Big 12: Kansas State Wildcats

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 8

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
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Taking stock of Week 8 in the Big 12:

Team of the week: West Virginia and Kansas State split the honor this week after toppling Big 12 preseason co-favorites Baylor and Oklahoma. The Mountaineers dominated the fourth quarter on their way to a 41-27 victory over the Bears. Quarterback Clint Trickett, whose father was hospitalized over the weekend, led West Virginia with 322 passing yards and three touchdowns, while the Mountaineer defense put the clamps on Baylor’s high-powered attack. Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters was just as impressive, totaling three touchdowns in the Wildcats’ 31-30 victory over the Sooners. With their big wins, West Virginia and K-State emphatically inserted themselves into the Big 12 title race.

Disappointment of the week: With a surging QB, a veteran offensive line and nine returning defensive starters, the Sooners went into the season with expectations of qualifying for the inaugural playoff. Those dreams have been all but dashed after Oklahoma’s second loss in the last three weeks. The Sooners outgained K-State. But they couldn’t overcome numerous miscues, which included Trevor Knight’s pick-six pass, Durron Neal’s interception toss off a reverse and Michael Hunnicutt’s two missed field goals and blocked extra point. Oklahoma is now tied with Texas for sixth in the Big 12 standings.

Big (offensive) man on campus: There were several spectacular offensive performances this weekend, notably by TCU receiver Josh Doctson, Waters, West Virginia receiver Kevin White, Oklahoma receiver Sterling Shepard and Texas Tech running back DeAndre Washington. But the honor here goes to quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, who led the Longhorns on consecutive scoring drives late in the fourth quarter to lift Texas to a dramatic 48-45 win over Iowa State. The first drive, he rushed for 28 yards, then hit Jaxon Shipley on a 22-yard screen to convert a third-and-long, which led to Malcolm Brown’s touchdown plunge on the next play. Swoopes, however, wasn’t done. After Iowa State tied the game with 28 seconds to play, Swoopes came right back with back-to-back bombs to Shipley and Josh Harris to set up Nick Rose’s 21-yard game-winning field goal. All told, Swoopes threw for 322 yards and ran for another 95.

Big (defensive) man on campus: Sunflower State linebackers Ben Heeney and Jonathan Truman were phenomenal this weekend, combining for 38 tackles. Truman was instrumental in K-State’s late goal-line stand in Norman. Heeney added a 37-yard interception return in the Jayhawks’ 34-21 loss at Texas Tech. But the edge here goes to West Virginia defensive end Shaquille Riddick, who sacked Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty three times in a swarming breakout performance. Riddick, who transferred in from FCS school Gardner-Webb in the offseason, added another tackle for loss, as the Mountaineers held Baylor 26 points below its season average.

Special-teams player of the week: The Sooners fell a single point short against the Wildcats, and K-State defensive tackle Travis Britz was the reason why. He busted through the line of scrimmage, and got a hand up to bat away Michael Hunnicutt’s extra-point attempt with 10 minutes to go in the game. Who knows how much the block affected the psyche of Hunnicutt, who later also missed a potential game-winning field goal from 19 yards out. Either way, it was a monumental play by Britz, who led the country in special teams blocks last season.

Play of the week: Even in defeat, Baylor had the hit of the day in college football, as Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman decleated West Virginia cornerback Terrell Chestnut to clear a path for teammate Antwan Goodleys 63-yard touchdown. Officials initially ejected Coleman for targeting, but reversed the call after viewing replay. Chestnut did not return to the game after taking this violent, but clean hit.

video Stat of the week: Baylor broke a Big 12 record with 215 penalty yards at West Virginia, also shattering the previous Baylor record of 157 yards set in 1976. The Bears were flagged 18 times in Morgantown, including seven times for pass interference. As a result, Baylor has overtaken Texas Tech for the national lead in both penalties and penalty yardage.

Quote of the week: "You better get some help." -- West Virginia WR Kevin White, who told Baylor CB Xavien Howard that after burning him for a touchdown in the first quarter. White finished with eight catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Bears.
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Welcome to a brave new world of Big 12 football.

Aldous Huxley told us things could get weird. And chaos reigned in a wild Big 12 weekend, as heavyweights Baylor and Oklahoma went down, leaving preseason predictions (and Morgantown) smoldering, the conference race hazy and the league’s hopes for playoff inclusion on the brink.

The depth of teams has boosted the Big 12’s reputation, firmly cementing it as the nation’s second-best conference behind the almighty SEC. But will the self-cannibalization also knock the Big 12 out of the playoff party?

We’re about to find out. And either way, the next six weeks should be fun.

As many as five teams could still realistically win the Big 12, making it the tightest conference race in the country according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, and three Big 12 teams still have a shot to make the playoff (though a fourth, Oklahoma, might also have a chance in an Armageddon-level scenario -- more on that later).

But out of the dust from this past weekend, TCU has emerged as the league’s best hope to do both.

According to FPI, the Horned Frogs have a 31 percent chance to win the Big 12, up 22 percentage points from last week on the back of a resounding 42-9 victory over Oklahoma State, coupled with Baylor’s loss at West Virginia.

[+] EnlargeKansas State Wildcats
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsAfter a win over Oklahoma, Kansas State is the lone team in the Big 12 that controls its own destiny for an outright conference title.
FPI also suggests TCU has a 24.7 percent chance to win out, which would make the Horned Frogs a strong candidate for the playoff.

