
"It's not a representation of me," said Griffin, who was in town to experience the opening of the picturesque facility first-hand. "It's more a representation of what we've done at Baylor."
After a pair of 4-8 seasons to begin his tenure, Briles' Bears have put together four straight winning seasons, including double-digit wins in 2011 and 2013. He is 44-32 during his six seasons in Waco, including 29-10 in the past three seasons as the talent he recruited started to really put its stamp on the program. The Bears won 21 total games in the six seasons prior to Briles' arrival.
It's ideal that the two men who have become the face of Baylor's rise were reunited to open BU's new home. Griffin played an integral role in the rise, leading the Bears to a 23-17 record in 40 starts including a 10-win season in 2011. And he continues to play an active role.
"He had a nice little talk with us during summertime, basically saying we have to keep this trend going," tight end Tre'Von Armstead said.
The bulk of Baylor's success was all built upon the vision Briles had for the Big 12's second-smallest school. He's no longer selling a vision.
Seven years later, reality is finally on Briles' side. The Bears do have a recent Heisman Trophy winner, the Bears do have one of the nation's nicest stadiums and, most importantly, the Bears do have one of the nation's best teams.
"The sky is the limit for this team, for this program, for this university," Griffin said. "It's only going to get bigger, it's only going to get better."
They don't have to dream anymore on BU's campus. All the pieces are in place to cement a spot among the nation's best, year in and year out. Thus, the focus has turned instead to another dream: A berth in the College Football Playoff and the first national championship in school history.
"We plan on, we are going to, go all the way," Armstead said. "We'll take it one game at a time, but we have big goals."
Those, among others, will be the storylines to watch this week in the Big 12:
North Dakota State at Iowa State, 11 a.m. CT (FS1): The Cyclones will attempt to avoid opening with a loss to an FCS opponent for the second straight year. That won’t be easy. The Bison have captured three straight FCS national championships. This will also be the Iowa State debut of offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, who last week tabbed Sam B. Richardson to be the Cyclones’ starting quarterback.
West Virginia vs. No. 2 Alabama, 2:30 p.m. CT (ABC or ESPN2): The Mountaineers are the biggest underdog of any Power 5 conference team this weekend. The Crimson Tide lost their final two games of last season, but won back-to-back national championships before that. This, however, appears to be the deepest and most experienced team Dana Holgorsen has had at West Virginia since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12.
Samford at TCU, 6 p.m. CT (FSN regional): TCU coach Gary Patterson hasn’t indicated whether Trevone Boykin or Matt Joeckel will get the start at quarterback in the Horned Frogs’ new offense. Samford coach Pat Sullivan, who won the Heisman Trophy at Auburn in 1971 and coached at TCU form 1992-97, won’t be making the trip to Fort Worth with his team because of complications after offseason neck surgery.
Louisiana Tech at No. 4 Oklahoma, 6 p.m. CT (PPV): The Bulldogs will be bringing former Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz with them to Norman. Diaz’s track record against the Sooners wasn’t good. With Diaz manning the defense, Texas allowed 63 points to Oklahoma two years ago and 55 the year before that. Elsewhere, all eyes will be on Sooners quarterback Trevor Knight, who will be making just his sixth career start, most recently shredding Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Stephen F. Austin at No. 20 Kansas State, 6 p.m. CT: The Wildcats dropped last year’s season opener to FCS opponent North Dakota State. But Stephen F. Austin, which won only three games last year, is a far cry from North Dakota State. The Wildcats are also settled at quarterback this time around with Jake Waters, who struggled as the part-time quarterback in last year’s opener, but surged during the second half of the season.
North Texas at Texas, 7 p.m. CT (Longhorn Network): Charlie Strong will finally make his debut as coach of the Longhorns. This game will also mark the return of quarterback David Ash after he missed most of last year with a concussion, and then the spring with a fractured foot. North Texas is coming off a nine-win season but is 9-67 lifetime against Big 12 programs, including 0-9 against Texas.
Oklahoma State vs. No. 1 Florida State, 7 p.m. CT (ABC): No Power 5 conference team returns fewer starters than the Cowboys, who also graduated 28 players. The Seminoles, meanwhile, bring back the reigning Heisman winner in quarterback Jameis Winston. Oklahoma State will start out with J.W. Walsh at quarterback. Walsh led the Big 12 in QBR two years ago. But last year in Big 12 play, Oklahoma State averaged 6.2 yards per play with Clint Chelf at quarterback and only 4.8 with Walsh, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
SMU at No. 10 Baylor, 6:30 p.m. CT (FS1): The Bears will christen the $260 million McLane Stadium, as Baylor will go from having the worst stadium in the Big 12 to one of the best. The celebration in Waco could begin early, too. Last year, Baylor had an average halftime lead of three touchdowns and enters this game as almost five-touchdown favorites over the Mustangs.
