Big 12: Texas Longhorns
September has been an interesting month, and it’s only going to get even more intriguing in the land of recruiting. Texas flipped an ESPN 300 player, and Baylor landed another skill-position threat. Additionally, West Virginia made an impact on an ESPN 300 player, and Texas Tech looked west at a couple of big-time prospects.
Here are some of the highlights from the week of Big 12 recruiting.
- Oklahoma's battle to get Baker Mayfield eligible remains ongoing, reports Ryan Aber of The Oklahoman. Bob Stoops alluded to having some new info, but OU is not ready to announce anything, and a TV report that Mayfield has been ruled immediately eligible appears to be premature or incorrect. You get the sense that, in this complicated appeals process, there's probably more that still needs to play out before Stoops can say anything definitive. If Mayfield is cleared -- and that's still a real if -- I'm curious if OU's perceived reluctance to let Trevor Knight run the ball (at least against West Virginia) will be impacted.
- The Iron Skillet game is going to have a different vibe this year. This time, TCU is facing a winless SMU team that recently changed coaches. Gary Patterson isn't too interested in talking about what's going on with his crosstown rival, writes Carlos Mendez of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, saying the Mustangs' shakeup is "no concern to TCU." He's just trying to get to win No. 3. TCU's less-than-stellar 2013 offense put up 48 on SMU. You'd think this year's group should have an even easier time.
- A Kansas team with a winning record is about to face a Texas team with a losing record for the first time in literally forever. Charlie Weis isn't taking the 1-2 Longhorns lightly, writes Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World. The Jayhawks head coach makes what is probably an important observation for both teams: KU isn't going to win a shootout and has to adopt a mindset of surviving slugfests. The same is definitely true of Texas and its offense right now. Texas is a 14-point favorite right now, but could we be in for a game that plays out much closer than expected?
- Kliff Kingsbury discussed two QBs on Monday: one from his past, one from his future. Now that Jarrett Stidham has signed, Kingsbury can publicly laud the Stephenville (Texas) High senior. He and OC Eric Morris got a chance to watch the incoming Texas Tech early enrollee play this weekend and were wowed by his leadership and demeanor. Kingsbury also talked up OSU's Daxx Garman, whom he pursued while at Houston, and isn't surprised by his early success.
- Art Briles and Baylor's sports information staff have another ally in the push to get Bryce Petty in the Heisman race: Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads. On Monday, Rhoads told reporters Petty is the Heisman frontrunner in his book, according to Bobby La Gesse of the Ames Tribune. Rhoads and his players are rightfully in awe of what Petty and the Bears' offense appears capable of this season. I don't think the Cyclones' love is an act, either -- it's respect, especially after Baylor handed ISU a 71-7 loss in Waco last year.
AUSTIN, Texas -- After three difficult weeks of contemplation, David Ash is ready to move on from football and begin the rest of his life.
The former Texas Longhorns quarterback held a 25-minute news conference Monday and offered his first public comments since his concussion symptoms returned after an Aug. 30 win against North Texas.
He explained why, after consulting with Texas coach Charlie Strong and team doctors, he knew he needed to stop playing in the interest of his health and future.
"I'm at peace with that. God has given me a peace," Ash said. "I have a lot of hope and a lot of belief that there's still awesome days ahead for me."
Ash said he experienced headaches for seven or eight days after the 38-7 victory over North Texas, his first game since Sept. 2013. That painful week brought some needed closure.
"At the core of my heart of hearts," Ash said, "I knew I shouldn't be playing."
To read the full story, click here.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Tony Nicholson (Grand Prairie, Texas/South Grand Prairie) is the latest Baylor pledge. The three-star athlete picked the Bears over offers from Kansas State, Arizona State, California, Ole Miss, Wisconsin and others.
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones are in good shape with commitments from three-star prospects at quarterback, running back and receiver. Current commits running back Devine Ozigbo (Sachse, Texas/Sachse) and receiver Denver Johnson (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma/Casady) each scored touchdowns over the weekend.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Receiver Kevin Thomas is the Jayhawks’ headline commitment and would bring big-play ability to the Jayhawks' offense. The three-star prospect spurned offers from Clemson, Nebraska, Wisconsin and others to pick Charlie Weis’ program.
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Could Kansas State have another Collin Klein in the pipeline? Wildcats quarterback commit Alex Dalton was outstanding last weekend with 265 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Sooners offered Minkah Fitzpatrick, a four-star Alabama commitment, last week. The Jersey City (New Jersey) Saint Peter’s Prep cornerback is the No. 27 player in the ESPN 300 and an UnderArmour All-American. There’s a 100-percent chance the Allstate Sugar Bowl is a topic of conversation when the Sooners chat with Fitzpatrick.