TCU’s 30-7 nonconference victory over Minnesota (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) looks better and better. And the Horned Frogs’ lone defeat at Baylor, while catastrophic at the time, won’t look bad in the eyes of the playoff selection committee in the long run.

But as dominant as TCU has been, running the table won’t be a cinch, even with the Sooners and Bears in the rearview mirror. And the first two weeks in November should determine TCU’s playoff fate. The Horned Frogs go to Morgantown (assuming it’s still standing) Nov. 1, then welcome No. 11 Kansas State the following weekend. A two-game sweep would all but catapult the Horned Frogs into the playoff. But a loss in either would further the pandemonium.

At the moment, Baylor is the other co-favorite to win the league, even after the loss at West Virginia. FPI also gives the Bears a 31 percent chance of winning the Big 12. Baylor has the head-to-head advantage over TCU. And the Bears have only one road game remaining -- at Oklahoma Nov. 8 in a game everyone pegged as the game of the year in the Big 12 before the season. Baylor will have another chance to impress the playoff committee in the regular-season finale against Kansas State.

But even if the Bears win out (FPI gives them a 17.9 percent chance of doing so), their nonconference schedule could ultimately doom them. Baylor’s two FBS nonconference wins came against teams ranked 114th (Buffalo) and 125th (SMU) in the FPI. When stacked against other potential one-loss teams, that won’t look good. Which is why ESPN playoff guru Brad Edwards says Baylor needs the other Power 5 leagues to produce two-loss champions Insider in order to get back in the mix.

Yet while Baylor might need help to get in the playoff, Kansas State is the lone team in the Big 12 that truly controls its own destiny for an outright conference title. After a 31-30 win at Oklahoma, the Wildcats might control their destiny in the playoff hunt, too.

But that doesn’t mean it will be easy.

Of all the Big 12 contenders, K-State has the toughest remaining road. The Wildcats still have to travel to TCU, West Virginia and Baylor, all games they could be underdogs in. K-State has a 17.1 percent chance to win the league according to FPI but only a 1.9 percent chance of winning out. Having lost to Auburn in nonconference, the Wildcats would likely have to win out, too, to have a chance. And even then, K-State would probably need Auburn to fall out of contention, since the Tigers would hold the head-to-head advantage over the Wildcats in the eyes of the committee.

Still, K-State has a feather-in-cap win in Oklahoma already in its hip pocket. And if the Wildcats were able to somehow topple TCU, West Virginia and Baylor all on the road, their résumé would be formidable.

West Virginia has a feather-in-cap win, too, after its 41-27 victory over Baylor, which has propelled the Mountaineers into the Big 12 title conversation. West Virginia now has a 9.1 percent chance to win the Big 12 according to FPI and a favorable remaining schedule, with both TCU and K-State coming at home.

While the Mountaineers have entered the Big 12 picture, the Sooners haven’t completely exited it even with two conference losses. According to FPI, Oklahoma has the best chance of any Power 5 team of winning out with a 43.8 percent chance. The Sooners get Baylor at home, which gives them an opportunity for a statement victory.

Though it is highly unlikely at this point, Oklahoma (and who knows, maybe even West Virginia?) could get back into the playoff discussion as a two-loss conference champion, should chaos strike elsewhere.

It certainly struck the Big 12 on Saturday, when the league was turned on its head yet again.

Big 12 bowl projections: Week 8

October, 19, 2014
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It's moving day!

Chaos reigns as West Virginia's and Kansas State's wins join TCU's domination to result in the Horned Frogs sitting atop the queue. West Virginia could be the sleeper pick to win the conference, while K-State still faces a difficult road to its second Big 12 title in three years with road trips to TCU, West Virginia and Baylor left on the schedule.

The conference landscape is full of teams that could stake their claim in the Big 12 title race.

Allstate Sugar Bowl: TCU
Cotton Bowl: Kansas State
Valero Alamo Bowl: West Virginia
Russell Athletic Bowl: Baylor
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Oklahoma
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Oklahoma State
Cactus Bowl: Texas

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 8

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
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Lots of love to go around after a wild day in the Big 12. The top performers in the conference on Saturday:

WR Josh Doctson, TCU: The game-changer in TCU's 42-9 beatdown of Oklahoma State. His 77- and 84-yard touchdown catches broke the game open, and Doctson's 225 receiving yards came 1 short of tying the Horned Frogs' single-game school record. He led all of FBS in receiving this week and only needed seven receptions to do so.

DT Travis Britz, Kansas State: Sometimes it only takes one play to earn your Helmet Sticker. Britz gets a bravo for an unexpected game-changer: He blocked Michael Hunnicutt's extra-point attempt in the fourth quarter to ensure K-State kept its 31-30 lead over Oklahoma. Thanks to another Hunnicutt miss, this time a field goal, that proved to be the final score in Norman.

LB Ben Heeney, Kansas: We hear you, Ben. You know you belong on our midseason All-Big 12 team. We should've known, too. Heeney racked up a career-high 21 tackles (his previous best was 15) and added a 37-yard interception return in KU's 34-21 loss to Texas Tech. To suggest he's not playing at an All-Big 12 level ... that's just ignorant.

QB Trevone Boykin, TCU: The nation's leading passer in Week 8, Boykin only played three quarters and finished with a career-best 410 passing yards and three scores plus 41 rushing yards. He's playing at an unreal level right now and ranks top-five nationally in total offense at nearly 370 yards per game.

