Big 12: Oklahoma State Cowboys
Everyone have a safe and happy Halloween tonight.
Now, on to the 'bag:
@Jake_Trotter can a 2-loss WVU make the playoffs if they win out?— Cody A. Lewis (@CodyLewisWVU) Oct. 31, 2014
@Jake_Trotter: That's probably asking too much. West Virginia would need a lot of help in that scenario, like Florida State, Oregon, Michigan State and Notre Dame losing, and the SEC West cannibalizing itself to some degree. The Mountaineers would have some really good wins and no bad losses. But the odds would be long.
@Jake_Trotter: Like West Virginia, Baylor would need a bunch of help. West Virginia's hindrance is that it has two losses. For Baylor, it is its nonconference schedule, which ultimately could be what keeps it from snagging a spot. By ranking them 13th in the inaugural poll, the committee clearly punished Baylor for its nonconference schedule. Because otherwise, Baylor's résumé was strong with a marquee win over TCU, and a not-bad loss at West Virginia. When compared with every other contender, Baylor is going to lose the nonconference debate. That will be tough to overcome.
@Jake_Trotter Does OU have a shot at the playoff?— John Johnson (@Johnjohnson0001) Oct. 31, 2014
@Jake_Trotter:OU, I guess technically has some shot as the highest-ranked two-loss team on the board. But it would take a minor miracle. Outside next weekend's clash with Baylor, the Sooners don't have another game ahead that would allow them to make a splash nationally. So it would take a deluge of losses from other teams ranked ahead for OU to re-emerge into in the playoff picture.
@Jake_Trotter most improved QB in 2014? Clint Trickett or Trevone Boykin? I say it's a tossup— Alex Brown (@OS_AlexBrown) Oct. 31, 2014
@Jake_Trotter: Those two might be the most improved QBs in the country, but if I had to pick one, it would be Boykin. At least Trickett was a full-time QB last year. In the spring, I would have guessed that Boykin would have ended up at receiver. I don't think I've ever seen a one-year turnaround more dramatic than Boykin's.
@Jake_Trotter do you have optimism for next year & beyond for Strong and the Horns?— Kevin Collins (@kevinkwc) Oct. 31, 2014
@Jake_Trotter: I have optimism Texas will continue to get better. Tyrone Swoopes has shown promise this year, and the offensive line keeps improving. The most important change has been Charlie Strong putting his toughness stamp on the program. That foundation will serve the Longhorns well down the road.
@Jake_Trotter how big of a chance OSU misses out on a bowl?— tanner (@TJPowell11) Oct. 31, 2014
@Jake_Trotter: It's basically going to come down to the game against Texas on Nov. 15, because I don't see the Cowboys beating K-State, Baylor or Oklahoma on the road. If I had to pick that game today, I'd pick Oklahoma State to beat Texas in Stillwater. But that's a game the Cowboys are more than capable of losing. Even with all the turnover from last year, 5-7 would be a very disappointing season for Mike Gundy's bunch.
@Jake_Trotter What is the biggest thing holding Oklahoma State back?— Cade Webb (@CWebb_CRFF) Oct. 31, 2014
@Jake_Trotter: The offensive line is probably the biggest culprit. The Cowboys just aren't any good up front. But Daxx Garman hasn't been accurate enough throwing the football, and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich hasn't found a groove with this unit. Toss all those factors together, and you have a train wreck offense.
@Jake_Trotter Just how deep in the cellar is Texas Tech? When should we start to wonder if Kliff is our guy?— Chris Kidd (@txtechris) Oct. 31, 2014
@Jake_Trotter: It's unfair to judge Kingsbury yet. The 7-0 start last year was ultimately a bit of a mirage that blocked how much rebuilding the program really needed. I always give coaches the benefit of the doubt of three years. Next year will be a big one for Kingsbury and the Red Raiders.
@Jake_Trotter Better chance of Paul Rhoads Upset, OU, WVU or TCU— The Hanging Chad (@TedFlintKansas) Oct. 31, 2014
@Jake_Trotter: It kind of depends what happens to West Virginia and TCU in the interim. But I will say this weekend could be dangerous for the Sooners. Iowa State has played OU tough in Ames in recent years, and Mark Mangino and Co. can move the ball on an Oklahoma defense that has shown plenty of vulnerability in recent weeks. I wouldn't be surprised if this game came down to the fourth quarter.
@Jake_Trotter I've heard conflicting thoughts on Big 12 co-champions (ex.TCU/BU), who would be chosen in CFP, etc. Can you clear it up?— mk (@mulloy_k) Oct. 31, 2014
@Jake_Trotter: The Big 12 tiebreaking procedure is the same as before, only the College Football Playoff Rankings have replaced the BCS in the tiebreaking pecking order. Head-to-head is the first tiebreaker. But if we had, say, a three-way tie at the top like we did in 2008, then playoff ranks would break the tie.