Total commits: 12
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Cowboys quarterback commit John Kolar (Norman, Oklahoma/North) had a superb game over the weekend, passing for 355 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-41 loss to Moore, Oklahoma/Westmoore.
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Longhorn swoop? Texas offered Dallas South Oak Cliff receiver J.F. Thomas, TCU’s lone four-star commit, last week. Thomas already boosted offers from several schools including Ohio State and LSU so the Longhorns are just adding to the list of programs trying to swipe Thomas off the Horned Frogs’ commit list.
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 8
The latest: The Longhorns added a commitment from ESPN 300 safety Jamile Johnson Jr. (Dallas/South Oak Cliff). The No. 240 player in the ESPN 300, Johnson has offers from several schools, including Oklahoma, TCU and Texas Tech.
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury was on hand as quarterback commitment Jarrett Stidham (Stephenville, Texas/Stephenville) amassed 398 yards and four touchdowns in a 50-39 loss to Lubbock (Texas) Cooper.
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: It was a huge weekend for the Mountaineers with defensive tackle Tim Settle, receiver Gary Jennings and athlete Lamont Wade among the prospects reportedly on visits to Morgantown for the loss to Oklahoma.
But after the nonconference season, Baylor and Oklahoma have emerged as bona fide playoff contenders – thanks to how they’ve performed.
But also, how their conference foes have performed, as well.
Sure, the Big 12 didn’t deliver a signature nonconference victory. Oklahoma State failed to topple Florida State. West Virginia couldn’t upset Alabama. And Kansas State squandered too many opportunities to knock off Auburn.
But in all three spotlight games, the Big 12 acquitted itself well, setting up Oklahoma or Baylor – or whoever wins the conference – as a strong playoff contender when the committee sits down to select its four teams in December. More importantly, in an era when there are five major conferences and only four playoff spots, the Big 12 positioned itself ahead of the Big Ten and the ACC heading into league play.
The Big Ten endured a disastrous start to the playoff era, with the Big 12 contributing to the debacle. West Virginia edged out Maryland. TCU hammered Minnesota. Iowa State handed Iowa its only loss so far. With Ohio State also falling at home to Virginia Tech and Michigan getting wiped out by Utah and Notre Dame, league wins in the Big Ten won’t look nearly as impressive as they will in the Big 12.
The effects of that have already begun to come to fruition.
Oklahoma received eight more first-place votes in the coaches' poll and two more in the AP poll over the weekend after winning at West Virginia, even though the three teams ranked ahead of the Sooners – Florida State, Alabama and Oregon – all won Saturday, too.
The Sooners’ victory in Morgantown was viewed nationally as a quality win, because of how tough West Virginia played Alabama and how it played in the road win over Maryland.
Should the Bears prevail in Ames this weekend, the win would be viewed in a more favorable light because the Cyclones bounced back at Iowa City.
Such a domino effect will roll through the entire Big 12 schedule. If Baylor and Oklahoma escape Kansas State, the playoff committee will be compelled to think back to how the Wildcats outplayed Auburn for much of the game in their narrow loss. If the Bears and Sooners defeat Oklahoma State, the committee will have the Cowboys’ performance against defending national champion Florida State in the back of their minds.
It wasn’t the perfect nonconference showing for the Big 12. Besides West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Kansas State coming up in short in marquee matchups they could have very easily won, Texas has let the league down again, dropping two nonconference games for the second consecutive year. Iowa State’s opening loss to North Dakota State didn’t help. And Texas Tech getting steamrolled on its home field by Arkansas only enhanced the reputation of the SEC West Division at the expense of the Big 12.
But when compared to the Big Ten or even the ACC outside Florida State, the Big 12’s nonconference performance overall was a success. The ACC delivered some stunning wins, notably Boston College’s victory over then-No. 9-ranked USC and Virginia Tech’s win over then-fourth-ranked Ohio State. But as everyone heads into conference play, the No. 1 Seminoles are the only ACC team currently ranked in the AP Top 25. The Big 12 has four ranked teams in the AP poll, with TCU and West Virginia sitting right on the fringe, as well.
Meanwhile, as other top teams around the country have endured shaky moments, Oklahoma and Baylor have been dominant. The Sooners, who have been as impressive as any team in the country through the first month of the season, are 4-0 with an average margin of victory of four touchdowns. The Bears – albeit to much lesser competition – have an average winning margin of more than 50 points.
Their showdown on Nov. 8 in Norman will give either the opportunity to make a huge statement to the playoff committee.
But there will be other opportunities to impress along the way, as well. Thanks to the rest of the Big 12, which as a league exits the nonconference looking even stronger than when the season began.
Kansas State and West Virginia were impressive enough, despite losing, to hold on to their bowl spots from last week. Oklahoma continues to look like a strong contender for the College Football Playoff. Oklahoma State could move up in the Big 12 bowl hierarchy Thursday with a win over Texas Tech.