To the 'bag:
@Jake_Trotter which player in the big 12 hasn't garnered national media attention but will after the first few weeks of the season? - KJH (@KJHolley25) August 28, 2014
Trotter: I think people will know the name Tyreek Hill after this weekend. The Oklahoma State running back is going to have a big year. Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman doesn't seem to be talked about much nationally, but he could be a star. Some other names flying under the radar nationally: Texas Tech wide receivers Jakeem Grant and Reginald Davis, West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley, Iowa State running back Aaron Wimberly, TCU cornerback Kevin White, Baylor receiver Corey Coleman and Kansas State's entire roster.
@Jake_Trotter has there ever been a top 25 team with as much undervalued talent as KState? (walkons, players not recruited in state) - Paul White (@DCEPaulW) August 28, 2014
Trotter: Who knows? But Kansas State is being way undervalued nationally, including by some of my colleagues at ESPN. This was a top 15-caliber team at the end of last year. The offensive and defensive lines are going to be very good again, Jake Waters has his footing at quarterback and Tyler Lockett, well, I'm out of superlatives for him. The Wildcats will have to beat Auburn in September to gain some respect. But they are more than capable of doing just that.
@Jake_Trotter which sooner is the most NFL ready right now, and why - T-WAD3 (@WadeWonder1) August 28, 2014
Trotter: Probably linebacker Eric Striker. He can already do one thing at an NFL level, and that's rush the passer.
@Jake_Trotter Jake, can Tech go 8-0 before welcoming in the Longhorns on Nov. 1 (though you have already picked several teams over Tech)? - Johnny Fowler (@OfficialJFowler) August 28, 2014
Trotter: That would require them beating Oklahoma State, Kansas State and TCU all on the road. Even if you considered all three of those to be coin-flip games, that, mathematically, would still give Tech only a 12.5 percent chance of winning all three. Possible? Sure. But the odds are very much against it.
@Jake_Trotter OSU is currently unranked, but depending on the outcome of the FSU game, do you think OSU will be ranked soon afterwards? - Clinton Scott (@CScottOSUPokes) August 28, 2014
Trotter: Even if the Cowboys get blasted this weekend -- and I think they will -- they'll have five winnable games immediately afterward. If they won all five, including that pivotal Thursday night matchup with Texas Tech in Stillwater, I could see them popping up in the Top 25 in mid-October.
@Jake_Trotter who wins the Big 12, and why is it Baylor? - Dr. SHBUCKETS (@craballin) August 28, 2014
Trotter: I see what you did there. I have Oklahoma winning the Big 12. The Sooners get Baylor in Norman, where the Bears have never won, and where Bob Stoops is 87-5.
@jake_trotter What are you looking forward to the most in week 1? - Lesslie Stanford (@lessliestanford) August 28, 2014
Trotter: Storylines I will be following: Can Oklahoma State and West Virginia hang tough in tough openers? How will David Ash look in his fourth start since 2012? How will Trevor Knight look coming off that Sugar Bowl performance? Who will get the majority of snaps at QB for TCU? Can Iowa State avoid disaster facing a tricky opponent? And, the return of Mark Mangino and debut of Baylor's new stadium.
@Jake_Trotter since start of Big12 round robin, no undefeated championship team. Is this the year? Will we see it In next 3-5 years? - Blake West (@blakewesttx) August 28, 2014
Trotter: The odds are we'll see an undefeated Big 12 team over the next five years. Who knows, we could see it this year. Oklahoma will be favored in every game. And if Baylor can topple the Sooners in Norman, the rest of its schedule is fairly manageable.
@Jake_Trotter why is nobody talking about Texas Tech being a Big 12 contender? - Briar Briar Briar (@Statechampxc96) August 28, 2014
Trotter: How many Big 12 titles has Texas Tech won? I think Tech is going to have a good and exciting team this year. But until the Red Raiders actually win a championship, I don't see how you can complain about them getting overlooked in the title conversation. Especially when the top five teams in the league last year beat Tech by an average margin of three touchdowns.
@Jake_Trotter Will Sam Richardson remain Iowa State's QB the whole season or will he share snaps with Grant Rohach? - brian moore (@mcso694) August 28, 2014
Trotter: Richardson is not going to share snaps. They want -- and need -- him to be the guy. It feels like the Cyclones are still trying to replace Seneca Wallace. They're going to give Richardson plenty of opportunities to show he's the long-term answer at quarterback.
