Big 12: Kansas State Wildcats
Oklahoma RB Samaje Perine: The numbers say plenty: 34 carries, 427 yards, five touchdowns, 12.6 yards per carry. But it was a record-setting day for the true freshman, who broke Melvin Gordon’s week-long record for single-game rushing yardage in the FBS in OU's 44-7 win over Kansas. Perine also became the first player in FBS history to rush for at least 200 yards in both halves of a single game, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Vision, physicality, durability, speed ... Perine has it all.
Oklahoma blockers: Sure, the Sooners' offensive line deserves the bulk of the credit as Perine repeatedly cruised untouched into the Jayhawks' secondary. But the Sooners' fullbacks, tight ends and receivers deserve their share of the accolades as well because Perine doesn’t have eight carries of 20 yards or more without downfield blocking by OU’s skill players. OU’s starting line of Daryl Williams, Ty Darlington, Adam Shead, Nila Kasitati, Tyrus Thompson built the foundation and fullbacks Aaron Ripkowski and Dimitri Flowers built upon that foundation.
Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes: The Red Raiders might have something in the true freshman quarterback who spurned professional baseball to play in Lubbock. Making his third collegiate start, Mahomes was 23-of-35 for 325 yards and four touchdowns with one interception in Tech’s 34-31 win over Iowa State. He was clutch in the fourth quarter, leading the Red Raiders on a touchdown drive to take the lead then converting a key third down with a 9-yard run to seal the win on the next drive.
Iowa State RB Aaron Wimberly: The Cyclones running back averaged 5.4 yards per carry in the loss. He had 19 carries for 102 yards and two touchdowns. He also added three receptions for 22 yards. Wimberly was a consistent threat for ISU’s offense, helping the Cyclones finish with 569 total yards.
Texas Tech RB DeAndre Washington: A dynamic running threat for Tech all season long, Washington had 20 carries for 186 yards (9.3 yards per carry) and one touchdown. He added two receptions for 51 yards and another score. He becomes the first Red Raider to rush for 1,000 yards since 1998 (Ricky Williams) and the seventh in school history.
Baylor RBs Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin: The Bears' pair of running backs combined for 219 rushing yards in Baylor's 49-28 win over Oklahoma State. Linwood had 21 carries for 113 yards and one touchdown. Chafin had 21 carries for 106 yards and three touchdowns. On a rainy night at McLane Stadium, Art Briles' squad turned to the running game and the Bears' running back duo didn’t disappoint.
Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph: The Cowboys may have found themselves an answer at quarterback for the final game against Oklahoma and beyond. The true freshman finished 13-of-25 for 281 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in his first collegiate game. OSU’s 28 points was its most since a 37-20 win over Iowa State on Oct. 4.
Kansas State WR Tyler Lockett: The Wildcats' dynamic playmaker had 321 all-purpose yards in K-State's 26-20 win over West Virginia on Thursday night. Lockett had 10 receptions for 196 yards and added a 43-yard punt return for a touchdown. Week in and week out, Lockett makes a strong case to be known as the Big 12's toughest player to stop.
West Virginia QB Skyler Howard: The junior college transfer came off the bench to pass for 198 yards and two touchdowns. He completed 15 of 23 passes to spark a late rally by the Mountaineers and could get the opportunity to see more time behind center in WVU's final regular-season game against Iowa State next Saturday.
Max will be in Waco this weekend covering Oklahoma State-Baylor. I will be in Norman to see if Kansas can give another ranked team a scare.
Now, on to the 'bag:
Trotter: I don't think so. Nobody in the top eight plays a noteworthy opponent.
@Jake_Trotter if the top 8 win on Saturday, is there any movement in the standings?— Mike G (@mikefrogit) November 21, 2014
Trotter: The one thing to keep in mind is the playoff committee has said that it's viewing teams individually and not through the prism of what conference they play in. In other words, the committee is examining Ohio State when it does these rankings. Not the Big Ten. So in the eyes of the committee this is about TCU and Baylor vs. Ohio State. Not the Big 12 vs. the Big Ten. What can TCU and Baylor do? Annihilate their upcoming opponents and hope for the best.
@Jake_Trotter the Big10 got beat up in non-con play this year, but still in a better position to make the playoff. What can the Big12 do?— Nathan Quinn (@NateQuinn11) November 21, 2014
@Jake_Trotter Bowl projection and possible opponent for OU?— Casey (@CaptainRiceCake) November 21, 2014
Trotter: Russell Athletic Bowl against Notre Dame?