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma
Cotton Bowl: Baylor
Valero Alamo Bowl: Kansas State
Russell Athletic Bowl: West Virginia
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Oklahoma State
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: TCU
Cactus Bowl: Texas
Former Texas standout and current Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant, who won the 2013-14 NBA MVP award, took to Twitter to express his appreciation for Ash's contribution to the Longhorns.
Thank you David Ash, you gave your all to the University of Texas. I respect your decision and good luck in the future my brother— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) September 17, 2014
Ash responded with a thank you of his own for his fellow Longhorn.
@KDTrey5 I really appreciate it. We're all thankful for the way you've represented UT your family and your faith. Keep it up— David Ash (@david_ash14) September 18, 2014
AUSTIN, Texas -- A complicated career ended with an easy decision.
David Ash is giving up football, a choice far wiser than he probably appreciates, but one that is no doubt gut-wrenching. Texas' quarterback was right to hang it up after his bout with concussions over the past year. There should be no debate about that.
To let Ash, a 22-year-old with a long life ahead of him, continue to play would've been irresponsible. Texas has known that since Aug. 31, when he revealed to team doctors he was once again dealing with headaches and dizziness.
"There was no way we'd let him back out on the field," Texas coach Charlie Strong said, "because we were going to be concerned about his health."
They knew he was done, so Wednesday's announcement was not unexpected. What we don't know, unfortunately, is something Texas fans have pondered for years.
We'll never know how good Ash could've been. His career seemed forever on the cusp, a few great games away from something bigger. But he gave as much as he could.
When concussions derailed his junior season last year, he wasn't ready to walk away. Last month, Ash was asked about the people who told him to stop playing. He understood why they asked their questions.
No, he needed another chance. One more game, one more season. He'd fought hard for 12 months to get back, and even harder to become the quarterback he knew he could be.
Ash fit the prototype at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds with a strong arm and quick feet. He threw as pretty a ball as any Texas QB since Chris Simms, especially when you watched him practice. He was a deceptive runner, with dashes of 55, 49 and 47 yards on his résumé.
There were a few nights when he put it all together. He did it in Stillwater in 2012, leading Texas on a 75-yard, game-winning drive for a 41-36 win over Oklahoma State. Looking back, that was probably the finest game of his career.
He was exceptional against Texas Tech later that season, one week after being benched at Kansas, and his second-half performance in the Alamo Bowl to beat Oregon State inspired real hope about 2013. He threw, he scrambled, he yelled, he led. He was getting closer.
But there were struggles he couldn't overcome along the way. He never beat Oklahoma in two tries, both embarrassing losses. He was pulled in that near-loss at KU in 2012. He shouldn't have tried to play with broken ribs in a Thanksgiving loss to TCU.
But if the sum total of your evaluation of Ash is, "He stunk against OU,” you missed out on a lot. He went 15-7 as Texas' starter. For some reason, he was judged far more by the seven than by the 15.
But Mack Brown believed in Ash. He believed Texas could be great in 2013 if Ash was great. He thought Texas could win any game on its schedule if his quarterback played at the level he expected.
Ash's rocky career will, in some ways, be forever tied to the end of Brown's. While Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel and so many other fine quarterbacks from Texas thrived elsewhere, Ash was the guy Brown hitched his wagon to after the implosion of the Garrett Gilbert era. Had Ash not been lost for the season last year, perhaps Texas might not have a new head coach.
The public expectations, for that reason, were never going to be fair for Ash. Brown and Strong repeatedly asked him just to be a good quarterback, a distributor and manager, and not fret about being great.
His week-to-week demeanor as the leader of the Longhorns' offense, the focal point of this great fishbowl, rarely changed. He was quiet, unassuming country boy from Belton, Texas, early on, but always came off as calm and rather determined. He speaks frequently about his life being grounded in his faith.
"In my mind, I always knew I was going to play again,” Ash said in August. "I feel like this is where God has placed me, this is the talent he has given me, and whenever I work hard and I play hard, it pleases Him and gives Him glory.”
The year off from football humbled him in new ways. He came back from his concussion and foot injury with conviction. He'd never considered quitting, he said, and he wasn't going to look back.
Strong lauded his fall practices as "outstanding.” Ash knew he was still getting closer. When asked about being so close to that breakthrough in 2013 and then having it taken away, having to wait patiently for another season, he offered genuine perspective.
"I think you just be thankful for what you get," Ash said, "and this goes for any person in any situation. You look at situations and say, 'I'm a victim. Why me?' Or you can look at situations and say, 'Wow, I'm so thankful that I even got to do this much.' So attitude is everything in those kinds of situations.
"So right now, wow, I get another opportunity. That's amazing. That's awesome. Thank God for that. I didn't necessarily deserve that, to get another opportunity. Just got to make the most of it.”