QB Jake Waters, Kansas State: Got a little dinged up but just keep going. Waters threw for 225 yards on 15-of-23 passing, the best of the bunch a 62-yard TD to Glenn Gronkowski on a delayed pop pass, and he added 51 rushing yards and a key 4-yard score to retake the lead late in the third quarter. In production, versatility and leadership, Waters is right there with the Big 12's best QBs.

WR Kevin White, West Virginia: All-American all the way. White racked up 132 receiving yards and two touchdowns on eight catches in the 41-27 upset win over Baylor. He needed just seven games to surpass 1,000 receiving yards and is up to seven touchdown catches. Everyone knows the ball is going to him, and still nobody has stopped him.

QB Tyrone Swoopes, Texas: This kid is getting good. Swoopes threw for 321 yards and a touchdown and rushed for a career-best 95 yards and another score. But that's not what was impressive. His 39-yard pass to Jaxon Shipley and 29-yard pass to John Harris on back-to-back plays, both with under 30 seconds left, set Texas up for the game-winning field goal and 48-45 victory over Iowa State.

DE Shaquille Riddick, West Virginia: The Gardner-Webb transfer came to WVU to play in big games and played big Saturday: Five tackles, four tackles for loss, and three sacks. He got consistent pressure on Bryce Petty and is quite a weapon in WVU's scheme.

RB DeAndre Washington, Texas Tech: The Red Raiders' run game is enjoying a revival thanks to the steady Washington, whose 164 rushing yards in the win over Kansas were the most by a Tech running back in a game since Taurean Henderson in 2004.

WR Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma: Had to give him a shout-out for a career day in an excellent career. Shepard tied the OU school record with 15 receptions against Kansas State and took them for 197 yards, including a 47-yard score.
Here's what we learned about the Big 12 in a wild Week 8:

1. The league race is wide open: By taking down preseason favorites Oklahoma and Baylor, Kansas State and West Virginia completely transformed the Big 12 title race Saturday. With only one loss, the defending champion Bears could still win the Big 12. But they now have plenty of company. TCU (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) bounced back from its heartbreaking loss to Baylor last week to obliterate Oklahoma State 42-9. The Wildcats (5-1, 3-0) have also hopped firmly into the conference championship conversation after an impressive 31-30 victory in Norman. But West Virginia shouldn't be discounted, either, following its 41-27 win over Baylor. The Mountaineers have Oklahoma and Baylor behind them on the schedule, and they get TCU (Nov. 1) and Kansas State (Nov. 20) in Morgantown. The only certainty at this point is the Big 12 race down the backstretch is going to be a fun one to watch.

[+] EnlargeKevin White
AP Photo/Chris JacksonKevin White, who has eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving with five games left, and West Virginia are still very much in the Big 12 title race.
2. Oklahoma is not elite -- again: The most recent time the Sooners seriously contended for a national title past October was 2008, when Oklahoma won a loaded Big 12 and played Florida in the national championship game. After returning the bulk of a team that downed Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, the Sooners believed they had a squad that could break the dry spell and break into the inaugural College Football Playoff. They played up to that hype through the first month of the season. But yet again, Oklahoma was proven to not be elite. The past three weeks, the Sooners lost at TCU, barely escaped Texas, then fell at home to the Wildcats to get all but eliminated from the playoff picture. Quarterback Trevor Knight has been too up and down, while the defense has failed to dominate. Even the kicking game crumbled Saturday when the Sooners needed it most. Oklahoma still has a good team. But for this program, having a good team isn't good enough, especially when this was supposed to be Oklahoma's year to return to national prominence. Bob Stoops and his coaching staff have soul-searching to do. Once again, the team they fielded won't be a contender past October.

3. Oklahoma State is rebuilding after all: After graduating more starters than any other Power 5 program, the Cowboys faced the prospect of having to rebuild this year. But after they took defending national champ Florida State to the wire in the opener, then won five straight games, expectations were raised. Turns out, they shouldn't have been. Oklahoma State's 3-0 Big 12 start turned out to be fool's gold, as the Cowboys were exposed in a game they were never in against TCU. Quarterback Daxx Garman failed to complete a single pass in the second half, while Oklahoma State's beleaguered offensive line was manhandled in the trenches. Defensively, the inexperienced Cowboys surrendered 676 yards of offense, the most TCU had racked up in a game since 2007. Oklahoma State has some good young players, but facing a back-loaded schedule, the Cowboys figure to endure more growing pains -- and losses -- the second half of the season.

4. The Big 12 has some monster WRs: Good luck finding four receivers in college football better than West Virginia's Kevin White, Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard, Kansas State's Tyler Lockett or Baylor's Antwan Goodley. That Big 12 foursome combined for 547 receiving yards Saturday. They were -- as they have been all year -- basically unstoppable. After breaking the 1,000-receiving-yard barrier with five regular-season games to go, White could begin to warrant Heisman consideration. Shepard, who tied a school record with 15 catches against K-State, should be a Biletnikoff finalist. Goodley and Lockett are All-American-caliber players, too. The Big 12 might be as deep as it's been since 2008, and the depth of its blue-chip wide receivers is a big reason for that.

5. Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes is turning the corner: Swoopes followed his breakout performance against Oklahoma last week by engineering a drive in the final seconds to set up a game-winning field goal and give Texas a dramatic 48-45 win over Iowa State. Swoopes got the ball back with 28 seconds to go on the Texas 28 and the game seemingly headed for overtime. Instead, Swoopes floated a bomb into the arms of Jaxon Shipley for 39 yards down the sideline. On the next play, Swoopes hit John Harris along the same sideline for a 29-yard gain to the Iowa State 4. Nick Rose nailed the field goal on the next play with 3 seconds left. All told, Swoopes threw for 322 yards and ran for another 95, and he gave more reason to believe he could be Texas' long-sought answer at quarterback.
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Bill Snyder sat behind the table with his arms crossed above it and legs crossed below. Unenthusiastically, he spoke as if Kansas State had just completed a successful Tuesday practice.

But after a stunning 31-30 victory at Oklahoma, Snyder's players couldn't keep up the ruse.

"I'd be lying if I said this was just another win," K-State wide receiver Curry Sexton said. "It's a humongous win."

On Saturday, K-State -- with some assistance from West Virginia, which toppled Baylor a few minutes later -- turned the Big 12 title race upside down and grabbed one of the most humongous wins of the Snyder era. Not only did the Wildcats (5-1, 3-0 Big 12) all but eliminate Oklahoma (5-2, 2-2) from the playoff picture, but they also inserted themselves right into the thick of it -- whether Snyder wanted to admit it or not.

"[Playoff selection] is a hundred years from now, which is about my age," said Snyder, who turned 75 this past week. "It's way down the line."

As usual, Snyder isn't wrong. K-State has one of the most difficult remaining schedules in the country, with trips to TCU, West Virginia and Baylor looming at the end of the season. But in a hostile environment, against a more talented team that almost everyone had penciled into the playoff just a month ago, the Wildcats flashed a championship-caliber mettle that could take them far.

"You match us up on paper against a lot of teams, and you'll say they have better athletes and better players, but at the end of the day, we have a bunch of guys who just go out there and play football and make plays," said Sexton, one of K-State's many current or former walk-ons who fills a major role. "This team is full of gritty, tough guys who simply know how to win. You can't beat that."

[+] EnlargeKansas State's Danzel McDaniel
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsDanzel McDaniel returned an interception 5 yards for a touchdown, much to the dismay of the Oklahoma crowd.
On Saturday, that grit was the difference. And in Synder's words, some good fortune helped.

The Wildcats were dominated in the box score, from yardage gained (533-to-385) to first downs (30-to-17). But after they missed three field goals in the loss to Auburn this past month, the special teams breaks went K-State's way. Kicker Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma's all-time scoring leader who had earned the nickname "Moneycutt" for his reliability, had an extra point blocked and missed two chip-shot field goals, including a 19-yarder late in the fourth quarter that would have given Oklahoma a 33-31 lead with 5:39 to go.

But before and after the last missed field goal, the Wildcats demonstrated the grit that could make them the team to beat in the Big 12.

Uncoverable wideout Sterling Shepard and Oklahoma's rugged running game had finally worn down the Wildcats in the fourth quarter. The Sooners rammed Samaje Perine between the tackles 68 yards to the K-State 2-yard line and set up first-and-goal and a potential go-ahead touchdown. But Oklahoma would get no farther.

Perine was stuffed on the next three plays, which forced the Sooners into a field-goal attempt.

"OU's offense is very physical and fast," K-State defensive end Ryan Mueller said. "But we got some tough guys, too."

After Hunnicutt hooked the field-goal attempt, the K-State offense did the rest.

"We were thinking, Let's get two first downs and get out of here," Sexton said.

Quarterback Jake Waters, who played through an injury to his throwing shoulder after a 53-yard run to open the third quarter, hit Sexton on a quick out for the initial first down on third-and-3. Two plays later, Charles Jones dashed through the Oklahoma front for the second first down to seal the win.

"You keep sawing wood, keep rowing the boat," Snyder said. "All the numbers were against us, and they were having their way with us. But when we had to stiffen up ... we did."

While K-State entered the season under the radar, Oklahoma came in with national championship expectations after they returned the bulk of a team that beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

Oklahoma started with a dominating 4-0 start. But in the past three weeks, the Sooners have stumbled on the field and tumbled out of the playoff conversation.

Just as they had in the loss at TCU two games ago, the Sooners couldn't convert late when they had to, and they couldn't overcome catastrophic mistakes.

Despite missing a series with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight played his best overall game since the Sugar Bowl. He threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns. But he also threw a mindless pick-six to Danzel McDaniel from his own end zone, which gave K-State a 14-7 second-quarter lead.

The Sooners kept moving the ball at will in the second half. But from the K-State 17 in the third quarter, Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel dialed up a Durron Neal reverse pass that was intercepted by Morgan Burns in the end zone.

"We did a lot of good things today, but those major mistakes, you can't overcome it," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.

The Sooners had a chance to overcome those mistakes at the end, but they couldn't punch the ball through the K-State defense. They couldn't make a field goal. And the defense couldn't get the ball back.

As a result, for the sixth consecutive season, Oklahoma bowed out of the national championship chase by mid-October.

"This game doesn't define us," Knight said. "We're not a losing ball club. There's no chance we're going to take that mentality. We've been in this position before. Everyone doubted us when we were in this position [in 2013], and we ended up having that pretty incredible end of the year."

While the Sooners will now be playing merely to finish strong, K-State will be playing for a chance at the conference title -- and perhaps a spot in the playoff, too -- thanks to its grit, which conquered all when it mattered most.

"We're a real tough team," Jones said. "And we feel like we're a real contender."