Here are the storylines to watch in the Big 12 during Week 10:
No. 18 Oklahoma at Iowa State, noon ET (Fox Sports 1): This has the potential to be a scary game for an OU squad looking to rebound after two losses in three games. Iowa State's offense is finding its footing under offensive coordinator Mark Mangino after a season-high 45 points against Texas on Oct. 18. Tight end E.J. Bibbs, who leads all Big 12 tight ends with 32 receptions and six touchdowns, could cause problems for the Sooners' secondary. For Oklahoma, Trevor Knight will be looking to build on his performance against Kansas State, which included 318 passing yards, a 81.3 completion percentage and season-best 92.1 Adjusted QBR. Meanwhile the Sooners' defense will be looking to prove it's better than the 6.2 yards per play and the 2.11 points per drive it has allowed during conference games.
No. 7 TCU at No. 20 West Virginia, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC/ESPN2): The Horned Frogs earned the distinction of the Big 12's top-ranked team in the first edition of the College Football Playoff rankings and visits West Virginia on the heels of an 82-point outburst that was the talk of the Big 12. The Mountaineers feature a much-improved defense and one of the best quarterback-receiver duos in the nation with Clint Trickett and Kevin White. If TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin plans to cement his name in the Heisman race, this is the opportunity to do so with a Heisman moment or two and leading his team to victory over an explosive and confident Mountaineers' squad. It should be an exciting game to watch as Trickett and Boykin are the Big 12's most improved signal-callers, with their increase in Total QBR -- Boykin (plus-29.8, second) and Trickett (plus-27.3, fourth) -- ranking in the top four among Power 5 quarterbacks this season.
Kansas at No. 13 Baylor, 4 p.m. ET (Fox Sports 1): Does Baylor have a problem looking up at TCU in the College Football Playoff rankings after it beat them head-to-head? If so, the matchup with the Jayhawks is BU's first chance to show the committee its No. 13 ranking is too low for the defending Big 12 champion. Quarterback Bryce Petty has watched TCU's Boykin and WVU's White sprint past him in the race to be the Big 12's most legitimate Heisman contender and is looking to regain the production that placed him among the preseason favorites. Petty has been uncharacteristically inconsistent in Big 12 play with Adjusted QBRs of 74.9, 19.5, 74.7 and 41.2 in four conference outings. Meanwhile, KU could make a strong statement in Clint Bowen's candidacy for the permanent head coaching gig with a shocking upset at McLane Stadium.
Texas at Texas Tech, 7:30 p.m. ET (Fox Sports 1): Which team is more deflated? Texas is coming off a shutout loss to Kansas State, which included an average of 3.77 yards per play, the second-worst single game average in a conference game this season. Yet, there sits Texas Tech on the opposite end of the spectrum, having given up 9.13 yards per play in its 82-27 loss to TCU, the largest yards-per-play average allowed in conference play in 2014. Charlie Strong's team will lean on its defense to spark a tough road win, and the Red Raiders will count on Kliff Kingsbury's offense to outscore an subpar Texas attack. Should be fun to see who wins this battle of offensive and defensive minds.
Oklahoma State at No. 9 Kansas State, 8 p.m. ET (ABC): Oklahoma State is still chasing bowl eligibility and faces a difficult final stretch. To get a win in Manhattan, coach Mike Gundy must get more from an offense that has three combined touchdowns in its last three games. K-State knows this could be another win over a team with a winning record to add to the résumé after the Wildcats knocked off OU and UT in back-to-back weeks. With quarterback Jake Waters operating KSU's offense with efficient precision, KSU should feel good about extending its win streak to five before trips to TCU, West Virginia and Baylor in its final four games.
