Big 12: Texas Longhorns

AUSTIN, Texas -- Charlie Strong went back to his coaching playbook after Texas’ 48-45 win over Iowa State and dug up a familiar tactic. He wanted to make sure his defenders hadn’t deceived him.

When his defense met Sunday, they went to the tape. Strong pulled up five plays that bothered him. He’d caught a few players letting up, not running to the ball, jogging. So he brought back the lowlight reel.

“I said, ‘This is not us, but I want you to see these five plays,’” Strong said Monday. “‘If this is us, I need to know that. If it’s an imposter wearing your jersey, I need to know that. I want you guys to watch this tape.’”

[+] EnlargeSam Richardson
AP Photo/Michael ThomasSam Richardson and Iowa State humbled Texas' defense this past Saturday.
Strong used the same tactic this offseason, meeting individually with each Longhorn and showing them their worst plays of 2013. It’s a measure meant to hammer home how good those players can be with better effort.

He brought it back this week because, seven games into this season, Strong has seen how good this Texas defense can be. He’s OK with winning by three points. He’s OK with a last-second victory, Texas’ first win in a close game all season.

He’s not OK with Iowa State putting 45 points on the scoreboard, 38 of them permitted by his defense.

“Our defense did not play to the standard we’re used to seeing them at,” Strong said.

Iowa State gained 10-plus yards on 22 different plays, the second most a Strong defense has allowed in his five years as a head coach. ISU quarterback Sam B. Richardson, responsible for 18 of those big gains, threw for 345 yards and three scores against the nation’s No. 3-ranked pass defense.

Stats aside, Iowa State came into Texas’ house, kept scoring in crunch time -- a TD with five seconds left in the first half, another with 28 seconds left in the ballgame -- and had a lot of right answers offensively.

“He was mad,” Diggs said of Strong. “We’re all mad. We know we didn’t play well.”

Credit masterful play calling from offensive coordinator Mark Mangino and consistently stout play from Iowa State’s offensive line. With the exception of his two interceptions, Richardson played keep-away from Texas. He found holes in Texas’ zone coverage with quick intermediate passes that beget good tempo.

Safety Dylan Haines picked off Richardson for a 74-yard touchdown, but conceded this unit backed off a little too much after Texas’ offense provided a fast 14-0 start.

“We started missing keys, missing our drops in our zone coverages,” Haines said. “I think when they started to make those throws, they were able to get momentum and move with tempo. I don’t think we were ever able to slow them down after that.”

Just two of Richardson’s 55 attempts went longer than 20 yards. He got into a rhythm with tight end E.J. Bibbs, and missed tackles created opportunities for running back Aaron Wimberly. ISU’s 38 points were all hard-earned.

“Those guys attacked all their keys and did everything they were supposed to do,” cornerback Quandre Diggs said. “They didn’t make many mistakes. They were throwing the ball quick, getting it out in a hurry. Those guys played a good game. We still won.”

The good news, Strong says, is the particular mistakes and missteps Texas defenders made this past Saturday are teachable and correctable.

“It’s all about fundamentals, technique, alignment, gap integrity, them making throws that never should’ve been made,” Strong said.

He’ll praise the growth of quarterback Tyrone Swoopes and Texas’ offense and acceptable play on the special-teams front this week, no doubt. A four-loss team takes its wins by any means necessary.

But with a trip to No. 11 Kansas State up next, Strong will not take it easy on his defense this week. The shaming phase is probably complete. A little humbling never hurts. The next step? Address the formula the Cyclones offered and find a better way to stop it.

“If that formula’s there,” Strong said, “it’s there every week in this conference.”

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

October, 20, 2014
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Here’s the latest around the Big 12 on the recruiting trail after another big weekend of official and unofficial visits:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 12
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: There aren't many spots left in Baylor's class, but one of them is presumably being saved for Waco Midway four-star safety Kahlil Haughton. He took an official visit to Arkansas last weekend and could take his official trip to a Baylor game on Nov. 1. Haughton has already taken officials to Oklahoma and Nebraska, and his final two trips are expected to go to BU and Texas Tech.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones' latest pledge came from Itawamba (Mississippi) C.C. -- defensive lineman Xavier Pegues. He committed one day after juco teammate Larry Jefferson picked ISU. Both big men attended Iowa State's win over Toledo this month. Pegues, a 6-foot-3, 270-pound lineman, will likely play defensive tackle next year.