@Jake_Trotter what are the chances Stoops moves on after this season. Florida? Michigan? NFL? Rumors have been around awhile now.— Nick Heimann (@nick_heimann) November 21, 2014
Trotter: I put it at less than 10 percent. But the only place Stoops would ever leave for would be Florida. And if he was ever going to do it, it would be now. He loves the weather there, he always talks fondly of his time as a defensive coordinator at Florida and he has a great relationship with Florida AD Jeremy Foley. That said, my money is on him staying at Oklahoma. He has the full support of the president and athletic director. He has 100 percent job security. He has his brother Mike coaching with him. He just built a multimillion dollar home. His kids are coming up on high school age. And I'm not sure he wants to coach all that much longer. Going to Florida would prolong that. I'm not sure that's something he wants at this point.
Trotter: Without a doubt. Texas has played excellent football the last three weeks. The defense has been dominant. The offensive line continues to get better. This will be a very tough test for TCU, whether the playoff selection committee realizes it or not.
@Jake_Trotter what year will Texas be the big 12 favorite in the preseason?— Bears and Brews (@BaylorObserver) November 21, 2014
Trotter: This is an interesting thought. It won't be next year. TCU, with QB Trevone Boykin back, will probably be next year's preseason favorite. But by 2016? Yeah, Texas would have a chance to be the preseason favorite, if it continues on the current trajectory we've seen from Charlie Strong's bunch this season.
@Jake_Trotter will the conference look at adding more teams? Will the big 12 still be a conference 5 years from now?— Chris Cruz (@realchriscruz17) November 21, 2014
Trotter: I've been told that the only way the league would look at expansion is if it got left out of the playoff year after year. That could happen this year. If it happened a couple more times, the league would be forced to rethink its current format.
@Jake_Trotter say Gundy does leave, can't you see some Bad-A like Derek Dooley coming in and taking OSU to the top?— Travis Guidry (@TGuidry25) November 21, 2014
Trotter: I sense you're being sarcastic. But if Mike Gundy did bolt after this season, Oklahoma State would be in a position to court several viable candidates. Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris would make a bunch of sense. Memphis coach Justin Fuente is an up-and-comer with ties to the state. Gundy's coaching tree includes Southern Miss head coach Todd Monken (who is very popular in Stillwater), North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora and TCU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham. The Cowboys would also have an in-house candidate in Glenn Spencer, who has flourished as Oklahoma State's defensive coordinator. The Cowboys would have intriguing options.
1. K-State is really tough: Coming off the deflating loss at TCU, this trip to Morgantown could have been tricky for the Wildcats. Instead, Grind State went to work on the Mountaineers with a methodical performance in all three phases. It was far from a flawless performance, prompting Bill Snyder to say afterward it “was as undisciplined as I can ever remember.” The Wildcats missed two field goals, couldn’t run the ball a lick and committed an atypical plethora of penalties. But as one Big 12 alum texted me during the second half, K-State has a bunch of players “you can tell just want it.” The Wildcats can still win at least a share of the Big 12 title. Doubt them at your own peril.
3. K-State’s running game has vanished: Snyder offenses in recent years have been forged on efficient ground games. But K-State’s rushing offense has completely disappeared the last two games. After gaining just 34 yards at TCU, the Wildcats rushed for one yard on 29 carries in Morgantown. That’s an average of 0.03 yards per carry. Despite winning the game, Snyder was annoyed afterward, sarcastically noting that he’d “like to run the ball and get a yard or two. That would work for us.” To have any hope of toppling Baylor in two weeks, the Wildcats will have to run the ball much better. Shawn Oakman & Co. are too adept at getting to the passer for K-State to resort into a one-dimensional offense again. No doubt fixing the running game will be the focus in practice for the Wildcats leading up to their trip to Waco.
4. Waters continues to shine: With the running game stagnating again, K-State had to rely on Jake Waters for offense. And again, Waters delivered, completing 22 of 34 passes for a career-high 400 yards and a touchdown. Waters has been the model of consistency this year, throwing for at least 200 yards in every game with only five interceptions. After Snyder, Waters is as big a reason as any for why the Wildcats remain alive in the Big 12 title race. With Trevone Boykin and Bryce Petty also in the league, Waters probably won’t earn All-Big 12 honors. But he’s performed at an All-Big 12 level all year, including Thursday night.
5. West Virginia has run out of steam: If you told most any Mountaineers fan before the season that West Virginia would finish 7-5 this year, he or she would probably take it. Still, with three straight losses, this season has a bittersweet tinge. West Virginia produced a memorable October with wins at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State and a 14-point victory over seventh-ranked Baylor. But since falling 31-30 to No. 5 TCU, the Mountaineers have looked out of gas. That said, Dana Holgorsen has saved his job and has plenty to build on for 2015. The Mountaineers can also still rebound to finish strong with a win at Iowa State and then a victory in a bowl game (likely the AutoZone Liberty Bowl against an SEC foe). This West Virginia season hasn’t been everything it could have been. But considering the preseason expectations and the brutal schedule, it’s still been pretty good.