TCU at West Virginia
Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson break down the key Big 12 matchup in Manhattan:
How Oklahoma State can earn the upset: Get back to its defensive roots. The Cowboys' defense has been better than anticipated, especially considering the youth on that side of the football. Yet forced turnovers, OSU’s bread-and-butter, have been missing. After averaging 2.5 forced turnovers per game during the past four seasons, OSU is averaging one per game in 2014. If the Cowboys force two or three turnovers, which won’t be easy, against Kansas State, then the Pokes will have a chance of leaving Manhattan with a W. -- Chatmon
How Kansas State can control the game: The Wildcats have won 44 straight games when leading at halftime, and they're scoring more far points in the second quarter than in any other quarter this season. They've become adept at setting the tone in all three phases and making teams play games their way. With a healthier Jake Waters, that should be even easier this week. The way K-State manhandled Texas up front last week made a huge difference, too. -- Olson
Oklahoma State’s X factor: Receiver James Washington has the talent to be a game-changer if the Cowboys can find a way to get him the ball. His competitiveness and ball skills could make him the next great receiver but inexperience at quarterback and along the offensive line have combined to limit his impact. But it only takes a few plays to change the game and Washington has the talent to make it happen. -- Chatmon
Kansas State's X factor: Turnovers! The great equalizer and game-changer in any close ballgame. Kansas State has been superb on this front in Big 12 play: Four games, one turnover, eight takeaways. One of the best turnover margins in conference play in FBS. Keep that trend going and KSU is going to be awfully tough to beat. -- Olson
What a win would mean for Oklahoma State: The Cowboys would become bowl eligible with games against Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma remaining. It would be a clear sign Mike Gundy’s inexperienced squad is maturing and, most importantly, learning from the setbacks that have shaped the past two weeks. -- Chatmon
What a win would mean for Kansas State: TCU and Baylor get all the attention, but don't forget that K-State sits alone atop the Big 12 standings. The Wildcats would improve to 5-0 in Big 12 play with three ranked teams still left on their slate. And all three of those games are on the road. The Wildcats must get good home wins and momentum however they can. -- Olson
The Cowboys' hopes for bowl eligibility rest on the shoulders of a inexperienced quarterback, a young and inexperienced offensive line and a secondary full of youngsters.
After a 5-1 start, the Cowboys have lost back-to-back games, falling to TCU and West Virginia by a combined 76-19 in consecutive weeks, scoring just one offensive touchdown. Quarterback Daxx Garman has struggled to find a rhythm as the offensive front has let him down time and time again.
It’s a stark contrast from the Cowboys of 12 months ago, who entered November 2013 on the heels of a blowout road win over Iowa State, then went on to put themselves one win away from a Big 12 title.
As disappointment reigns in Stillwater, the question naturally arises: How did the Cowboys end up here?
From 2010 to 2013, Oklahoma State went 41-11 with three seasons of double-digit wins. During the same span, a combination of coaching departures, injuries and player attrition has quietly debilitated the depth on the roster, resulting in a 2014 team counting on players who lack the experience to carry the team.
“Two classes ago, we missed on some players from a character standpoint,” coach Mike Gundy said. “We had some players not make it, we had a couple injuries and it kind of snowballed on us at a couple positions.”
Oklahoma State has five current starters from its 2011 class (six if injured quarterback J.W. Walsh is included). That class should be carrying the load as upperclassmen, but injuries took players such as running back Herschel Sims and offensive tackle Devin Davis out of the equation. By contrast, nine current starters were part of the next recruiting class, in 2012.
“When you talk about young players competing for us more than they need to, that’s more the definition of rebuilding,” Gundy said.
The Cowboys' success indirectly played a role, as Gundy's staff was raided by programs looking to promote them. Only defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer remains from the 2010 coaching staff, which included West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen, Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, TCU co-offensive coordinator Doug Meacham, Texas co-offensive coordinator Joe Wickline, North Carolina co-offensive coordinator/receivers coach Gunter Brewer, Ole Miss co-defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach Jason Jones, West Virginia special-teams coordinator Joe DeForest, Tennessee running backs coach Robert Gillespie and former defensive coordinator Bill Young.
Since 2010, Gundy has been forced to replace a coach on his staff every offseason. The impact of the fluidity among his staff has disrupted continuity.
“Trying to replace them, their personality and the schemes we want and the players wanting to trust them,” Gundy said. “You don’t just all of a sudden trust somebody. You have to pay the price.
“That’s been one of the most difficult aspects for me at Oklahoma State.”
Gundy has averaged more than 10 wins per season in the last four years. But trying to ensure his coaching staff has chemistry while finding guys who fit his philosophy has made the last few years more difficult than he imagined.
“It’s a huge process,” he said. “That’s the one area people don’t understand. It’s like, ‘you lost a coach, just go find a better one.’ Well, you have to find one that understands, teaches and believes like I do, my philosophy and development of kids.
“I want to teach, coach and learn; we’re not screamers and cussers. I’m not saying that’s wrong, just saying that’s not what I believe in. If there are 10 guys that fit that job, five of them might not because that’s how they coach. That doesn’t make them bad, make them wrong, it just means they’re not qualified for this position because he and I won’t get along.”
“It caught me off guard from the standpoint of you have a lot of success, then you’re going to lose a lot of people,” Gundy said. “The second thing that caught me off guard was the effect it can have on your recruiting and evaluation.”
After the 2010 season, Gundy was forced to replace a significant portion of his staff, including Holgorsen, Gillespie and Brewer.
“All during recruiting?” Gundy said. “Those are things that I think really causes us some issues.”
Twelve months later, the Cowboys signed the underperforming 2011 class.