KANSAS
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Despite the coaching change, Kansas' recruiting class has stayed intact to this point. The Jayhawks aren't making many new offers under interim coach Clint Bowen, and its committed prospects seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach on how this season and subsequent coaching search play out.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: One recruit expected to be in Manhattan on Saturday for the Wildcats' game against Texas is Kylan Johnson. The three-star safety from Dallas Skyline is planning to take an official visit and is reportedly also considering Texas Tech and Arkansas.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Sooners had a surprising star on campus for an official visit this weekend: Texas A&M commit Kyler Murray, the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the nation. The five-star from Allen, Texas, also attended OU's Red River Showdown win last week before taking in A&M's loss to Ole Miss.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 4
The latest: Playing at TCU gave OSU coaches a chance to check in on their DFW-area commitments on Friday night. The Pokes staff got a chance to watch their coveted ESPN 300 running back pledge, Ronald Jones II, rush for 130 yards and two scores (including a 73-yard TD) to help McKinney North beat rival McKinney.

TCU
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Horned Frogs had a nice collection of 2016 recruits in the house Saturday for their beatdown of OSU, including No. 1 overall recruit Greg Little and ESPN Junior 300 defensive backs Jared Mayden and Jaylon Jones. Three more important visitors: 2015 three-star corner DeShawn Raymond, LSU commit Hanner Shipley and 2017 athlete Anthony Hines III, who holds more than 50 offers.

TEXAS
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 8
The latest: The Longhorns got a critical opportunity on Saturday to convince receiver John Burt to stick with his commitment. The ESPN 300 receiver from Florida is contemplating flipping his commitment to Auburn after taking an official visit there this season. He returned to Austin this weekend for an unofficial visit to watch Texas' 48-45 win over Iowa State. Burt has been committed to UT since July.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Red Raiders landed a commitment last Sunday from three-star defensive tackle Courtney Wallace of Monroe (Louisiana) Neville. He turned down a dozen offers to become the fourth defender in Tech's class. This Sunday, TTU extended an offer to ESPN Junior 300 linebacker Dontavious Jackson, the Houston Elsik standout who now holds six offers.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 21
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The latest member of the Mountaineers' class is Longwood, Florida, defensive end Adam Shuler. He committed on Saturday after taking an official visit to WVU earlier this month for the Kansas game. The 6-foot-5 end turned down offers from Cincinnati, Purdue and Indiana.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big 12 morning links

October, 20, 2014
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Things got a little crazy in Morgantown, and I don't mean on the football field...
  • Texas Tech receiver Jakeem Grant was part of a scary situation early Sunday morning. According to Nicholas Talbot and Sarah Rafique of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Grant was injured during an off-campus altercation in which more than 20 rounds were fired from multiple weapons. Grant suffered a laceration and was taken to the hospital, treated and released. It's unclear if Grant will be able to play against TCU this weekend. But the important part is that he's all right. And fortunately, no one else was seriously injured, either.
  • The Sooners are a two-loss team for many reasons. Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman detailed one of those problems common in both losses, and that was Oklahoma's poor time management. Against K-State, the Sooners squandered their last timeout with 9:45 left to play, which ultimately allowed the Wildcats to drain four minutes off the clock late to clinch the 31-30 victory. The Sooners also blew their timeouts in the loss at TCU. They took the field with a chance for a game-winning drive with 51 seconds remaining. But without any timeouts, the clock ran out on them. That comes down to communication and coaching, not only on game day, but in the week leading up. And it has cost the Sooners dearly.
  • The Waco Tribune-Herald's Brice Cherry thinks that Baylor should shed the self-given "America's Top Offense" label for now after struggling in a 41-27 loss at West Virginia. I don't know if that's completely fair. The Bears, no doubt, had an off game in Morgantown. But they still lead the country in scoring. And just a week ago, they put up 61 on a TCU defense many have pegged as one of the best in the league. Baylor's offense is still one to be feared. And it's the biggest reason why I'm nowhere near ready to write off the Bears in the Big 12 title chase.
  • The Oklahoman's Josh Helsley suggested that while Oklahoma State is a win away from becoming bowl eligible, the Cowboys might not actually get there. I can't disagree. Oklahoma State looked awful in a 42-9 loss at TCU, and frankly, the Cowboys didn't look impressive beating up on the bottom of the Big 12 to the start the conference season. Now comes the difficult part, as Oklahoma State's final five games are: No. 22 West Virginia, at No. 11 Kansas State, Texas, at No. 12 Baylor and at No. 17 Oklahoma. If the Cowboys don't play a lot better than they did in Fort Worth, they could finish out on a six-game losing streak.
  • After beating Iowa State 48-45, the Longhorns were back to talking about winning the Big 12. That's no typo. “When you have two losses in the Big 12, you’re never out of the race,” receiver John Harris told the Austin American-Statesman's Brian Davis. “I think we’re in a great position to win out.” Hey, I'm all for optimism. Speaking of which, I think I'm in great position to win the Pulitzer Prize. Anything is possible, right?