"Who knows how far we can go."
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Kansas State stunned the Oklahoma Sooners with a 31-30 victory on the road. Here is what happened:

How the game was won: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma’s all-time leading scorer, missed an extra point and two chip-shot field goal attempts, including a 19-yarder with 5:39 to go. The Sooners had first-and-goal from the K-State 2-yard line before the 19-yard miss, but running back Samaje Perine couldn’t punch it in on three straight carries.

Game ball goes to: Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters, who was sensational with 225 yards passing and 51 yards rushing. He also accounted for three touchdowns despite having to go to the locker room momentarily with an undisclosed injury.

What it means: With two losses in the past three weeks, Oklahoma is out of the playoff conversation, and maybe the Big 12 title chase, too. With its second straight win in Norman, Kansas State is right in the thick of both.

Playoff implications: The Wildcats have replaced the Sooners as a Big 12 possibility for a playoff spot. The Wildcats do have a loss, but it was to Auburn. And though K-State has a tough remaining schedule with trips to Baylor, TCU and West Virginia remaining, those games also offer the Wildcats chances to land more marquee victories.

Best play video embed: Waters got the K-State offense rolling with this 62-yard strike to fullback Glenn Gronkowski, the younger brother of NFL star Rob Gronkowski.

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What's next: The Sooners have a week off to lick their wounds before traveling to Iowa State on Nov. 1. The Wildcats face Texas in Manhattan next weekend.
In today's Twitter mailbag, we discuss playoff scenarios, the three big games this weekend, and whether there is any hope for Texas Tech or Kansas.

On to the 'bag:

@Jake_Trotter: So, you're saying all three finish 11-1? The edge in a three-way tie always goes to the team that lost first, and in this case, that would be the Sooners.

Trotter: It would probably take the Big 12 getting left out three-four years in a row for the league to reconsider expansion. One year won't change anything.

Trotter: I have no idea how the committee would weigh those teams. But if it were me on the selection committee, head-to-head would count for something. And TCU holds the head-to-head advantage. Meaning those Oklahoma style points would have to be considerable.

Trotter: The Cowboys are a hard team to figure out. They haven't looked good these past few games, but is that a case of them not being that good, or is it a case of them playing down to the competition? After all, they did play up to Florida State. Oklahoma State is probably somewhere in between. Based on what I've seen from them, and based on the remaining schedule, which is brutal, 7-5 feels about right. But we will learn a lot more about these Cowboys this weekend. They might be better than that. And they might be worse.

Trotter: They have a chance, sure. But I don't like this Oklahoma State line against that TCU front, which has been solid, save for the fourth-quarter collapse at Baylor. I think the Cowboys will have a hard time running the ball. I think they will have a hard time protecting Daxx Garman. And when you can't run the ball, and can't protect your quarterback, you usually don't win.

Trotter: The Baylor offense is just really destructive when it's on. And it was on in the fourth quarter last weekend. This is still a good TCU defense. Chucky Hunter, Paul Dawson and Sam Carter are All-Big 12-caliber players. And Davion Pierson, Marcus Mallet, Kevin White and Chris Hackett are really good, too. When hot, Baylor has the firepower to light up anybody in the country. The Bears just got hot at the wrong time for TCU.

Trotter: I'd have to take the field, because it includes Alabama's Amari Cooper. The national awards are somewhat about name recognition. Coming into the season, Cooper had it. Kevin White did not. And even though White is having a tremendous season and is on track to be a Biletnikoff finalist, Cooper plays for one of the preeminent programs in college football. No matter how many passes White catches, that will be hard to overcome.

Trotter: Since 2009, Kansas football has just three Big 12 wins. But Kansas basketball has been to only one Final Four since 2008. Based on those past performances, I guess I'd have to go with the football team winning a game. But it's close.

Trotter: I wouldn't bet on it. The Red Raiders already have four losses and have yet to face TCU, Oklahoma and Baylor. They would have to win one of those games just to have a chance. I don't see it.

Trotter: Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown is like "The Mountain" of the Big 12. Let's go with him..

Big 12 true freshman power rankings

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17
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Going into the eighth weekend of the season, we've updated our Big 12 true freshman power rankings again:

1. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma (previous rank: 1): Though he’s been held to fewer than 100 yards the last two weeks, Perine has still had an All-Big 12 season with a conference-leading nine rushing touchdowns. He’s also second in the league with 568 rushing yards.

2. KD Cannon, WR, Baylor (2): Cannon showed against TCU that he’s still a major factor in the Baylor passing game even with Antwan Goodley, Corey Coleman and Levi Norwood back from injuries. Cannon had six catches for 124 yards and a 67-yard touchdown.

3. Dravon Henry, FS, West Virginia (3): Henry has been consistently solid all season at the back end of the West Virginia secondary, but he will have his biggest challenge yet facing off against Cannon and Baylor’s loaded receiving corps.

4. Jason Hall, S, Texas (7): Hall could drop in these rankings if his patellar tendon injury lingers. But he has been tremendous so far for a surging Texas defense, with eight tackles most recently in the Oklahoma game.

5. Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State (5): Lazard had his best game yet, with 8 receptions, 96 receiving yards and a touchdown last week in Iowa State’s 37-30 win over Toledo. Lazard is now 15th in the Big 12 receiving, second only to Cannon among true freshmen.

6. Corey Avery, RB, Kansas (9): Avery scored a 23-yard fourth-quarter touchdown that nearly spurred the Jayhawks to an upset of Oklahoma State. Avery is now 10th in the Big 12 with 348 rushing yards.