“Over the last three or four years, with all the position and coaching changes we’ve had, I was really surprised we were able to compete at such a high level,” Gundy said. “We missed on some kids that should be juniors right now and that’s when we went through a lot of coaching changes. I remember at one time I was losing three guys a year. I think that affected us in recruiting, evaluation -- there just wasn’t consistency there.”
But, even with Oklahoma State's recent struggles, Gundy feels good about the direction of his team heading into one of the toughest stretches during his tenure, with games against Kansas State, Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma to finish the season.
“I’m OK with where we’re at right now. I understand the issues,” Gundy said. “We could played better and won the West Virginia game had we made a couple of plays, maybe a couple different coaching decisions. Those things happen and you’re exposed, they snowball more when we’re in the situation we are.”
When Tyler Lockett, Alex Ross, Tyreek Hill or Mario Alford set up for a kick or punt return, the game might change in a manner of seconds. All four players have returns for touchdowns this season.
But which one is the Big 12's top return man? Well, that's up to you.
West Virginia's Mario Alford is second in the conference at 31.08 yards per kickoff return. The Mountaineers receiver is silky smooth with an uncanny ability to accelerate and leave defenders in his wake. He has two kickoff returns for touchdowns and has returned 30.8 percent of his kickoff returns for at least 30 yards, third in the Big 12.
Ranking among the league leaders in kickoff and punt returns, Oklahoma State's Tyreek Hill is the best dual return threat in the league. His 26.58 yards per kick return average is third in the conference and his 7.43 yards per punt return ranks fourth. His four punt returns for 20 yards or more is tied for the league lead and he's returned two kickoffs for score to join Ross and Alford atop that list. His blazing speed makes him a nightmare for special teams coordinators.
Tyler Lockett doesn't leave a trail of smoke behind him like the other returners on the list but he does tend to leave a trail of frustrated defenders. The Kansas State receiver first made his name in the Big 12 as a returner during his freshman season and has continued to be a threat on returns even as he's elevated himself to one of the Big 12's top receivers. The senior is averaging an eye-popping 23.6 yards per punt return, easily the best in the Big 12 and he's returned a punt for a score. His impact on kickoff returns (5 returns for 91 yards) has been minimal but ask any Big 12 coach if they think it is a good idea to kick to him.
Texas Tech's Jakeem Grant, TCU's Cameron Echols-Luper and Texas' Jaxon Shipley are other returners who have made opponents think twice before kicking to them this season.
Who do you think is the Big 12's top return man? Vote now and leave your comment below.
Why West Virginia will take it down to the wire: Clint Trickett and Kevin White are a great place to start. Add the Big 12's most improved defense, and WVU is in business. WVU has the playmakers to keep up with Boykin and the Horned Frogs' offense, while an electric atmosphere in Morgantown will make things even more difficult on TCU. Expect a close, high-scoring affair. TCU 49, West Virginia 46 -- Brandon Chatmon
Why Kansas State will win: Oklahoma State's offense is a dumpster fire right now, while K-State is coming off a shutout victory over Texas. The Cowboys again won't be able to move the ball against K-State's defense, which is stout at every level. And Jake Waters & Co. will be able to generate enough offensively to put this game away in the second half. Kansas State 31, Oklahoma State 13 -- Jake Trotter
Why Oklahoma will win: Don't sleep on these Cyclones. They proved against K-State and Texas that they're no easy out. But the Sooners are coming off a bye week, get top back Keith Ford back and know this Big 12 race isn't over for them just yet. OU steps up and gets a much-needed, bounce-back win. Oklahoma 45, Iowa State 20. -- Olson
Why Iowa State will keep it close: The Cyclones have historically played Oklahoma tough in Ames. The Iowa State offense is beginning to find its stride under coordinator Mark Mangino, while the Sooners have been suspect defensively the past month. The Cyclones probably won't be able to make enough stops to win. But they have the offense to make this one interesting. Oklahoma 35, Iowa State 31 -- Trotter
Why Baylor will win: Big plays, big plays and big plays. Injuries have dealt the Bears a blow along the offensive line, but Bryce Petty & Co. should come up with enough big plays to win comfortably against the Jayhawks. Baylor 45, Kansas 14 -- Chatmon
Why Texas will win: Anytime a game seems like a toss-up, I lean toward the team with the best defense. The Longhorns' defense ranks in the top third of the Big 12 in several categories including yards per play and sacks, which should help UT slow the Red Raiders' offense. Texas 24, Texas Tech 13 -- Chatmon
- Trotter: 48-4
- Chatmon: 46-6
- Olson: 46-6
- The Oklahoman's Jenni Carlson caught up with Big 12 commish Bob Bowlsby while he was in OKC to speak at a luncheon. Sorry expansionists, but Bowlsby doesn't see the Big 12 adding schools anytime soon. "We’re distributing about $25 million per school through our distributable revenue, so anybody that would be considered for expansion in our league would have to bring at least pro-rata value," he said. "I don’t know that there are a lot of obvious candidates out there." BYU, possibly. But good luck finding anyone else available out there that meets that standard.