Big 12 bowl projections: Week 8

October, 19, 2014
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It's moving day!

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

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

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

Best of the visits: Big 12

October, 19, 2014
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How unpredictable is the Big 12? Baylor is no longer undefeated, Kansas State topped Oklahoma in Norman, and TCU dominated Oklahoma State.

Perhaps "unpredictable" isn't the operative word. "Competitive" may be a better fit.

The Big 12 on Saturday made it a priority to expect the unexpected. West Virginia bested a Baylor team in contention for the College Football Playoff. The 41-27 West Virginia win was even sweeter when the Mountaineers picked up commitment No. 21 on Sunday in rising Florida DE Adam Shuler.



West Virginia pulled the big upset Saturday, but from a recruiting perspective, the big story of the day was ESPN 300 QB and Texas A&M commit Kyler Murray taking an official visit to Norman to take in the Oklahoma experience. Murray, the nation's top-ranked dual-threat quarterback, was seen hanging out with Steele Walker, an Oklahoma baseball commit, during the Kansas State-Sooners football game.

The big question: Is the visit just another opportunity to check out a different school and see how another program functions, or does it give the Aggies legitimate reason to believe Murray is weighing all of his options? Texas A&M has lost three in a row, including Saturday's 59-0 loss to Alabama.



TCU cruised to an easy win against Oklahoma State, and several 2016 athletes were in attendance. The Horned Frogs love their defensive commits, and a couple of players -- such as DE Demerick Gary and OLB/DE Sidney Murray left the game asking the same question: Is Fort Worth in the future?




Texas ended a two-game losing skid with a home win against Iowa State. The Longhorns had a pleasant surprise, as WR commit John Burt was in Austin on an unofficial visit. That's big news, considering Burt lives in Florida and still has an official visit option to Texas available.

One big visitor in attendance was ESPN Junior 300 DB Brandon Jones. Ranked the nation's No. 2 safety in the 2016 class, Jones enjoyed his time in Austin and is considering the Longhorns.



And after Texas' Week 8 win -- a game decided by a 21-yard field goal with time running out -- ESPN 300 WR Ryan Newsome, who is considering the Longhorns in his recruiting, had some fun with the Heisman voters.

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WR Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma: Had to give him a shout-out for a career day in an excellent career. Shepard tied the OU school record with 15 receptions against Kansas State and took them for 197 yards, including a 47-yard score.