7. Nigel Bethel II, CB, Texas Tech (NR): After serving out his three-game suspension, Bethel got the start against West Virginia and the assignment of covering the nation’s leading receiver, Kevin White. Though White had 123 receiving yards, Bethel held up OK and finished with nine tackles.

8. Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech (NR): After doing virtually nothing for three games, Stockton exploded with a 69-yard touchdown run that put Tech up 34-20 in the fourth quarter against West Virginia. With Kenny Williams moving back to running back from linebacker, it will be interesting to see how involved Stockton remains in the offense.

9. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State (6): Washington hasn’t done much since hauling in two touchdowns on Sept. 25 against Texas Tech. Washington has just four catches for 20 yards over the Cowboys’ last two games.

10. Ramon Richards, CB, Oklahoma State (NR): Richards has been starting since Ashton Lampkin injured his ankle. It’s unclear if Lampkin will be able to return Saturday against TCU. Either way, Richards figures to be a core part of the Oklahoma State secondary moving forward.

On the radar: Elijah Lee, LB, Kansas State; Steven Parker II, S, Oklahoma; Dimitri Flowers, FB, Oklahoma; Davion Hall, WR, Baylor; Matthew Boateng, CB, Kansas; Colin Downing, P, Iowa State; Cameron Batson, PR/WR, Texas Tech; Martinez Syria, RB, Iowa State.

Big 12 viewer's guide: Week 8

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17
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In Week 8 of Big 12 action, the Kansas State-Oklahoma, Baylor-West Virginia and Oklahoma State-TCU showdowns carry conference title implications; Texas Tech will try to get back on track against Kansas after losing four in a row; and Iowa State will attempt to avenge last year's controversial loss to Texas.

Those, among others, will be the storylines to watch in the league on Saturday:

No. 14 Kansas State at No. 11 Oklahoma, noon ET (ESPN): Oklahoma wideout Sterling Shepard is having an All-American-caliber season, ranking sixth nationally in receiving. But to get the offense back on track, the Sooners need to get other receiving weapons involved. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Shepard has accounted for 47 percent of Oklahoma's receiving yards, the highest percentage for any receiver in the country. While the Oklahoma passing game has sputtered, the K-State air attack has thrived of late. Jake Waters is completing 50 percent of his passes of 15 or more yards, the best rate of any Big 12 quarterback. To hold off the Wildcats, the Sooners will have to be better than they've been at defending passes downfield. Oklahoma has allowed the league's most receptions (20) and touchdowns (7) on throws of 15 yards or more.

[+] EnlargeSterling Shepard
AP Images/Sue OgrockiSterling Shepard has 34 catches for 714 yards, but the Sooners need to get production from elsewhere as well.
No. 4 Baylor at West Virginia, noon ET (FS1): If any game can outdo last weekend's TCU-Baylor shootout, it's this one. Baylor leads the country with 90.2 plays per game. West Virginia is second with 87.8 plays per game. Like last year, Baylor QB Bryce Petty has been lethal going over the top of opposing defenses. He leads the FBS with 11 touchdown passes of 20 yards or more, including six against TCU -- the most in a game by any Power 5 quarterback in the last four seasons. While Baylor has relied on the long ball, West Virginia has been efficient with quick passes and broken tackles. The Mountaineers top the Big 12 and rank second among Power 5 offenses with 212.5 yards after the catch per game.

Kansas at Texas Tech, 3:30 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Regional): The Jayhawks led Texas Tech 10-0 early in Lawrence last year before giving up 54 unanswered points. Tech leads the all-time series 14-1, with Kansas' only victory coming in Lubbock in 2001. The Jayhawks have not won a Big 12 road game since defeating Iowa State in 2008. At 2-4, Tech is off to its worst start since 1994.

No. 15 Oklahoma State at No. 12 TCU, 4 p.m. ET (FS1): Cowboys QB Daxx Garman has flashed a big-play arm so far. He's averaging 14.4 passing yards per attempt, according to ESPN Stats & Information, the best of any Power 5 QB. In fact since Garman became the starter in Week 3, 72 percent of Oklahoma State's passing yards have come on passes of 15 yards or longer -- the highest percentage of any Power 5 offense. Though he's been inconsistent at times, Garman could have success against the Horned Frogs, who couldn't keep Baylor from throwing over their heads last weekend. But Oklahoma State's defense will have its hands full, too. TCU has 10 touchdown drives of three plays or fewer, tied for third-most in the country.

Iowa State at Texas, 8 p.m. ET (Longhorn Network): The Longhorns lead the all-time series against Iowa State 10-1, including a 31-30 win on a disputed no-fumble call in Ames last year. Both Iowa State QB Sam B. Richardson and Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes are coming off career outings. Swoopes passed for 334 yards, rushed for 50 and accounted for three touchdowns in Texas' narrow loss to Oklahoma. Richardson threw for a career-high 351 yards and three second-half touchdowns to rally Iowa State to a win over Toledo.

Big 12's top recruiting visits 

October, 17, 2014
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Baylor is the team to beat, and West Virginia is hoping to put on a show in front of what’s anticipated to be a raucous crowd. That game will be only one of a handful of must-see Big 12 games on tap Saturday.

Look for some major targets in the following three games to not only be in attendance but also take mental notes of what they see over the weekend. There’s no guarantee, but one or two may even give their verbal commitments.