- The Dallas Morning News' Kevin Sherrington thinks Baylor needs to start scheduling better in the nonconference. I couldn't agree more. Debuting at No. 13 in the College Football Playoff Rankings, the Bears were clearly penalized for a soft nonconference slate that included SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo. With that schedule, Baylor left itself with almost no margin for a loss. And anymore in college football, it's very difficult to go through a season undefeated. The Bears have some work to do with their future scheduling. That is, if they want to be part of the playoff anytime soon.
- The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Jimmy Burch makes the interesting point that the Big 12 race could easily end in a multi-team logjam at the top of the standings. So much for "One True Champion." It's not unthinkable that TCU, Kansas State, Baylor, West Virginia and Oklahoma could all end up 7-2 in the conference. In that case, the highest-ranked Big 12 co-champion in the final playoff rankings would be sent to the highest-profile bowl, which in all likelihood would not include one of the playoff semifinals. While a 7-2 five-way tie would underscore the impressive depth of the conference, it would be much better for the league if TCU or Kansas State or Baylor or whoever ran the table and made the playoff.
- Despite a disappointing 5-2 start, nothing is wrong with Oklahoma football, in the opinion of The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel. It's just that the Big 12 has gotten better. Berry is right about the latter. TCU and West Virginia have finally arrived in Year 3 in the league. Oklahoma State and Baylor have ascended in recent years. And Bill Snyder is still doing wizard-like things at Kansas State. That said, my opinion is that the Sooners are at a level as a program that they should seriously contend for the national title every five years. That doesn't mean win it. That doesn't even mean making the playoff. That just means being on the short list of contenders in November, which Oklahoma really hasn't been since 2008. To me, that should be the standard at Oklahoma. Regardless of how good the rest of the Big 12 is.
- Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy admitted in an interview with Campus Insiders' Seth Davis that he once tried to trademark his legendary catch phrase, "I'm a man. I'm 40." Gundy probably could have made a lot of money, with bumper stickers, birthday cards and T-shirts.
Baylor: The Bears had a bye week to address their penalty problems. One stat to put that issue in perspective: The Bears have more 10-plus penalty games this season (five) than the entire Big Ten conference combined (three). Then again, Big 12 teams have combined for 16 such games. That suggests style of play and the league's refs are probably important factors in the Bears' penalty woes.
Iowa State: The breakthrough is coming for Allen Lazard and D'Vario Montgomery. Both were impressive against Texas and have been targeted a combined 51 times by Sam B. Richardson in the Cyclones' past three games. In fact, Lazard was targeted a season-high 15 times against the Longhorns, one more than team receptions leader E.J. Bibbs.
Kansas: When interim head coach Clint Bowen says running back Corey Avery isn't being properly appreciated, he might be right. Avery's 417 rushing yards rank No. 11 in FBS among true freshmen on Power 5 conference teams and second most in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma's Samaje Perine, and he's already surpassed 500 total yards in his debut season.
Kansas State: ESPN Football Power Index data ranks the strength of Kansas State's record so far as No. 10 in the country and best in the Big 12. That's a good snapshot of both KSU's tough schedule and its impressive showings against ranked foes. But FPI still projects K-State will lose to TCU and Baylor, and that its road test at West Virginia is almost a 50-50 game (KSU's odds of winning are currently pegged at 46.8 percent).
Oklahoma: Getting running back Keith Ford back is good news for this Oklahoma offense, but tip your cap to his young understudies. In the four games Ford missed, Perine and Alex Ross combined to average 4.99 yards per carry and 156 rushing yards a game. All three offer different skill sets, giving the Sooners one dangerous trio if they can stay healthy the rest of the way.
Oklahoma State: After impressing in his first two starts, quarterback Daxx Garman has shown regression in his past four. His adjusted QBR of 40.2 in the month of October ranks No. 99 nationally and ninth in the Big 12. His QBR for those first starts against UTSA and Texas Tech was a combined 74.1, but he finished this month with a TD-to-INT ratio of 3-7.
TCU: The aerial attack stole most of the attention, but here's a big reason why TCU was capable of scoring 82 against Texas Tech: The Horned Frogs rushed for 224 yards on first downs against Tech. When you're getting 8.3 yards per carry on first down, you have the opportunity to do pretty much anything on offense.
Texas: Here's something you couldn't have expected entering the season: Texas is eight games in and hasn't had a running back surpass 100 rushing yards in any games. In fact, since losing David Ash in the opener, Texas has not had a back surpass 80 rushing yards in a single game. Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes' 95 rushing yards against Iowa State remains the team high.