Ash got another shot against North Texas on Aug. 30. He played as long as he could. When it was over, when the symptoms came back, he knew he could walk away without regret.
When he sat down with Strong on Wednesday to make his retirement official, he did so voluntarily. Ash is ready to move on, unburdened by expectation, off to find a new way to give glory. Soon enough, he'll realize playing quarterback has nothing to do with how good he can be.
- Texas quarterback David Ash elected to give up football after struggling with concussion-related symptoms for the past year. Given the seriousness of head injuries, this was not a surprising decision. Max will have more on this later in the morning, but the move makes you wonder what could have been with Ash. He had moments of brilliance, notably in the 2012 Alamo Bowl win over Oregon State. That game seemed to be the turning point in Ash's career. As it turned out, Ash's career would basically be over not long into the following season.
- Ash's retirement wasn't the only major Big 12 story of the day. West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley turned himself into police after a warrant was issued for his arrest on a misdemeanor battery charge. Worley is accused of choking a woman and shoving her to the floor during a nightclub altercation hours after West Virginia's win over Maryland last weekend. This is a huge blow for the Mountaineers on and off the field. Worley was arguably West Virginia's best defensive player, and would have been matched up against Oklahoma WR Sterling Shepard this weekend. But Worley, who was one of the three players coach Dana Holgorsen took to Big 12 media days, was also viewed as one of the leaders of the team. Whenever a player of that stature is suspended indefinitely, the ripple effect in the locker room can be significant.
- In case you forgot, there's also a pretty big game being played tonight. Auburn will be the highest-ranked nonconference team to visit Manhattan since second-ranked Penn State came to town 45 years ago. There are a bunch of good reads setting up this showdown. Coach Bill Snyder has a message for his fans, according to the Kansas City Star's Kellis Robinett. AL.com's Brandon Marcello has the scoop on Auburn QB Nick Marshall reuniting with Snyder. And the Chicago Sun-Times' Steve Greenberg has more on the intriguing coaching matchup between Gus Malzahn and Snyder. I arrived in Manhattan last night for this one, and can't wait for kickoff.
- Oklahoma will debut its alternate uniforms this weekend at West Virginia, Bob Stoops revealed. As I detailed in this Take Two over the summer, I wasn't a fan of the Sooners going in this direction. It was my opinion that Oklahoma's iconic brand was above the uniform craze. But I have to admit, I'm curious to see what they'll look like in an actual game.
- TCU coach Gary Patterson is doing everything he can to get his team's attention in an open week before the Horned Frogs play winless SMU next weekend. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Carlos Mendez, Patterson demoted both of his starting cornerbacks, senior Kevin White and redshirt freshman Ranthony Texada, for not playing up to Patterson's standard. It's understandable why Patterson is getting after his team. It's also understandable, with the open week and hapless SMU up next, why the Horned Frogs might be a bit sluggish in practice this week.
Sept. 7, 2013: Ash exits a 40-21 loss to BYU late in the fourth quarter after suffering a concussion. He does not play against Ole Miss the following week.
Sept. 20: Texas announces Ash has been cleared by UT medical staff to start against Kansas State. He'd participated in his first practice since the concussion two days earlier after being symptom-free for at least 48 hours.
Sept. 21: Ash passes for 166 yards and guides Texas to a 17-7 halftime lead over K-State, then is held out for the second half. Team trainers evaluate him for concussion symptoms.
Nov. 25: Texas officially announces Ash is out for the season and will seek a medical redshirt. "Though he's made a lot of progress, we have not been able to clear him to return to competition," Texas trainer Kenny Boyd says in a statement. "Due to the duration of symptoms, we are now at a point that we all believe the best approach for him is to not return this season."
Jan. 18, 2014: Ash is cleared for offseason workouts and is expected to be a full participant in spring practice.
March 18: First day of spring practice. Ash returns to the practice field for the first time since September.
April 11: Ash is shut down for the final week of spring practice after suffering a "Jones fracture" in his left foot which requires surgery. Texas also announces Ash officially received a medical redshirt for missing 2013, giving him two remaining seasons of eligibility.
July 21: Texas announces Ash is fully cleared to participate in fall practice. A day later, Strong says at Big 12 media days Ash is his starting quarterback.
Aug. 4: First day of fall practice. Ash speaks to media for the first time since BYU. "A lot of people told me, 'You need to give it up, you need to quit.' Honestly, I never really thought about it," he says. "In my mind, I always knew I was going to play." He declines to discuss specifics about his concussion. When asked if he's ready to take his first hit, he declares: "Oh yeah, bring it on."