@Jake_Trotter Jake - rank the #Big12's best game day experience. How, in your opinion, do the teams stack up? - Red Raider Ranting (@RaiderRantings) August 28, 2014
Trotter: That's impossible for me to say. All of them are cool in their own way. There's no place in the Big 12 I don't look forward to going to. @mulloy_k: You are a 4-5* recruit, but your only criteria for choosing a school is based on the unlimited snack rule ... and what LOCAL fare would be available (for free) in that city. What Big 12 school do you choose? Appreciate your work! Trotter: Thanks, Kyle. I've been to every campus in the Big 12 multiple times, and I can vouch that in all 10 venues, there are great places to eat. But nowhere in the Big 12 has more great eating options than Austin. That's no slight on the other Big 12 locales. New York City is the only place I've been to that has better food than Austin.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On to the 'bag:
Doug T. from Philly writes: Am I the only one who think the perfect storm for an upset may be brewing in Atlanta this Saturday?
Chatmon: I would be surprised, not shocked, if the Mountaineers find a way against the Crimson Tide. I have reservations about WVU’s ability to win in the trenches and I need to see Clint Trickett take his game to another level and play consistently for Dana Holgorsen’s offense. But I like what WVU has at the skill positions and don't see any scenario where Holgorsen's crew will back down against the Crimson Tide.
Brenna from Stillwater writes: Maybe I'm just looking at it from a true "black and white" perspective, but isn't Baylor returning nine starters, as is Oklahoma State? According to Phil Steele, that's the case. Does Bryce Petty's return compensate for Baylor's loss on defense? Does the quality of Baylor's limited returning starters truly peg them as the team (alongside Oklahoma) to beat in the Big 12 and to make a legitimate run at the four team playoff?
Chatmon: Petty goes a long way in changing the expectations for the Bears. He’s a Heisman Trophy candidate and returning Big 12 offensive player of the year. Oklahoma State’s issue is youthful players all over its defense and uncertainty at quarterback and offensive line. Baylor’s question marks aren’t as widespread as the Cowboys. To cap it all off, the Bears young players will get a chance to ease into the season while OSU faces the defending national champion. That’s what separates the two teams before Week 1 in my eyes.
Sean from Stillwater writes: Give us [OSU] hope for an upset this weekend.
Chatmon: There are plenty of reasons for hope. OSU’s receivers and defensive line should be among the Big 12’s best and Tyreek Hill looks like a playmaker. And, talent-wise, the Cowboys have upgraded from a year ago, but hearing Mike Gundy say his team could play 20 newcomers against FSU is a scary thought.
Theylo from Snyderville writes: Who is going to be the K-State running back?
Chatmon: It looks like Charles Jones has won the job as he sits atop the Kansas State depth chart heading into the season opener. But this will be decided between the lines on several Saturdays this fall. Jones may get the initial nod but if DeMarcus Robinson outperforms him on game day then he could end up being the guy. I think we may not know who John Hubert’s replacement is today, despite the Wildcats’ releasing their depth chart, but we will know by the time October rolls around.
Jon in Tulsa writes: If OSU beats FSU, OSU doesn't become favorite for national championship, then why does OU become contender just because last year's team beat Bama? How do you know that UCF wasn't better than Bama and that mostly returning Baylor shouldn't be favorite in Big 12?
Chatmon: Why are you assuming OSU does not become a national championship favorite if they beat Florida State? I find that odd because the Cowboys will be in the College Football Playoff if they go undefeated. Regardless, Oklahoma is a national title contender because they have a good young defense that carried them to 11 wins a year ago. And the Sooners are the Big 12 favorite, for me at least, because they host Baylor in Norman. It’s not all about the Sooners' Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Alabama.
Jacob Jones from Lubbock writes: Iowa State and Texas Tech will both do better then what experts picked. Watch out for Texas Tech going 9-3 and Iowa State 6-6. West Virginia could be a sleeper as well. I still think Oklahoma holds off the competition and reclaims the Big 12 championship. Bold prediction: Texas Tech upsets OU in Lubbock.
Chatmon: I could see it happen with Tech, but I’m worried about ISU’s defensive line. I need to see them first before I can get on that train. I agree with West Virginia as well but where are those wins coming from? TCU, OSU? I think the Big 12 has a chance to be as competitive as ever this fall, particularly after OU and Baylor at the top. Also, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Sooners fall at Tech; Lubbock has been unkind to the Sooners in the past.
Shaun Rucker from Shawnee, Kansas writes: Why does the media insist on bringing up the fact that the Big 12 doesn't have a championship game every chance they get? Our teams have only ever been hurt by the title game, with the exception of Nebraska not playing in it and getting a title shot in 2001. What's your take?