6. Skyler Howard auditions well: With Clint Trickett graduating, the Mountaineers will be left with another QB battle in 2015. Talented true freshman William Crest opened the season as Trickett’s primary backup before suffering a shoulder injury. But while Crest remains the likely heir apparent, Howard could have a say in that. After Trickett left for the locker room with a concussion Thursday, Howard sparked the offense with his arm and his wheels. He completed 15 of 23 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a key 16-yard run on a third down that led to a touchdown. The Mountaineers could have a fun QB competition to follow in the spring.
7. West Virginia punt return a disaster, again: Despite cycling through several returners, West Virginia’s ineptitude fielding punts this year has been staggering. The Mountaineers lead the country with five punt return fumbles. It’s been so bad, @fauxholgorsen published a satirical memorandum on “how to be a punt returner” earlier this year. Another punt return blunder cost West Virginia again Thursday at the end of the third quarter as Vernon Davis inexplicably allowed the punt to bounce off his foot when he could have easily moved out of the way. The turnover sapped West Virginia’s budding momentum and allowed K-State to kick a field goal to extend its lead to 23-10. At the top of the real Holgorsen’s offseason to-do list should be unearthing a reliable punt returner.
Kansas State's 26-20 win at West Virginia provided a boost that the Big 12 really needed. About 48 hours earlier, the league saw one of its playoff hopefuls, TCU, fall a spot to No. 5 in the College Football Playoff Rankings despite a win last week. Its other contender, Baylor, remained stuck at No. 7, now languishing behind Ohio State instead of Arizona State.
As ESPN.com colleague Jake Trotter wrote Wednesday: "Instead of either/or for the Big 12, it could be neither/nor."
Kansas State likely is out of the playoff chase with two losses, but the 12th-ranked Wildcats are alive in the Big 12 race. More important, they're a résumé-enhancer for TCU (which beat K-State on Nov. 8) and possibly Baylor (which hosts K-State on Dec. 6). The Big 12 can lay claim to three elite teams, more than the Big Ten, its primary playoff competitor.
Some might have seen Thursday night's game as a Catch-22 for Baylor, which lost convincingly at West Virginia on Oct. 18. But the selection committee has made it clear that impressive wins count more than unimpressive losses (West Virginia, a much improved team, is far from a bad loss in my view). Baylor needed another opportunity to impress the committee, especially on a day when the other Power 5 conferences are holding championship games.
How Kansas State can control the game: If the Wildcats follow the blueprint that has become the standard for Bill Snyder's program, KSU should be in good shape, even in a tough road environment. A chilly night with the possibility of snow could play right into the hands of a Kansas State offense that leans on its running game and efficient third down conversions. Defensively, limiting the Mountaineers big plays, particularly early, could be the difference between controlling the tempo of the game or being forced to try to chase Dana Holgorsen's team from behind. -- Chatmon
How West Virginia can control the game: The Mountaineers play a lot better defense than they probably get credit for, and they made life tough for both Baylor and TCU in Morgantown because neither could operate at the speed and pace they prefer. Nobody has shut down K-State offensively the way that TCU did two weeks ago. Bet on KSU bringing some new wrinkles and a recommitment to the run game off their bye week. WVU has to respond well and get a takeaway or two to swing this game their way. -- Olson
Kansas State's X factor: Receiver Curry Sexton's emergence has been huge for K-State's offense. Sexton's 53 receptions for 723 yards and four touchdowns makes defenses account for his playmaking skills and opens up opportunities for Tyler Lockett. Jake Waters joins Lockett as a proven playmaker in the offense and Sexton's emergence makes the Wildcats even more difficult to handle. -- Chatmon
West Virginia's X factor: In addition to the homefield travel advantage and the uncomfortable weather, it's the Mountaineers' ability to score quickly with not only Kevin White but also speedster Mario Alford. White caught 16 passes against Texas but was kept relative in-check in terms of his big-play ability, and so was Alford. On a brutally cold night in which both team need to run, a couple huge pass plays can swing this game. -- Olson
What a win would mean for Kansas State: It would keep the Wildcats Big 12 title hopes alive and pass the biggest test they'll face before heading to Baylor on Dec. 6. K-State would secure, at the very least, a Big 12 co-championship with three wins in its final three games and a win tonight would be a terrific first step. -- Chatmon
What a win would mean for West Virginia: Burning couches, of course, and the satisfaction of knowing they've dethroned another one of the conference's best at Milan Puskar. Beating K-State would likely mean an 8-4 season for Holgorsen's squad and one heck of a turnaround after last year's frustrating 4-8 year.