Aug. 25: During his Monday news conference, Strong refers to Ash as an "unbelievable quarterback who's had an unbelievable preseason camp." When asked again about taking his first hit in the season opener, Ash says, "I'm going to be OK. If I get hit, I'll be fine. I will be sliding a lot more this season, so you can count on that, and I'll be trying to protect myself and doing what's best for the team and taking care of my health during games so that I can last the whole season."
Aug. 30: Ash's first hit comes on the first play of Texas' second offensive drive. As he bends down to scoop up a fumbled snap, North Texas defensive end Jarrian Roberts hits Ash and his shoulder collides with the crown of Ash's helmet. Ash is slow to get up but does not report an injury to UT trainers. He takes at least five more hard hits during the 38-7 win, including three to his head or neck area.
Ash does not report any injuries or symptoms to team trainers during the game. A UT spokesperson says Ash spoke with trainers immediately after he came off the field from each drive.
After the game, Ash does not speak to reporters. OC Shawn Watson describes his performance as "sporadic" with some good moments. Strong is asked about the hits Ash took. "It's all within the flow of the game," he says. "I think the officials did a great job and the thing we have to do is just do a better job protecting. ... Sometimes we see it coming and you have to remember, you're going to get hit in this game."
Around 1:30 a.m. Sunday, after leaving the stadium, Ash informs the Texas staff he's experiencing headaches and dizziness and is brought in for further evaluation. He tells Strong he thinks the first hit, by Roberts, caused his symptoms.
Sept. 1: Strong announces Ash will not play against BYU and offers no timetable for his return. He's concerned about Ash's concussion history but insists the coaching staff was unaware of any in-game symptoms. "I'm not ever going to jeopardize injury," he says. "You can never, ever in this program jeopardize a young man's health to compete in a football game."
Sept. 6: Ash is able to attend Texas' home loss against BYU and watches from the sideline in a jersey and khaki shorts. He also travels for Texas' loss to UCLA at AT&T Stadium but did not suit up.
Sept. 17: Ash meets with Strong and decides to end his playing career. Strong says there is "no way" Texas coaches or trainers would've let Ash take the field again, but the quarterback made the call on retiring and will remain involved with the team this season.
Next game: Sept. 27 at Iowa State
What's working: Pretty much everything. Baylor's offense kept rolling even when Bryce Petty was sidelined, the run game broke in new toys in Johnny Jefferson and Silas Nacita, KD Cannon became a national phenom in three weeks and the defense ranks top five nationally in scoring, total defense, yards per play and run defense to go along with an FBS-high 15 sacks.
What needs work: This is welcomed recovery time for a team that got the injury bug in fall camp. Petty is 100 percent now and excited to get go-to target Antwan Goodley (quad) and receivers Corey Coleman (hamstring) and Clay Fuller (collar bone) back on the field. The Bears will likely get running back Devin Chafin (high ankle sprain) back in time to travel to Ames, too. With the exception of Levi Norwood, they'll have the full arsenal back in time for Big 12 play.
Next game: Sept. 27 vs. Baylor
What's working: The Cyclones go into the week off riding an emotional high they aim to turn into momentum. Their 20-17 upset of Iowa provided so many encouraging signs. Quarterback Sam B. Richardson had arguably the best game of his career, the defense came up with its first takeaway in a big moment and we saw another impressive performance from Cory Morrissey. Paul Rhoads is a happy camper after the rivalry win, and ISU avoided an 0-3 start in dramatic fashion.
What needs work: A game plan for slowing down Baylor will be the main focus this week. ISU has a few injury issues of its own, but the good news is Jarvis West should be OK. Rhoads is focusing in on a four-week, four-game stretch in which the Clones take on Baylor, Oklahoma State, Toledo and Texas. After a win this good, there's always another upset to chase.
Next game: Sept. 25 vs. Texas Tech
What's working: The youth and inexperience Oklahoma State has on paper is not showing on the field. The Pokes haven't slipped since losing J.W. Walsh, they gave Florida State a tough four-quarter ballgame, they won with relative ease after that and they have entered the Top 25. Thsi is not a perfect team yet but is a rising one that's going to scare a lot of teams in conference play.
What needs work: Facing Tech will give OSU a much better sense of how good its defense can be in 2014 after a nice showing in nonconference play. Gundy wants to see more depth develop in the back seven, and on offense he's expressed concerns about blocking the run game.
Next game: Sept. 27 at SMU
What's working: The offensive transition has been smooth and effective. TCU has averaged 39 points and 491 yards per game with its new Air Raid, and Trevone Boykin has been everything the coaches hoped for -- and maybe a little more. The defense hasn't taken a step back without Devonte Fields and has seen several players step up their games up front. Smooth sailing so far for a team that definitely looks bowl-bound again.