Brandon Chatmon: I don’t think the Big 12 needs a championship game. I don’t see a scenario where a Big 12 team goes undefeated and finds itself on the outside looking in at the College Football Playoff bracket. Thus, the destiny of every Big 12 team is within its control. That’s good enough for me.
Andy from Austin writes: This past mailbag someone asked, "Why doesn't Texas have alternate unis?'' I love that Texas usually just has subtle tweaks instead of major overhauls. But how awesome would it be to have a solid burnt orange uni for home, like the road ones, but reversed, including the helmets? Any chance of getting that look planted in the minds of those who could make it happen?
Chatmon: I love the idea, Andy. But I don’t see it happening anytime soon. Texas has a good look, and the Longhorns have tried to meet recruits/players halfway with their practice uniforms. I wish I was wrong though.
Jake Trotter's bold predictions
Davis Webb will throw for more yards than Bryce Petty. This is no slight against Petty, who himself should be in for another monster season. But Petty will also be handing off plenty to Shock Linwood, Devin Chafin and Johnny Jefferson. Webb, meanwhile, will be airing it out virtually every down to his big-play trio of Jakeem Grant, Bradley Marquez and Reginald Davis. As long as Webb stays healthy, 4,500-plus passing yards isn't out of reach.
Tyreek Hill will lead the league in rushing. The Longhorns have the Big 12's best one-two punch at running back in Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown. And West Virginia has the league's deepest backfield. But Hill has the tools to be the best big-play back in the conference. He also figures to be the focal point of the Oklahoma State attack. Up until last season, the Cowboys had enjoyed a 1,000-yard rusher in six consecutive seasons. Hill will start another 1,000-yard rushing streak for the Pokes in a big way in 2014.
Brandon Chatmon's bold predictions
Iowa State's offense will be much improved. After finishing in the bottom two in most offensive categories a year ago, Iowa State will finish no lower than sixth in most of those categories, with a clear jump forward in points, yards per play, total yards and third-down conversion rate during its first season with Mark Mangino as offensive coordinator. The Cyclones have plenty of skill-position talent, led by receiver Quenton Bundrage and tight end E.J. Bibbs, and may have a healthy offensive line after a 2013 season full of injuries up front.
Oklahoma safety Ahmad Thomas will emerge as an All-Big 12 candidate. The sophomore safety has continued to develop and improve for the Sooners and looks like a future star in the defensive backfield. He's versatile and gives the Sooners plenty of options with his ability to line up all over the field. Coaches and teammates have raved about his ability, so he could emerge as an All-Big 12 performer, particularly if the Sooners defense becomes a dominating force this fall. Thomas is not a household name right now but he could be by the time December rolls around.
Texas will lead the conference in rushing and finish top 10 nationally. Charlie Strong plans to run the football and the Longhorns have the horses to get it done in the backfield. Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown are a terrific foundation to build UT's offense around, and the offensive line should be solid. Add Strong's insistence that the Longhorns' “soft” label is a thing of the past, and it's a recipe for UT to grab a spot among the nation's top ground games this fall.
Max Olson's bold predictions
Texas Tech will start 7-0 again. The only major hurdles in a pretty favorable early-season schedule are back-to-back road games at Oklahoma State and Kansas State. I like Tech's chances of surviving both games so long as Webb is healthy. If the defense has come together by then and shows up in the big games, look out. From there, Kliff Kingsbury's squad will have a tough slate but a huge opportunity.
Kansas State beats Auburn. Go ahead, call me crazy. This just feels like it's going to be a weird ballgame, almost akin to KSU's 24-19 win over No. 6 Oklahoma in 2012. Kansas State's coaches have the brainpower to come up with answers to Auburn's dangerous option attack. They recruited Nick Marshall hard out of junior college and know his weaknesses. And Tyler Lockett can score on anybody. In a crazy Thursday night home game atmosphere, I think KSU can get it done.
David Ash earns All-Big 12 honors. I didn't say first team! I'm not necessarily saying second-team honors, either. But Texas' fourth-year quarterback remains one of the league's most underrated players and someone who's going to make a breakthrough if he can play all 12 games. Ash was a top-25 passer in 2012, and with quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson's tutelage and the aid of Texas' impressive run game, he can do it again.
Our boldest prediction
A Big 12 team will make the College Football Playoff. Oklahoma and Baylor will meet on Nov. 8 in Norman, Oklahoma. The winner will go on to represent the conference in the inaugural playoff. You'll see.