Not only are both teams bowl eligible heading into their head-to-head matchup at Milan Puskar Stadium tonight, but both teams have started the same quarterback in every game this season. Only TCU can make the same claim.
KSU's Jake Waters and WVU's Clint Trickett have been among the Big 12's top quarterbacks this season as both players have shown some durability, offseason growth and increased production in their senior seasons. The duo joins Oklahoma's Trevor Knight in the top three rankings of Big 12 quarterbacks in Adjusted QBR. Knight's 80.2 leads the way followed by Trickett's 77.4 and Waters 74.3.
A junior college transfer, Waters shared time with Daniel Sams in 2013 before seizing the position late in the season and emerging as the clear No. 1 starter in the spring. This fall, he's become a centerpiece of K-State's offense with his toughness, comfort in the offense and will to win. Waters has passed for 2,169 yards and rushed for 406 yards while accounting for 20 total touchdowns.
"You have heard me say this time and time again about Jake. The experience of two years of practice and playing some games just made him better," Wildcats coach Bill Snyder said. "Through that, he has gained so much more confidence. I think that Clint has probably done the exact same thing. I see the same progress. I see him at ease and more comfortable with his situation and schematically what they do. I see a lot of similarities in the two."
Trickett arrived at WVU late in the summer 2013 after transferring from Florida State before sharing time with Paul Millard and Ford Childress during a bowl-less season. Holgorsen has praised his growth in the offense as a senior, often calling his understanding of the system "night and day" from a year ago. The senior has passed for a Big 12-best 3,173 yards and added 18 passing touchdowns.
Being the quarterback at WVU has been a dream come true for Trickett, who grew up wanting to play for the Mountaineers while his father Rick was an assistant at the school, but never got the opportunity until Holgorsen's arrival and Trickett's decision to leave FSU.
"That is one reason why we are winning some games," Holgorsen said. "It means so much to him. It does mean a lot to him, and he understands what it means to the people of West Virginia."
Trickett's 2013 meeting with Snyder's Wildcats was one of his worst outings of the year. He was 15-of-28 for 227 yards and finished with a 50.2 Adjusted QBR in a 35-12 loss at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. But it will be a different Clint Trickett the Wildcats see tonight.
"He has improved so much, just his understanding of the system," KSU linebacker Will Davis said. "He can really throw the ball around to about anyone. He has a lot of playmakers and he utilizes all of them."
Meanwhile Waters destroyed the Mountaineers a year ago, passing for 198 yards and three touchdowns while recording a 90.4 Adjusted QBR, his second highest in 2013. New West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson saw Waters' excellence first-hand a year ago and he has plenty of respect for Waters' skills.
"He is very patient and lets everything develop," Gibson said. "He has an option to run out of everything too. He's very mobile and makes great decisions. He can hurt you a lot of different ways."
Big 12 eyes will be on Morgantown tonight with K-State playing to keep its conference title hopes alive and WVU looking to earn a better bowl game. And, after seizing their opportunity as seniors, Waters or Trickett could be the deciding factor.
- The Dallas Morning News' Chuck Carlton gave his thoughts on the 2015 Big 12 schedule being released. Carlton noted Baylor's November slate, which, while brutal, will also give the Bears an opportunity to impress. The Bears travel to Kansas State (on a Thursday), Oklahoma State and TCU (on a Black Friday) and then play host to Oklahoma before welcoming Texas the first week in December. Whatever happens, the Bears won't be flying under the radar against that stretch.
- The West Virginia and K-State defenses will be in the spotlight tonight, notes the Charleston Gazette's Dave Hickman. K-State is tough against the run. West Virginia is second in the Big 12 in pass defense. Hickman believes that whichever defense limits the big plays in Morgantown will give its team a win in a Big 12 matchup that will go a long way in determining the bowl fates of both sides.
- The Tulsa World's Bill Haisten reported that Oklahoma State QB Daxx Garman was able to practice Wednesday. According to Haisten, Garman had been rendered inactive by what is believed to have been concussion symptoms. What will be interesting is if Garman is ruled out this weekend at Baylor. The Cowboys could pull the redshirt off freshman Mason Rudolph with only two games left in the season. The Cowboys would obviously like to avoid that, and end the season with Garman behind center. But finally getting the chance to see what Rudolph can do will would be intriguing.