What needs work: TCU's pass defense ranks No. 6 in FBS, but Gary Patterson has said he still wants to make some fixes in pass coverage. They'll devote the required amount of time on SMU, a struggling team led by an interim coach and a third-string quarterback, but the Frogs know they need to work ahead a little on Oklahoma and Baylor, including preparing for the 3-4 fronts of the Sooners' defense.
Next game: Sept. 27 at Kansas
What's working: Despite taking two losses, this defense is playing at a high level with a top-20 yards-per-play rate, a top-15 pass defense and 13 sacks. Defensive tackle Malcom Brown looks like a potential All-American so far. Tyrone Swoopes is taking steps in the right direction and shined at times against UCLA, while John Harris has finally emerged as a go-to receiver.
What needs work: Where to begin? Texas' patchwork offensive line hasn't gelled and desperately needs these two weeks. The Longhorns need suspended WR/RB Daje Johnson back and need a healthy Desmond Jackson (ankle). Cedric Reed was better against UCLA but hasn't broken out yet. And Charlie Strong needs to start coming up with plans for stopping Baylor and Oklahoma or else this team could start 2-4.
Next game: Sept. 25 at Oklahoma State
What's working: Tech is getting nice production in the run game from DeAndre Washington and Justin Stockton and in the pass game from Bradley Marquez and Jakeem Grant. Offensive line play has improved and Tech hasn't given up a sack. Its pass defense ranks 11th nationally, which is probably misleading.
What needs work: Run defense, penalties, tackling, Davis Webb's consistency -- lots of fundamental issues here that are starting to cause concern. Webb seemed to be forcing throws against Arkansas and will need to put in some time this week to clean up concerns about his footwork and decision-making. And that porous run defense has to get cleaned up quick because opponents will keep attacking it hard over the next month.
Baylor: The combined adjusted QBR rating for Baylor's quarterbacks this season is 94.6, best in the nation ahead of Texas A&M and Oregon. The trio of Bryce Petty, Seth Russell and (in one appearance) Chris Johnson is averaging 11.14 yards per attempt, most among all Power 5 conference teams. Even with Petty missing a game and a half, this offense didn't suffer much.
Iowa State: In 14 of 28 games Iowa State has won under coach Paul Rhoads, including the 20-17 defeat of rival Iowa last weekend, ISU was the underdog. The Hawkeyes were a 13-point favorite. Past point spreads say this was the fifth time ISU has pulled off an upset under Rhoads as a double-digit underdog, joining the 2011 wins over Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, the 2010 defeat of Texas and the 2009 upset of Nebraska.
Kansas: KU is averaging 144.6 passing yards per game since coach Charlie Weis took over in 2012, which ranks sixth-worst in FBS over that period and second-worst among Power 5 programs ahead of Georgia Tech. In a 41-3 loss to Duke, the Jayhawks finished with fewer than 100 passing yards for the seventh time in Weis' tenure.
Kansas State: Under Bill Snyder, K-State is 4-0 in non-conference home games against Power 5 conference opponents, with wins over USC, UCLA, Miami and Minnesota. But No. 5 Auburn will be Kansas State's highest-ranked non-conference opponent visiting Manhattan since 1969, when No. 2 Penn State beat KSU, 17-14. Snyder was a 29-year-old high school coach at the time.
Oklahoma: Since 2009, the Sooners are just 6-7 in road games that kick off at 6 p.m. CT or later, according to ESPN's Dane Beavers. In all, OU is 17-8 in road night games under Bob Stoops and started off 9-0 in those games under Stoops until at 2007 loss at Texas Tech. OU's road game at West Virginia kicks off at 6:30 p.m. CT.
Oklahoma State: Since rushing for four TDs against Iowa State on Oct. 26, 2013, Desmond Ronald leads all active FBS running backs with 14 rushing touchdowns. Only Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds (24) has found the end zone more times among active players.
TCU: TCU has the No. 1 efficiency defense in the country according to ESPN analytics. Through two games, the Horned Frogs also rank No. 1 nationally in yards per play allowed (3.04) and No. 2 in total defense (205.5 ypg). Those numbers should hold fairly steady after TCU takes on a SMU team missing its head coach and starting quarterback next weekend.
Texas: The Longhorns' run defense currently ranks 91st nationally, allowing 181.3 rushing yards per game. One reason for that? Their first three opponents have leaned heavily on the run. Texas is facing, on average, 50 rushes per game this season, second-most among Power 5 defenses behind Texas Tech.
Texas Tech: Having the second-worst run defense in the country isn't the only problem for Tech. The Red Raiders have this problem because they've given up 468 rushing yards after contact, third-most in FBS. The 416 rushing yards allowed before contact also ranks sixth-most in FBS. Only FAU's defense is averaging fewer tackles for loss per game.