Here is what was said, and my thoughts:
Strong: Jaxon Shipley (hamstring) is day-to-day. Game time decision.— Ryan Autullo (@AutulloAAS) August 25, 2014
Jake Trotter: The Longhorns won't need Jaxon Shipley this week. But they will need him the following weekend against BYU. With quarterback David Ash working his way back into form, he will need Texas' most experienced and accomplished wideout on the field.
Weis continues to emphasize that newcomers Corey Avery & De'Andre Mann are talented and capable backs who can shoulder the load... #KUfball— Matt Tait (@mctait) August 25, 2014
Trotter: The injuries to Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox hurt Kansas' depth. But De'Andre Mann and Corey Avery were pushing for the top spots on the depth chart before the injuries. The depth took a hit. But the Jayhawks should be fine at running back, provided they suffer no more injuries.
Trotter: The BCS was kind to the Sooners over the years, notably in 2003 and 2008. It remains to be seen whether the playoff committee will look favorably on Oklahoma as well.
Florida State is as "far along as any team I've prepared for in 25 years," says OklaSt Coach Mike Gundy.— Blair Kerkhoff (@BlairKerkhoff) August 25, 2014
Trotter: That is high praise. As a player and coach, Mike Gundy played against some formidable opponents, including some powerhouse Oklahoma and Nebraska teams as a player, then a pair of national championship teams at Oklahoma and Texas as a coach. The combination of Florida State's prominence and Oklahoma State's inexperience is hardly an ideal combination for an opener.
Bill Snyder said he expects to start Charles Jones at running back against Stephen F. Austin— Ken Corbitt (@KenCorbitt) August 25, 2014
Trotter: Bill Snyder traditionally has preferred to utilize one primary running back, and Charles Jones evidently will get the first shot to replace John Hubert. Whoever emerges from the competition will have the opportunity to shine playing alongside quarterback Jake Waters, receiver Tyler Lockett and behind an offensive line with a pair of all-conference performers.
Holgorsen: Icky Banks has been reinstated to the team after academic issues. Will be suspended for non-conference schedule.— Stephen J. Nesbitt (@stephenjnesbitt) August 25, 2014
Trotter: The loss off Icky Banks, a starter last season, in the non-conference hurts, but at least they get him back for the conference portion of the season. The Mountaineers have senior Travis Bell and Terrell Chestnut to at least bridge the gap. The good news is West Virginia has a reliable cover man at the other cornerback in Daryl Worley.
"I've seen some good flashes during fall camp. I expect them to be an improved group." #TexasTech HC Kliff Kingsbury on Red Raiders defense— Brandon Chatmon (@BChatmon) August 25, 2014
Trotter: Whether Texas Tech makes a big jump defensively will hinge heavily on how big an impact the junior-college defensive linemen make. The Red Raiders were gashed against the run last season. They need some of these big men up front, notably, 340-pound nose guard Rika Levi, to help shore that up.
Art Briles said his defense is the most talented he's ever put on the field. Remains to be seen whether it produces.— Suzanne Halliburton (@suzhalliburton) August 25, 2014
Trotter: This is interesting. The Baylor Bears were formidable last season defensively, headlined by All-American safety Ahmad Dixon and All-Big 12 linebacker Eddie Lackey. But there is no doubt the defensive line is going to be better this season. If the secondary comes around the way coach Art Briles think it will, Baylor might not suffer the downturn defensively many are predicting.
Big12 Teleconference - Paul Rhoads on improving on defense - starts with run defense but we didn't stop the pass either - need more pressure— BlueGoldSports.com (@Blue_GoldSports) August 25, 2014
Trotter: It was an uncharacteristically poor season for the Iowa State defense, which ranked last in the league in rushing defense, and seventh in pass defense. Improving those numbers won't come easy, but the Cyclones have some experienced pieces in the front seven to work with in tackle Brandon Jensen, ends Cory Morrissey and Mitchell Meyers, and linebackers Jared Brackens, Alton Meeks, Jevohn Miller and Luke Knott.
TCU's Gary Patterson said he'll announce starting QB when offense takes the field Saturday.— Anthony Andro (@aandro) August 25, 2014
Trotter: No surprise here. My money is on Trevone Boykin getting the first snap. But as coach Gary Patterson has hinted, this competition could linger into September.
BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
Final North Dakota State 34 Iowa State 14 Final West Virginia 23 2 Alabama 33 Final Louisiana Tech 16 4 Oklahoma 48 Final Samford 14 TCU 48 Final Central Arkansas 35 Texas Tech 42 Final Stephen F. Austin 16 20 Kansas State 55 Final North Texas 7 Texas 38 Final 1 Florida State 37 Oklahoma State 31