- TCU coach Gary Patterson said the College Football Playoff selection committee has a hard job, and he’s trying to make it harder. “I just want to make it tough on them,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Carlos Mendez. “I want to win the next two, be 11-1, and let them decide. That’s all I can control. I just want to finish the journey.” All the Horned Frogs can do is beat Texas. But there's still a lot of ball to be played around the country. And Patterson seems to realize, if college football has taught us anything over the years, we could be in for a major upset or two.
- Kansas coach Clint Bowen told the Lawrence Journal-World's Matt Tait that he's been hearing the voices of support, including from Patterson and from Iowa State offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, who both suggested that Bowen deserves the permanent job. “Anytime someone says something positive about you, obviously you notice,” Bowen said. “And it means a lot." Bowen has done everything possible to show the Kansas administration he deserves the permanent job. A strong finish these final two games will only help, too.
- Great read today by Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News on Texas' beloved loudmouth, cornerback Quandre Diggs. The senior four-year starter gets called an old soul by his family and teammates, which is an apt label. He grew up fast and has always brought a mature presence to this Texas team. Referring to Diggs as his team's "conscience" is spot-on. He's the kind of hard-nosed competitor Charlie Strong would love to have a lot more of at UT.
- Two years ago, we got Collin Klein vs. Geno Smith in Morgantown. This time around, the QB showdown of Jake Waters vs. Clint Trickett promises to be a good one. The second-year starters have more in common than you might think -- both are transfers who've raised their game now that they're more at ease operating their respective offense. Keep this in mind, too: Among Big 12 teams, only WVU, KSU and TCU have managed to avoid starting multiple QBs this season. Excited to see how two of the league's most efficient passers respond in coming back from crushing losses.
- Texas Tech is wondering whether left tackle Le'Raven Clark will be back next season. The junior, a three-year starter, could pursue the NFL draft this spring if he gets good feedback from the league. Clark admits he wouldn't like to leave Tech behind after this season, but Kliff Kingsbury and his coaches went through this with Jace Amaro last year and will support Clark no what matter what he decides. The fact that Clark is versatile and experience at playing multiple spots on the line should help his cause.
Why Kansas State will win: West Virginia will bounce back and give K-State a heck of a fight in Morgantown. The Wildcats haven't gone on the road much this season (three times, in fact), but they'll be locked in and angry. KSU's defense gets after Clint Trickett just as Texas did. Kansas State 38, West Virginia 34 -- Max Olson
Why West Virginia will win: After battling four top 10 teams, the Mountaineers finally looked like a tired bunch in Austin. The week off should have done wonders for them physically and psychologically. I expect West Virginia to come out fired up for this game, knowing a win over the Wildcats would ensure this season will be deemed a success. West Virginia 34, Kansas State 31 -- Jake Trotter
Why Iowa State will win: Trotter has a two-game lead in our picks contest. I have to catch up. Fortune favors the bold. The Cyclones are fresh off a bye and will be able to move the ball on Tech. This is their best (only?) chance to avoid a winless conference season. If Davis Webb is back and dealing, I might be dead wrong. Iowa State 27, Texas Tech 24 -- Olson
Why Texas Tech will win: The Red Raiders simply have more firepower. Neither defense is great, so the team with the bigger arsenal should triumph, and that team is Tech. Texas Tech 38, Iowa State 24 -- Chatmon
Baylor over Oklahoma State: Have you been watching the Oklahoma State offense? The Cowboys lead the Big 12 in three-and-outs, and since the Bears are gunning for style points, this could get ugly fast in Waco. The only variable to this game will be whether Oklahoma State is forced to pull the redshirt off freshman Mason Rudolph if a banged up Daxx Garman can't go. Yet even though Rudolph is an intriguing quarterback prospect, he won't have enough help around him and up front for it to make much of a difference against the speedy Bears. Baylor 66, Oklahoma State 13 – Trotter
Oklahoma over Kansas: If the Sooners lean on their running game, KU could struggle to find answers. Even though Clint Bowen’s Jayhawks are much improved, a road win at OU still seems out of reach. Oklahoma 31, Kansas 17 – Chatmon
Why Kansas will keep it close: The Jayhawks will find a way to force OU to pass the ball. KU plays great pass defense. Without Trevor Knight, Oklahoma isn't playing great pass offense. Oklahoma 31, Kansas 21 -- Olson
- Trotter: 58-6
- Chatmon: 56-8
- Olson: 55-9
But which coaches in the conference provide the best value for the dollar? Here’s a look at the Big 12’s top five coaches in terms of value -- i.e. cost per win -- in 2014.
1. Art Briles, Baylor: Not only did Briles lead Baylor to its first Big 12 title a year ago, he’s still bringing terrific value to BU at $391,893.25 per win (eight wins). His salary of $3,135,146 makes him the nation’s 22nd-highest paid coach.