Kansas State at Oklahoma

Fresh off its Red River Showdown victory against Texas, Oklahoma returns home in hopes to put on a show that will attract a couple of top visitors. ESPN 300 outside linebacker Cameron Townsend and four-star defensive tackle Darrion Daniels will be in Norman on official visits. The additions of both players would be huge for the Sooners. Additionally, quarterback commit Dalton Wood said he will be in Norman for an unofficial visit, as will players like ESPN Junior 300 running back Z'Quan Hogan and 2016 dual-threat quarterback Terry Wilson.

Big 12 morning links

October, 17, 2014
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Stephen A. Smith is not happy about this.
  • West Virginia receiver Jordan Thompson responded to being demoted from his punt return duties by putting up the first 100-yard receiving game of his career, writes Bob Cohn of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. If Thompson can consistently produce like he did against Texas Tech last Saturday, he'd add another explosive element to the Mountaineers' offense to pair with No. 1 receiver Kevin White and Mario Alford. His quickness in the slot could open things up on the outside for White while also creating more room for WVU's running game.
  • Kansas linebacker Michael Reynolds could be a key member of the Jayhawks' defense this weekend, writes Rustin Dodd of the Wichita Eagle. After recording four sacks in the last four games, Reynolds is coming on for KU. Reynolds has been KU's top pass rusher for the past two seasons and could be critical against Texas Tech. I like Reynolds chances of adding to his sack total against the Red Raiders but KU will need much more than just a improved pass rush to win in Lubbock. Texas. Another strong performance from quarterback Michael Cummings is the key for KU.
  • For all the hand wringing about Oklahoma's offense, the Sooners haven't been that bad, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. Tramel's right, the Sooners offense hasn't been horrible but it hasn't been good enough to believe it can carry the Sooners back into Big 12 title contention. And that's the goal for OU. Unless the offense begins playing better, OU could continue to find itself looking up at other teams in the Big 12 standings.
  • Kansas State cornerback Danzel McDaniel brings unusual physicality to a position generally known for coverage, writes Ken Corbitt of the Topeka Capital-Journal. McDaniel was outstanding against Auburn and seems to be getting better and better with each week but expect him to be tested in multiple ways against OU this weekend. He could be a key to the game as the Sooners will try to run the ball and set up their passing game with play action. It will be important for McDaniel to be sound in K-State's defense in what should be a close game.
  • It's time for Big 12 midseason grades from Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register. He gives the Cyclones offense and defense Ds while handing out As to Baylor, Bryce Petty, E.J. Bibbs and Cole Netten. The most interesting grade is a C for Oklahoma, based on the Sooners' loss to TCU. Meanwhile Texas gets a C as well. Seems like a odd grade for an OU squad that sits at 5-1 yet finds itself with the same grade as the 2-4 Longhorns.
Kansas State walked away with a 24-19 victory over Oklahoma the last time Kansas State visited Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in 2012.

This time around, the Wildcats are coming off a bye, while the Sooners have gone 1-1 in their last two games. The battle between No. 11 Oklahoma and No. 14 Kansas State could be a game we look back upon as a deciding moment in the Big 12 title race.

Jake Trotter and Brandon Chatmon break down the matchup:

How Oklahoma can control the game: Remember when the Sooners were cruising and Oklahoma's offense looked like a runaway train? Oklahoma averaged 44.8 points per game and 5.9 yards per carry in its first four games. In its last two games, OU averaged 32 points per game and 3.5 yards per carry. Quarterback Trevor Knight has shouldered a lot of the blame, but the Sooners running game has been at the root of the offensive struggles. If OU’s physical running game returns, the Sooners should control the game. — Chatmon

How Kansas State can pull off the upset: All the Wildcats have to do is execute the same defensive game plan they did against Auburn. Stuff Samaje Perine and the zone-read. And dare the Sooners to win with Knight passing from the pocket. K-State has the defensive discipline to shut down a sputtering Oklahoma offense. If the Wildcats can play with the same defensive awareness and sure tackling they did against Auburn, they’ll have a chance. – Trotter

Oklahoma’s X-factor: Surely Bill Snyder’s squad won’t kick off to Alex Ross. The Sooners running back has had a game-changing kickoff return for a touchdown in both of Oklahoma's Big 12 wins, so don’t expect the Wildcats to give him another chance to change a game. That doesn’t mean Ross won’t impact the game. He remains an explosive, big-play running back who should get opportunities on offense even if he doesn’t get the ball on a kick return. His speed is a good match with Perine’s power. — Chatmon

K-State’s X-factor: The Wildcats have what the Sooners really need: a prolific No. 2 wideout. Curry Sexton has emerged into a force opposite All-Big 12 receiver Tyler Lockett. Sexton has 22 receptions, 296 receiving yards and two touchdowns in K-State’s last three games. After giving up 278 receiving yards and three touchdowns to Lockett last year, the Sooners will surely focus their defensive scheme on slowing him. That should give Sexton plenty of opportunities to keep the K-State chains moving. – Trotter

What a win would mean for Oklahoma: A Sooners win would remind people that the Sooners are still legitimate Big 12 contenders, even though they’ve endured their share of struggles against TCU and Texas. And an impressive Sooners win could give them enough momentum to battle their way back into College Football Playoff contention. — Chatmon

What a win would mean for K-State: The Wildcats have been waiting for this opportunity since dropping the heartbreaker to Auburn last month. A win here would catapult K-State back into the Big 12 title conversation and onto the cusp of the playoff picture. The Wildcats would still have to go to TCU and Baylor. But if they win in Norman, they’ll have the confidence they can win anywhere. – Trotter

Big 12 players in Week 8 spotlight

October, 16, 2014
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Our weekly quest to predict which players are due for a breakout game went better than ever last week, with KD Cannon, DeAndre Washington, Michael Cummings, B.J. Catalon and Steve Edmond all enjoying big performances. Who's going to step up in Week 8? A look at 10 players to watch this weekend:

Baylor CB Xavien Howard: He's quietly racked up nine pass breakups this season and faces probably his best one-on-one threat of the season in Kevin White. Ryan Reid got lots of attention last week -- good and bad -- but I have a feeling Howard will rise to the occasion in Morgantown.