Video: Texas 48, Iowa State 45

October, 19, 2014
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video 
Nick Rose's 21-yard field goal with three seconds left gave Texas a 48-45 win over Iowa State.
Here's what we learned about the Big 12 in a wild Week 8:

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

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

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

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

5. Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes is turning the corner: Swoopes followed his breakout performance against Oklahoma last week by engineering a drive in the final seconds to set up a game-winning field goal and give Texas a dramatic 48-45 win over Iowa State. Swoopes got the ball back with 28 seconds to go on the Texas 28 and the game seemingly headed for overtime. Instead, Swoopes floated a bomb into the arms of Jaxon Shipley for 39 yards down the sideline. On the next play, Swoopes hit John Harris along the same sideline for a 29-yard gain to the Iowa State 4. Nick Rose nailed the field goal on the next play with 3 seconds left. All told, Swoopes threw for 322 yards and ran for another 95, and he gave more reason to believe he could be Texas' long-sought answer at quarterback.
In today's Twitter mailbag, we discuss playoff scenarios, the three big games this weekend, and whether there is any hope for Texas Tech or Kansas.

On to the 'bag:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big 12 true freshman power rankings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stats that matter: Iowa State vs. Texas

October, 17, 2014
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Ready for some numbers? It's time for our weekly stat digs, in which we team with ESPN Stats & Information to find the numbers that matter most for the Longhorns and their next opponent. Here are the stats to remember going into Texas' meeting with Iowa State on Saturday night (7 p.m. CT, Longhorn Network).

1. 14

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong
AP Photo/Michael ThomasTexas' struggles on offense in the third quarter have frustrated first-year coach Charlie Strong.
If you're looking for little reasons why Texas is 2-4 and not 4-2, start with the third quarter. Texas' defense has struggled after halftime, no doubt, getting outscored by 35 points and outgained by 331 yards in the third quarter. But let's take a closer look at the offense, because some of the numbers are astonishing.

Texas has a brutal streak going on: 14 consecutive third-quarter drives have ended in punts. That stretch includes the entire quarter against UCLA, Kansas, Baylor and Oklahoma -- four straight scoreless third quarters.

Texas' offense has had 22 third-quarter drives this season and 17 have ended with punts, including 10 three-and-outs. These drives are gaining, on average, 16 yards. Only two drives have crossed midfield. Once they passed the 50, they gained a total of minus-11 yards.

The Longhorns are scoring on 9 percent of their third-quarter possessions and punting on 86 percent. Both of those rank worst in the FBS. Charlie Strong says he's looking into it. So is Shawn Watson. I'd imagine it's hard to pinpoint whether that's a halftime problem, a play-calling issue, or something else. But it's something they need to get fixed as soon as possible.

2. 22/29

Texas hasn't been good in third quarters. But its defense was killer on third downs against Oklahoma and Baylor.

You know Oklahoma was 1-of-11 on third downs, not converting one until the fourth quarter. But throw in the Baylor game (6-of-18) and you get the total above: This Texas defense got stops on 22 of its 29 third-down plays against two of the Big 12's best.

A big reason for that success, as you'd expect, is distance. The Sooners and Bears faced third-and-long (7-plus yards) on 15 of those 29 plays. The Sooners' average distance to gain on third downs was 8.5 yards, forcing Trevor Knight to pass on nine of their 11 third-down situations.

Holding those two foes to a combined third-down conversion rate of under 25 percent isn't easy to do, and yet, the result is still two losses. Maintaining this stinginess on third down -- and putting in the work on the first two downs to create those situations -- will pay off big at some point this season.

3. 376

Iowa State quarterback Sam B. Richardson proved against Texas last year, and repeatedly in Iowa State's first six games this season, that he can be a dangerous threat with his legs.

His team-high 283 rushing yards this season rank No. 12 among Power 5 conference quarterbacks, right behind Oregon's Marcus Mariota. And when you ignore sacks, he's actually run for 376 yards this season, a rate of 6.5 yards per carry.

More important, Richardson is picking up first downs on nearly 40 percent of his rushes. He's capable of extending plays and extending drives with his feet, and he's adept at scrambling and grabbing the first down when the pass isn't there. Texas' defense will have to be alert at all three levels on Saturday.

Three more to remember

98.8: Tyrone Swoopes' QBR rating when he throws to John Harris, who's hauled in all five of Swoopes' touchdown passes to wide receivers. His adjusted QBR this season overall stands at 49.5, which is considered average.

4: Iowa State tight end E.J. Bibbs' touchdown receptions this season. He's tied for the national lead among tight ends on Power 5 conference teams and has three TDs in his past two games.