2. Bill Snyder, Kansas State: The veteran coach brings terrific value at $414,285.71 per win (seven wins) as his Wildcats still have hope to secure their second Big 12 title in three seasons if they can win out. His salary of $2,900,000 makes him the nation’s 29th-highest paid coach.
3. Gary Patterson, TCU: He’s really earned his money this season with his decision to revamp the offense, potentially at the expense of his defense, during the offseason. As a result, Patterson has brought great value at $445,350 per win (nine wins) this season. He’s the nation’s 11th-highest paid coach at $4,008,150 in 2014.
4. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia: After seeing WVU’s bowl streak snapped a year ago, Holgorsen’s squad has responded with six wins thus far this season, making him one of the Big 12’s top values at $513,333.33 per win. Holgorsen’s salary of $3,080,000 makes him the nation’s 23rd-highest paid coach.
5. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State: Even with his squad in the midst of a four-game losing streak, Gundy finds himself in the top half of the conference in terms of value. OSU is paying Gundy $700,000 dollars per win (five wins) in 2014. His salary of $3,500,000 ranks him 15th among college coaches this season.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is the Big 12’s highest-paid coach and the nation's third-highest paid coach at $5,058,333 in 2014. You can find the entire list and where each Big 12 coach lands here.
Baylor: The Bears' defense was supposed to take a step backward after losing several starters from its 2013 unit. Instead BU ranks among the conference leaders in several categories and leads the Big 12 by forcing a punt on 50.8 percent of opponents possessions and could see that number increase this weekend with a hapless Oklahoma State offense visiting McLane Stadium on Saturday.
Iowa State: The Cyclones will need to improve their sack percentage if they hope to slow down Texas Tech’s passing attack. ISU’s 3.5 sack percentage ranks last in the Big 12 as the Cyclones have struggled to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks outside of defensive end Cory Morrissey’s five sacks.
Kansas: Beware of the Jayhawks coming out of the halftime locker room. KU has a plus-8 turnover margin in the third quarter, which leads the Big 12. Clint Bowen’s squad could need some turnovers to upset Oklahoma in Norman, so an opportunistic defense could be the Jayhawks' key against OU.
Kansas State: The Wildcats are tough to stop once they get rolling. K-State scores on 66.2 percent of its drives that begin with an initial first down. In other words, a three-and-out is the best bet to slow the Wildcats’ offense, so West Virginia should take heed.
Oklahoma: The Sooners' running game has been impressive but their ball protection has been even more impressive. OU is averaging 240.9 rushing yards per game yet has lost a fumble once in 408 rushes. That’s a 0.7 fumble percentage, best in the Big 12.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys' offense is trending downward and the offensive line is a big reason why. Negative plays have become the norm for Mike Gundy’s team with 36.2 percent of their plays resulting in negative yardage. Only Iowa State (37.9) has a worse percentage in the Big 12.
Texas: With a date with TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin on the horizon, the Longhorns might be the best equipped to handle the conference’s top dual-threat signal-caller. UT’s 9.3 sack percentage is the best in the Big 12 with Baylor (8.4) as the only other Big 12 team with a sack percentage higher than 8 percent.
TCU: The Horned Frogs do a good job of adjusting their approach at halftime. Their average of 8.39 yards per play in the third quarter is first in the Big 12 and nearly two yards better than second-ranked K-State (6.68 ypp).
Texas Tech: Even with Tech’s uncertainty at the quarterback position, the Red Raiders' defense is at the heart of the struggles for Kliff Kingsbury’s team. Tech is allowing 3.04 points per drive, last in the Big 12 and No. 123 among FBS teams. The Red Raiders' offense hasn’t helped the cause with 22 turnovers but the defense has been unable to overcome those mistakes.
WVU: The Mountaineers' defense has played a huge role in the improvement of Dana Holgorsen’s team. WVU’s pass defense has been much improved with the Mountaineers allowing 6.06 yards per pass attempt, ranking second in the Big 12. Last season, WVU ranked last in the conference at 7.88 yards allowed per pass attempt.