Texas Tech: Following last week's record-setting debacle, Texas Tech's defense ranks No. 123 nationally and last among Power 5 conference teams in defensive efficiency, according to ESPN Stats & Info. But really, after a game like that, there's nowhere to go but up from here.
West Virginia: Clint Trickett continues to rank No. 1 in the Big 12 in passing, completion percentage, yards per attempt, completions of 20-plus yards, passer efficiency and QBR. He has more passing yards (2,763) and a better completion percentage (68.3 percent) than Bryce Petty had through the first eight games of his prolific Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year season last year.
- The committee's initial rankings reveals that losses are the only thing that matter, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. He points out that West Virginia was essentially penalized for playing a tough nonconference game against Alabama and says that the Mountaineers might find themselves the No. 13 ranking that Baylor, which WVU just beat, currently has if it played a cupcake instead of the Crimson Tide. It's an interesting read from Tramel, who was hoping the College Football Playoff committee would be more creative instead of using "the old way of thinking."
- Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News has a good look at how the Big 12 fared in the rankings, including reasons why TCU, Kansas State and Baylor, all one-loss teams, landed where they did. Overall I think the committee did a pretty good job with TCU and Kansas State ending up higher than I expected, which is a good sign for the conference. It also reiterated the need for Baylor to go undefeated or end up hoping for a lot of help from other teams due to its nonconference schedule.
- Oklahoma got some good news with Trevor Knight saying he is "100 percent" on Tuesday night, reports John Shinn of the Norman Transcript. Knight injured his shoulder against Kansas State. Even though Knight's return to good health is great news, the Sooners have to be pleased with what they saw from Cody Thomas during his short stint behind center against KSU. Concerns about the backup quarterback spot should be lessened after seeing how well Thomas, a redshirt freshman, handled being thrown into the mix against the Wildcats.
- Oklahoma State's struggles this season could be an aberration, writes John Hoover of the Tulsa World. The Cowboys have recruited well and have some talented young players on the roster. But, the underriding question for the Pokes right now is this: Where is the leadership to get things turned around going to come from? If OSU has a answer for that question they could surprise in their tough home stretch to the season. If not, they could struggle to earn win No. 6 and become bowl eligible.
- The Farniok brothers will be on the same field for the final time on Saturday. Tom Farniok, Iowa State's starting center, and Derek Farniok, a backup lineman for Oklahoma, will face off when the Sooners and Cyclones battle on Saturday. It will be a special day for their mother Christie Farniok-Jones, reports Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Tribune.
With the Allstate Sugar Bowl serving as a semifinal site and TCU on the outside of the top 4 at No. 7, the Horned Frogs slide over to another New Year's Day bowl (Fiesta, Cotton or Peach). Ninth-ranked Kansas State, as one of the top 12 teams in the initial rankings, joins TCU in a New Year's Day bowl.
Additional movement this week features Charlie Strong's Texas squad dropping out completely. UT would have to win three of four games in the final weeks of the season to reach six wins and bowl eligibility. With TCU, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech remaining on the schedule, the odds aren't on the side of the Longhorns.
Cotton Bowl: TCU
Fiesta Bowl: Kansas State
Valero Alamo Bowl: West Virginia
Russell Athletic Bowl: Baylor
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Oklahoma
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Oklahoma State
Cactus Bowl: None eligible
Which offense has been the most surprisingly effective so far this season?
Brandon Chatmon: TCU is the most surprising offense in the nation, not just the Big 12. The Horned Frogs’ new attack leads the Big 12 at 6.86 yards per play and undoubtedly has made Gary Patterson wonder why he didn’t turn to this high-tempo, pass-happy attack sooner.
Max Olson: We knew West Virginia probably had the firepower to score points. We didn't really know if TCU did. It's not just the play calling, which has been superb. It's the instant adaption by Trevone Boykin and all of his backs and receivers that has made this unit killer.
Jake Trotter: To me, it’s TCU, and it’s not close. The Horned Frogs have gone from having the nation’s 88th-best scoring offense to its No. 1. Even in Gary Patterson’s wildest dreams, I don’t think he envisioned such a turnaround when he hired coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie.
Which offense has been the most disappointing?
Chatmon: I expected more from Texas’ offense with its bevy of talented running backs. True enough the offensive line has been playing musical chairs, sparked by departures, but 137.6 rushing yards per game is a surprising number from Charlie Strong’s team.
Olson: Has to be Texas. Neither Malcolm Brown nor Johnathan Gray has had a 100-yard game and Texas' offensive line is playing like one of the nation's worst. Tyrone Swoopes is doing the best he can with what he's got.