West Virginia: Clint Trickett's career-high 511 passing yards against Maryland isn't that uncommon in the history of Dana Holgorsen-coached QBs. Since becoming an offensive coordinator in 2005, Holgorsen has now had five QBs surpass 500 in one game: Trickett, Case Keenum (four times), Graham Harrell (twice), Geno Smith and Cody Hodges.
On to the mailbag:
Greg writes: OK, I know this is a crazy question but it crossed my mind. Say at the end of the regular season you have a one-loss West Virginia team (I know, I know, just humor me). Do you believe they would have a shot at the playoff?
Brandon Chatmon: Why not? That would mean wins over Oklahoma and Baylor, a pair of Top 10 teams currently, along with a sole loss to Alabama. The key would be a strong season from the Crimson Tide to reaffirm the Mountaineers’ effort in the season opener. If the Crimson Tide somehow tumble down the SEC standings, that would hurt a one-loss WVU’s chances, no doubt about it. A solid season from Maryland would help the cause as well. After all, it’s not like all of the other Power 5 conferences have been dominating the competition, so any one-loss Big 12 champion could have a strong case.
Singletary in Austin writes: I recognize it's faced subpar competition, but how would you rate Baylor's defense and defensive depth against the last couple years? To my eyes they look bigger, faster and deeper.
Chatmon: I’d agree. Even though the Bears haven’t been tested, the talent upgrade is obvious. I really like what I’ve seen from Shawn Oakman, Jamal Palmer and Xavien Howard thus far, but those three are just a few of the athletes on Baylor’s defense that I would consider an upgrade over previous years. It’s becoming really clear how well Art Briles and company have done on the recruiting trail lately.
NoZe in Austin writes: What chance do you give Bryce Petty of winning the Heisman? Do they have to run the table (which would include a first-ever win in Norman)?
Chatmon: Petty just needs to play extremely well in big games. It wasn’t numbers that kept him away from New York a year ago (4,200 passing yards and 46 total touchdowns is enough). He looked like a superhero at times but looked human against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas last season. It really doesn’t matter what he does right now, he just needs to excel against the Big 12’s best and have his Heisman moment with everyone watching. If that happens, even if BU is not undefeated he could cement his spot in the Heisman race.
Ben in Waco, Texas, writes: Why isn't Oklahoma State's defense, and particularly our D-line, getting any love? Going into the Florida State game, everyone knew our D-line was the strength of our team, yet when FSU had trouble with them, national media made no mention of OSU having anything to do with FSU's struggles. They've chalked it up to a bad game, despite OSU's defense continuing to look the part of a solid D. We heard about how good Oklahoma's defense was against Tulsa, and how good Baylor's D looked against SMU, but OSU's performance against FSU no big deal???
Chatmon: I was candid about my concerns about OSU’s defense, although not necessarily the defensive line, before the season opener and they accepted the challenge against FSU. I apologized on Twitter to the Pokes defense for questioning it, so I can’t really speak to what others are doing. If OSU’s defensive line wants more love, it can earn it with dominant performances in Big 12 play because it looks like, for the second straight season, OSU’s destiny will be decided by its defense, not its more ballyhooed offense in 2014.
Josh in Morgantown, Kentucky, writes: How do you think WVU's offense will fare against the Oklahoma defense? Do you see the WVU defense getting enough stops for a win?
Chatmon: I think it will be a great back-and-forth battle to watch between WVU’s offense and OU’s defense. The Sooners will force other playmakers to emerge, and I think WVU has some guys, like Wendell Smallwood and Daikiel Shorts, who are ready to do that. I expect both sides to win their share of battles. Ultimately I think WVU’s defensive line, which impressed me against Maryland, will decide the game. If that group plays well, WVU can upset the Sooners. If not, OU’s running game and deep passing will prove too much for the Mountaineers.
Kurt in Lubbock writes: Hey guys, love the blog. I'm going to support and back my team no matter what, but do you think Texas Tech has any chance of making a bowl game this year? And do you think our defense can ever get better? Or are we doomed to a three- to four-win season this year?
Chatmon: I’m not ready to say Tech has no chance at a bowl game, but a lot has to change if the Red Raiders even hope to go bowling. I think we will learn everything we need to know about Texas Tech when it visits Oklahoma State Sept. 25. How much pride do the Red Raiders have? Do they have the depth to make the needed changes on defense? We will find out at Boone Pickens Stadium. If those answers are negative, that’s when I’d start thinking just three or four wins is a distinct possibility.
Don in Muscatine writes: Can Iowa State win four Big 12 games (as well as Toledo) and push for a bowl game?
Chatmon: I love the fight the Cyclones have shown early, but I just don’t see where those wins would come from. The Big 12 is even deeper than I expected with West Virginia and Oklahoma State looking like they will be better than I thought. Toledo should be a win, but it’s hard for me to see them reaching four conference wins unless Sam Richardson really takes his game to another level during the rest of the season.