Iowa State DE Cory Morrissey: With no Desmond Harrison (suspension) back for Texas, it's likely Morrissey has one of Iowa State's most advantageous matchups this week when he takes on left tackle Marcus Hutchins, who hasn't been great. This Texas offensive line, while improving, is still vulnerable and Morrissey has a chance to remind us he's one of the league's more underrated defenders.

Kansas LB Ben Heeney: Inspired by the fact we made the mistake of snubbing him for our midseason All-Big 12 team, Heeney will rack up 30 tackles against Texas Tech and makes us look like a bunch of fools. I really wouldn't be shocked. He is playing at an All-Big 12 level, no doubt; we simply ran out of linebacker spots.

Kansas State QB Jake Waters: He got a huge stage against Auburn and made some uncharacteristic mistakes. Here's another big one against Oklahoma, and with the advantage of a bye week, surely this staff has cooked up some good stuff the Sooners won't see coming. Waters is one of the Big 12's best QBs but rarely receives that praise. He'll earn it this week.

Oklahoma RB Alex Ross: Despite his game-changing kick return for a TD, Ross recorded just five touches on offense against Texas. Let's see what he can do with a little more of a workload, and especially some more opportunities in space, as the lightning to Samaje Perine's thunder.

Oklahoma State WR David Glidden: He has a 20-plus yard reception in five of the Pokes' six games this season and is a sneaky dangerous member of what's becoming a fairly diverse receiving corps. There's no one significant go-to guy among those wideouts, at least not statistically, but Glidden can be on Saturday.

TCU DE Mike Tuaua: We didn't hear a whole lot from Tuaua last week -- to his credit, his lone tackle was a sack -- but the Frogs' rising defensive end will need to be impactful this week. Daxx Garman is capable of challenging TCU deep repeatedly, but not if he doesn't have time in the pocket to make the right decisions.

Texas DE Naashon Hughes: The redshirt freshman, a converted linebacker with a great frame, earned his first career start against Oklahoma and is proving to be an ideal fit for Texas' Fox end spot. He was sound in tackling and coverage last week and should get some nice chances to blitz and cause trouble in the backfield against ISU.

Texas Tech CB Nigel Bethel II: After serving his suspension for Tech's nonconference slate, Bethel is back and stepped up in defending Kevin White last week, notching nine tackles. That should be one heck of a confidence-booster for the always-confident true freshman. The big plays are coming soon for him.

West Virginia RB Wendell Smallwood: You can't ask for more from a change-of-pace back than what Smallwood gave last week, rushing for 123 yards on just 15 carries against Texas Tech. WVU needs to be able to keep Baylor's defense honest by attacking with Rushel Shell and Smallwood. Keep an eye on him this week.

Poll: Big 12's best QB thus far?

October, 16, 2014
Oct 16
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We thought we knew who was the Big 12's best quarterback before the season began.

That conversation started and ended with Baylor's Bryce Petty.

Midway through the 2014 season, the argument can be made that Petty hasn't been the best quarterback in the league. Several other quarterbacks have challenged Petty for the title of Big 12's best so now is the perfect time to ask: Who has been the Big 12's best quarterback thus far?

SportsNation

Who has been the Big 12's best quarterback thus far?

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    46%
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    24%
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    16%
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    11%
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    3%

Discuss (Total votes: 7,689)

Petty is among the Big 12 leaders with 1,534 passing yards, 15 touchdowns and just three interceptions for the Bears but his surprisingly low completion percentage (56.7 percent) has opened the door for others to stake their claim as the conference's top signal caller.

West Virginia's Clint Trickett has been the surprise of the group, looking like a different quarterback in his second season playing for Dana Holgorsen. His 2,203 passing yards and 68.5 completion percentage lead the Big 12 but his six turnovers (four interceptions, two fumbles) are a major drawback.

TCU's Trevone Boykin is a nightmare for defenses in the Horned Frogs' new system. He's developing as a passer and pairing that skill with running back-like explosiveness when he escapes the pocket. He's a big reason TCU has risen to No. 12 nationally and his Big 12-low two interceptions is just what Gary Patterson wants from his signal caller. But, much like Petty, his 57.7 completion percentage leaves plenty of room to improve.

Jake Waters has done it all for Kansas State, leading Big 12 quarterbacks with 320 rushing yards while connecting on 65 percent of his passes. His ability to keep defenses honest with his arm or his legs is a big reason why the Wildcats are 4-1.

Other quarterbacks like Texas Tech's Davis Webb, Oklahoma's Trevor Knight and Oklahoma State's Daxx Garman have had their moments as well.

Should Petty be dethroned? Is Boykin the guy? Do Trickett's numbers overcome all? Vote now and weigh in with your comments below.

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