Trotter: You knew Oklahoma State would endure growing pains with so many new starters. But I never thought the offense would fall off a table the way it has. The Cowboys still have explosive playmakers. But the offensive line has been dreadful and the quarterbacking has been inconsistent. As a result, this is the worst Oklahoma State offense since Mike Gundy’s first season in 2005.
Which defense has been the most surprisingly effective?
Chatmon: Baylor had to replace several starters on its 2013 title-winning defense, yet there the Bears are, atop the Big 12 rankings in yards per play for a second straight season (4.4). And their 5.03 yards per play in conference games ranks second in the Big 12. BU’s offense gets the headlines but its defense continues to be the main reason for its title hopes.
Olson: Baylor deserves a ton of credit for not taking a noticeable step back despite losing so many veteran studs. They've had a tough loss and one awfully close call, but you do get the sense they're poised to elevate their play for this stretch run.
Trotter: I thought the Mountaineers had a chance to be better defensively. But I never thought they would be this much better. Tony Gibson and Tom Bradley have done a tremendous job turning around a unit that had been among the Big 12’s worst the previous two years.
Which defense has been the most disappointing?
Chatmon: Oklahoma’s defense looked like it could be one of the nation’s best early this season but has struggled in conference play, allowing 6.2 yards per play, ninth in the Big 12. The Sooners have talent all over the field but haven’t been as dominant as expected in Big 12 stadiums.
Olson: I'll agree with BC that it's the Sooners, but you do have to mention Texas Tech. This was already the Big 12's worst scoring D before giving up 82. Coaching, scheme, execution, talent -- Tech is not in good shape in any area.
Trotter: Oklahoma has a good defense, but it’s not the dominant one we all expected with nine starters back. The Sooners have been exposed these last three weeks. Honorable mention honors here go to Tech, whose defense has gone from bad last year to worse this season.
Total commits: 12
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Houston (Texas) Lamar prospect J.W. Ketchum made it a good bye week for the Bears with his Sunday commitment to Art Briles' program. The four-star athlete picked BU over Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Alabama and others.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Defense has been the focus of this recruiting class for the Cyclones. Eight of its 13 commitments are defenders including four defensive linemen. Paul Rhoads squad dealing with small numbers along its defensive front heading into this season but hopes to address some of those issues with a pair of junior college defensive linemen in Larry Jefferson and Xavier Pegues.
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: It’s been an interesting dynamic in Lawrence, Kansas, where interim coach Clint Bowen landed Olathe (Kansas) North tight end Josh Moore picked KU last week. Moore spurned offers from the majority of the Big 12, Auburn and Ohio State to pledge to the Jayhawks.
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Bill Snyder’s program dipped into Texas for its latest commitment with McKinney (Texas) North safety Bryce Balous picking the Wildcats last week. The three-star prospect turned down Texas Tech and Iowa to verbal to K-State. The Wildcats also added Pittsburg (Kansas) running back Alex Barnes, who committed to KSU on Monday. The three-star prospect picked KSU over Kansas, Minnesota, Rutgers and others.
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Sooners sent out some offers to Class of 2016 pass-catchers last week with La Canada (California) St. Francis receiver Dylan Crawford and West Hills (California) Chaminade receiver Dymond Lee reportedly receiving offers last week. Both receivers are ESPN Junior 300 members and four-star prospects.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 4
The latest: It wasn’t a great day on the field but one ray of light came to Oklahoma State during Saturday’s 34-10 loss to West Virginia as ESPNJr300 member Mike Williams appeared to love his unofficial to OSU, tweeting about his visit multiple times on Saturday.
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Not only did TCU score big on the field, putting up 82 points against Texas Tech, the Horned Frogs could have scored big on the recruiting trail as well. Gladewater (Texas) defensive tackle Daylon Mack, the No. 15 player in the ESPN 300, loved his official visit to TCU. He’s currently committed to Texas A&M but it appears Gary Patterson’s program definitely gave the elite defensive tackle something to think about.
Total commits: 18
ESPN 300 commits: 9
The latest: ESPN 300 member Cameron Townsend picked Texas on Sunday, becoming the 18th commitment for Charlie Strong’s program. The Missouri City (Texas) Ridge Point linebacker picked UT over Oklahoma, Baylor, TCU, USC, Michigan and others. He is the No. 284 player in the ESPN 300.
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Could it get any worse for Kliff Kingsbury’s program? Not only did Tech give up 82 points to TCU, its top 2015 commitment, quarterback Jarrett Stidham, broke his hand over the weekend. The injury shouldn’t impact his future as a Red Raider but there doesn’t seem to be much good news in Lubbock, Texas, right now.