3: The number of remaining games Texas is favored to win, according to ESPN FPI: Iowa State (83 percent odds), at Texas Tech (65) and West Virginia (58). The Longhorns' best shot at an underdog win comes at Oklahoma State (39 percent). They might need that one to hit six wins.

Big 12 viewer's guide: Week 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big 12 players in Week 8 spotlight

October, 16, 2014
Oct 16
2:30
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Our weekly quest to predict which players are due for a breakout game went better than ever last week, with KD Cannon, DeAndre Washington, Michael Cummings, B.J. Catalon and Steve Edmond all enjoying big performances. Who's going to step up in Week 8? A look at 10 players to watch this weekend:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

West Virginia RB Wendell Smallwood: You can't ask for more from a change-of-pace back than what Smallwood gave last week, rushing for 123 yards on just 15 carries against Texas Tech. WVU needs to be able to keep Baylor's defense honest by attacking with Rushel Shell and Smallwood. Keep an eye on him this week.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Did Iowa State get robbed against Texas a year ago? Jordan Hicks couldn't help but crack a sly grin after hearing the question.

"No," Texas' senior linebacker said. "No, we won that game."

You won't hear Paul Rhoads delving into that topic this week. It's a safe bet that Cyclones AD Jamie Pollard, already out $25,000 this season, isn't touching it either. They've already said plenty in the past, and a full 12 months have now passed.

But it's clear, based on Pollard's comments earlier this month, that there's still somewhat of a scar. Don't expect the Cyclones to forgive and forget when it comes to the controversial goal-line fumble in Ames last season.

"We've been on the short end of several controversial calls," Pollard said on Oct. 4, "and it's hard to sit idle and watch ESPN, Fox, other announcers not debate but feel sorry for Iowa State because maybe there will be another apology for a call."

The play on a Thursday night in Ames on Oct. 3, 2013, was high up on Pollard's list of grievances. Iowa State fans will tell you that Jeremiah George clearly stripped Johnathan Gray at the goal line before he went down, forcing a fumble that could've sealed the deal for Iowa State and its 30-24 lead in the final minute.

Gray will tell you his forward progress was halted, and he was down before the ball came out. That's the story the game officials were sticking to, and replay upheld the call due to a lack of indisputable evidence. Case McCoy stuck in the go-ahead score on the next play, and Jackson Jeffcoat clinched victory with a game-ending interception.

The Gray play rightfully evoked fire from Rhoads in his postgame comments. He expressed his outrage over having his potential game-winning play "taken away" when a fumble should've been "clear to everybody." Rhoads also took a not-too-veiled shot at game officials for the number of penalties (10 for 118 yards) his team received. He later received a public reprimand from the Big 12.

Another source of frustration that week: the cut block by former Texas receiver Mike Davis on ISU's Deon Broomfield also elicited a few days of controversy and, eventually, an apology delivered via one uncomfortable video.

So, yeah, the Cyclones have reason to want a little revenge on Saturday.

"I think they're going to come in here with a chip on their shoulder," Hicks said. "I know their coach is probably preaching that right now, that we shouldn't have won last year and this and that. Whatever it may be, we've got to be ready to match their intensity and exceed that."

Iowa State players have not taken the bait this week when it comes to that questionable call. They've moved on and recognize that the 31-30 game wasn't decided on just that one play.

"You can talk about that [controversial play]," Cyclones defensive end Cory Morrissey said, "but there were plays throughout the game we should have won the game with."

He's right about that. Had the Cyclones not settled for a field goal on their previous possession, after driving all the way down to the Texas 6-yard line, they could've led 34-24 and taken control of the game for good. But, again, that's the past now.

The stakes are much different this time around -- both teams are currently 2-4 -- but this much hasn't changed: Iowa State gave Texas a four-quarter fight in 2013 that UT didn't see coming. They can do so again this weekend.

"Those guys are going to come out and play their tails off. They have a phenomenal coach," Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs said. "I have a lot of respect for him because he gets the most out of those guys.

"They're going to try to upset us and try to beat us. It's going to be a fun game, because those guys are always coming to play us, and it's always been like that since I've been here."

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