Oklahoma State at Texas
TCU at Texas Tech
Texas Tech vs. Baylor (Arlington)
Kansas at Iowa State
Kansas State at Oklahoma State
West Virginia at Oklahoma
Texas at TCU
Baylor at Kansas
Iowa State at Texas Tech
Oklahoma vs. Texas (Dallas)
Oklahoma State at West Virginia
TCU at Kansas State
West Virginia at Baylor
Oklahoma at Kansas State
Texas Tech at Kansas
TCU at Iowa State
Iowa State at Baylor
Kansas at Oklahoma State
Kansas State at Texas
Texas Tech at Oklahoma
Oct. 29 (Thursday)
West Virginia at TCU
Oklahoma at Kansas
Oklahoma State at Texas Tech
Texas at Iowa State
Nov. 5 (Thursday)
Baylor at Kansas State
Iowa State at Oklahoma
Kansas at Texas
Texas Tech at West Virginia
TCU at Oklahoma State
Kansas at TCU
Kansas State at Texas Tech
Oklahoma at Baylor
Oklahoma State at Iowa State
Texas at West Virginia
Baylor at Oklahoma State
Iowa State at Kansas State
West Virginia at Kansas
TCU at Oklahoma
Nov. 26 (Thursday)
Texas Tech at Texas
Nov. 27 (Friday)
Baylor at TCU
Iowa State at West Virginia
Kansas State at Kansas
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
West Virginia at Kansas State
Texas at Baylor
- The biggest thing that jumps out is the Baylor-TCU game on Black Friday. I saw some dissension about this on Twitter, but I actually kind of like it. The Big 12 needs rivalries after the Red River Showdown and Bedlam, and TCU-Baylor seems to be the league's best chance at developing a third major rivalry. Putting the game on a special day like Black Friday places an added emphasis on the game. Especially if it again holds Big 12 title and playoff implications.
- Baylor has a killer November slate, with road trips to K-State, Oklahoma State and TCU, and a home bout with Oklahoma. The Bears will also play their first two conference games away from home. I doubt Art Briles will be fired up about this schedule.
- TCU has a brutal stretch late in November, playing Oklahoma and Baylor in a six-day span. That two-game swing could define the Horned Frogs' season.
- Dec. 5 potentially could be a big weekend for the league. West Virginia, K-State, Texas and Baylor could all be in the Big 12 title mix. The league should have a national presence while other conferences are playing their championship games.
- The Big 12 has three Thursday night conference games, and all three have a chance to be good ones.
- Iowa State is hoping to use the final stretch of the season as a springboard for next year, writes Bobby LaGesse of the Ames Tribune. The Cyclones used their bye week to change their outlook heading into games with West Virginia, Texas Tech and TCU. It's been a rough year for the Cyclones but going winless in Big 12 play could be a disaster for Paul Rhoads' team.
- Kansas' improved performances on the weekend have begun during the week, writes Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World. The intensity of practices have increased and players are starting to understand they have to pay the price, says interim coach Clint Bowen. It's interesting that the intensity and fun have picked up at Bowen's practices. It speaks to the relationships that Bowen has created with his players. If they didn't have a strong relationship, it's unlikely KU's players would respond to Bowen like they have.
- Kansas State coach Bill Snyder would have liked to see one of the Wildcats' running backs seize the primary ball carrier spot and become the "man" in the backfield, writes Ken Corbitt of the Topeka Capital-Journal. The Wildcats' inability to replace John Hubert has seemed like a handicap to the K-State offense for the bulk of the year. Quite frankly, it shows how well KSU has played as a team for the Wildcats to be 7-2 through nine games without a running back with more than 500 rushing yards.
- Becoming a Mountaineer was a dream come true for Clint Trickett and now the West Virginia quarterback can make it a perfect home finale with an upset win over Kansas State. Trickett has had a terrific season but has fallen off in recent weeks with more interceptions (3) than touchdowns (2). Make no mistake, he has been a key to WVU's improved record this season and he will be the key on Thursday night.
- Lastly, Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said the Red Raiders changed defensive signals "as soon as they found out" their signals may have been compromised after former defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt left the program, reports Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Earlier this week questions arose about the possibility of Tech's defensive signals "being passed around" during the past two to three weeks. It's such an odd situation but it seems odd the Red Raiders didn't immediately change signals upon Wallerstedt's departure but I can also see how, particularly in the midst of a tough season, it wouldn't even cross their mind that those signals could be compromised.
TCU dropped one spot to No. 5 after struggling to a 34-30 win at Kansas. Baylor remained at No. 7 after having the week off. Both teams remain very alive in the playoff hunt. But for now, we project them to miss the cut.
The outcome of Thursday night's game between Kansas State and West Virginia, meanwhile, could a long way in determining their bowl destination fates.
And with its 28-7 win at Oklahoma State, Texas produced its sixth win to lock up a bowl spot somewhere.