Total commits: 21
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: It could be a critical recruiting weekend with TCU and ESPN’s "College Gameday" heading to Morgantown, West Virginia, on Saturday. Expect several prospects to take advantage of the opportunity with ESPN 300 defensive tackle Tim Settle, ESPN 300 athlete Jordan Cronkite and Army All-American Tim Irvin among the early list of prospects who could be on campus.
Team of the week: TCU scored a school-record 82 points in its thumping of Texas Tech. The 82 points were the most scored in a Big 12 conference game, breaking the previous mark of 77 set by Oklahoma in 2003 against Texas A&M. In 16 possessions, the Horned Frogs scored 10 touchdowns, kicked four field goals and punted twice. It was a masterful performance.
Disappointment of the week: Anytime a team gives up 82 points, it has to be considered a disappointment, and then some. Texas Tech coughed up the ball four times, and the defense surrendered 11 plays of at least 20 yards. The Red Raiders actually trailed just 31-20 in the second quarter before completely collapsing in the second half. With quarterback Davis Webb also injured, the 2014 season just keeps getting worse for Tech.
Big (offensive) man on campus: Pretty much anyone from the TCU offense deserves this honor, but no one more than quarterback Trevone Boykin, who broke a school-record with seven touchdown passes. Boykin also threw for a school-record 433 yards. With the TCU offense steamrolling, Boykin has begun to generate Heisman buzz.
Big (defensive) man on campus: It seemed every time Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes tried to throw downfield, Kansas State safety Dante Barnett was there to knock the pass down in the Wildcats’ 23-0 win. Barnett finished with four pass-breakups and seven tackles, and K-State handed the Longhorns their first shutout in 10 years.
Special-teams player of the week: Place-kicker could have been a huge problem for K-State this season after Jack Cantele missed three field goals in the loss to Auburn. But freshman Matthew McCrane has solidified that spot for the Wildcats. He made all three attempts, giving K-State some breathing room against Texas. McCrane is now 6-of-6 on field goals this season.
Play of the week: West Virginia true freshman free safety Dravon Henry, who had two interceptions in the 34-10 win against Oklahoma State, also delivered the exclamation point. He stepped in front of an errant Daxx Garman throw and returned it 51 yards to put the game away late in the fourth quarter.
Stat of the week: Texas Tech has gone 16 straight games without winning the turnover battle. The Red Raiders lost the turnover battle to TCU, 4-0.
Quote of the week: "Fortunately for us, we didn’t play very well and won a ballgame." -- TCU coach Gary Patterson, after his team beat Texas Tech 82-27.
- Safety Chris Hackett was cleared by the Big 12 after a review of a fight late in TCU's 82-27 win against Texas Tech, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Carlos Mendez. Video showed he didn’t actually throw a punch. Hackett was ejected in the third quarter, which would have kept him out of the first half of the West Virginia game. Hackett is having a terrific year, and the Horned Frogs will need all hands on deck against Clint Trickett and Co.
- The running game has been a quiet key to West Virginia's resurgence this season, in the opinion of the Charleston Gazette's Dave Hickman. Trickett and Kevin White have been getting all the headlines, and rightfully so. Both are having monster seasons. But with Oklahoma State focused on taking away White in West Virginia's 34-10 win in Stillwater, the Mountaineers leaned heavy on the ground game and finished with 210 yards. West Virginia didn't have starter Rushel Shell, either. But Wendell Smallwood picked up the slack with 132 yards against a pretty good Oklahoma State front. This is a complete West Virginia offense. That is a major reason the Mountaineers have surged into the thick of the Big 12 title race.
- Oklahoma State is looking for answers after getting pummeled by West Virginia. Sure, the game was closer than the final score indicated. But the Cowboys' offense was never a threat to score in the second half. "Everything offensively, to me, is alarming," Mike Gundy told The Oklahoman's Kyle Fredrickson. "Look at where we’re at." I'm not sure the Cowboys can do much this late in the season. The offensive line is what it is. The scheme is what it is. Daxx Garman is the quarterback he is. The best the Cowboys can do is ride it out, hope to get bowl eligible and regroup for next season.
- Freshman kicker Matthew McCrane has been a success since replacing Jack Cantele as Kansas State's placekicker, writes Ken Corbitt of the Topeka Capital-Journal. McCrane connected on three field goals in the 23-0 victory against Texas, and has now made all six of his attempts this season. After the Auburn game, it appeared placekicking was going to be a major issue for the Wildcats. But so far, McCrane has solidified it.
- Texas Tech has completely unraveled, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's Don Williams. The offense can't stop turning the ball over. The defense can't stop anyone. Even special teams helped fuel the TCU rout. The Horned Frogs got the ball 16 times, scored 10 touchdowns, kicked four field goals and punted twice. With five losses in their past six games, the Red Raiders stand little chance of going to a bowl. And as the TCU undressing underscored, this hasn't been a team deserving of a bowl, either.