Aaron in Temple, Texas, writes: How scary would the Longhorns be if they had a better offense?
Chatmon: I wouldn’t call them scary, but I’d consider them Big 12 title contenders. But that’s not the scenario for Charlie Strong’s bunch. They rank eighth or lower in several major offensive categories, including points (20.7), third-down conversions (27.3 percent) and yards per play (4.6). There have been some positive signs from Tyrone Swoopes, and he’s starting to make me rethink my belief that Jerrod Heard is the future under center. Nonetheless, UT’s offense is not explosive, dynamic, powerful or efficient. Until that changes, nobody can consider the Longhorns a real threat in the Big 12.
The upcoming week for the Big 12 will be quiet, as only three games featuring conference teams will take place -- one of those occurring on Thursday. Fortunately, the conference is coming off a dynamic week of football that featured big-time commitments for Oklahoma.
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Back in December, when Swoopes floundered against Oregon in an Alamo Bowl cameo, it seemed his development was destined to be a long, multi-year project for whomever became his next quarterback coach. Or maybe, with his size, he'd someday make a great tight end.
He won't have to hear those backhanded comments any more. Not at the rate of growth he's displayed since being handed the keys to Texas' offense on Sept. 1. In the second start of his career, against a top-15 foe under the bright AT&T Stadium lights, Swoopes offered proof not only that he can handle pressure, but that his passing abilities are steadily improving.
Here are four throws Swoopes made Saturday, all on scoring drives, that showed what he can do when he has a little confidence.
1. Moving the feet and the defense
Situation: Second-and-21, 2nd quarter
Play: 15-yard completion to Jacorey Warrick to UCLA 48
There's a fundamental misunderstanding about Swoopes when you throw around the word "dual-threat." Yes, he can run. He cannot run like Vince Young. Not when he's 245 pounds. Swoopes is still learning this today, that he can't dance around much on runs and keepers because he doesn't have big-time speed and defenders close quick.
But co-offensive coordinator Shawn Watson has done a nice job of finding ways to put Swoopes' feet to use. On this play, after a 15-yard clipping penalty put Texas off-schedule, Swoopes took the snap at the left hash and rolled out all the way to the right hash, scanning the field throughout. The rollout put UCLA's linebackers, particularly the exceptional Myles Jack, in conflict.
Once Jack had drifted far enough over to account for the possibility Swoopes might tuck and run, the quarterback fired a 15-yard bullet to Warrick that set Texas up for a third-down conversion and kept a TD drive alive.
2. A laser under pressure
Situation: Third-and-6, 2nd quarter
Play: 8-yard completion to Jaxon Shipley to UCLA 40
On the very next play, another sharp decision. Right after the snap, UCLA's Deon Hollins Jr. easily got around Texas right tackle Kent Perkins and went right after Swoopes, forcing the quarterback to scramble back and right. Just as Hollins was 1 yard from the takedown, Swoopes chucked a pass off his back foot that was as good as it gets, a 22-yard laser that Shipley and only Shipley could catch.
Texas moved the chains, Charlie Strong fist-pumped toward his quarterback and the "Swoooopes" chants began.
3. Best play of young career
Situation: Fourth-and-8, 2nd quarter
Play: 33-yard completion to John Harris to UCLA 5.
Texas elects to go for it from UCLA's 33 and the Bruins responded by dropping eight in coverage and rushing three. Unsurprisingly, that pass rush still got into the backfield when a double-blocked Anthony Wallace pressured Swoopes from behind. Swoopes rolled right and threw on the run into a small window to Harris for the 33-yard pickup into the red zone. Through two starts, almost one-third of Swoopes' passing yards have come on throws outside the pocket.
Harris gets a lot of credit here. He broke on his route and took off toward the sideline when he saw Swoopes on the move. Then he climbed the ladder to catch the pass in front of Ishmael Adams and hold on. This one had Texas in the end zone four plays later and had Strong jumping, dancing, shouting and fist-pumping on the sideline.
4. The potential game-winner
Situation: Second-and-goal, 4th quarter
Play: 8-yard pass to Harris for touchdown
On the lone third-down situation of Texas' masterful 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to go ahead, Swoopes hit Harris on an out cut for a 6-yard gain. He went to him again to finish the drive in similar fashion.
This is just a textbook solid throw, a three-step drop and a fastball into one-on-one coverage just as Harris turned back to Swoopes. Another perfect out cut to beat UCLA's Jalen Ortiz rewarded with a precisely-located pass. With 5:13 left, the go-ahead score could've been the game-winner. But Swoopes would have to take the field again, and his misfire to Marcus Johnson on a slant on fourth down sealed the defeat.
But if the once-raw passer can make these throws now, the future looks brighter -- especially with two more weeks to improve before Texas takes the field again.