Oklahoma State is the only other team not bowl eligible at the moment that could still get there. But the Cowboys will be major underdogs at Baylor and Oklahoma. So we're still projecting the Cowboys to miss out on a bowl.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl: TCU
VIZIO Fiesta Bowl: Baylor
Valero Alamo Bowl: Kansas State
Russell Athletic Bowl: Oklahoma
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Texas
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: West Virginia
Cactus Bowl: None eligible
Several top-notch defensive linemen have made their mark on their teams, productive linebackers have helped shut down running games and defensive backs have changed games with big hits or interceptions. Yet nobody has run away with the moniker of Big 12 defensive player of the year.
In today's roundtable, Jake Trotter, Max Olson and Brandon Chatmon present five defenders who can make a strong case as the defensive player of the year. Here's a look at those five candidates, their stats, their best moment and their case for earning the award:
Dante Barnett, Kansas State
Stats: 54 tackles, 4 TFLs, 1 INT, 7 pass deflections
Best moment: Thanks in large part to Barnett’s heady pass defense, K-State beat Texas 23-0 on Oct. 25 for the school’s first home conference shutout in 15 years. He was named the Big 12 defensive player of the week for his efforts.
Case for: The Wildcats have been excellent defensively all season, and Barnett is the biggest reason why. He might not have the gaudy numbers of some of the other contenders, but he has been the glue of a K-State secondary that’s been tough against the pass and superb helping against the run. -- Trotter
DT Andrew Billings, Baylor
Stats: 27 tackles (18 solo), eight tackles for loss, two sacks, eight quarterback hurries, one forced fumble.
Best moment: Billings was at his best in Baylor’s lone loss of the season with eight tackles and two sacks in BU’s 41-27 loss to West Virginia.
Case for: While Shawn Oakman has got a lot of attention along the Bears' defensive line, Billings has been a monster in the middle for Art Briles’ team. He’s one reason Briles lauded his defensive line before the season began and the sophomore hasn’t disappointed as one of the Big 12’s best defensive tackles as a disruptive force game in and game out. -- Chatmon
DT Malcom Brown, Texas
Stats: 66 tackles, 14 TFLs, 6.5 sacks, 6 QB hurries, 2 forced fumbles
Best moment: Absolutely unblockable against BYU, racking up 4 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, and a forced fumble in addition to 10 tackles.
Case for: Brown is giving Texas an All-America caliber season up the middle as an explosive 6-foot-2, 320-pound run-stuffer who can get after your quarterback even when you double-team him. With his wicked combination of brute power and speed, Brown is a nightmare to block. He leads all Big 12 defensive tackles in tackles, sacks and TFLs, and has also helped pave the way for breakout seasons from Texas LBs Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond. The junior has first-round material written all over him and could go pro early. -- Olson
LB Paul Dawson, TCU
Stats: 105 tackles, 15 TFLs, 5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 5 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries
Best moment: A 41-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter for the game-winning score in a 37-33 upset of then-No. 4 Oklahoma.
Case for: What more does Dawson need to prove at this point? He’s the No. 2 tackler (including tackles for loss) in the Big 12. He ranks in the top 10 nationally in solo tackles. Dawson has been as consistent as it gets from a production standpoint, and the senior has stepped up in huge moments, like the game-changing INTs he snagged against OU and West Virginia. He’s simply a playmaker, and one who’s helped play a major role in the Horned Frogs’ ascent. -- Olson
LB Ben Heeney, Kansas
Stats: 112 tackles, 10 TFLs, 1.5 sacks, 1 interception, 3 QB hurries, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery
Best moment: After being snubbed on our midseason All-Big 12 team, Heeney went out and dominated at Texas Tech with 21 tackles and a 37-yard interception.
Case for: While he might not play on a Big 12 contender, Heeney has been tremendous. He leads the country with 78 solo tackles as the anchor of a Kansas defense that has been solid, especially under interim head coach Clint Bowen. Heeney, who has been a stalwart for the Jayhawks the last three years, also sports the best beard in the Big 12. -- Trotter
Who do you think is the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year? Vote in our poll and comment below. Oh, and if you think the real candidate is missing ... well, stay tuned, your candidate could get his chance to shine on the Big 12 blog later this week.
Among them, dotting the "i" at Ohio State, lighting the Tower at Texas and rolling Toomer's Corner at Auburn. All fine events, but no list of such customs in the sport is complete without the latest craze: the wait for Tuesday night.
I say that somewhat jokingly, so refrain from the angry tweets. No, I don't really think it's more fun to dream about the details of a five-minute interview with Jeff Long than to decorate an intersection with toilet paper.
But it's close.
So welcome to the fourth of seven Tuesday College Football Playoff poll unveils, where it finally gets real in the selection-committee room.
Why is this Tuesday different? Because after last Saturday, none of the remaining unbeaten or one-loss Power 5 contenders will meet in the regular season or in conference-title games.
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